The Best Keyword Research Tools to Create a Solid Competitive Advantage

Last Updated on August 27, 2021 by Marcelo Beilin

It is estimated that there are 4.5 billion Google searches every day. 

In order to monetize your website, your goal is to appear on the first page of search results as much as possible for any searches that are relevant to your business. 

Here’s the problem: in order to land on the first page of search results you’ll need to knock someone else off it, and the chances of knocking out someone who's been busy blogging for years when you're just starting out are next to nil. 

However, with billions of daily searches, there are bound to be search terms that are missed by experienced bloggers (these are called “content gaps”) and the great news is: there are millions of them that can land new solopreneurs like yourself on the first page of results!

Your job is to find them and that’s exactly what the keyword research tools recommended below will help you achieve.

Disclosure: Although I receive affiliate compensation for some of the links below at no additional cost to you that compensation in no way influences my recommendations, which are strictly informed by my years of digital marketing experience working with clients large and small. My aim is to always recommend tools that will offer you the best return on investment.

When it comes to doing keyword research to land you on the first page of search-engine results, your goal is to write articles that focus on keywords that have the following three characteristics:

  1. They have high monthly search volume
  2. They have low organic keyword difficulty
  3. They have high paid difficulty

Let’s now expand on each characteristic:

High Monthly Search Volume:

A keyword that has high monthly search volume has a significant audience searching for the term, which means that if you can rank a blog post that targets that keyword on the first page of results, you’ll get a lot of traffic coming to your website.

If you focus instead on a keyword that has a very low monthly search volume, then you’ll be spending a lot of time, talent and resources writing an amazing article that very few people are going to read.

So, you'll end up with very little traffic coming to your website—even if you land on the first page of search results! (if say, 10 people/month do the search you're targeting and you manage to land on position 1, at most you'll get 3 or 4 people coming to your website from that search).

Having said that, writing about a keyword with high monthly search volume is just the beginning. You'll also need:

Low Organic Keyword Difficulty

If you publish a blog post about a keyword that has high organic keyword difficulty (e.g. "web hosting"), then you’ll be publishing content along hundreds if not thousands of other bloggers, many of whom will have been doing this for a lot longer than you.

As a result, all of the available organic spots on the first page of results will be occupied by websites that are entrenched in their current spots, most likely for several years (provided they keep refreshing their content to keep it current).

Now, if you find a keyword with high monthly volume and low organic keyword difficulty you're on the right path, but you’re not done yet! You’ll also need to look for keywords with:

High Paid Difficulty

Say what? Paid ads? I thought I was focusing on organic search results...

Here is the thing. If you write a fantastic post with high search volume (i.e. a big audience) and low organic keyword difficulty (i.e. a good chance you’ll be able to work you way up to the first page of results) BUT no one in that audience is interested in buying anything from you, you’ll simply never be able to monetize your website.

In other words, you also need an audience who’s highly motivated to buy. An audience who has a problem and are seeking a solution they're willing to pay for.

How do you know when someone is motivated to buy? By assessing their “search intent” to figure out if it’s strictly informational (not interested in buying) or commercial in nature (is interested in making a purchase immediately or in the near future).

Now, detecting the intent from a keyword someone is searching for is sometimes easy (e.g. “best web hosting service”) although you’ll soon find out that all of these words will likely have high organic keyword difficulty and you won’t be able to rank for them anyway.

However, there will be other longer-tail keywords with high commercial intent that are not so easy to decipher by just looking at the words.

Fortunately, there’s an easy proxy for high commercial intent: if advertisers are competing fiercely for a long-tail keyword, then there's a pretty good chance that it has high commercial intent, otherwise they wouldn’t bid their hard earned dollars on it!

There you have it. All you have to do now is look for keywords with high monthly search volume, low organic keyword difficulty AND high paid difficulty, and before you know it you’ll end up on the first page of search results with significant traffic coming to your website from an audience who’s eager to buy!

The keyword research tools below are the best in class for unearthing those winning keywords.

Best Keyword Research Tool Overall: KWFinder

KWFinder is a simple yet powerful keyword research tool that beats its competitors for one simple reason: all they do is keyword research and they do it better than everybody else, who tend to clutter you with additional data you don’t need.

In fact, KWFinder provides exactly the information that you need to succeed without taking you on twelve different tangents.

Once you enter a group of seed keywords, KWFinder will generate a large list of suggestions, autocomplete keywords (harvested from Google’s autocomplete feature) and keywords phrased as a question (harvested from Google's “People also ask” section).

Then, KWFinder will show you the three critical pieces of information you need to land you on page one of search results: the monthly search volume, the organic keyword difficulty and the paid difficulty.

It can’t really get easier than that! On top, KWFinder has the reputation of being highly accurate on all three measures (many of its competitors produce inconsistent data) and better yet, it’s very intuitive and easy to use for beginners.

KWFinder Features that Stand Out for Online Earners

  • Very well priced compared to the competition
  • Super easy to use (minimal learning curve for beginners)
  • Excellent, highly responsive support
  • Goes straight to the point and provides you exactly what you need in order to rank high in one place, without forcing you to drill into multiple screens to find relevant data
  • Allows you to import your own list of keywords and still obtain the three critical metrics to qualify you for a first page result

Now the Cons…

  • There's no free trial and they only offer a 48-hour money-back guarantee (way too short compared to the competition)
  • It's very restrictive when it comes to daily and monthly caps for searches
  • Poor competitor analysis features (some of its competitors are quite good at this). However, the goal of keyword research is not to find what your competitors are blogging about, but the keywords they're not targeting, so that you do.

Find Out More About KWFinder Here.

Best Budget Keyword Research Tool: Ubersuggest

If you are looking for a budget-priced tool to do keyword research, Ubersuggest will deliver what you need to get the job done.

In addition to keyword suggestions, it’ll show you monthly search volume and organic and paid difficulty scores.

Feature for feature, it’s equivalent with KWFinder, but they do have some issues that knock it off the pole position.

For example, you can’t easily sort the columns of results. So, if you want to sort keyword suggestions by organic keyword difficulty you'll have to export your data to a spreadsheet and do all your sorting there.

Also, this tool can be slow as molasses. It looks like the developers have done a lot of work to create really cool features, but haven’t invested resources to increase the speed of their server, so the wait times to get results during peak use will make you want to quit.

The solution is to use Ubersuggest at night and on weekends, when it’s more likely there will be fewer users on it.

Ubersuggest Features that Stand Out for Online Earners

  • Low cost (they even have a low-priced lifetime purchase option that’s very tempting)
  • Lots of features, they are certainly making an effort to punch above their weight
  • Great keyword suggestion engine. It's broken down into suggestions, related keywords, questions and prepositions. This is very useful to help you unearth more long-tail keywords

Now the Cons...

  • Very slow when lots of users are on it. You’ll need to be really patient to get results during peak times
  • Doesn’t have as much data in their database as their more expensive competitors
  • Their data is generally good but not as accurate or up to date as their more expensive competitors

Find Out More About Ubersuggest Here.

Best Runner-up: SEMRush

SEMRush is the leading all-in-one SEO tool. Now I consider this tool to be the runner up because its focus is on general SEO, which makes it a much more expensive keyword research tool.

Having said that, SEMRush claims to have the largest keyword database among all its competitors at 20 billion keywords.

Now, because this is an "all-around" SEO tool, it comes with a lot of bells and whistles that could become a distraction for beginners.

You can get the pretty much same information you'll get out of KWFinder, but it may take you much longer to sift through the data to find what you want.

SEMRush Features that Stand Out for Online Earners

  • Very large database of keywords (20 billion)
  • You can do your own keyword research plus you can also see what keywords your competitors are ranking for
  • The Rank Tracking feature allows you to see how your position on the page of search results changes over time for each keyword you target
  • Live support is available via phone and chat

Now the Cons...

  • It can be a bit pricey if you’re bootstrapping your website
  • Their most popular plan is limited to a single user at one time. If someone else working on your project logs in, you’ll get kicked out.

Find Out More About SEMRush Here.

Best Free Keyword Research Tool: KW Surfer

If you're looking for a 100% free tool to help you do a reasonable job with your keyword research, look no further than KW Surfer, from the developers of the top of the line on-page SEO Surfer SEO.

KW Surfer is a free Chrome browser extension that taps into Surfer SEO's database of keywords to serve keyword suggestions whenever you do a search on Chrome.

For example, if you search for "online marketing tools" you'll see the expected page of search results with a new sidebar on the right-hand side of the page containing keyword suggestions.

Now, keep in mind that being a free extension you'll only be able to obtain the monthly search volume for each keyword but you'll be missing the organic keyword difficulty and paid difficulty numbers.

But al least, you'll have a good set of keyword ideas to work with as a base. Beyond that, you'll have to use an alternate mechanism to figure out the difficulty metrics.

Something I suggest you do is to load the Ubersuggest Chrome browser extension, which will show you the Domain Score for each result on the first page of search results.

Then do a Google search for each keyword suggestion from KW Surfer and look for results on the first page that have a low Domain Score and also have low monthly traffic.

These are the pages that you'll be most likely to bump when you target your blog post to that keyword.

KW Surfer Features that Stand Out for Online Earners

  • Great source of related keywords based on your seed keyword
  • Great source of monthly search volume for related keywords
  • Handy clipboard feature for exporting your keyword list and associated traffic numbers to a spreadsheet
  • They claim datasets from 70 countries, so the results are not just restricted to the English language
  • It’s 100% free!

Now the Cons...

  • Since it’s free, you’ll have much more limited keyword research capabilities
  • It’s missing the keyword difficulty features found in the above paid tools
  • It’s only good to get you off the ground until you can afford its paid cousins

Find Out More About KW Surfer Here.

What to Do Next

When it comes to the one activity that will have the most impact on your online success, keyword research takes the crown.

All your paths to online riches run through search engines, and these behemoths are run 100% by keywords entered by users (remember the 4.5 billion daily searches on Google alone?).

Master keyword research with the above tools and it'll be just a matter of time before you'll able to drive high-quality traffic to your website, where you'll be monetizing your visitors right, left and center!

KWFinder has a 48-hour money-back guarantee, which is not ideal, but honestly, they just know full well how great their tool really is so they don't feel the need to offer a free trial of a longer money-back guarantee. Both Ubersuggest and SEMRush offer a 7-day free trial.

About the author

Marcelo Beilin is a Digital Marketing Consultant and blogger who helps clients take their traffic and online revenue to the next level.

He also helps readers find the perfect tools to earn online income at BestTech2EarnOnline.com.

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