The Best Keyword Research Tools (And How To Use Them)

  • Matthew Woodward
  • Updated on Jun 10, 2024
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There’s one simple formula that is bulletproof when building an SEO strategy:

  1. Find relevant keywords
  2. Create EPIC content
  3. Build links and social signals
  4. Repeat

It’s the tried-and-test way millions of businesses, website owners and bloggers drive targeted and profitable traffic back to their website.

4 steps seo strategy

But it all hinges on one crucial element…

 Keyword research.
You need to be able to find data-driven keywords to make smart choices which will improve your rankings and revenue. And how do you do that?

With keyword research tools.

They’re the not-so-secret weapon in the arsenal of the world’s best SEOs.

And today, I’m going to show you how you can use them to your advantage.

What Are Keyword Research Tools (And Why Are They Important)?

Keyword research tool platforms help you find and analyse keywords for your SEO strategy by showing you metrics like:

  • Monthly search traffic
  • Keyword difficulty
  • Related keywords
  • Cost per click
  • Sites currently ranking for the keyword

This information removes the “hit-and-hope” element of keyword research.

Because it provides you with actionable data:

keyword research tools data

Basically where free tools aim to suggest keywords, paid keyword research tools aim to help you understand and implement them effectively.

By using some of the best keyword research tools available…

I’ve been able to increase my organic search traffic.

Often using keywords I’d never have found (or understood the value of) without them. I can’t stress the value of using keyword tools enough…

 Especially if you’re serious about increasing your website’s traffic.
Let’s start by looking at the best keyword research tools available…

The 4 Best Keyword Research Tools Of 2024

There are four keyword research tools I recommend.

They depend on where you are and your current SEO goals and budget but each one of them can help you to build a full spectrum keyword research strategy.

  1. SEMRush: an all-in-one SEO tool which is really easy to use. Prices start at $99.95 per month.
  2. Ahrefs: probably the best link building tool on the market right now, it’s pretty good at keywords as well. Prices start at $99 per month.
  3. Long Tail Pro: a battle-tested pro tool which is affordable and made purely for keyword research. Prices start at $25 per month.
  4. FREE! Keyword Research Template: build a complete keyword strategy based in less than 10 minutes with my free sheets.

With all of these tools you will be able to increase your organic traffic by finding targeted, niche keywords that are unavailable with free keyword research tools.

Let’s take a look at the unique features of each of these keyword research tools.

And help you find the right fit for you.

SEMRush: How To Do Keyword Research

SEMRush has been at the forefront of SEO tools for years…

The most recent version of their software packs an incredible punch.

Use their Keyword Magic tool to find loads of related terms in no time and then you can instantly find related keywords and identify any keyword gaps on your site too.

 Their keyword research tool is a strong competitor for Ahrefs!
Their interface is arguably the simplest and easiest to use of any of the tools on this list.


Here are the best ways to use SEMRush to find the right keywords for your business-

Step #1: Perform Some Keyword Magic

SEMRush’s Keyword Magic tool really sets them apart.

It’s a unique tool which can slash the amount of time you spend searching for keywords, and increase the amount of informed data you have to work with.

Let’s say you were looking for related keywords for a travel website.

By entering one target keyword – like “travel guides”…

You can create a page with thousands of related keywords and their relevant metrics.

seo keyword magic

What I love about this feature is it prompts you to look at keywords from different angles.

Also you can consider prefixes and suffixes which can help you gain more traffic. Like these results for keywords ending in “pdf”:

semrush results

These keywords are all easily exportable into CSV files and you can do it for up to one million keywords at a time. Not bad for one keyword and a couple of clicks, right?

Step #2: Instantly Find Relevant Keywords

SEMRush has a great function to help you find hidden long-tail keywords.

By entering just a few details you can find hundreds of data-driven keywords. Just enter your target keyword into their keyword overview tool…

 You’ll be presented with a ton of data.
Most importantly you’ll be given a list of phrase match keywords and related keywords:

semrush lsi keywords

As you can see for this search…

It’s returned nearly 30,000 relevant keywords for my target keyword, “travel guides”. But the section we’re interested in is related keywords.

In the full report you can see live updated data-sheet of long-tail keywords and metrics:

semrush keyword research report

In this example there are over 1,500 keywords which could be cherry-picked and used in a piece of content, or across an entire travel guide website.

Step #3: Find Your Website’s Keyword Gaps

Keyword gaps are the keywords which your competitors are ranking for, but you are not. Most of the time these are keywords you didn’t even know existed!

SEMRush has a tool called “Domain vs Domain” which can help you uncover these.

Let’s say I was doing keyword research for my SEO blog.

I’d simply enter my domain name and that of two of my major competitors:

domain vs domain

SEMRush will then analyse all of the keywords on these three domains.

It finds what each of them does (and doesn’t) have in common. That leaves you with a Venn diagram like this:

semrush venn diagram

The sections which overlap are keywords you have in common with these websites.

All of the sections which aren’t overlapping are keywords which don’t feature on your website, and could be used to drive traffic.

You can adjust this view to a table view to see the exact keywords these domains rank for.

Allowing you to dive into their metrics and data:

metrics and data

You may need to do some sifting with this method because there will be keywords like branded keywords, which just won’t fit your website.

But you will also find a lot of tried-and-tested keywords…

Which you can build content around and “steal” rankings with.

Learn More About SEMRush…

If you’ve decided SEMRush is the right tool for you, take a look at my much more detailed SEMRush review or my Semrushbot post.

I’ll show you tons of different ways you can use it to increase your search presence.

Ahrefs: How To Do Keyword Research

Ahrefs is a must-have tool for anyone serious about their SEO results.

They have built a comprehensive suite of SEO tools and have one of the best backlink checkers in the business!


Whether you’re a freelancer, agency or full-time website owner…

 You should give Ahrefs some serious consideration.
Here’s a closer look at what the tool can do.

Step #1: Turn 10 Keywords Into 1,000+

One of my favourite features of Ahrefs is their ability to turn a handful of keywords into thousands (or even hundreds of thousands) of new keyword suggestions.

They do this by taking your seed keywords – the focus keywords of your website…

And turning them into actionable suggestions for new keywords to use their site.

Simply enter your keywords into their keyword explorer tool:

ahrefs keyword explorer

Which will return a page of data and metrics relevant to those keywords.

In the sidebar you will see a keyword ideas menu:

Ahrefs keyword ideas

You can select the type of keywords you want to see suggestions of.

I usually just select “all” which will return an insane amount of keyword results. In fact, the above search returned 69,737 keywords:

keyword research results from Ahrefs tool

To filter through this data and find targeted keywords to work with, I recommend you use a keyword difficulty parameter of 30.

You can do this right here:

keyword research filters

This will show you low-competition high-reward keywords to implement right away.

As you can see here, this has returned over 37,000 keywords with high search volume which would be super easy to rank for:

final keyword research report

All you have to do now is come up with ideas for content to create.

OR how to work them into your existing content.

Step #2: Steal Like A Marketer

Ahrefs can give you a powerful insight into:

  • Which keywords your competitors are ranking for
  • Which keywords you can target to improve your traffic

In essence, you can “steal” their keywords and use them to bring traffic to your website.

By entering a competitor’s domain name into their site explorer tool, you can get a complete overview of their website and metrics:

competitor keyword research

In the sidebar you can select the top pages section…

Which will show you all of their ranking pages and their focus keywords:

top pages report

But, this isn’t where the research stops.

You can also see every single keyword the page is ranking for and how much traffic that drives to the page:

finding hidden keywords

This can help you to find high-performing keywords which you can use to create content.

Step #3: See The FULL Potential Of Keywords

It’s normal for seemingly profitable keywords to have low search volumes.

So low, it often feels like it’s not even worth your time.

Take a look at the target keyword for this article, for example:

best keyword research tools overview

It’s nothing to write home about, right?

Well this is because when we look at a keyword in isolation, we rarely see its full potential.

It’s like judging one egg on its ability to make a four egg omelette!

These keywords usually make up part of other keywords. Namely long-tail keywords which when used together, can receive a high amount of traffic.

Ahrefs enables you to see the FULL potential for a keyword. How?

  • By showing you the pages which currently rank for that keyword
  • By showing you how much traffic they are really getting

Simply enter the keyword into their keyword explorer tool and it will show you the real traffic stats for that keyword.

Including all of the related keywords which come with it:


All of a sudden, those 300 searches a month has morphed into nearly 4,000 website visits!

Before giving up on a keyword, it’s really useful to use this tool to understand the true power of a keyword and if it’s actually is worth your time and effort.

Learn More About Ahrefs…

Feel like Ahrefs is the tool for you?

If so, I’ve got you covered.

My full Ahrefs review on how to use the tool effectively and unleash the power of all its features in your business.

Long Tail Pro Keyword Research

Long Tail Pro focuses on helping you find low-competition, high-traffic long tail keywords.

They’re the only tool on this list which is only focused on keyword research…

This enables them to offer cool features the other tools can’t.

They perform research which finds profitable keywords, target competitiveness and keyword rich content ideas.

long tail pro homepage

It also means the cost of the tool is much lower at around $55 cheaper than the second cheapest tool on this list.

Let’s take a closer look inside the tool to see what it can do…

Step #1: Find Your Target Competitiveness

One of my favourite Long Tail Pro features is how they highlight the competitiveness of keywords you should be aiming for.

It does this based on:

  • Your target keyword
  • Your domain’s metrics
  • Your competitor’s metrics

So, when I start researching for keywords relating to the topic “VPN”…

It tells me the exact keyword difficulty I should start with:


This means any keyword within this bracket, I should be able to rank for quickly and easily.

I just need a little link building and on-page optimization.

Being able to see this can shave hours off your research…

And weeks off your trial-and-error content creation.

Step #2: Quickly Find Keyword-Rich Content Ideas

Long-tail keywords are great for helping you structure content and come up with ideas.

Sticking with the above example, let’s say I wanted to create a post about VPNs (virtual private networks) but I didn’t know what to write about.

I’d simply enter the seed keyword (VPN), into their keyword research tool:

seed keyword

It will then retrieve a bunch of relevant keywords related to that seed topic.

Combining this with the last step, you can look for keywords which are relevant and within your keyword competitiveness parameters. Like these two here:

seed topic

Using this information I know if I was to create a topic around this:

  • I could easily rank well for the terms
  • I could receive a high level of traffic from them

I could also run “best free VPN” through the tool to see what related keywords come up. This would help me to better structure my article or add LSI keywords.

All of these keywords could make up subsections of my article, for example:

long tail pro results

 This entire research process took me less than two minutes.
And I’ve got a viable content idea with well-trafficked keywords and planned subsections.

Not a bad weapon to have in your arsenal, eh?

Step #3: Use Filters To Find Profitable Keywords

Long Tail Pro enables you to do some real filtering to help find profitable keywords.

One of the ways I like to use it is by adding prefixes and suffixes to my searches like:

Which help to uncover keywords with high levels of commercial intent:

long tail pro keyword results

If you do any form of online selling – from affiliate marketing through to Ecommerce SEO

These types of keyword will be really beneficial.

Learn More About Long Tail Pro…

Long Tail Pro is a great keyword research tool for anyone looking to find profitable long tail keywords to drive traffic back to their site.

If you’d like to learn more about what you can do with this tool…

You can read my full Long Tail Pro review.

My (free) Intelligent Keyword Research Spreadsheets

I might be biased but my free inteligent keyword research spreadsheet is the best keyword research tool.


Because it connects to the Ahrefs or SEMRush trials to help you do all of your keyword research in minutes rather than days.

I had it specially developed to spit out personalized keyword research strategies based on what is working right now in less than 5 minutes.

Keyword Sheet

It does a bunch of things behind the scenes-

  • It will automatically find the best keywords with low competition & high search volume
  • It tells you if it’s possible to win a featured snippet
  • While calculating the intent of a keyword so you can focus on $$$ keywords

Click Here To Download It Now

Comparison: Ahrefs vs. SEMRush vs. Long Tail Pro vs. My Sheets

Read this entire guide and you’re still not sure which keyword research tool to go for?

Don’t worry; I’ve got something to help you decide. Below is a table with all of the major factors which make up these tools.

And how they stack up against each other.

Feature Ahrefs SEMRush Long Tail Pro My Free Sheets
Cheapest Package $99/Month $99.95/Month $25/Month Free
Keyword Database Size 7.4 Billion 9.4 billion 9.4 billion
Find Competitor Keywords? Yes Yes No Yes
Find Keywords You Already Rank For? Yes Yes Yes No
Keyword Difficulty Score Yes Yes Yes Yes
Advanced Traffic Metrics Yes No No No
Clickstream Data Yes Yes No No
Topic Research Yes Yes No Yes
Filter By Featured Snippet Yes No No >Yes
Search Result History Yes No No No
Keyword Rank Tracking Integrations Lots Lots None None
Countries Supported 100+ 100+ 100+ 100+
Organisation/Keyword Lists Yes Yes Yes Yes
Trial Available? Yes. $7 for 7 days. Yes. Freemium Model. Yes. 7 Days Free. Free!

But if you just want to build a solid keyword strategy…

…then save yourself the headache and just download my free inteligent spreadsheet.

Wrapping It Up

I hope by now you have a clearer idea of:

  • What keyword research tools are
  • Why they’re important
  • Which are the best keyword research tools for your business

If you’re still not sure, or you have any questions…

I’d love to help you find the right fit for you.

Just leave a comment on this post and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

But you really should just use my spreadsheet to plan out your keyword strategy with my keyword research template.

And, remember, I have a list of free SEO tools that you can check out too!

Increase Your Search Traffic
In Just 28 Days…

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