9 Best Free Keyword Tools for Small Businesses

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These awesome keyword research tools are all free. Use them to discover and categorize keywords, and even get access to the relevant keyword metrics.

If you are ever in doubt about search marketing, ask Twitter. SEO and Twitter likely evolved on a time-space continuum around the same vector back in the day. And maybe the fact that tweets were once indexed by Google made Twitter the favorite social network of SEOs. So, I asked Twitter what the best free keyword research tool is, and it gave me a few suggestions that we hadn’t already reviewed for our list of free tools.

Screenshot of a Tweet asking the search marketing community for suggestions of free keyword tools.

The search marketing community on Twitter is great. It’s a fast, public, and interactive social network, and information can be verified and shared more quickly. Image source: Author

Here are the top free keyword tools for your SEO campaign:

  • Keyword Surfer: a free chrome extension for keyword research
  • Ubersuggest: a free keyword suggestion tool
  • Moz: free domain analysis feature
  • KWFinder: limited keyword research for free
  • SEMrush: free domain lookups with keyword detail
  • The Google Keyword Planner
  • Answerthepublic: a free topical search tool
  • Alsoasked.com: another free topical search tool
  • SpyFu: limited keyword research for free

What to look for in a great free keyword tool

In keyword research, you go through stages to understand what keyword searches your audience performs and how to use them. Keyword tools will be useful for discovery, categorization, and keyword list building. Let’s look at some of the things we look for in a great keyword analysis tool.

1. Discovery

Keyword research requires you to step back and think. It’s not all about the data, it’s also about the imagination. Some tools help you get perspective by adding a few data layers and questions you may not have considered.

2. Metrics

In keyword research, you must understand not only what the right keywords are, but their frequency, the traffic they drive, how difficult they are to rank, and the cost to buy advertising to appear on them. These free tools sometimes impose limits and reserve that data for paid versions.

3. Keyword difficulty

How difficult it is to rank for a keyword depends on the CPC (cost per click) in paid search and on a number of SEO factors, such as the number of sites that rank, the strength of backlinks profiles, and the strength of domains. Tools that provide an indication of the difficulty to rank in SEO provide added value as they allow you to pick easier wins.

4. Diversity and geography

It's much easier for a tool to provide the best English language keywords for the U.S. market via Google and Bing than provide those keywords across multiple markets and languages from sources outside traditional search. Some tools plug into sources such as Amazon, YouTube, and international search engines like Yandex and Baidu.

Our top 9 picks for the best free keyword tools

Before jumping into these, we have a little bonus suggestion. Jump straight over to Soovle, a free, fast, and unique tool that shows keyword variations from multiple sources as you type them in. This should get you started and motivated to discover more tools you can use for your keyword research as you work your way through the list below.

1. Best for active browsing: Keyword Surfer

Keyword Surfer is a free Chrome extension that pulls relevant keyword metrics into your browser as an overlay when using Google. You can toggle it on and off, and it’s a useful tool for your keyword discovery phase, where you are trying to understand where and how to concentrate your efforts.

Screenshot of a Google search with Chrome showing the Keyword Surfer data overlay.

The Keyword Surfer Chrome extension overlays information as you search, allowing you to see all the useful keyword metrics and trend information necessary to evaluate a keyword. Image source: Author

2. Best for free access: Ubersuggest

Ubersuggest started out as a simple Google Suggest scraper, collecting and aggregating data from the suggested keywords in the search bar for keyword suggestions. It’s evolved into a fully-fledged SEO tool and remains free, providing keyword metrics including keyword difficulty scores.

Screenshot from Ubersuggest showing keyword suggestions for the query “amazon marketing.”

Ubersuggest presents keywords from Google Suggest ordered by interest and with additional metrics like trends, search volume, estimated CPC, and keyword difficulty. Image source: Author

3. Best for domain lookups: Moz.com

Moz Pro is a complete SEO tools suite that provides site crawl, keyword tracker, backlinks analysis, and domain lookups. It’s a paid tool, but offers free access to domain lookups where you get a view of competitors, top keywords, and even frequently asked questions relating to a site. A great place to go for a quick domain lookup.

Screenshot of a Moz domain lookup for Fool.com.

The free domain lookup feature from Moz provides a great initial overview of a domain's SEO characteristics and main keywords. Image source: Author

Read The Ascent’s full Moz Pro review

4. Best for building lists: KWFinder

KWFinder stands out for its ease of use for building keyword lists. The free version gives you a limited number of keyword lookups per day, and the results pages will give you all the relevant metrics for your keywords.

Screenshot from the keyword look-up results page in KWFinder.

KWFinder provides an easy-to-use keyword lookup providing all the metrics you need for evaluating a keyword. Image source: Author

Read The Ascent’s full KWFinder review

5. Best for paid search: SEMrush

SEMrush is a paid tool providing a complete set of SEO and paid search features. It offers a free domain lookup feature giving you immediate access to a comprehensive view of a domains’ activity in organic and paid search. It illustrates paid search strategies at a glance.

Screenshot of domain lookup for amazon.com.

In this domain lookup of amazon.com, the organic versus paid search trend is clear, and SEMrush provides at-a-glance strategic insight. Image source: Author

Read The Ascent’s full SEMrush review

6. Best for authenticity: Google Keyword Planner

Google Keyword Planner is a source for many free tools. It’s free within Google Ads, which provides access to keyword research and metrics. You can use it both as a domain lookup tool and as a list generator from seed keywords. It provides rough metrics for volumes and CPCs. It’s intended for building paid search campaigns but anyone with a Google account can access and use the tool.

Screenshot from within a Google Ads account showing the Tools menu and Keyword Planner item.

You can do a lot of your keyword research using the free Google Keyword Planner tool. All you need is a Google account. Image source: Author

7. Best for discovery: AnswerThePublic

AnswerThePublic is a great tool. Its homepage is worth a visit whether you’re looking for keywords or not, simply for the experience. The tool analyzes related search queries when you enter a keyword and displays them on relationship charts. This allows you to understand semantic relationships and define keyword categories and relevant questions that your content should provide answers to.

Screenshot of a keyword lookup with AnswerThePublic.

AnswerThePublic is a great tool for keyword research since it helps you ask questions and categorize topics and keywords. Image source: Author

8. Best for identifying questions: AlsoAsked.com

AlsoAsked.com must have been inspired by AnswerThePublic. It takes the concept of questions one step further, looks up additional queries, and finds more questions. It’s in itself a categorization tool that outputs a number of questions that can guide your content strategy.

Screenshot of the AlsoAsked.com results page for the query “amazon marketing.”

When querying AlsoAsked.com for “amazon marketing,” the tool provides several iterations of questions which are categorized around various concepts like “the marketing Amazon does for itself,” “what you need to do to market your company on Amazon,” and more. Image source: Author

9. Best for competitive research: SpyFu

Initially a competitive keyword research tool for paid and organic search, SpyFu has evolved into a platform that provides a broad range of features, including search data and backlinks analysis and rank tracking.

Screenshot from the competition section of a SpyFu look up for Fool.com.

SpyFu will identify your competitors and look at the keyword overlap sections where you can find your strengths and weaknesses and of course identify opportunities and priorities for your organic and paid search. Image source: Author

Read The Ascent’s full SpyFu review

Do your keyword research now, while these tools are free

Clearly, awesome tools shouldn’t be free, especially when they provide as much value as the tools mentioned above. If your keyword research is a one-time task, don’t hesitate to benefit from this, and remember to provide great reviews and ratings in return for the free service.

If you’re building an SEO capability or practice, use the free offers to figure out which SEO tool is best for you before signing up for a paid version. You won’t regret it -- and the paid versions are even better.

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