We’re all on the hunt for keywords that look strong.
But looks can be deceiving.
You might come across keywords that look strong but have nothing to offer your site.
You have to be careful that your keyword research efforts won’t lead you off track with irrelevant, vague or too-highly-competitive search terms.
Think about it this way: If content marketing was a building, keyword research would be its very foundation. And you know how that works. Either the foundation is solid and heavy-duty or the building will collapse. The strongest keywords will make sure your content stands strong against the sporadic changes in marketing and SEO trends.
To determine which keywords are truly the strongest, you need plenty of data on your side.
You need to see what’s really going on with a keyword before committing any content to it.
To get that data, you’ll need to find a good keyword research tool, one that aggregates important search data and displays it neatly for you.
You’ll want a tool that’s:
- Comprehensive — It should include options for keyword analysis and trends, related keyword suggestions, longtail keywords and possibly a keyword rank tracker, too.
- Relevant — No off-topic keywords and suggestions extracted from niche data.
- Customizable — Just what you need, and able to adjust to meet your needs with a few clicks.
I’ve already done a lot of digging in this area, and I’ve created a list of keyword research tools which have the above qualities.
Any of the options I’ve got for you here will help you on your way—just be sure to take a close look at the features and choose the right one for you. Actually, since we’re dealing with a combination of research tools and rank tracker tools, you may well want to combine two tools: one keyword research tool and one rank tracker tool.
Believe me, that’s always a winning combination!
11 Powerful Keyword Research Tools and Rank Tracker Tools
Let’s begin at the beginning.
First, we’ll look at keyword research tools that will help you come up with the perfect keywords to work with. In a bit, we’ll explore the keyword rank tracker tools that will allow you to see how highly your content is ranking for your chosen keywords.
—Keyword Research Tools—
Google AdWords Keyword Planner
Google provides a handy tool to its AdWords advertisers that allows them to look up how selected keywords are faring in searches (in terms of traffic and monthly average searches) and how much CPC value they carry.
This tool is also helpful for content marketers who are looking for data on keywords to use in blog posts and other content.
In fact, the average monthly searches data reveals, in aggregate, how attractive a certain keyword is for searches and what other alternatives to consider (Keyword Ideas). For this reason, the Adwords Keyword Planner tool has become a cornerstone of content strategy for many marketers.
Go ahead, sign up for a free account. It’s extra easy if you already have a Google email account.
Once you’re in, visit the Keyword Ideas tab. This is your go-to place to get keyword suggestions to use in your content. From there, the next steps are simply:
1. Click Find your keywords and get search volume data →
2. Click Search for new keywords →
3. Enter the keyword/topic of interest or your domain name (or your competitor’s, if you’re researching the competition)
For a general keyword search, to see what’s good in the Google searches, the only thing you need to enter is a keyword idea.
Once you’re all set, hit the Get ideas button.
The most valuable data in the Keyword Planner is the Monthly Average Searches per suggested keyword, which gives you a great glimpse of how frequently a specific keyword/topic is searched on Google, how much visibility it gets and how much organic traffic you can drive to your site if you’re ranking for it.
It’s also quite easy to start using, as Google provides a guide for AdWords advertisers on how to use Keyword Planner.
This tool is:
- Comprehensive — Or, as comprehensive as a Google-specific keyword tool can be. It lacks data from Google Suggest—which is Google’s autocomplete feature for users entering search terms—so you’ll want to turn to KeywordTool.io (seen below) if you’re interested in exploring those terms too.
- Relevant — It’s geared towards content marketers as well as advertisers, and you can refine your search to certain languages and regions.
- Customization — This is mainly available in the search settings, where you can alter what the tool will display (e.g., whether to include negative keywords or not, which region to zoom in on).
Similar to Monitor Backlinks, Ahrefs is a multi-featured backlink checker and backlink profile analyzer—with keyword rank checker and keyword explorer tools baked right in.
You’ll be able to enter the keywords you want to track for each domain, your competitors’ domains and any mentions you want to monitor.
You can see your website in the Dashboard and click it to browse the Overview (which has more data in addition to what you can see at a glance on the dashboard itself) with your backlink profile, organic search numbers, page data, outgoing links, backlinks and paid search data. You’ll also see referring domains and anchor text data that you can repurpose for keyword research purposes.
On the left sidebar under Organic Search, you can view Organic Keywords for your domain and what pages of your site they link to.
Brad Shaw, President and CEO of Dallas Web Design Inc., sees Ahrefs as a great keyword research tool:
“We started using Ahrefs a couple of months ago while trying to find new keywords. Our campaign targeted small local businesses in Dallas, and with the help of Ahrefs’ extensive database of local keywords, we were able to target new long tail keywords that weren’t in our scope before, and to achieve a growth of 23% in the first quarter of this year.”
Pricing for Ahrefs starts at $99/month for the Lite plan and goes up to $999/month for the Agency plan—and you’ll save 20% on all plans if you pick annual billing.
This tool is:
- Comprehensive — A very comprehensive keyword research and backlink profile tool, to the extent that it might confuse new users given the amount of information it provides.
- Relevant — Highly relevant to your website, since all data is based on the analysis of it.
- Customizable — Not customizable, but the left sidebar allows you to easily browse the information you need.
A simple and helpful tool even in its free version, KeywordTool.io returns keyword suggestions on the basis of a basic keyword of your choice.
Results are extracted them from the Google Suggest tool (the suggestion drop-down menu you see when you type in a keyword on Google’s search engine) and other search engines’ suggest engines, specifically Bing, Amazon, YouTube, eBay and App Store.
You can display results as Keyword Suggestions or Questions, depending on what you’re looking for.
Questions are helpful to copy straight in your posts and take advantage of longtail keywords.
KeywordTool.io offers three paid plans:
- Pro Lite ($460/year, to get twice as many keywords compared to the free version)
- Pro Basic ($653/year, to get search volume data, competitor keyword and bulk search volume analysis)
- Pro Plus ($845/year, adds CPC and AdWords competition data to all the Pro Basic features)
This tool is:
- Comprehensive — You can get suggestions as questions to use directly in your posts. Keyword suggestions aren’t extracted only from Google, but from other relevant search engines as well. Beyond this, you get tons of additional features with the paid versions.
- Relevant — Absolutely relevant to your niche, as all data retrieved is based on the keywords you’re analyzing for your content marketing plans.
- Customizable — You can edit search volume settings, include or exclude negative keywords and filter results.
Moz’s Keyword Explorer
Moz’s Keyword Explorer is part of the set of free SEO tools Moz provides for all users.
Unregistered users can analyze up to two daily keyword queries, but you’ll want an account to get more work done.
Either way, you’ll be able to get SERP analysis, keyword suggestions, mentions and an at-a-glance analysis of the keyword inserted in the tool—you’ll just get a whole lot less of it without an account.
Keyword Suggestions is the interesting part of this tool, allowing you to discover new ideas you hadn’t previously thought of:
Camille le Goff, SEO Expert and Account Manager at Mash Media Perth, says Moz’s Keyword Explorer helps her “identify phrases and questions related to a client’s service that triggers a Google Quick Answer Box in organic search results.”
In other words, after you get your list of keyword suggestions, you can filter the results to only display keyword suggestions that are questions, then select the most relevant to your content strategy.
If these results trigger a Quick Answer Box in the SERPs, you can focus on answering those particular questions better than anyone else on the internet. This will allow you to feature in Google’s Quick Answer boxes for popular questions. This can result in significantly increased organic traffic and CTR.
So, this tool is clearly:
- Comprehensive — As comprehensive as a keyword tool can be. Search volumes are a great thing!
- Relevant — Results are relevant to the keyword you search with the tool.
- Customizable —You can customize Suggested Questions with filters.
Keyword research to the nth power!
That might be the best description of SEMrush.
It’s a comprehensive and intuitive tool to collect relevant keywords for content marketing, from phrase-match keywords to related keywords and keywords from ads.
Jen Van Iderstyne, a senior strategist at Overit, deems SEMrush her favorite keyword research tool because it was pivotal to every successful SEO initiative they have run:
“It is a key component of our research to understand how people are searching products and services. With that insight we’ve been able to build sections and pages to target those searches and serve those user intent groups.
We’ve used this strategy to build multiple websites that have launched and quickly exceeded their previous ranking and traffic volume. Also, when we’re creating editorial calendars, keyword research from SEMrush has lead us to get new blog posts ranked well and even earning Featured Snippets in Google.”
Pricing starts at $99.95/month for the Pro plan and goes up to $399.95/month for the Business plan, which includes historical data and product listing ads.
This tool is:
- Comprehensive — A comprehensive and in-depth keyword research tool.
- Relevant — Relevant to your niche keyword or website.
- Customizable — Customizable search per country/language.
The simplest and quickest keyword research tool, harvesting keywords from Wikipedia, Google, Bing, YouTube, Answers.com, Yahoo!, Amazon and many others in less than three seconds!
You can then click on each result to view the page in the SERPs to explore pages ranking for that keyword.
Click on the Secrets link in the menu bar (top right) to learn more about how to use Soovle.
This tool is:
- Comprehensive —In its own limited way (keyword retrieval only) this is a pretty good stand-alone tool.
- Relevant —Keywords are mostly relevant to the one you want to analyze.
- Customizable — Click on the “engines” link in the menu bar to choose which search engines you want to use to retrieve keywords. You can click “permalink” to reset Soovle to its default settings.
—Keyword Rank Checker Tools—
Once you’ve done your keyword research and started optimizing content for them, it’s time to begin tracking your rankings on various search engines—at this time, the most important search engine to rank on is Google.
The tools here will help you see which keywords you’re currently ranking for, and much, much more.
Monitor Backlinks is a comprehensive backlink checker and keyword SERP position tracker. We’ve moved onto rank checker tools now, but a lot of advanced keyword research can be done with this tool too.
The many features of this tool include a Keywords Ranking Checker which updates every 24 hours and sends you weekly updates. Connect Google Analytics and add your domain, verify it, then add competitors and keywords. You’ll see how well you’re ranking for the keywords you’ve selected—and even other keywords you haven’t selected and might not realize you’re ranking for. You’ll also get to see how your competitors are faring for all those same keywords.
When looking at your keywords, you’ll also get to see the search volume and competition level for each, giving you the information you need to decide which keywords are worth pursuing harder.
There are plenty of other features to complement the keyword research tool, including a Backlink Checker which lets you review your own backlinks and see who’s linking to the competition’s pages.
Combine this tool with Google Adwords, and you’ll be completely unstoppable.
Monitor Backlinks plans start at $24.90 per month for one domain and go up to $186.43 per month for 10 domains—or you can contact them to order a custom package that meets your needs.
This tool is:
- Comprehensive — It focuses on backlinks and provides as much keyword data as possible, and handy reports.
- Relevant — Focused on your website and competitor research.
- Customizable — You can add tags, labels and filters to search strings, and you can search by region and language.
A handy keyword rank tracking tool to monitor your most important keywords, SerpBook is intuitive and easy to use—I know it took me less than ten minutes to figure it out!
SerpBook works with Categories: for example, you can create a “Content Marketing” category for all content marketing related keywords you want to use and monitor for your website, or a category that carries the name of your website’s domain.
After a 14-day free trial, plans start at $12/month for small websites (Starter plan), and up to $165/month for large team and websites (Enterprise plan).
This tool is:
- Comprehensive — From alerts to notifications, to an overview of ranking advancements and drops and detailed SERP changes, SerpBook stays simple while trying to be as comprehensive as possible.
- Relevant — It’s designed just to keep track of your website-specific keyword research.
- Customizable — Every feature is easily customizable.
I’ve been using Rankly.io since April 2017 and it has proven an easy and handy tool to monitor the most important keywords for my niche blogs.
The plan I’m using is the Starter for $4/mo, which allows up to 30 keywords in the tracker. The screenshot below is for one of my new blogs. The tracker follows your keywords on Google and presents how they’re performing every day, week, month, three months, six months and one year, giving me a clear picture of the ranking trends.
The chart helps, too.
Other plans for Rankly.io include:
- Junior ($10/mo, 100 keywords)
- Pro ($35/mo, 400 keywords)
- Agency ($100/mo, 1,500 keywords)
- Big Agency ($400/mo, 5,000 keywords)
- Huge Agency ($1,200/mo, 20,000 keywords)
No matter what plan you choose, you always start with a free 14-day trial.
This tool is:
- Comprehensive — Comprehensive in its own limited way, as Rankly.io is mainly a keyword ranking tracker, but the Live Check feature is a nice addon to also check websites not in the main list for specific keywords
- Relevant — Relevant to your keyword tracking needs
- Customizable —Not customizable, but the Advanced Options tab allows you to choose which keywords to display in the chart, display or hide chart comments, and whether to download the rank tracker report or just go by the web version
I found Wincher when I was looking for a WordPress plugin that would help me track keywords I needed for my niche posts without leaving my WordPress Dashboard.
I was immediately pleased with this tool. You can (weekly) track up to 100 keywords with the free version (which is a lot!) and you can upgrade for only $7/month to get daily rankings and alerts, reports, ranking paths, and keyword groups. Also, as you work with more keywords, you can pay an additional $4/month to get an extra 100 keywords and reports.
Wincher’s pricing model is interesting for content marketing teams who manage more blogs: You pay $7/month for the first domain but you can add any number of extra domains for only $4/month (100 keywords included with each domain), so you’re going to save up 50% per added domain in the long run.
For more data on competitors (that you can add via plugin in your WordPress installation) you can log into your Wincher account at Wincher.com and check the competitors tab; that will show how you’re faring next to your competitors.
This tool is:
- Comprehensive — A comprehensive keyword ranking tool with plenty of good features in its free version, too.
- Relevant — Focused on the keywords you choose to monitor (so it’s relevant).
- Customizable — Not customizable, but all features are essential to content marketers.
Which Keyword Tools Should You Choose?
Good question, but the answer is: it depends on your content marketing team’s needs.
If you already use a keyword tracker for your projects, you can go with simple keyword research using tools like Soovle, Google’s Keyword Planner or SEMrush.
However, if you need both a research tool and a tracker, you can combine two or more tools to make a custom suite for your team.
As long as your foundations are solid, your building won’t collapse!