Chapter 6: Keyword Research Tools
There’s no other way to put this:
If you’re serious about SEO, you should strongly consider investing in a keyword research tool.
Sure, you can sort through keywords in the Google Keyword Planner one-by-one. And you can manually evaluate the first page competition for your target keywords.
But the right tool makes the process MUCH faster, easier and more effective.
Because keyword research tools work at light speed, you’ll usually come away with fistfuls of untapped, low-competition keywords in minutes.
But which keyword research tool is best for you and your business?
Well in this guide I’ve put six of the top tools to the test. I’ll show you an overview of how they work, key features, and a list of pros and cons.
(And to show you that I’m being straightforward and objective, there are NO affiliate links anywhere on this page)
Let’s do this!
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The first keyword research tool I’ll go over is SECockpit.
Like any other keyword research tool, you pop in a seed keyword and get a list of results. But what makes SECockpit unique is the built-in features that allow you to get an incredible amount of depth on search trends, organic competition and traffic estimates.
Here’s how it works:
When you login you’ll automatically go to your Dashboard, where you can create projects around sets of keywords…or jump right in with a single keyword search.
To start the keyword research process, click on “Start a Keyword Search”:
Then, enter a seed keyword in the field marked “Keyword Phrase”:
You can get even more results by choosing to include Google Suggest, Related Searches and synonyms pulled from Google Adwords:
When you’re done, click on “save and close” and the tool will get to work:
Here’s what you’ll see:
Most of the results should be familiar to you as they’re exactly what you’re used to seeing in the Google Keyword Planner.
In fact, the columns “Phrase”, “Monthly Searches” and “CPC” are pulled directly from the GKP:
(The only difference is that CPC is called “Suggested Bid” within Adwords)
What does the other information in SECockpit mean?
Well you’ll notice a bunch of green bars under the column labeled “Niche”:
This bar is a single metric that takes into account top 10 competition, monthly search volume, and commercial intent. In other words, whether or not that keyword is a good overall choice. The larger the bar, the better the keyword.
Next to monthly searches you’ll notice a series of orange bars labeled “Top Results”:
This bar indicates the difficulty of ranking for that particular keyword based on the current top 10 results.
You can get an in-depth overview of a keyword’s first page competition in Google by clicking on a keyword.
When you do, SECockpit will display important competition metrics for the top 10 pages in the results, including MozRank, Domain Authority and total links:
This is a great way to quickly size up competition without having to look one-by-one at Google’s search results.
If you go back to the keywords page, you can actually add at least 20 more columns to the results:
For example, you can see a ratio of the keyword’s competition in comparison to its search volume. Or you can get a comparison of the estimated traffic you’ll get from hitting the top 3 for that keyword compared to the level of competition for that keyword.
Lots and lots of advanced features in SECockpit.
The first thing you’ll notice about SECockpit is that it’s a tool designed for SEO professionals.
Sure, newbies can get value out of it, but there’s no doubt that SECockpit is targeted for people that sleep, eat and breathe SEO.
If you’re brand new to SEO, the sheer number of features in this tool might be overwhelming for you. But if you’re looking for lots and lots of depth, you’ll get your money’s worth with SECockpit.
Moz Keyword Explorer
Moz’s new keyword research tools has a ton of exclusive features that the other tools on the market don’t have. Does that make Moz Keyword Explorer a worthy competitor of SEMRush or SECockpit? Let’s find out:
And it’s very straightforward and easy to use.
First, head over to the Explorer page and enter a seed keyword:
The tool will quickly bring up a bunch of helpful data about that keyword:
Like most keyword research tools, Moz includes the basics like monthly search volume and competition (called “Difficulty”):
What makes Keyword Explorer Unique is that they provide info on “Opportunity” and “Potential”
Opportunity is the CTR you can expect to get if you crack the top 10. For example, if a SERP has a ton of Ads, news results, and a knowledge graph, your CTR will likely be pretty low. Opportunity measures and reports on this. Very cool.
Potential takes into account Opportunity and Difficulty. It’s an “overall” score of whether or not you should target that particular keyword.
Moz’s keyword suggestions also tend to hook you up with different keywords than most other tools:
As you can see, Moz’s Keyword Explorer is a solid tool. It contains a host of features that are legitimately unique and helpful for keyword research.
While not quite at the level of my favorite tool (SEMRush), it’s pretty darn close.
SEMrush works a bit differently than the keyword research tools I’ve shown you so far.
Instead of entering a seed keyword and getting a long list of keyword ideas, SEMrush shows you keywords that your competition already ranks for.
These are often outside-the-box keywords that would be impossible to find using any other tool.
Here’s how it works:
Enter a competitor’s domain name in the field at the top of the page.
If you’re doing SEO in a country outside of the US (for example, in Google.co.uk), you can choose to see information about that specific market. Just choose that country from this menu:
Next, take a look at the “Organic Search” section:
Here’s what the different terms in that section mean:
SEMrush Rank is where the domain ranks in its database of domains (like Alexa, the lower the number, the better). SEMrush rank is based on total organic traffic.
Organic Search is the estimated number of monthly organic visitors that come from Google.
Traffic Cost indicates how valuable this traffic is (based on Adwords CPC).
So if you see a domain with a lot of Organic Search Traffic but a relatively low Traffic Cost, you know that they’re targeting keywords that probably don’t convert especially well.
But the real value of SEMrush comes from the “Organic Keywords” data:
This box will show you 5 of the top keywords that your competitors are ranking for. To see more, click on “Full Report”:
And you’ll get a list of all of the keywords that the site or page is ranks for:
This page alone will usually give you a handful of solid keywords.
But if you want more ideas, go back to the domain’s overview and check out the “Competitors” in the sidebar.
And you’ll see that site’s first page competition:
When you click on one of those results, you’ll see what keywords they’re ranking for.
There will be some overlap from what you just saw, but you’ll also usually dig up some real gems.
You can also start your SEMrush search with a keyword instead of a competitor’s site:
SEMrush will show you a “Phrase match report”, which is a list of long tail keywords that include the keyword you entered:
This is really helpful for finding long tail variations of Head and Body Keywords.
For example, if you wanted to rank for the keyword “weight loss”, you’ll quickly find that it’s simply too competitive.
But SEMrush will show you long tail variations, like “weight loss calculator”, that are MUCH easier to rank for:
If you’re looking for a fresh list of keywords to use as the foundation of your SEO campaigns, SEMrush is a must-have tool.
If you want a lot – and I mean a lot – of keyword ideas, Keyword Snatcher is a dream come true.
You’ll usually generate at least 2,000 keywords from a single seed keyword.
Here’s how it works:
Just open up the tool (it’s browser-based), and you’ll be able to choose the sources that Keyword Snatcher pulls its keyword suggestions from:
I recommend keeping them all checked so you can generate as many keyword ideas as possible.
Next, enter a seed keyword into the field and click “Get Suggestions”:
And after a long wait, you’ll get an insane amount of suggestions:
The one downside of this keyword research tool is that it doesn’t show you helpful information about the keywords that it generates (like search volume and keyword competition). It’s simply a keyword generation tool.
To get that information, you need to extract the list of keywords by clicking on “Download Suggestions” and saving your keyword list as a text or CSV file:
Then, head over to the Google Keyword Planner and choose “Get search volume data and trends”. Upload the file that you downloaded from Keyword Snatcher:
Then you can see the search volume, suggested bid and Adwords competition for all of the keywords that the tool gave you.
When it comes to generating massive lists of keyword ideas, you’d be hard pressed to find a more robust tool than Keyword Snatcher. I’d prefer if you could see data from the Google Keyword Planner without having to upload a file, but that’s not a deal breaker for me because it only takes an extra minute.
Ahrefs Keywords Explorer
Ahrefs’s new keyword research tool is pretty cool. Let’s give it a spin.
First, enter a seed keyword or list of keywords into the field:
Ahrefs will present a TON of data on that keyword
What’s interesting about their keyword difficulty score is that they give you an estimate of the number of backlinks you’ll need to hit Google’s top 10:
Like Moz, Ahrefs gives you info on how many clicks you can expect to get.
They also provide a hefty list of keyword variations and suggestions.
Ahrefs’s new keyword tool is impressive. While it doesn’t offer anything dramatically new, it matches many of the other tools out there feature-for-feature. Recommended.
We’re almost there!
In the final chapter (Chapter 7) we’ll put everything you learned to good use. Specifically, you’ll learn how to create SEO-focused content that makes Google and users happy.