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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

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

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

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.

    1. 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. 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. Interesting findings!
            Thanks Brian for this much needed research.

            My conclusion:
            – Ahrefs + SEMRush for Keyword research.

            – Skip GKP completely (maybe for CPC okay)

            Keyword Difficulty Score… I’m not sure.
            I feel like kwfinder is overall pretty good.
            Maybe combining with ahrefs + MOZ and figure out gaps & similar scores between them?

            What do you suggest, Brian?


            For the future : could you conduct a research about which Keyword Difficulty Score really is most correct?
            Based on yours or your clients experiences?

            Your study shows who is above or below median / average. But doesn’t say anything about if the keyword difficulty score is accurate or not.
            I know from older studies Ahrefs and kwfinder tend to be more accurate than others. Is that still true? Noone ever did a comprehensive study with 10 Tools.
            I would love to hear about that kind of result.

            Cheers
            Torge

          2. Hi Torge, excellent summary there. I agree: just because a tool falls above or below the median doesn’t mean that it’s inaccurate. It could be that it’s the ONLY accurate tool and the others are wrong. I probably need to do a followup on that. The issue is, how do you determine which one is most “correct” using data?

          3. Hi Brian. Thank You for Your huge work as always. I got to invest in Ahfres just to get more keyword ideas. I always thought that Google Keyword Tool is the best tool for this…

          4. You’re welcome, Robert. GKP has the advantage that the data comes from Google. But it’s not an SEO tool so it’s not really as solid as something SEO-focused like Ubersuggest

      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. 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.

          1. Very true! I guess I’d be hacking the SEO tools for PPC then lol.

            I really need to do some content like this for the PPC world. It does look like a fun study to do – but tbh, all your articles look like fun to make. (but I do see the sweat hours! Not easy.) My site is quite new and have not made any power pages yet. Maybe one soon! 😉

  1. 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. 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.

  2. 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. 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.

    2. 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.

  3. 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. 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.

  4. 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. 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.

  5. 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. 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.

  6. 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. 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. 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?

  7. 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!!

  8. 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. 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?

  9. 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. 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.

  10. 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. 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.

    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?).

  11. 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. 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.

  12. 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. 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. 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.

  13. 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. 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. 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.

  14. 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. 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.

    2. 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!! 🙂

  15. 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!

  16. 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

  17. 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. 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.

  18. 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. 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.

  19. 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. 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.

  20. 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. 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!

  21. 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. 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.

    1. 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).

  22. 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. 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. Not sure what you mean by “different results”. I included a few examples of tools providing different metrics for the same keyword in this post.

  23. 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.

  24. 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. 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.

  25. 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. 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?

  26. 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. 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.

  27. 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. 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.

  28. 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. 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.

  29. Great post by you Brain, but indeed you haven’t told yet what you prefer the best tool for keywords research. As we can’t rely on multiple tools for keywords research, we can only take an idea from multiple sources but for key traffic and difficulty we have to rely on only one tool. What you prefer to say in this case?

    1. Hey Rahul, the “best” tool depends on you needs, budget etc. The goal here was more to show that the data found in different keyword tools differ and exactly how they differ.

      1. Yea this is a good comment. I think someone already mentioned it, but the point of this study seems to be an analysis of different capabilities of these tools, not which one you should buy. This is a great guide to help someone understand in what situations you might prefer one tool or another.

        1. Hi Dan, exactly: the goal of this study was to compare the data found in each tool. It’s not really designed to say which tool that someone should buy.

  30. A nice explanation Sir! thank you very much for this detailed guide.
    I had this exact problem that whenever I select a keyword every tool show a different result, also, I asked on some Facebook group. But in one place All my doubts are removed. Thank you very much for this detailed guide.

  31. Amazing work Brian, thank you so much for sharing it with the world.

    What are your thoughts on the accuracy of the keyword difficulty score?

    For example:
    “SEMrush takes into consideration the authority of the domains that are showing up on the results page and then estimates how hard it would be for a new website to outrank its current competitors on the SERP.”

    while in Ahrefs
    “Keyword Difficulty estimates how hard it will be to rank in the top 10 organic search results for a given keyword in a given location. It’s calculated by taking a weighted average of the number of linking domains to the current top-ranking pages. The result is then plotted on a logarithmic scale from 0 to 100 (low difficulty to high). ”

    What metric / combination of metrics would you consider best when estimating the keyword difficulty?

    Thank you so much!

    1. HI Eddie, honestly, I think both approaches has their merits. Domain authority is SUPER important. But so are the links that point to a specific page. I don’t 100% know how DA/PA are weighted. But based on the description there, it sounds like Ahrefs only looks at DA. Is that how you interpreted that?

      1. Hi Brian,
        I’m not really sure how to interpret the difference. For example, ahrefs.com shows a DR of 89 while Moz gives it 76.
        Or backlinko.com gets 87 from Ahrefs while Moz gives it a 63.

        So theoretically it should be easier to rank higher according to Moz’s algorithm (if we consider both use exponential numbers and that the exponential curve is similarly close).

        I’m trying to figure out the 20% in SEO that brings in 80% of the results. Is it backlinks (DA)? Is it on-page content (PA) (so users dwell more on the site, interact with it).

        It’s just an observation but it seems Google is starting to prioritize the latter as their AI gets smarter and can figure out if the page is relevant or not (no matter the number of backlinks).

        So then what tool would be more accurate to predict what you need to focus on? I’m going to give myself a generalist answer and say to create the page so it’s important for the customer but I’m interested in your take. Thanks for taking the time!

  32. Hey Brian

    Thanks for another informative post.

    Where does Clickstream get its data from?

    I think I will just stick with Ahrefs as its more than a KW tool.

    Thanks

  33. I think for a beginner it would be the best to start with Keywords Everywhere and GKP for general keyword research stuff and UberSuggest would be great for free investigation of one’s competitor’s site.
    One can later move on to the paid tools like Ahrefs, SEMrush and Kwfinder after gaining sufficient experience and revenue ofcourse because you know, not every beginner can afford the plans of Ahrefs.

  34. Finally, no tool is perfect. If I go with Ahrefs just because they provide more keywords in the travel niche, the search volume data is sadly very low. I need to use either KWFinder or GKP to get to know more about search volume. I just tuned myself to use multiple tools for keyword research, probably got working out for me. Thanks for this analysis post, I can say, first of its kind in the SEO industry.

    1. You’re welcome. And I agree: no tool is perfect. In fact, I’ve noticed a lot of comments today from the Backlinko community saying that they use multiple tools for keyword research. One isn’t enough.

  35. Thank you, very informative! I recently signed up for a trial on Ahrefs and seeing your data was helpful in my decision to continue with them. I especially liked the breakdown by niche. I also use Ubersuggest and think a combo of free and paid tools is helpful. I check your site often because the info is up to date and written so incredibly well.

    1. Hi Syndey, thank you! For sure: even if you end up sticking with Ahrefs, you’ll probably find yourself occasionally using free tools like Ubersuggest and Answer The Public. At least I do :-). So yeah, I think the combo of a paid tool plus a few free tools is super helpful.

  36. Hey Brian,
    I’m using semrush from last 4 years and having a great experience. I don’t think that I need to move on other and one thing that I found semrush has more datathan others. Great informative post, appreciate your hard work. thank you.

    ~Jai Chand

  37. Thanks for this nice case study, but sry to say i am still confused about these tools, i generally used ahrefs tool but its far away from the actual search volume of keyword, and after reading this i think all paid tool are just waste of money.

    1. You’re welcome. The thing is, “actual” search volume is something only Google knows. So each tool does it’s best to estimate.

    1. Thanks Matthew. I’m curious: what do you use each one for? Do you use one for finding ideas, one for keyword difficulty etc.?

  38. Hi Brian,

    That’s a great overview of these keyword tools, Ahrefs, Kwfinder and Semrush all three are my favorites. We use the Kwfinder for KD, Ahrefs for backlinks and Semrush for SEO content template.

    1. Hey Ahmad, very cool. I also use a bunch of different tools! I hope someday there’s “one SEO tool to rule them all”. But for now, I use lots of different tools. And based on the comments here, I’m not alone.

  39. One thing I have noticed from Using Ahrefs and GKP side by side is that Ahrefs will usually return all the keywords with stats (unless they get no searches). GKP will often times eliminate long tail keywords and group them into a single related keyword. I find this very irritating since I NEED the information on those.

    I never cared for the MOZ tool (or maybe I just never figured it out). I’m just now getting into SEOMonitor and SEMRush. I’m seeing some good things on both.

    1. Hi Tracy, yeah, the GKP does tend to clump keywords together. Which is annoying. To be fair, it’s not designed for SEO so that’s part of the reason behind that.

    1. Hi Rupam, you’re welcome. It depends on what you’d use Ahrefs’s keyword explorer for exactly. But Ubersuggest does have comparable feature for sure so it could be an alternative.

  40. I am currently using Kwfinder for keyword research and always wondered if the data was accurate or not.

    Very in-depth and extremely useful post. Keep writing valuable posts like these.

  41. I think the biggest takeaway, and the one often lost on newer SEOs and a lot of clients, is that all of these tools provide ESTIMATES, not set in stone values. Articulating this over and over with clients is much easier than having them expect hard values over time.

  42. All tools have advantages and disadvantages. However, they don’t provide grouping of keywords that my tool does. I hope one shiny day, when I increase my authority level, you review my tool. Thanks, Brian, for sharing this study.

  43. This is awesome. I did a bunch of research when I was trying to decide which tool I wanted. I ended up choosing Ahrefs for a couple of reasons specific to my business, but it’s cool to have that validated here! This is an awesome read!

  44. Brian,

    Good review.

    It’s been my experience that GKP is rarely accurate, particularly in finding long tail, niche phrases. It seems to have a bias to under report searches. That has always made me somewhat suspicious of a third part application like Clickstream.

    I seem to have the best results with a google autofill scraper and a gut feeling of what phrases someone in a niche is likely to use. That and depending more than I’d like on latent semantic indexing. That approach does seem to work for me.

    1. Hi David, same here. I think that’s because the GKP combines similar long tails together. So it’s OK for SEO keyword research but not great.

  45. Great article, thanks! For most users, it’s too much cost to use all the tools to try and find keywords, so stick with one or two instruments.
    Mine is Adrefs just because of all the other tools they have, and founders from my home country 🙂
    If any of the creators of mentions tools will read it, please make a clusterization feature, it’s still a lot of handworks to find the right keys in a long long list.

  46. Awesome content once again. But what makes this extra special is that it comes in a time when I am to restart my online business and will be creating this week a new website, publish new content, etc.. And this post helps me decide what SEO tool to use.You’re an angel! Thanks a lot.

  47. Hi,
    What do you think is the right search volume and dificulty a brand new website should go for when using semrush?
    Great article btw. Keep ul the good job.

  48. Fantastic article Brian.

    I have been looking at Ahrefs and Moz comparisons for a while now, but nothing has provided as much depth and breadth as your article. Very interesting results!

    I love how you look at different industries as well. Maybe next time you can include data from the medical or diagnostic imaging field.

    Thanks,

    1. Hi Sean, thanks! Yeah, we need to re-run this someday with more industries. The idea here was more to see if there were significant differences in terms of generating keyword ideas between industries.

  49. This was a great post. As a content developer, I guess I picked the right tool- Ahrefs is my primary, as it offers more potential keywords, and I can quickly rank (relatively) traffic and clicks. It’s always been between Ahrefs and Semrush for me. Keyword.io doesn’t seem to work very well with niche markets, where Ahrefs will almost always give you something. GKP, the tool I love to hate. I haven’t tried the others, but will. Thanks, Brian.

    1. Thanks William. Same here: I use Ahrefs and SEMRUsh as my two go-to tools. But I sometimes branch out into the GKP and other free tools like Answer the Public and Exploding Topics.

  50. Hi Brian, Thanks for helping many to better evaluate their search engine strategies. I do have one question, possibly against the grain of Search Engines approach to get us into highly searched keywords. As one that has always been a decade or more ahead of most business approaches, that earn greater significance, most search engines stick to conventional definitions versus helping more relevant, new descriptors to happen.

    One of my advisory offerings offers proven experience addressing stakeholder needs and values, as I did for HP since 1990 to achieve major, yet unprecedented outcomes even today. My goal is less about attracting quantities of mid to large orgs. It’s more about qualifying our business as one of the best, proven solutions that even risk averse leaders can apply to act bolder on a stronger foundation.

    Change is all around us almost daily. What are your thoughts to help solution providers who may have to shape a new dialog and wording, with regard to keyword searches? I noted you said others are far better than my current Google one regarding choices. Thanks for your great work in this report.

    1. You’re welcome, Bill. There’s definitely a place for that strategy. It’s not easy to “create” keywords. But it’s totally doable. At a high-level, terms like “inbound marketing” were coined way after it existed. And on a much smaller scale, terms like The Skyscraper Technique are now searched for thousands of times per month.

  51. Also would have loved to see keysearch.co included in this as it’s quite popular in blogging circles. Assume it’s less good than SEMrush and AHrefs but curious by how much!

      1. Yes, I was also surpassed not to see keysearch.co on the list. It’s really affordable but I often wonder how it compared to the more expensive options. I think it’s become really popular with travel bloggers, but that’s also my bubble of blogging sphere. Would be really curious if you add it to this article (and send out and email announcement). As usual, great content Brian. Thank you!

        1. Hey Julien, yeah I think it’s what you said: that tool is super popular with travel bloggers. I’ve honestly never heard much about it until today. So I’ll have to sign up and give it a try this week.

  52. It would be interesting to compare not only search volumes (and CPCs), but to the extent possible, total click share and that broken into paid/organic as well as what differences exist in measures by top positions.

    1. Thanks Marston. Great suggestion. The tricky part there is that most tools don’t report click share (only Ahrefs and Moz as far as I know).

  53. This was some badly needed research! There is so much mystery around keywords and traffic tools. Still too much mystery if you ask me..

    I use Ahrefs, it gives the most accurate results in my opinion but still sometimes its way off! I put in allot of effort into ranking #1 for a keyword and the traffic is just way different. While another keyword that I picked up by accident gets me insane traffic..

    Next research topic: Autority metrics? How the different metrics correlate with rankings..

    PA/DA VS UR/DR VS TF/CF

    (PA is sensitive to manipulation
    UR is too much focussed on authority not relevance.
    TF is too much focussed on relevance / good neighbourhood?)

    1. Thanks Tim. Yeah, I’ve noticed the same thing: that certain keywords are SUPER over or underestimated. Sometimes by 10-20x. Good suggestion there.

  54. Brian, as always, this is awesome, thanks for sharing. Would like your opinion on tools that offer an alternative methodology to traditional keyword discovery techniques.

    For instance, we created a small tool that sources keyword data from paid search campaign data: https://wonpy.com

  55. Hi Brian,
    Thanks for the article!
    I always wondered about some of the tools mentioned but I find that Ubersuggest is less analysed in the article/report above. Uber suggest always show crazy MSV (which are quadra/triple Ahref’s?), any explanation?

    1. Hi Dorian, you’re welcome. Re: Ubersuggest we had some issues running the full set of 10k keywords through it. So we weren’t able to analyze it against every metric.

  56. If I’m reading the heatmap correctly, and going by the other measures, it looks like Long Tail Pro is on the median more than most. That suggests that it is a good yard-stick for the overall category.

    I use LTP and find it a good tool for my needs (low-volume local businesses rather than 10k+pm for products). It also has a backlink checker and competitor analysis.

    The pricing is also way more competitive than the other tools in the review.

    1. Hi Andrew, that’s one way to look at it for sure. The tools on either end of the spectrum would say that they’re actually right. But yeah, going with the median makes sense too.

  57. Thanks for posting this research Brian. It is amazing how the differences in tools compound and affect your SEO interpretation.

    1. Hi Steward, you’re welcome. For sure. Some of these differences can make or break a campaign (either choosing a keyword or not choosing a keyword. Or even an entire niche). So I think it’s important to highlight the “biases” that each tool has either way. Glad you agree.

  58. You’ve done a great job Brian as always. But my key takeaway from this research is the knowledge that different Keyword Tools Perform Better In Specific Industries.

    This is profound to me because being in the marketing niche, it’s interesting to know that the free Ubersuggest keyword tool comes in handy for my niche and I’m not surprised that Google keyword planner comes in at the tail end of your results because, believe it or not, GKP was intended to serve it’s primary adwords users rather than being a general mainstream tool. All Googles products is always tied to it’s users.

    On the other hand, it’s interesting to know that there are tools that perform better than the two giants in the game. Talk about Ahref and Semrush but overall, aside from Ubersuggest for my niche, ahref and Semrush still stand firm as a solid keyword research of choice.

    Thanks for these results.

    1. Thanks Emmanuel. For sure: Ubersuggest does super well in the marketing niche. Not too far off from the big paid tools.

  59. Hey Brian I’m confused one thing I want to know is suppose I choose a keyword and semrush show its difficulty is 30 that means its actual difficulty is less than 30, am I correct?
    Btw great study
    Thank’s

  60. The Post is highly technical and difficult to follow and digest. Please next time, try a plain, clear and direct language.
    Thanks for the attempt.
    regards

  61. Hi Brian,
    Great article! I was wondering even though Google Keyword Planner gave less number of relevant keywords, could it be because it only gave more relevant set of keywords?

    I use Ahrefs myself and even though it gives a lot more keyword ideas, many of them do not seem to be as relevant at times.

    Did you have a chance to look into that? In terms of relevancy?

    1. Hi Tony, great point there. I 100% agree with you: some of the suggestions in Ahrefs are wacky. Sometimes they have the same word as the seed keyword but aren’t related. We didn’t look at relevancy but that would be something to look at.

  62. Hi Brain, Great to see the services compared and measured against each other at this level of detail. The Google Keyword Planner results are especially interesting (or alarming). Thanks.

    1. Thanks Rich. Yeah, the GKP has the big pro of the data coming from Google. But it’s not an SEO tool so it has some limitations for sure.

  63. What I confirmed after reading your blog: each tool has its advantages and disadvantages, and those can change based on your industry and/or intent.

    Key takeaway #1: don’t worry about features if you’re not going to use them ‘thoroughly’. Having 10k keyword suggestions vs. 1k is not that big of a difference if you look at the first 10 and move on. The tool is only as good as you make it.

    Key takeaway #2: start with the free tools first and upgrade gradually as you learn what you need. Come back to this blog and figure out which tool best fits your new strategy.

    Thanks Brian!

  64. Thanks Brian. You must have invested hundreds of hours in digging to the bottom of this massive research work. As a newbie, I will spend the next one week trying the decipher this. Thanks a lot.

    1. You’re welcome, Paul. Fortunately, I work with a great team that did most of the heavy lifting in terms of analysis.

  65. Really informative Brian. I m beginner in SEO. Your research work is awesome. I am currently using semrush and perviously i used ahref and you know what i found? I found both have different advantages and pros and cons. Good luck Brian

  66. Hi Brian,

    What about clearscope? I have been writing articles for my client using clearscope and he tells me that it’s really expensive, which is true.

    There are some keywords that can generate up to 100 more long tail keywords on clearscope. Have you tried it?

    Best,
    Denzil

    1. Hi Denzil, I use Clearscope and like it. But it’s more for content analysis and finding LSI keywords vs. keyword research.

  67. Great study, Brian! I’ve been using a number of tools for the Keyword Research & settled recently on ahrefs. Looks like I need to consider also others & combine the data to get a median score with higher accuracy. Thanks! Marcin

    1. Thanks Marcin. You can’t go wrong with Ahrefs. But I do find that to find the best keywords you need to combine a few different tools.

      1. Hey Brian,
        I think KWfinder is certainly better if you are focused on keyword difficulty. KD is very important for someone just starting a new blog/website.
        Anyways, great research.
        Cheers!

  68. Hey Brian, outstanding post as usual. Since all these tools have different pros and cons, I hope your next post will be how to leverage all of them for the “Ultimate Keyword Research Guide (Updated for 2020)”. Thanks! Robert

  69. Thanks Brian for such invaluable post. I wonder how much would Neilsons charge for such indepth research.

    In my experience tools are and will always be somewhat unreliable, but when it comes to taking crucial business decisions,it’s prudent that you have some data to back your entrepreneurial hunches.

  70. Hi Brian. Thanks for this and all the other great research and tips you offer. Regarding KW difficulty, what’s your best advice on which one to believe? I’m relatively new to SEO and difficulty is one issue I really struggle with.
    Thanks!

    1. You’re welcome, Kathee. I honestly need to dig deeper into this data to tease out which tool is more accurate in the difficulty department.

  71. Hi Brian.

    For SEO paid tools, there are three groups of buyers: 1) owners of smaller and non-commercial sites, 2) owners of big commercial sites and 3) professional SEOs. I’m from the first group, but that doesn’t mean I can skimp on SEO.

    I went from GKP to SEO Powersuite to Ahrefs and now to KWfinder. That last switch illustrates how the tools market makes it harder for smaller and non-commercial sites to rank. We can’t afford the premium tools.

    Ahrefs really is superior to KWfinder (except in UX). I have no doubt I could mine Ahrefs and fine tune my site for killer SEO. But I kept on bumping into usage limits on Ahref’s “Lite”… so I had to upgrade to “Standard”. At current rates, that’s $1790 per annum. As much as I liked Ahref’s, I couldn’t keep paying that much.

    My KWfinder sub costs <19% of Ahrefs. So, until my site starts generating heaps of revenue, tools like Ahrefs, SEMrush and Moz are out of reach.

    So is KWfinder good enough for individual site owners who can't afford the Big Dogs? KWfinder's addition of competitor keywords last year was a game changer. It allows us to do both traditional and competitor based keyword search, just like the costly tools. Well, maybe their tool isn't as deep, but it's helpful. (A Backlinko analysis of competitor keyword tools would be another great public service.)

    As a new site owner, I would say KWfinder is worthwhile.

    1. Hi Eric, thanks for sharing your experience there. I actually think that, for an owner of a smaller site, a tool like KWFinder is more than enough. I’m in the third group so I need an SEO software suite like SEMRush to do my job.

  72. Great analysis Brian. But I noticed that you have not included Ubersuggest in some comparisons like search volume and long-tail keywords. Is it because Ubersuggest does not offer global search volumes and only provides country-specific volumes?

  73. Hi Brian, thanks for sharing such an amazing research report. I have been using GKP for SEO keywords for different industries all the time. As I am also into PPC, I can see the exact search volumes of the keywords in the GKP. Recently I have started using Ahrefs for the keyword research. I was doing keyword research for remote support software business. And found that one keyword has 150 searches in the Ahrefs but there were no searches in the GKP for that same keyword. And another tool I have is Seranking. It too didn’t show any searches. So in this case, should I go for this keyword or not? I got such dilemma everytime I do Keyword research for different industries’ clients. Can you please suggest something here?

    1. Hi Bhagyavi, really good question there. My take is that, if two other tools show that the keyword gets no searches, than I would trust those.

  74. Hey Brian,

    Thanks for sharing this interesting post and data. As a new SEO guy, I was puzzled when comparing couple of different SEO tools (SEMRush and Ahrefs) and seeing difference in their results.

    Good to know what is their “accuracy” and differentiation.

    You are doing nice work, thanks for sharing your knowledge!

    1. Hey Jarmo, thanks. I’ve noticed that exact thing 100x. And I wondered why the tools were different. And how they differed. Which is why I decided to run this analysis.

    1. You’re welcome, Prateek. I’ll try to get that done. We had issues using Ubersuggest at scale vs. paid tools (which makes sense. It’s a free tool so naturally has rate limits).

  75. Brian,

    I am an avid reader of your emails and your youtube content. Keep up the great work! As far as this wow you really went in depth, so glad you provided a summary of takeaways. I’ve found SEMRush to have more long tail keywords than Ahrefs, but not to sure if their accuracy. Ahrefs conversely has some keywords not found in SEMRush etc.

    However, it would be nice on your next comparison to compare data from the bing keyword tool as well as Jaaxy. I never heard about them til few months back but apparently they’ve been around for a while. they’re created by same folks as WA.

    1. Hi Judy, thank you. Same here: for some keywords the same metric can be 10x higher or lower depending on the tool. It was time to get to the bottom of this!

  76. Hi Sir,
    I’m little surprised because last 6 months I had updated my 2 post. For first one I had researched using KWFinder + GKP + Google Suggest LSI and Last one used Moz Pro + Ubersuggest. with in this time Google made three mass updates as well as I updated.
    First update on August 6, and last updates September 7. The result of this two pages as below.
    First One: August to January
    Aug to Jan visitors. (100% organic)
    459,496, 395, 461, 283, 314
    And Last one September to January (100% organic)
    8353, 9147, 9187, 9904, 10900
    I got best result using Moz Pro + Ubersuggest but You placed Ubersuggest last on this serial. So I little Surprised.

    Whatever thanks for this #Awesome research post, should play a key role for marketers and bloggers.
    Thanks
    Mosaddek

    1. You’re welcome, Mosaddek. Ubersuggest was far from last in terms of generating keyword ideas. In fact, it was up there with most paid tools.

  77. Great post Brian!
    I use Ahref a lot along with Uber and Google. To be honest I really had a lot of questions around Ahref trustworthiness 😉
    But this post has helped me a lot around my questions 😀

  78. Hi Brian, awesome study, thanks for the insights! One question, did you guys analyse this based on one particular language? Pressumably English? I can imagine that the results might differ based on the language? Is there anything you found out about that?

    1. Thanks Chris. Yes, 100% of the seed keywords that we used were in English. So I’m not sure how each tool performs in different languages. That would be a cool follow up study.

  79. Fantastic study, Brian. It never occurred to me that different tools may provide more keyword ideas for different industries, but of course it makes sense. Different inputs, different outputs.

    It’s such an interesting space to watch right now, on the heels of Jumpshot shutting down. I’m sure a bunch of these tools use it as a data source, but of course there are always alternatives. Should be fun to see how things shake out.

    P.S. Love the new site design!

    1. Thanks Kyle. For sure: it goes to show how vulnerable certain tools are. They’re relying on ONE company for the majority of their data.
      I’m not sure who they’re going to use now, but whoever is left can charge a kind’s ransom for their data now.

  80. How come ubersuggest is mentioned so little?

    Good Free tools like Ubersuggest are hard to find in my opnion these days.

    Welcome to list others that perform well

  81. Hi Brian, what do you think about Marketing Miner? I think that tool should be definitely in top 10 tools for keyword analysis. If you want, please send me the input dataset and I will process the data (for free) in that tool and send you the outputs so you can compare it.

  82. Hi Brian,

    Always been a fan and read through most of your articles. This article has shed some light, and as Chris Pontine mentioned we all tend to question the accuracy of these tools as they tend to give great variations. Anyway, what are your thoughts on SEOProfiler? and do you have any idea where they get their data from?
    Thanks.

  83. Hey brian, you been very helpful. I just got internship in a company and I was really confused about the tools. Your helped me to make decision. Thanks man.

  84. Hi Brian,

    Ahref is my first go SEO tool. I always target low difficult keywords & ahref really helps me in this regard. In fact, I have ranked many keywords on the 1st page of google with little to no backlinks. And that’s the power of Ahref.

    You really covered your analysis with no favor to any tool & that’s great.

    Thanks for sharing your analysis.

  85. I have used Ubersuggest systematically for my 8 websites, most notably https://www.nationalparks-worldwide.com in 6 languages with different search regions. I can’t say of course how well it would perform as compared to other key word search tools. But it has quite a wide range of both language searches and searches per country. What caught my attention is that you mention it a few times but that it only shows up a few times in your evaluation categories, while I found it extremely helpful in multi-lingual and different region keyword search evaluations. I wonder why Ubersuggest got so few mentions and why you have not paid any attention to multi-lingual and multi-region search evaluations as the latter is so important for non-USA oriented keyword evaluation.

    1. Hi Daan, glad to hear that. Ubersuggest is legit for sure. The fact that it’s even in the same ballpark as some of these paid tools says a lot about how much Neil has invested in it and improved it over time.

    1. You’re welcome, Vu. Glad you enjoyed this one. We’re working on a few more studies that I also think are pretty interesting.

  86. Looks like Ubersuggest fell into the middle on most metrics here, which is good for people like me who like using the free tools.

    Was there a reason Ubersuggest stopped appearing in the charts halfway through the article?

    1. Thanks Alex. It’s because we got rate limited when trying to run our analysis (which as 10k+ keywords. So it makes sense).

  87. Hi Brian, Thank for this great article. I tried SEMrush, Ahrefs, GKP, and many other SEO tools. But now I am using Ahrefs because of the more features and filter option as compare to others.
    Yeah, Ahrefs has the more keywords suggestion than others.

  88. I have found that when it comes to search in specific geographic area (in my case it’s only province jurisdiction specific searches), there no tool other than Google keyword that can actually narrow it down and show what is searched locally. Wondering if anyone else have similar experience.

  89. This report confirms what I have known for awhile; that all of these keyword tools are useless because the volume numbers vary widely. So, the data they deliver can’t be trusted.

    1. I wouldn’t say that they’re useless. At least they give you some idea. Otherwise, you have to just choose keywords randomly.

  90. Thank you, Brian.
    Very interesting finding. I didn’t know google keyword planner is not that great.
    I will try using another keyword tool from now to see if it helps.

  91. As long as there is no one true baseline for correct exact search volumes, this question will always be out there. The problem of establishing a real baseline I believe has partly to do with the fact that it would require real-time processing. This is hard when you’re dealing with so much data.

    I’m not sure how often SEO tools update, calculate and process their own data, but the logic says that, yes, of course, everybody’s going to come up with their own numbers.

    Within the lower and higher limits provided by different tools, we can make an estimated guess of where the real search volumes are. But then again, it’s all relative, since there is no exact baseline.

    I’ve been in the online marketing space for many years and it’s always been this way, unfortunately.

    1. Hey Lex, that’s very true. There’s also the issue that search volumes aren’t remotely constant. They have peaks and valleys throughout the year and through time. So to say a keyword gets “X” searches per month is always going to be inaccurate at some level.

  92. Thanks for the great info! I always recommend that people use at least two different tools when conducting keyword research so they can compare data, but I’ve never looked at the different tools comprehensively like this before.

    1. Hi Alison, you’re welcome. Absolutely: you definitely need at least two tools to get the job done. Hopefully some day we’ll only need one!

  93. Hey Brian,

    I’ve tried a few tools and found that KWfinder performs the best on Dutch Keywords. Way more relevant keywords for Dutch queries. Maybe a nice addition to the research would be looking at languages?

  94. Your blog posts are always proven to be more than useful.
    Not all the tools are best for all metrics as their algorithm designs are not the same, so all of them use to emphasize different things and you explained it perfectly.
    I was amazed as you didn’t include “Kewordseverywhere” in the whole research.

    Thanks Brian, keep educating us.

  95. So, it would seem the whole truth isn’t always in the data! I suppose in an “ideal world” (that was data free) the emphasis would always be on quality, so would that be a bad thing?

  96. Hi Brian,

    Do you have any opinion on theblueprint training from Webris? They use a template when doing KW Research to compare Top 3 competitors for a KW trying to rank for and you find DA, PA and amount of Referring Domains for each.

  97. Great insights. While we all know that these paid tools won’t give a true picture of what is happening, it was interesting to know that SEMRush overvalues the keyword difficulty while Ahref and KWFinder undervalue it.

  98. Thank you for writing about a topic I have had questions about and you introduced some tools that weren’t yet on my radar. Much respect but I was disappointed that the conclusion at the bottom didn’t provide an ultimate point of view. With an article like this and the position you have in our community it must be difficult to walk the line of promoting one tool more than others and declaring an overall preference.

    1. You’re welcome, Dan. I didn’t think it would be right to have a conclusion of the “best” tool based on this data. I obviously have my preferences. But that’s more based on my experience with each tool vs. what we looked at here.

  99. Is that means that Ahrefs is not only better for backlink analysis compared to semrush but it has also an edge when it comes to keywords research? I just subscribed to semrush recently, because I thought semrush generates better keywords suggestions.

    That’s a false claim! On the other note, semrush offer a lot of seo & ppc tools features that I could utilize in my digital marketing campaign.

    Thanks Brian for the useful information! I appreciate your time and effort

    1. Hi Al, I’m glad that you enjoyed the report. I wouldn’t necessarily say that Ahrefs is better than SEMRush for keyword research. As a few others have pointed out, more suggestions doesn’t always mean better suggestions.

  100. Thanks a lot for sharing this article with us. These tools are really amazing and easy to use. I learnt a lot from this, will helpful for me. Before reading blog i knew only two tools : SEMrush and Moz Pro .

    1. Hi Max, it wasn’t based on the quality of any tool. We just went with some of the most popular or those that specialized in keyword research.

  101. This is incredibly helpful information. We are not an SEO or marketing company. Just a divorce mediation firm trying to get a handle on our digital marketing — especially keyword planning for content topics. We have been using SEMRush for about a year now and suspected their keyword difficulty was a little skewed. Thanks, Brian, for all this hard work.

  102. This is great stuff and way informative. We’ve been seeing issues with backlink tools for a while (especially Ahref’s DR rating) becoming increasingly erratic and, seemingly, untrustworthy across the board. But no one really seems to be talking about it. Any chance you guys will be looking into this in the near future (if you haven’t already)?

  103. Still not finding out which tool is best? may be GKP and search results for a particular keyword are the best option. What do you think Brian?

  104. I have been using Market Samurai (yes, really) for ages, as that was the best tool that the previous company provided me with. In the new company though, the data was horrible (different market), and usually completely different from SEMRush. Which, in turn, always differed from google data… This text was something I was really ecstatic to see. I’m doing my own comparisons, but it’s nice to have a bit of help.

  105. Hi Brian,

    Great comparison. A one stop solution to all those countless emails we get from readers on what tool is the best and most accurate.

    I think the key here is to use a bit of manual research plus use these tools as a yard stick to get the idea rather than considering them the ultimate go to and taking their reporting to be the final say.

    Thanks again for the work you do to help the community.

  106. Sadly, I’ve found that Ubersuggest has become significantly less useful in recent months, and I’ve stopped recommending it to people. It now provides just 10 keyword suggestions unless you log in using Google, and if you do that it requires that you give permission to “View Search Console data for your verified sites”. Uh, no.

  107. Hi Brian, that’s a great point. I always use Ahrefs but now I think I should have a larger view. Thank you for your post. I looking foward to your next post

  108. Brian, have you every heard a person saying, “your content is mouth watering” ?

    I am a newbie blogger and I must say I can’t find such in depth data and analysis anywhere in the world.

    Awesome!

  109. Thanks for putting this together. Interesting to see the trends in keyword difficulty and CPC for SEMRush and Ahrefs. I didn’t expect them to be that far apart in terms of difficulty scores. And yet, there they are. It’d be very interesting to see how these stats change over time.

  110. Hi Brian,

    It was always confusing which data to relay when it comes to in-depth keywords research as a marketer.

    Each data you have analysed from almost every keyword research tool is an eye opener for many researchers, now.

    Thanks for putting your efforts that will truly help many of digital marketer all over the world

    Thanks you so much!

  111. Thanks for the great comparison, Brian. I tried most of the keyword research tools myself and have a similar view.
    Maybe it’s just me, but there is an overwhelming amount of information on the Internet on (long tail) keyword research and usage. But I still don’t feel like I fully understood what to do with the resulting keywords. Do I optimize one page (post) for only one “best” keyword, put it in h1, meta title/description and content, or should I try to address multiple?
    Does it make sense to include another long tail multiple times in headings and content, if it is not featured in the meta description or meta title? (there is only limited space and the text needs to be natural and not keyword stuffed).
    Google Search Console tells me thousands of keywords targeting each of my pages, most of them are not what I “optimized” for.

    So yes, there are great tools to find the keywords, but can you recommend a good article that explains what to do with them once we have 4-5 that fit to a new post?

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