Is a lack of organic traffic costing you sales? In this guide, we’re sharing our picks for the best keyword research tools to help you boost your traffic.
If people can’t find your site in search results, you’re missing out on traffic, leads, and sales. One of the best ways to solve that problem and boost your traffic is with keyword research tools.
Keywords are important for increasing organic traffic because searchers only find content if Google thinks it’s relevant to what they’re searching for. Google uses keywords as an important SEO ranking factor. That means that the best way to help search engines understand that your content is relevant is to include, in a natural way, the same exact terms that people are typing into Google to find you.
Use the right terms, and your content will be more visible in search engine results pages (SERPs), resulting in more clicks and more organic traffic.
So, how do you discover which terms people are using to try to find your content? By including keyword research tools in your content marketing toolbox.
One of the advantages of using keyword research tools is to get more terms you can use in your content strategy, backed by data on popularity, usage, and more. Our last keyword research guide covered why keyword research is relevant, types of keywords, understanding keyword intent (what searchers want), and much more.
We start out with our top picks for the best keyword research tools and walk you through how to use these tools to find keywords you need to optimize your content for better search positioning.
Then, we wrap up by sharing a few more research tools that you might want to take a look at.
Recommended Resource: Need more website traffic? Learn how to rank #1 on Google with our Ultimate Guide to SEO.
Interested in a specific keyword research tool? Skip to the one you want:
How to Get Started: Brainstorming Seed Keywords
While keyword research tools are all different, they all work in basically the same way: you have to start by typing in keywords to learn more about them and get ideas for related keywords.
That means that before you get started using keyword research tools, you need to have an initial list of keywords to research.
How do you come up with those initial keywords, also called seed keywords?
The best way to start is simply by using your own common sense and brainstorming terms related to your topic.
Start by defining your broad topic – let’s use “health insurance” as our example.
From there, you can brainstorm some more specific terms.
If you’ve created buyer personas, also called customer avatars, this step will be much easier. You’ll be able to put yourself in your readers’ shoes and imagine what they would type into Google to find your content.
Continuing with our health insurance example, “health insurance benefits calculator” is a more specific term that your target audience might be interested in searching. Try to come up with at least 5 specific ideas along those lines.
After you’ve brainstormed a list of specific keyword ideas to research, you’re ready to get started on your research.
Best for in-depth keyword search—especially on competitors!
SEMrush gives you a complete overview of every single keyword your competition ranks for, how much traffic it drives to their site, and even a link for you to check out the ranking page.
It also has one of the most accurate and complete lists of “competing websites,” which will show you your competitors’ competition. That means, you can do a deep dive into a competitor’s website, and quickly search through all the other big sites in your niche.
Unlike other tools, you don’t need to enter a seed keyword to begin searching. Instead, just enter the URL of a website and begin your research process.
On top of being able to see keyword rankings, you can get in-depth details on traffic stats, Ads CPC, domain comparisons, keyword difficulty, and so much more.
How to Use SEMrush
Login to your account and click on Organic Research in the left sidebar.
Go to Overview and type your chosen search terms into the search box.
Remember, you’ll have brainstormed some of these at the start of your keyword research process. We’ve used “b2b content marketing.”
Press Search. The results will come up in a dashboard showing search volume, paid search (the cost of paying for placement in search results for that keyword), cost per click distribution, and search trends.
SEMrush also includes data on the top pages ranking for particular keywords. You can use this information to come up with ideas for new topics to cover in a blog post.
Start by scrolling down to see Phrase Match Keywords (those that include your search term exactly) and Related Keywords.
These will give you some initial ideas for keywords to include in your content. The Related Keywords report is important because it may contain terms you haven’t yet optimized your content for.
To get more detail on related keywords, click on View Full Report.
This will take you to the Keyword Magic tool.
Click Search to bring up a table filled with data about your chosen keyword. You see:
- How closely they’re related to your original search term (shown as a percentage)
- Keyword search volume (how many searches are performed)
- Keyword difficulty ranking
- Number of search results
- Search trends
Click on any keyword to get a similar report for that keyword.
Sort SEMrush data by any column to get new insights. For example, you can sort by keyword difficulty to identify keywords related to your content with a low to medium keyword difficulty that you could use to optimize content.
Jot down content keyword ideas as you go through SEMrush. Even better, you can export keywords at any time, just by clicking the Export button.
SEMrush pricing starts at $99 per month, which includes access to keyword analytics, site position tracking, social media tools, content optimization tools, and much more.
Best all-around keyword research tool for technical SEO.
Ahrefs is the most widely used keyword research tool for SEO and for a good reason, too. It crawls and stores the largest third-party database of search queries, which means you get the most extensive (and accurate) data for your research.
You get to see your competitors’ organic keywords, backlinks, and PPC campaigns. You can also see the best backlink opportunities, maximum relevant keywords, hot content topics, email alerts every time someone mentions your brand online, and more.
Do you ever worry about accuracy on these keyword research tools? Well, don’t worry too much. Ahrefs’ database has over 7 BILLION keywords and 187 BILLION indexed pages. That’s why Ahrefs can provide maximum accuracy and data to its users.
How to Use Ahrefs
Login to Ahrefs, then navigate to the Keywords Explorer.
Type some terms related to your topic into the onscreen search box. You can have up to 100. Choose your country. Ahrefs includes keyword data for dozens of countries. For this guide, we’re using the US.
Press the search icon. You’ll be redirected to a new screen which shows an overview of the keywords you entered.
Click on one of the keywords to bring up an overview just for that keyword.
You’ll immediately be able to see the Keyword Difficultly for this keyword. Keyword Difficulty (KD) is how hard it will be to rank for a specific keyword; the higher the KD, the harder it will be to rank for that keyword.
Further down the page, you’ll see the Keyword ideas section.
This is where you’ll start getting ideas for content keywords. The Keyword ideas section is divided into 4 columns showing:
- Results for the terms you entered
- Questions related to your keyword
- Other keywords from the top 10 pages that rank for your keyword
- Newly discovered keyword search suggestions
For each, you can click the View all link for more details.
Let’s look at the full report for keywords that include the original search term of “content marketing.” This will help you identify related content areas that you might not have covered yet.
The data appears in a table, with a list of related terms. To get full information on each term, click on the term. This will bring up the keyword overview for that term.
The Clicks column shows the average monthly number of clicks the keyword gets from searchers. That’s a good indicator of potential traffic.
It’s also worth paying attention to the Parent topic for each search term. Ahrefs groups its results into a number of parent topics. For example, if you search for “b2b content marketing,” the parent topic is “content marketing.”
Clicking on the parent topic link can lead you to more keywords to use in your content, and help you to find sub-topics around which to create or optimize content. You can also see how the topic and sub-topics rank in search engine results.
Be warned, with so much information, you can spend a lot of time doing keyword searches on Ahrefs. That’s why it’s helpful to keep track of your research by making a note of:
- Keywords that you can use to optimize existing content
- New keywords you hadn’t previously thought of
- Related topics you might want to cover on your blog
You can do this with pen and paper, or create your own spreadsheet (recommended). If you use a spreadsheet, then it’s helpful that Ahrefs allows you to download potential content keywords by clicking on the Export button at the top of any table.
You can try out Ahrefs for a…