Large Scale Study: How Data From Popular Keyword Research Tools Compare

Large Scale StudyHow Data From Popular
Keyword Research Tools Compare

Large Scale Study: How Data From Popular Keyword Research Tools Compare
Brian Dean

by Brian Dean · Updated Feb. 04, 2020

We recently analyzed 10 of the most popular keyword research tools in the SEO industry.

Our goal?

To compare the accuracy and breadth of the data found within each tool.

Specifically, we analyzed monthly search volume, keyword difficulty, CPC estimates and search suggestions across popular SEO tools, including:

To our knowledge this is the first large-scale comparison of the data provided by various keyword research tools.

And now it’s time to share what we discovered.

Summary of Our Key Findings:

1. Ahrefs and SEMrush generate the highest number of keyword suggestions, followed by Ubersuggest, Sistrix, and SECockpit.

2. The Google Keyword Planner provides 67.9% fewer keyword suggestions than the average output from other major paid SEO tools. However, KWFinder and KWTool both produce similar amounts of keyword suggestions compared to GKP.

3. KeywordTool.io and Sistrix tend to provide higher than average monthly search volume estimates. Sistrix’s search volume estimates are 233% higher than the median, while KeywordTool.io is 47% above the median. Moz and Ahrefs skew towards slightly lower search volume estimates. Ahrefs’s search volumes are 37% less than the median while Moz Pro’s search volume estimates are 33% below the tool-wide median.

4. When analyzing search volume data for popular search terms (>10k searches/month) Sistrix has significantly higher monthly search volume estimates vs. the Google Keyword Planner.

5. All the SEO tools in our analysis had a significant negative correlation between search volume and keyword length.

6. Certain tools tend to outperform others in terms of keyword suggestions in specific industries. For example, while they generally produce fewer suggestions than SEMrush and Ahrefs, Moz and Google Keyword Planner tend to generate a relatively high number of suggestions in the web hosting niche. And Ubersuggest is particularly good at finding keyword ideas in the marketing, travel, and diet niches.

7. We found large variations for keyword difficulty scores between tools. Our data discovered that SEMrush’s keyword difficulty scores are 110% above the median. SECockpit estimates keyword difficulty 82% below the median.

8. The median CPC across all of the terms that we analyzed was $1.68. SECockpit ($2.20) and Google Keyword Planner ($2.14) report higher overall CPC than the average. At $1.39, SEMrush has the lowest CPC estimates.

9. When comparing CPC estimates found in Google Keyword Planner vs. other tools, SECockpit has considerably higher cost per click estimates compared to those found in Google Keyword Planner. KWFinder, Long Tail Pro, KeywordTool.io, Sistrix, Ahrefs, and SEMrush have lower cost per clicks than Google Keyword Planner.

I’ve provided details on our findings below.

Ahrefs and SEMrush Generate The Most Keyword Suggestions. KWFinder and Google Keyword Planner Provide The Least

When it comes to sheer number of keyword suggestions, Ahrefs and SEMrush tend to outperform other major SEO tools.

Ahrefs & SEMrush generate more keyword suggestions than other major SEO tools

Here is the “beeswarm” plot that compares keyword suggestion volume to the tool-wide average.

Ahrefs, SEMrush and Ubersuggest generate an above-average number of keywords

Generating a large list of keyword ideas is an important feature of any SEO tool. In fact, many tools prominently display how many keyword ideas they’re able to generate from a single seed keyword.

Ahrefs – Keywords Explorer – Thousands of ideas

Why is coming up with thousands of keyword ideas so useful?

Well, in many cases, someone that enters a seed keyword into a tool isn’t actually looking up stats for that exact keyword.

Instead, their goal is to find long tail versions of that keyword. Sometimes they also want the tool to generate laterally-related keyword ideas that they’d have trouble coming up with on their own.

Obviously, you can’t judge the value of a keyword research tool based solely on how many keyword ideas that it spits out. However, it’s an important feature that factors into the decision of which tool to invest in.

Key Takeaway: Ahrefs, SEMrush, Ubersuggest, and Sistrix appear to perform best in terms of producing keyword suggestions. KeywordTool.io, Google Keyword Planner and KWFinder ranked near the bottom.

The Google Keyword Planner Provides 67.9% Fewer Keyword Suggestions Compared to Other Several Major Paid SEO Tools

Although designed for Google Ads, many marketing professionals use Google Keyword Planner (GKP) for SEO campaigns.

Even when used solely for SEO, the Google Keyword Planner has several things going for it.

First of all, unlike many keyword tools out there, it’s free.

But more important than pricing is the fact that the data comes straight from Google. Which means that the data in the GKP should be super reliable compared to 3rd party tools.

It should be noted that GKP search volumes are presented in a range unless you’re running an active Google Ads campaign.

GKP – Search volumes presented in range

The GKP also lacks key features (like Keyword Difficulty scores and SERP analysis) that many paid tools provide.

Despite those shortcomings, the GKP is a mainstay keyword tool for many SEO professionals.

According to our analysis, the GKP doesn’t come up with nearly as many keyword suggestions as other major paid tools.

In fact, the GKP provides around 68% fewer average keyword suggestions compared to the paid tools in our analysis.

Google Keyword Planner generates 67.9% fewer suggestions than other popular SEO tools

And when we compared the GKP against the top tools, we found that the GKP generates 98.1% fewer suggestions than SEMrush, 97% fewer than those made by Ahrefs, and 83.8% fewer than by Ubersuggest.

Key Takeaway: Google Keyword Planner has its merit as a keyword research tool for SEO. However, most major SEO tools vastly outperform GKP in terms of producing keyword suggestions.

Sistrix and KeywordTool.io Have Relatively High Monthly Search Volume Estimates. Moz and Ahrefs Estimates Tend to Be On The Lower End

One of the most interesting findings from this analysis is that the tools in our analysis all have very different monthly search volume estimates.

KeywordTool.io and Sistrix tend to estimate keyword search volumes higher than most other tools. On the other hand, search volume estimates in Moz Pro and Ahrefs are generally lower.

Keyword search volume per SEO tool

In general, we found a wide range of keyword volumes for the same exact set of keywords.

For example, take a keyword like “insurance”. According to KeywordTool.io, that keyword gets 368,000 searches per month.

"insurance" – Monthly search volume

However, if you look up that same keyword in Ahrefs, you’ll get a completely different number.

"insurance" – Monthly search volume – Ahrefs

Which tool is right?

While it’s impossible to say based on our research, it’s important to note that each tool uses different sources and methodologies for estimating search volume.

For example, both Moz and Ahrefs use “Clickstream” data

Ahrefs and Moz on Clickstream usage

(In other words, data pulled from third party tools that are modeled on actual user behavior).

On the other hand, SEMrush uses a combination of data from GKP and AI forecasting.

SEMrush – Machine learning algorithm

Both approaches have their pros and cons. So there’s no “right” way to estimate search volume.

Either way, search volume is a super important data point. In many ways, search volume numbers are the most valuable data point that a keyword tool provides. So important, in fact, that SEO campaigns are often based solely on a keyword’s estimated search volume.

And while we’re not able to crown one tool at “the most accurate”, it is important to see which way each tool tends to skew, whether high or low. If the tool that you use tends to overestimate a bit, you may want to keep that in mind as you decide on a keyword. And the same is true for a tool that estimates search volumes lower than most other tools.

Key Takeaway: Search volume estimates vary widely between mainstream SEO tools. The monthly search volume estimates in Moz (33% below the median) and Ahrefs (37% below the median) are lower than most other tools. Sistrix (233% above the median) and KeywordTool.io (47% above the median) are significantly higher.

When Looking Only At High-Volume Keywords (10k+ Searches Per Month) Sistrix Estimates Search Volumes Much Higher Than Google Keyword Planner

We decided to specifically compare search volume estimates for relatively high-volume keywords (>10,000 monthly searches). Here’s what we found:

Sistrix's search volume estimates are significantly higher than Google Keyword Planner for high-volume keywords (10k+ searches/month)

Why look specifically at popular terms? Because search volume differences among high-volume terms have the greatest real world impact on SEO.

For example, let’s say that a specific tool estimates that a keyword gets 100 searches per month. If a tool overestimates the volume by 25%, it’s only 25 monthly search off. In absolute terms, that’s not very significant.

However, if the same tool overestimates a 100k/month keyword by 25%, that’s off by 25 thousand searches.

This is the kind of thing that can make or break an SEO campaign.

Key Takeaway: When looking specifically at high-volume keywords (10k+ searches/month), monthly search volume data in Sistrix is considerably higher compared to the GKP.

Keyword Length Is Negatively Correlated With Search Volume

One of our most consistent findings was that, across all of the tools that we included in our analysis, keyword length had a significant negative correlation with monthly search volume.

Keyword length is negatively correlated with search volume

For example, using Google Keyword Planner, a keyword with 20 characters results in an average search volume decrease of 5,177 searches/month compared to a search term with only 10 characters.

To anyone experienced in SEO, this should come as no surprise.

So-called “long tail keywords” are generally known to be longer and to get fewer searches than “head terms”.

Long tail keywords

But it was interesting to note that this negative relationship between keyword length and search volume persisted across all of the tools that we looked at.

Key Takeaway: Keyword length is negatively correlated with average monthly search volume. Going from 10 to 20 characters reduces the average search volume of a keyword by 5,177 searches per month.

Different Keyword Tools Perform Better In Specific Industries

Perhaps our most noteworthy finding in this entire analysis is that, when it comes to generating keyword suggestions, different tools perform better in different industries.

Different keyword tools perform better in specific industries

Specifically, Ahrefs and SEMrush are higher-performing than the other tools that we analyzed in the categories: home improvement, legal, automotive, solar energy, travel, and weddings.

Ahrefs appears to be especially strong when it comes to generating keyword ideas about travel and web hosting.

On the other hand, Google Keyword Planner and Moz were comparable to the other tools in categories like web hosting. However, they produced significantly fewer suggestions in other industries.

Interestingly, the free Ubersuggest tool yielded a comparable number of keyword suggestions related to marketing, travel and diet as SEMrush and Ahrefs.

The potential implication of this finding is that, rather than deciding on a tool based on its sheer ability to generate keywords, it may make sense to use a tool that’s best for your industry.

While Ahrefs and SEMrush produce the most total suggestions, if your site is about web hosting, Moz or the Google Keyword Planner are somewhat competitive to those two tools in that specific niche.

Key Takeaway: Certain keyword tools perform better than others in specific industries. Ahrefs tends to be strongest in the travel and web hosting space. Ubersuggest does relatively well in niches like marketing, travel and diet. While still far behind SEMrush and Ahrefs, Moz and GKP are relatively competitive in the web hosting space.

SECockpit and Ahrefs Have Relatively Low Keyword Difficulty Numbers. KeywordTool.io and SEMrush Have The Highest Average Keyword Difficulty Scores

Estimating Keyword Difficulty (also known as “Keyword Competition”) is a critical part of the keyword research process.

Keyword Difficulty is used to decide whether or not to target a specific keyword. This is especially true for newer websites without much in the way of Domain Authority.

However, as we found in this analysis, Keyword Difficulty is far from a consistent metric. Certain tools tend to estimate Keyword Difficulty higher than average. While others err on the side of underestimating how hard it will be to rank for a specific term.

SECockpit and Ahrefs have low keyword difficulty scores. KeywordTool.io and SEMrush have high keyword difficulty scores

And here is a more full picture of keyword difficulty distribution.

Distribution of difficulty scores (ranked by overall median)

For example, take the keyword “solar panel background”.

In SEMrush, this term has a Keyword Difficulty Score of “77.61”.

SEMrush – "solar panel background" – Difficulty

However, that same keyword has a score of “8.06” in SECockpit.

SECockpit – "solar panel background" – Difficulty

Same keyword. Completely different Keyword Difficulty scores.

Overall, SEMrush and KeywordTool.io report the highest median difficulty scores. Difficulty scores are notably lower in Ahrefs and SECockpit.

Sistrix, Moz, LongtailPro, and KWfinder tend to have similar Keyword Difficulty Score distribution.

We also decided to analyze this metric by different keyword volume categories (low, medium and high volume searches).

The Keyword Difficulty distribution pattern was essentially the same among different keyword volume types.

Difficulty score differences between SEO tools is consistent across different keyword volume levels

Key Takeaway: Keyword Difficulty scores vary greatly between different SEO tools. Ahrefs and SECockit tend to report Keyword Difficulty significantly lower than the other tools in our analysis. On the other end of the spectrum, Keyword Difficulty numbers are estimated higher in both SEMrush and KeywordTool.io.

Google Keyword Planner and SECockpit Report Slightly Higher Than Average CPC Estimates. SEMrush’s CPC Estimates Are Lower Than Average

We found small differences in cost per click (CPC) estimates among the various SEO tools in our study.

SECockpit's CPC estimates are 126% higher than average. SEMrush's are 80% lower than average.

Specifically, the CPC estimates in SECockpit are 26% above the median. On the other end of the spectrum, SEMrush’s CPCs are 20% below the median.

(Note that Moz does not provide any information on cost per click, so they weren’t included in this analysis).

However, I should point out that CPC estimates are generally similar among SEO tools. Roughly 11% of the keywords have CPCs differences below $0.50.

As an example, if you look at the CPC for a term in a tool that tends to estimate CPCs on the higher side (SECockpit) and compare it to CPC numbers in SEMrush (which estimates CPC on the lower end), they’re not that different.

"landscaping insurance" – CPC – SECockpit vs. SEMrush

But there are situations where CPC estimates have extreme differences. For example, “fsa store coupon” ($1.10 in Ahrefs, $464.745 in Google Keyword Planner) and “register domain name google” ($16.94 in KeywordTool.io and KWfinder, $480.5 in SECockpit).

Even minor differences can impact your estimated ROI from ranking for a specific keyword. And if you apply small differences to dozens of keywords that you plan on ranking for, these CPC differences do add up.

Key Takeaway: Although the differences are relatively minor, CPC estimates do vary between tools. CPC estimates found in SECockpit are 26% above the median. The GKP also tends to have high CPC estimates at 23% above the median. At 20% below the mean, SEMrush’s CPC numbers tend to be low.

When Comparing CPC Differences to Google Keyword Planner, SECockpit Remains Relatively High. CPCs In SEMrush and KeywordTool.io Are Well Below Those Found In GKP

Considering that the GKP is the most direct data source for actual CPCs, we decided to compare CPC values among the tools using the Google Keyword Planner as our “gold standard”.

SECockpit's CPC estimates are higher than Google Keyword Planner. SEMrush, LongTailPro, and KeywordTool are consistently lower than Google Keyword Planner.

We found that SECockpit always has (slightly) higher CPCs than Google Keyword Planner, independent of search volume category. KWFinder, LongTailPro, KeywordTool.io, Ahrefs, and SEMrush have consistently lower cost per clicks than Google Keyword Planner.

Key Takeaway: Using GKP as the “gold standard” for CPC-related data, we found that SECockpit’s CPC numbers to be considerably higher than those reported in the GKP. Most other tools in our analysis report CPCs that are lower than those found in the Google Keyword Planner.

Performance Heatmap Distribution

To summarize these findings, we decided to visualize the performance of search volume, difficulty score, and cost per click (CPC) for each SEO tool compared to the overall median.

Comparison of performance in volume, difficulty & cost per click (CPC)

The largest discrepancies in overall performance are for:

  • SECockpit: Considerably lower difficulty scores (82%) and slightly higher CPC (26.4%).
  • Ahrefs: Considerably lower difficulty scores (60%) and search volume (37%).
  • Sistrix: Considerably higher search volumes (233%).
  • SEMrush: Considerably higher difficulty scores (110.3%).
  • KeywordTool.io: Considerably higher search volumes (47%) and difficulty scores (87.5%).

Note: No data was available in case of keyword difficulty scores for Google Keyword Planner and cost per click for Moz Pro.

Conclusion

I learned a lot about the data found in various keyword research tools from this study, and I hope you did too.

If you’d like to see the nuts and bolts of how this research was conducted, here’s a link to our methods PDF.

Now I’d like to hear from you.

What was your #1 takeaway from today’s study?

Or maybe you have a question about something that you read.

Either way, go ahead and leave a comment below right now.

387 Comments

  1. Hey Hey!

    Too funny your covering this

    I was just questioning yesterday the accuracy on a few tools I tested

    LOL

    Thanks,

    Chris Pontine

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Hey Chris, you’re not alone. I get this question all the time:

      “SEMRUsh says a keyword gets X searches. But Moz says it gets Y?. Which one is right?”.

      While we didn’t really say which tool has the best overall data (that’s somewhat subjective), I hope we shed some light on the general trend that different tools have in terms of volume, CPC etc.

      1. Rand tries to address this in a white board Friday he did back in 2018 saying GKP was unreliable. Unfortunately, it feels like it becomes a he said, she said argument.

        https://moz.com/blog/unreliable-google-adwords-keyword-volume

        For us as marketers it seems that this data should be taken with a grain of salt and more emphasis should be on providing helpful value-added content. For example, this very article! 🙂

        1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

          Hi Roberto, thanks for sharing that. I remember that post. I mean, he’s right that GKP data is unreliable. It’s not even an SEO tool. However, there’s no “perfect” way to estimate search volume. Clickstream data is cool but it also has flaws.

      1. GREAT write up, Brian!

        PPC’er here and couldn’t agree more. GKP can be very limited when trying to pull as many keywords as possible — it’s a little disappointing that the very tool Google provides helps the least with keyword research and campaign expansions. 😂

        But hey, it’s free. I can’t complain too much, or can I? 🙃

        We have been using paid accounts at Ahrefs & SEMrush but more for SEO than anything else. I will be looking much closer at these and see which one helps more on our next batch of keyword research.

        Thanks for the helpful post!

        p.s. I’m digging the site refresh too. Cleannnnn 😎👍👍

        1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

          Thanks Darren. I appreciate that. Yeah, the GKP is limited for sure. But to be fair, it’s first and foremost a PPC tool. SEO guys like me have tried to sort of hack it to for SEO. The old keyword tool still worked great for SEO. But the GKP isn’t great for SEO at all (even not counting the fact that most people see search volume ranges). So yeah, glad you liked the post! It was a fun little study to do.

  2. Great post Brian! really informative.

    Do you think any of the tools will be affected with the recent announcement that Avast has closed down Jumpshot?

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Thanks Rhys. I definitely think certain tools that rely on clickstream data will be affected, either by changing their approach or by going with a different data provider.

  3. I really love using Keywords Everywhere for easily looking up keyword volumes in a natural way while just doing Google searches. It was free for a long time then recently went to a paid version and everyone dropped it like a hot potato. The price is only $10 for tons of queries using the tool. I truly believe It’s the best $10 I have ever spent for an SEO tool and I have an Ahref’s subscription for deeper dives.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Hey Bruce, that’s a great tool for sure. It pulls data from the GKP, so the data is pretty solid. I never was able to find great keywords naturally from just searching around. I tend to find my best keywords from a dedicated keyword tool like SEMRUsh, the GKP etc.

    1. We have semrush and find it great for topic related keyword opportunities. I’m now using Keyword Surfer chrome extension for quick search volume mining – similar to KW Everywhere but free. Great for finding top level search volumes and more importantly KW intent.

      1. Lee Klingensmith Avatar Lee Klingensmithsays:

        Thanks for the tip.

    1. Hi Bruce, Thanks for that KeywordsEverywhere. Just the tool for me as not being a full-stack SEO person. 😉
      And thanks Brian. Great overview!!

  4. Wow, love the site redesign – I was just saying “I wonder when Brian will go 100% mobile”. May I ask – what % of your site visitors are mobile/tablet versus computer? My real estate and mortgage website is over 76% now.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Thanks Scott. Backlinko is B2B so only about 20-25% of our traffic is mobile. Most people look up SEO stuff when they’re at work and on their desktops. That’s not to say mobile isn’t important, but it’s not as dominant in B2B as it is in B2C.

      1. Yup! B2B is mostly desktop. I had a mea culpa moment recently when my #1 recommendation to a client was to improve his mobile layout. He politely reminded me that 90%+ visitors to his website are from desktop.

        1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

          For sure. Mobile IS growing. But in B2B it’s still “desktop first”.

  5. Wow. Excellent article! Thank you so much for doing this.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Hi Nelson, you’re welcome. Glad you found it useful 👍

  6. Great information Brian!

    As a small agency owner, having the right tools are much needed. I have been a SEMrush user for years and I think I may need to switch to Ahrefs based on your report. I appreciate the hard work you put into this!

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Hi Christopher, you’re welcome. What made you want to switch? I don’t think we found that one tool was superior than the other based on the data here.

  7. I tried Ahrefs and KWfinder and it’s true that Ahrefs generated a lot more keyword ideas. But they have ‘row limitations’ which I haven’t yet understood well. After just about a week I reached my limit and couldn’t do more research until next month 🙁 So it’s worth checking everything before joining any keyword tool…

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Hi Jack, thanks. What plan are you on? I’ve never even got close to that limit. You must do an insane amount of searches, LOL.

  8. This research is really amazing!

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Hi Paul, thank you. It’s definitely more for SEO nerds like me but I thought it was pretty cool!

  9. Hi Brian, thanks for this info. With respect to keyword difficulty, aside from just the differences between the tools are you able to report on if those differences were consistent on a keyword level instead of just an overall measure? I think maybe same question could apply to volume? What do you think?

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Hi David, you’re welcome. We compared this across the same set of keywords. So what’s reported here is exactly that: for a given keyword, tool A reports difficulty at 50%. Tool A reports difficulty at 6% for the same keyword, etc.

      1. Got it. What I meant was I wonder if you found consistency in difficulty between tools on a keyword basis – so that keyword abc in tool A was X% delta from tool B, and so on for the rest of each of the keywords on the list? (right? in theory shouldn’t the delta be the same for each keyword on the list when comparing tools? If the deltas differ, wouldn’t that be an indication of something screwy? what do you think?)

        1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

          Hi David, yes that’s exactly what we found: that certain tools tend to be above or below the mean on certain metrics (like CPC and keyword difficulty). And we found some major differences. Does that make sense?

  10. Brian,

    It’s funny that I was just reading your “keyword research” guide and wondering which keyword tool to go for (was thinking of ahref or keywordtool.io) and you just dropped this bomb out of nowhere.

    Ahref is no brainer… and you just caused keywrodtool.io a customer 😛

    Allow me to buy you a pizza, may I?

    Thank you brian!!

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Hi Rahul, you’re welcome 👍

  11. Very helpful. Appreciate the insight.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Hi Keith, no worries. Happy to help.

  12. Kunal Kapoor Avatar Kunal Kapoorsays:

    I am planning to buy one of the tool mentioned above!
    But as you said it I am confused in what to buy and what to leave!
    I am a freelancer but have 12-15 projects and need to accumulate data in big numbers!
    So please suggest the top 3 choices

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      That’s hard for me to say because it depends on your budget, features that are important to you, etc.

      1. Please suggest which tool(s) might be best for the following two purposes:
        1)Keyword ideas for a startup blog that plans to go medium scale in the future “still not getting dishearted due to failure in Bad keyword selection”?
        2) Tracking and Optimizing content according to the rankings the blog post is achieving over the time?

  13. Hi,

    Wonderfull study ! As usual, you’ve done a magnificent job. Why you don’t include Ubersuggest on the final study ? It’s a good tool. Do you know SEObserver ?

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      We did include Ubersuggest in the study.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Thanks. Glad you found it useful.

  14. What an interesting comparison of keyword tools Brian. What tool do you think provides better LSI keywords among Ahrefs and SEMRush? I know about LSIGraph but just curious. Thank you!

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Thanks Ahsan. As far as I know Ahrefs doesn’t have an LSI keyword generator feature.

      1. Hi Brian,

        Does SEMRush have an LSI keyword generator? I know a bit about keyword magic tools, but not so sure if they have it specifically.

        1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

          They have an on-page SEO checker that has basically tells you which LSI keywords to include in your content.

  15. Ayush Gulloo Avatar Ayush Gulloosays:

    Awesome 👍 Brian!!
    Great WORK

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Thanks Ayush

  16. Any specific results for real estate niche?

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Hi Sean, we didn’t look at the real estate niche for this study.

  17. Great post, thanks Brian !

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      You’re welcome, Valentin.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      I agree, Kekeli. But it’s more of a subjective thing. The data here found that Ahrefs was best in terms of generating keyword suggestions. The rest (search volume, competition etc.) is more relative to what other tools report.

  18. Great piece Brian. Recently I noticed a large difference in search volume while doing my keyword research and I was wondering which tool is the most precise. I guess I should try GKP next time.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Hi Anthony, thank you. I do think the GKP has generally accurate data. But the approach that tools like Moz Pro and Ahrefs use (Clickstream data) have their pros too. But yeah, it’s really interesting to see how different the tools are in terms of monthly search volume estimates.

  19. Thank you for your hard work.
    I used to use a Keywordevery extension. it really was so helpful for me in choosing the appropriate keyword. It’s a paid tool now.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      You’re welcome. Yup, Keywords Everywhere is pretty solid.

    1. Yeah, Keywords Everywhere is paid now. But it will cost you a few $ a month 😀
      If you get value from it, this should not be an issue. After all, paying for the value makes sense (I assume your services are not free, right?).

  20. Hi Brian,

    very, very helpful piece of content. I`ll use the results to do better seo research in future 🙂

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      You’re welcome, Lorenz. I hope it helps you interpret the data from keyword tools a little bit better.

  21. Another great breakdown Brian.

    It seems that Ubersuggest, even though it is free, is outperforming some of the paid for tools.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Thanks Andrew. That’s true. In terms of generating keyword ideas it did beat out a number of paid tools.

  22. A comprehensive study dean and must be a huge data churning exercise. Gives a lot of insight atleast to me on how tools give different results based on source like click stream etc.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Thanks Bhanu. Yes, this did require a lot of data churning (mostly by the tools themselves!). Then, we had to analyze and compare what they spit out. So yeah, wasn’t easy to do but not super hard when compared to some of the other research that we’ve done in the past.

  23. This is great, Brian! Testing every tool like this takes time, and the fact that you put down the work to compare them is a hughe value for me as a consultant. I use Keywordtoo.io, but I see now that I should give some other a chance too when it comes to keyword research. Thank you!

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Hi Harald, you’re welcome. And I’m glad to hear that this research helped you out! KeywordTool.io is solid. But yeah, I recommend testing out a few other tools to see if there’s one out there that might be a better fit.

      1. Hey Brian – useful article. I think the main thing it’s missing is keyword idea relevancy. I know ahrefs spits out the most ideas on keyword broad match but 70% of them end up being completely unrelated to my head term and then it takes me longer to filter them out than it would have done to just choose a tool with less keywords.

        Also – keyword planner has added functionality such as removing branded terms which people quite often want to do when carrying out keyword research.

        1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

          Fair point there, Andrew. I’ve noticed the same thing. More ideas isn’t necessarily better. Especially if you have to sort through tons of unrelated keyword ideas.

  24. Brian, this is a wonderful research. How was this data calculated?

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Thanks Maksym. We have a methods PDF at the bottom of the post.

  25. Super infos. Thanks.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      You’re welcome, Eve.

  26. Hamza Hashim Avatar Hamza Hashimsays:

    Hi Brian, thanks for sharing this amazing information about these Kw research tools. I’m personally using Ahrefs, Moz and Ubbersuggest for finding the best KWs for Amazon Affliate Marketing by using the KGR technique.

    The comparison of the KW difficulty you shared was amazing. Now my point is clear about this. But most people prefer the KW Difficulty of Moz. I don’t know why. Everyone has his own concept.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Hi Hamza, you’re welcome. I personally use a bunch of tools too. Each one has pretty big pros and cons. In terms of KW difficulty, I haven’t found any tool to be super accurate. But Moz is definitely one of the best in that department (in my opinion).

      1. Hamza Hashim Avatar Hamza Hashimsays:

        Yeah, I have seen a lot of SEOs who prefer Moz KW difficulty. That’s what I’m following and I’m getting a good result. I used Ahrefs to find KWs and use Moz to find it’s KW difficulty that can I rank this KW in a short time or how much time it will take to rank.

  27. For backlinks database I think that Ahrefs is the best, but this is just a consideration based on my experience. What do you think Brian?

  28. Hi Brian, Which keyword research tool for the Home Improvement Industry? And any solution on seeing actual numbers in Google keyword planner instead of seeing range?

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Hi Marco, we didn’t look at that industry specifically. But if the industries that we analyzed are any indication, then there is one tool that will for whatever reason have more suggestions in that niche. To your second question, I have a solution to that at the bottom of this post: https://backlinko.com/google-keyword-planner#kw-search-volume-data

  29. excellent piece, Brian. besides being a entry solution comparing to others, I really like the cost–benefit from KwFinder.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Thank you. For sure: KWFinder is solid. And their UX is 👌

  30. Rushi patel Avatar Rushi patelsays:

    Hii backlinko.. well its a great piece of content.. I like to know what is your best tool for research. I know its hard to say. Though suggest which is the best tools for all niche.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Thanks. Exactly: it’s really s hard to say partially because it’s subjective. Everyone has different needs, features that are important to them etc.

    1. Thank you so much for putting this all together. We are just starting out in our business http://www.loolyn.com and when we were doing our research last year we used a combination of SEMrush paid services and ubersuggest to put together information and I did wonder why some elements varies so greatly! Would you say that on a (currently) small site like ours which wants to drive blog traffic ahead of an e-commerce launch, its best to focus on a few key phrases/words or target a broad range? This element of running a business is a mine field!! 🙂

  31. Kim Avatar Kimsays:

    Keysearch is recommended in a few travel blogging groups so I’d love to see how it compares in case you’re planning any updates for this data. Thanks!

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Hi Kim, good suggestion, thanks. I’ll keep Keysearch in mind.

  32. Hey, Brian. Great post as always; informative, well-researched, and well written. A few days back I was struggling with the same issue and today you resolved the same. Thanks a ton!

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Thanks Shivam 👍

  33. Again a very good Post Brian 🙂
    Only for the presentation is more than 10X for me is 1BX Content.
    I just made it because I learn that for you.

    Anyway… ysterday I was in meeting with Top French SEO.
    And we was talking about what is best keyword tool. I was told them go to https://backlinko.com/
    you will find the answer.
    But I din’t expect you going published a new amazing content aka 1BX Content…

    Thank so much

    Claude

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Thanks Claude! 👍

  34. To be honest, I was waiting for a conclusion with, “In my opinion the best bet would be to use ______ for your SEO”.

    Although, the data says a lot. We can’t trust these tools completely.

    I guess the best bet would be to use either Ahrefs or SEMRush.

    In my Ubersuggest is not good enough yet. The good thing is, it’s free and evolving!

    Thanks for this in-depth analysis!

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Hi Bishnu, yeah I’m not really able to say “the best keyword tool is ____” based on the data here. The goal was more to benchmark and compare the data that the different tools provide. For the record, I personally think that Ahrefs, SEMRush and Ubersuggest are all solid tools.

  35. travis Avatar travissays:

    Thanks for the data Brian. Is there a reason Ubersuggest was only mentioned in some of the statisticss and not all?
    I work in the wedding industry. Its highly competitive and none of these tools have good data on long-tail keywords in this industry so I’m in the dark outside of Google search tests. Any advice on how to find more long-tail keywords that are converting for our competitors?

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Hi Travis, we included it for as many analyses as we could. Certain tools only provided limited data at scale, so we had to exclude a few here and there. But for the most part, Ubersuggest was in most of the analysis. I think your best bet may to be to try an outside the box keyword too like seedkeywords.com.

      1. Travis Collins Avatar Travis Collinssays:

        Thanks for the reply and tip Brian.

  36. Wow! That’s a lot of work. Very interesting findings. We mostly use Ahrefs and some SEMrush. Good to know Ahrefs is underestimating keyword difficulty though. Will keep that in mind and compare with SEMrush going forward. I enjoy your blog. Thanks!

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Hi Caron, you’re welcome. Same here: I tend to use both of those tools every day. It’s kind of semantics, but I wouldn’t necessarily say that Ahrefs is underestimating. It’s just that their estimates are lower than most other tools.

  37. Hi Brian –

    This is a great fact-finding mission! We recently went form having Moz and Ahrefs, to condensing into just SEM Rush. I’ve been very surprised by the ability to do almost everything we did in the previous 2 in SEM Rush.

    I also have found the Keyword Difficulty very high in SEM Rush but I thought it was just me. To be fair, I now only use it as a glance, where I “trusted” ahrefs keyword difficulty score a little more. Your data confirmation is interesting to note.

    On CPC costs. I actually tend to start higher when I begin a campaign, but within a few hours, I can tell if I need to adjust my spending to where I want to be on the page. But I typically don’t use CPC features of the programs anymore and mostly rely on GKP for cost and SEM Rush for volumes.

    BUT maybe I should start. 🙂

    Thanks for your great work on this!

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Hi Susie, thanks! In my opinion, you can’t go wrong with Ahrefs, Moz or SEMRush. All three have their pros and cons. But, as you’re finding, you can get away with using one tool for link analysis, keyword research, and more. I also take CPCs with a grain of salt: especially after this analysis!

  38. Great insights as usual brian…

    Always come here on Tuesdays to get your latest SEO knowledge.

    From the #6 Finding which is : “Certain tools tend to outperform others in terms of keyword suggestions in specific industries.”

    Does that mean depending on the tool your using it can mean the difference in finding the best keyword ideas in your industry?

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Thanks Floyd. That is what I think is a fair conclusion from our data. That said, Ahrefs and SEMRush still do best in almost every industry. But certain tools did outperform others in specific industries. It’s one more factor to consider when considering which tool to go with.

  39. Finally an in-depth guide on keyword research tools! Great piece of content Brian! Sharing it with my innersole.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Hi Oleg, thanks! Yeah, I thought it was about time that someone compared the data in each tool vs. subjective features (although there’s a place for that kind of thing too).

  40. Great study. I really can appreciate the amount of work put into it. Thank you for sharing. My question would be what results would come out of content produced using each of the tools. For instance, if I produced an article with tool A because analysis showed a lower competition than tool B, did I receive more or less clicks.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Hi Brad, you’re welcome. Good question there. In that example, you could receive less clicks because the tool underestimated difficulty. Or it could be that the other tool overestimated it. Which is why it’s helpful to see which way each tool tends to learn in terms of their difficulty scores.

      1. Exactly. Do you have any real world examples where you used different tools and had different results?

        1. Bradley Avatar Bradleysays:

          Interested in knowing this too.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Hi Simon, you’re welcome. Glad you enjoyed it.

  41. Great post again Brian!
    I have also noticed that some keywords have very low difficulty in Ahrefs and the same keyword has high difficulty in other tools.
    Thanks for the Informational Article.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      You’re welcome, Jai.

  42. It sounds like you don’t always get what you pay for! I use a mixture of them, but mainly GKP and Ubersuggest as they’re free. But that probably explains why I’m not getting the best results HAHA. I think I’m still none the wiser 🙂

    As always, great detailed information, Brian!

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Hey Chris, Those two tools are great. And even if you invest in a paid tool you may still end up using them now and again. But if you’re serious about keyword research, you usually do need at least one paid tool in your arsenal.

  43. Kurt Hamel Avatar Kurt Hamelsays:

    Hey Brian great research! One quick question – did you look into who has the best local oriented results? I use Ahrefs and while they’re great for general SEO keywords and such, they have basically no local functionality – maybe a future report?
    Thanks!

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Hi Kurt, thank you. We didn’t look at local results for this analysis. That would be super interesting though! Have you found a tool that works well for local results?

  44. Hello.

    Great tool comparation! I’ve been using recently a lot the Long Tail Pro program and i simply love it. Great for those with blogs who carry out long tail seo positioning!

    Cheers
    Kris

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Hey Kris, thank you. I need to give LTP another try. We included it in this research but I haven’t really dug into it in a while to find new keywords.

  45. Herc Magnus Avatar Herc Magnussays:

    Keyword Supremacy isn’t as popular, but has a pretty dam unique set of features such as a Question Builder, Local Search “put in a niche, select your state/city” and it combines them with auto-suggest for each location” and way more cool features.

    Would love to see that in this list, even though it’s not “popular”.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Hey Herc, thanks for the suggestion there. For this first analysis I wanted to cover the main tools in the market. But I’m totally open to including a few tools that are good but not as popular as some of the major players.

  46. Great work! I’d love it if you could take a look at Keysearch(.co) in all that extra time you have!

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Thanks Jo. You’re the second person that’s recommended that so I need to check that out.

  47. Hi Brian,
    I use SECockpit. Like you mentioned in an earlier post, it’s like a Swiss army knive. I doubted to renew my subscription this year

    I was planning to use Ubersuggest instead.

    but in the end I did renew 😉

    In SECockpit I insert a lot of data from tools like answerthepublic and it keeps things organized.

    I read (and know) it’s not the best scoring tool, but I like the value for money I get, since Seo is not my corebusiness.

    Also my own and my customers’ mind is a great tool.

    Thanks again Brian.

    1. Brian Dean Avatar Brian Deansays:

      Hey Guido, I actually think SECockpit is super good in terms of UI and really drilling down into choosing the best keyword from a giant list. Like any tool, it has its pros and cons.

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