Before we start the blog, let me ask you a simple question “Why do we need tools to research keywords when we have google keyword planner. A tool that is available for free?” 

Google keyword is a useful keyword research tool to start with the SEO process. The tool works perfectly fine for those who are just beginning in the digital marketing line of work

It has some useful features, like finding a range of keywords based on different parameters. 

However – despite its widespread popularity, Google Keyword Planner has its shortcomings. Some of them being: 

  1. The tool is not user-friendly. I have had students in our training, struggling to get their profile setup on Google Adword. 
  2. At times, the long list of keywords provided by google keyword planner can confuse you or overwhelm you. Think of the times when google keyword planner threw a truckload full of keywords at you (700+). 
  3. Google’s keyword planner does not give keyword difficulty. This one’s a deal-breaker as without knowing the difficulty of a keyword you are targeting – you are just shooting arrows in the dark. 

 Precisely speaking, google keyword planner is not intuitive.  

I prefer to use keyword research tools that help me find the right keywords for correct parameters like keyword difficulty, competition for the keyword, volume, etc.. 

With Google keyword planner, I need a lot of additional work to figure out keyword difficulty of a keyword. 

For example, with google keyword planner, I always use Google’s search bar to identify the keyword difficulty of a keyword. 

I have to literally go back and forth in between google keyword planner and google search page to get the results for each keyword. 

For a person who works as an SEO expert, the tool takes the fun out of keyword research.  

Being an SEO expert, you might persist with the old approach of iterating the same steps time and again to get your best keywords, but think of someone who is learning SEO for their own business or learning SEO as a skill to add to their resume, the process is frustrating.

Now there are 1000 of free keyword research tools available in the market.  

It is overwhelming to decide keyword research took for your business. 

Now, I always recommend everyone to start with a free tool and then, eventually sift to a paid keyword research tool. 

But are free SEO keyword research tools any useful? 

To get an answer to the above question, I tried using three premium tools with free functionality. You can necessarily call them free keyword research tools (note – Freemium means they let you play around with the tool and use the tool to find a limited list of keywords in a free model). 

As soon as you plan to get a bigger list of relevant keywords, you will be asked to pay. (“Pay” I am sure does not make you happy). 

To keep yourself free from paying for the tools, here is what you can do – get your shortlisted keyword list from google keyword planner and then check the difficulty of the keyword and other essential SEO Parameters using these tools. 

You will not mind paying a little amount when you are ready to expand your keywords list. 

Here are the three tools I used for my research: 

  1. SEMRush 
  2. Spyfu 
  3. Rank Tracker 

There are others, too, but most of them have free trial versions, where you will be asked to type in your credit card number after a few days. 

I am sure you guys are in no mood to do that today else why would you be reading the blog “the best free keyword tools to do keyword research | 2018” blog. 

Before I start, I want you to take a deep breath and fasten your seat belt. This will be a long (yet exciting) blog. 

Let’s get started: 



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My preferred free keyword research tool for a long time was SEMRush (note: I have used their paid version too). 

They provide you with some fantastic data for the keyword you want to analyze. Some of the information they provide is so easy to understand that you can easily use the tool as a layman.

The tool has an easy to use interface and can be used easily by anyone comfortable using Google keyword planner or for that matter, any keyword research tool. 

Here is how the keyword research tool works. 

To start with the tool, visit the website

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Now enter the keyword in the search box and select the country for which you want the data to be researched.

I used the tool for one of my clients whose target location was USA and keyword was around “online directory business model“.

Click on start now, and you get your analysis:

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Let me give you a brief of principal analysis you can use from semrush:

Overview Tab:

  1. Phrase match keywords: Help you find more relevant keywords regarding your seed keyword by suggesting keywords around the primary phrase.
  2. Related keywords: A list of related keywords which are not entirely the same as the “seed keywords”. They are related or similar to the keywords you searched. (You will get the limited information here for a free trial).
  3. Organic search results: Top 100 results for the searched keyword.

Phrase Match:

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You will get a list of few keywords (phrased) with important parameters like keyword difficulty (KD), results, etc. You can use KD to decide the complexity of the keyword. The setting is essential as it helps you select the shortlisted keyword based on the algorithm of the keyword research tool. 

If we were doing the keyword research in the right old way, we would spend at least 10 to 15 minutes, finding the keyword difficulty of each keyword. 

The tool does the job for you in a jiffy. 

And the tool does not stop here. It also provides data for # of results, search volume, etc. Now, that’s what you call “Icing on the Cake.” 

Related keyword tab:

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The same parameters are shown as the above tab, only with the difference that you get associated keywords (limited information) here. 

They have introduced a few new features like: 

Keyword gap: 

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I love the functionality. You enter your competitor’s domain name in the list, and it gives you a list of keywords which are unique or familiar to the domain names. 

All the information I have provided above is from the free version of the tool. 

You will love the SEMRush tool for its simplicity and the useful information it provides (even in the free version). 

If I were you (lets exchange roles for a second) doing keyword research for my website, I would: 

  1.   Get my keyword list from the google keyword planner and after completing my initial analysis through the good old method of shortlisting keywords and enter the keywords in SEMRush for further analysis. 
  2.   Then, I will check for the keyword difficulty of my seed keyword. 
  3.   I will further check if the suggested keywords around the seed keyword are like the keywords suggested by phrased keyword and similar keywords. 
  4.   Check Keyword difficulty of all the mentioned keywords 
  5.   And use the new feature “keyword gap” of tool to check for a few new keywords. 

Again, the tool will only give you limited information for you to analyze. Make good use of the information you get from your free keyword research using SEMRush. 



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Spyfu is a handy keyword research tool to spy on your competitors. When the same is used as a paid tool, the tool allows you to get every single information on the website you want to spy. 

Let’s move ahead and use the spyfu to “spy” on our competitors. 

To use Spyfu, you should first know who your competitor is, and to do so, you visit Google (yes. Same google, which is omnipresent on the internet). Once you are on, type your seed keyword. 

For example, I am looking for competitors for my seed keyword online directory business model. 

I know you are about to ask me, “Hey. Wait! Weren’t you teaching us keyword research? What the hell is competitor research got to do with keyword research?” 

Have patience, mate. I am going to explain to you the use of Spyfu by teaching you the oldest trick in the book. 

So, the first result I get in the search result when I search for online directory business model is 

Time to spy on using Spyfu! 

Focus on two sections of the report you will be provided with. 

  1.   Top keywords: the list offers you with the top ranking keywords of the website 
  2.   Shared keyword: the list gives you the shared keywords the sites share with its top keywords. Click on view more, and you are taken to a page that provides you with 4-5 keywords the competitors share. 

You know what your competitor is aiming at. 

You should figure out whether those keywords are near to what your business needs, or should you be avoiding those keywords?

If you do not want to go through the steps mentioned above; you can quickly use the keyword research feature of spyfu by directly accessing the link: 

Like semrush, you can enter the keyword and get relevant data.

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You get a lot of useful data about the keyword you are searching.

Some of the relevant information being:

  •   Monthly searches (local)
  •   Monthly searches (global)
  •   CTR- Cost through Rate
  •   Ranking difficulty (most important)
  •   Profitable related keywords
  •   Home pages in results (another essential information which helps you in assessing the difficulty of a keyword).

Here is the explanation in Spyfu’s language of the same:

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You can explore other options (submenu tabs), for example, related keywords to get related keywords to the keyword you used for research.

And there are options like SERP Analysis, etc. which might or might not be related to your research.

Overall, spyfu like all freemium keyword research tools gives you just the required information to get started with keyword research, and like all of its freemium cousins, it provides limited information to help you get started with the keyword research.

I have used their paid research before. The information provided in paid keyword research tool is beneficial for a lot of SEO activities.

I find Spyfu an excellent tool for spying on competitor’s backlinks & keyword research.

It does qualify to be a decent keyword research tool (the paid version).


Rank Tracker

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Rank Tracker is a part of a group of SEO tools provided by the company SEOPowersuite. The tools can be downloaded by accessing the web link .

I am a paid user of their SEO Tools and might be a little biased while writing their review.

Before I start with the features they provide, you should know that all tools provided by them are desktop-based solutions and will consume your CPU memory while running (this might slow down your computers at times).

You might want to upgrade your machine before you use the tool. (This tool is not for the faint-hearted Machines).

You can download their free version from the link:

Since you will use their free version, you will not be allowed to save the data.

It would be more of a fresh start for you every time you use their tool which I think is not a deal-breaker as none of the freemium tools in keyword research space allow you to save the data.

Most importantly, the tool isn’t complicated to use.

All you need is your Google AdWords account set up in the tool as the tool pulls most of the information from Adwords and spice it up with a lot of relevant information like searches, keyword difficulty, competitor research, etc to give you a proper analysis of the keywords you can target.

The most significant advantage of the free version of Rank Tracker is their generosity in not limiting the data they provide you.

As you would have noticed by now, semrush – spyfu limit the information they provide you.

This keyword research tool provides you with every single information you need for your keyword research, which is a good thing.

Once you start the tool, you should directly click on keyword research option:

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Click on Related searches:

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I usually stick to the first four options. 

(Note: you will need to connect your Google Adwords account for the keyword research tool to work glitch-free). 

Once you click on the following notice, the left bottom tasks section, the section provides you with information on the % of task completion. 

At present, the task with the tool is to provide you keywords around the seed keyword online directory business model. Once the keyword research is completed, you will see a list of keywords divided by groups. 

One of the problems with the tool is that at times, it takes its own sweet time to do the job, and if your machine is a primitive beast, you can kiss goodbye to keyword research using the Rank Tracker. 

Before I end, here are a few more tools to provide you some necessary help with keyword research: 

  • Google’s tools (keyword planner, trends): I have already done a tutorial on keyword planner you can anytime refer the same to research keywords. Google trend is a tool to help you find the trending keywords or check how a keyword has trended in the last few weeks/months.
  • UberSuggest: Ubersuggest provides you suggestions around the seed keyword entered by you. Ubersuggest is a useful tool if you are short of ideas to prepare your keyword list (which is an integral part of keyword research). 

We struggle at times to prepare an initial list to start our keyword research, and I don’t blame you if you are short of ideas. 

The keyword research tool also lets you search the keyword in Google trends to check the trending keyword in Google trends. One major shortcoming of the tool is that it does not give you any other information other than suggestions. i.e., you don’t get searches, competition, difficulty, competitor, etc. 


Free keyword research tools are useful for initial keyword research. However, if we are looking for advanced functionality – time to shift to a tool that helps you with the keyword strategy for your business.