All content marketing teams must master search engine optimization so their organizations' websites and related content show up in search engine results.
When organizations don't do proper SEO keyword research, their web content may never reach its intended audience. However, content teams can use free keyword research tools to help them gather the information they need to improve their SEO strategies. Many free tools have no paid option, whereas others offer free and paid subscription tiers. Paid subscription tools can enhance SEO strategies, but teams that only need keyword recommendations and keyword volume rankings can benefit from free options, such as Google Search Console, Rank Tracker and AlsoAsked.
Why is keyword research important?
Content teams conduct keyword research to identify the words and phrases that people use to search for goods, services and tips. They also perform this research to learn how those phrases rank based on their search volume in a given month. Content teams can use keyword information to develop and maintain a successful content strategy and understand what content their audiences want to see.
Organizations should continuously perform keyword research as part of their marketing efforts because search engines like Google frequently change the algorithms that determine how content ranks. An organization's initial SEO strategy for its website or blog is just the start of the journey. Content teams must continuously monitor and optimize content on webpages to stay up to date on algorithm changes.
8 free tools for SEO keyword research
Content teams can find many free tools online to help them gather information they need to develop and improve their content and SEO strategies. Organizations that want to perform keyword research for free may consider the following SEO keyword research tools.
1. Google Search Console
Content teams can use Google Search Console to begin their keyword research and gauge how well their organization's web content performs on Google. This free tool analyzes the current keywords on a webpage and shows their average search engine results page (SERP) position, impressions and clicks.
Marketing teams often use Google Search Console alongside other Google services for web and analytics tracking. Web administrators and content creators can use Google Search Console to learn which pages receive little traffic and require changes. The tool can also show which search queries bring in the most traffic so teams know which topics to cover in upcoming blog posts.
For example, users can combine Google Search Console with a Google Analytics account to get in-depth keyword data and find opportunity keywords -- phrases that rank in positions eight through 20 with a large number of impressions -- from the performance report. This report shows how Google ranks keywords in search queries from a snapshot in time. Content teams can use these opportunity keywords, along with on-page SEO improvements, to boost their page's SERP rankings.
2. Rank Tracker
The most effective keywords for organizations to rank for aren't always obvious. Although certain words and phrases may be specific to business products, services or industries, people may use variations of those words and phrases to conduct searches.
To find useful keywords or phrases for search ranking viability, organizations need to know all the possible variations of potential keywords and phrases. Rank Tracker is a free SEO keyword research tool that combines 23 keyword tools into one to give users a multitude of keyword ideas. This tool can show a keyword's traffic potential and the SEO competition for those keywords.
Rank Tracker offers a paid version of its tool, but the free version offers enough data to analyze keyword traffic potential.
This tool can help organizations discover questions that people ask around keywords and related keywords. As search engines have become more sophisticated, people increasingly use natural language -- for instance, formal questions -- to conduct searches. AlsoAsked can help organizations understand the questions that people ask in association with keywords. It also helps to identify search phrases, plan content and get the right content in front of potential customers.
Moreover, this tool provides results for long-tail keywords -- phrases that build on shorter keywords and are more specific -- and shows the relationships between these topics and questions.
4. Keyword Surfer
Keyword Surfer is a free Google Chrome extension that analyzes Google search results directly on the SERP. This extension aims to assess the query volume for a given keyword in the Google database, which includes results from 19 countries. Within the SERP and search bar, users can see global estimates, their country's results and the top 10 similar keywords in the search results.
5. Google Trends
From the Google Trends interface, content teams can see a search term's popularity over time. This tool enables users to research individual words or compare keywords to see trend fluctuations, such as by season, holiday or annual releases of new technology. For example, if a business sells a lot of Mother's Day products, Google Trends can show when keywords related to Mother's Day start to increase or decrease in search volume.
This tool also shows interest by region, breaks down time ranges, and shows related topics and search queries.
6. Google Ads Keyword Planner
For marketing teams that run pay-per-click search campaigns, the Google Ads Keyword Planner tool can help separate a targeted keyword list between SEO and PPC targeting. This tool also shows keyword suggestions and search volumes that can drive insights for campaign planning. Additionally, it shows a breakdown of cost-per-click data, advertising competition and seasonal traffic changes in one place.
Teams that already do PPC advertising can benefit the most from this tool, as they can use the search volume feature for their campaigns. Yet, to access the most detailed analysis features for paid campaigns -- rather than just search volume ranges -- organizations must spend a certain amount of money on their paid Google Ad campaigns.
7. Moz Keyword Explorer
In addition to its paid subscription options, Moz offers a free version of its Keyword Explorer tool. The free tool, which offers 10 queries per month, can benefit content teams that lack SEO experience. The tool doesn't include as many data points as some other tools, but that also makes it less overwhelming for new users.
Moz also creates a priority score, which gives content teams insight into whether they should invest time and effort into a keyword. The tool calculates priority scores based on various metrics, such as volume, clickthrough rate and difficulty, as well as how the organization prioritizes the keyword for its business.
Semrush offers a paid SEO tool, but its free model offers 10 free searches per day, which can benefit content teams just beginning their research. Semrush's range of keyword tools offers visibility into organic search rankings and search volume data, as well as a competitive keyword gap analysis.
Semrush also offers backlink analysis for teams that want to identify which links direct back to their sites. Users can also use the Backlink Gap tool, which compares an organization's backlinks to those of its competitors. Additional features, such as an SEO content template and topic research for content strategy planning, make this a viable option for teams that want to start SEO planning and strategy but plan to eventually scale up to a subscription version.