7 Advanced Keyword Research Tools for 2024

7 advanced keyword research tools

Ask a dozen digital marketers what keyword research tools they use, and you’ll probably get 12 different answers. If you’ve dabbled at all with these platforms, you’ll understand the reason for the diverse opinions. Every keyword tool has unique features to weigh and ranges wildly in terms of the depth of data available. 

For your SEO strategy to have an impact, you need a reliable keyword research sidekick giving you advice on what your customers are searching for. But how do you find a tool that meets your business needs and budget with so many options on the market? Before you throw your hands up in despair, check out our list of seven keyword research tools that can help your brand climb the SERPs and stay in the search engine spotlight. 

Short List of Keyword Research Tools

In evaluating keyword tools, we considered criteria such as ease of use and available metrics. We’ll dive into the pros, cons, and intricacies of each platform to help you find a well-matched partner, but here’s a bottom-line summary: 

  1. Moz: Best overall 
  2. Semrush: Best for user intent analysis
  3. Ahrefs: Best for keyword tracking and analysis
  4. QuestionDB: Best for long-tail keywords
  5. Google Keyword Planner: Best for paid advertising keywords
  6. SECockpit: Best for competitive keyword analysis 
  7. TopicRanker: Best for finding competitor weaknesses

The Science Behind Keyword Research

Each tool takes a unique approach to collecting and processing data, which is why you’ll find variations when looking at metrics such as search volume, difficulty, and page authority.

The tools extract data across the web, scraping sources such as:

  • Search engine results pages
  • Autocomplete suggestions
  • Google’s related searches and People Also Ask
  • Google Keyword Planner and Google Trends
  • Social networking sites and online forums
  • Clickstream data tracking user movements across the internet

Some also work backward from search results, inspecting top-ranked pages for content, keyword frequency, and backlinks. Artificial intelligence helps interpret this information, pinpointing patterns that can help you make up ground in the rankings. 

Each platform then waves its respective algorithm wand, magically turning big data into the bite-size metrics you see on your screen. Because each tool uses unique data sources and processes, they end up with different results. 

That’s why it’s best to compare keywords within a tool and not across platforms. You wouldn’t look at metrics for “picture frames” on Ahrefs and “wall art” on Semrush to choose between the two keywords. You can, however, feel confident that comparisons run within a single platform are accurate. 

Andrei Prakharevich compared search volume ranges for keywords on four tools. While each reported a different number, they all concluded “mountain bikes” was the most popular and “gravel bikes” the least, which is key in deciding which keyword to target.

Search volume ranges

Essential Features for Keyword Research Tools

Let’s put together our keyword tool wish list. Ideally, you want a large database to draw keyword ideas from and reliable metrics so you can decide which keywords to pursue.

Some essential features include:

  • Keyword suggestions: A robust tool provides a variety of keyword ideas. Most draw from Google, but some collect data from other search engines, YouTube, and Amazon. If your business is international in nature, look for a platform that lets you query by language and geographic region.
  • Search volume: This metric is nonnegotiable. Search volume tells you the number of times a keyword is searched for in a specific period, which helps assess the keyword’s popularity. It’s not worth your time to try ranking for keywords that aren’t in demand. 
  • Keyword difficulty: This metric reflects how hard it is to land in the top positions for a keyword, based on the strength of the pages currently ranking. Keywords with low to medium difficulty are easier to rank for and can improve your visibility while you tackle more competitive search terms.
  • Search intent: Your content must meet the expectations of the user to rank. Some tools tell you whether a keyword’s search intent is navigational, commercial, informational, or transactional. This helps you formulate content matched to the buyer’s journey. 
  • Competitor analysis: Some tools help you size up the competition, providing insight into how your competitors are ranking and the backlinks they’ve built. You can compare competitor keywords with your own to ensure you don’t miss out on opportunities. 
  • Website authority: This metric is also known as domain authority, domain rating, or authority score, depending on the tool you use. It reflects the overall credibility of a website based on factors such as backlinks. Pages with high authority are often hard to dislodge out of the top spots.

You’ll find platforms with an array of other features such as site audits, on-page SEO recommendations, and content creation tools. These are all useful for building well-rounded marketing strategies, but they’re outside of the scope of this guide.

7 Advanced Keyword Research Tools for 2024

Below, we’ve compiled some keyword research tools we feel are worth your time, whether you’re marketing for a small startup or enterprise. Our round-up includes free and paid platforms, from basic to comprehensive solutions. You might find a couple of free tools that meet your needs or decide to invest in a larger, all-in-one platform. Take advantage of free trials and try the tools on for size.

1.  Moz Keyword Explorer

Best Overall

Intro to the Tool

Moz’s Keyword Explorer presents a variety of metrics in a user-friendly format. We especially like its proprietary Priority Score, which helps you find keyword opportunities without bogging you down in the numbers. Keyword Explorer is free but limited in scope, and subscription services are available. A paid subscription also offers access to rank tracking, site crawls, on-page optimization, link research, and custom reports.

Moz's Keyword Explorer

Pros and Cons

Advantages:

  • Multiple options for exploring keywords, including searching by URL or keyword
  • Ability to research keywords by region
  • Ability to create and save lists for categorizing and comparing keywords
  • Detailed insight into the top-ranking pages through the SERP Analysis
  • Competitive analysis to see what keywords your competitors rank for 
  • Data from Google, Bing, and Yahoo
Competitor overlap

Disadvantages:

  • Provides only a range for monthly search volume
  • Requires an account to access the free tool
  • Limited queries in the free tool
  • Doesn’t provide information on keyword trends
Keyword explorer

Special Features Highlight

If you often feel like you’re drowning in data when analyzing keywords, Moz throws you a lifeline. The platform takes factors such as search volume, keyword difficulty, and opportunity into consideration and wraps them up as a Priority Score. This metric is a simple way to identify keywords with good potential for ranking. Rand Fishkin explained that a Priority Score above 80 indicates high demand, moderate difficulty, and not too many SERP features detracting from the organic search results. Lower scores have some combination of these factors.

Pricing

  • Free for 10 keyword queries
  • Monthly subscriptions range from $99 to $599 

What We’ve Heard

“Great at everything with outstanding capabilities that made us organically visible on search engines.”

— Reviewer on Gartner Peer Insights

Use Cases and Best Practices

To leverage Keyword Explorer effectively, begin with a few seed keywords or topics related to your products and services. Enter them one at a time into the search box and hit analyze to see an easy-to-navigate results page. 

Note the data visually presented in the top row — monthly volume, difficulty, organic CTR, and priority — you can use these to compare keywords and decide which ones to allocate resources to. To expand your keyword list, click through the keyword suggestions on the left. As you rub your hands in glee at the plethora of options, select “Add to Keyword List” to build groups of keywords. You can also check out high-performing pages for the keyword in the SERPs Analysis section.

2.  Semrush

Best for User Intent Analysis

Intro to the Tool

It’s hard to beat Semrush when it comes to breadth. The platform has more than 55 tools in its suite covering keyword research, site audits, PPC, backlinking, and website optimization — essentially, it’s an end-to-end solution for digital marketing. This comes at a cost, but you can get started with free tools, such as Keyword Magic and Keyword Overview.

Keyword magic tool

Pros and Cons

Advantages:

  • Keyword suggestions from a database of 25.3 billion keywords
  • Keyword questions, keyword variations, and related keywords
  • More than 140 geographic databases
  • Search intent behind keywords (informational, navigational, commercial, or transactional)
  • Search trends for the past 12 months
  • Metrics such as search volume, keyword difficulty, cost-per-click, and number of competing SERP features

Disadvantages:

  • Only draws from Google data
  • Only provides 10 keywords with the free tool
Long tail keywords

Special Features Highlight

Finding keywords is just the first step of the SEO puzzle. You also need insight into why someone’s using that keyword so you can develop content that addresses their needs as fully as possible. Are they trying to learn something, compare products, or find the best deal? Semrush uses an algorithm to mark up each keyword as having navigational, informational, commercial, or transactional intent. You’ll see these tags in the Search Intent column on the keyword results page. Group keywords with the same intent to help you plan content.

Special features highlights

Pricing

  • Free account with limited queries
  • 7-day free trial
  • Monthly subscriptions range from $129.95 to $499.95  

What We’ve Heard

“Semrush is the best of the best for all things keyword research, managing backlinks, and auditing the health + quality of your website.”

Capterra reviewer 

Use Cases and Best Practices

While a Semrush subscription gives you access to keyword research tools, Keyword Magic is enough for translating a seed keyword into thousands of keyword suggestions. You can sort these to find:

  • Low-competition keywords that you can quickly rank for
  • Related search terms, which are other phrases users are searching for
  • Long-tail keywords to target a niche audience that’s more likely to convert
  • Question keywords to help shape your content 

Another nifty detail is the SERP features tool. This tells you which keywords are triggering featured snippets, videos, carousels, knowledge graphs, and other attention-grabbing elements on the search results page. You can then customize your content to try to rank for these elements — or you might decide there’s too much zero-click competition and focus your efforts elsewhere.

3.  Ahrefs

Best for Keyword Tracking and Analysis

Intro to the Tool

Ahrefs is an industry leader, often grouped alongside Moz and Semrush. It provides an array of tools to optimize your search visibility, including keyword research, link building, competitor analysis, content creation, and website audits. It’s especially powerful for monitoring analytics and performance.

Ahrefs tool

Pros and Cons

Advantages

  • Pulls keyword ideas from 10 search engines
  • Provides a variety of in-depth metrics 
  • Identifies SEO issues on your site
  • Tracks keyword rankings for mobile and desktop
  • Performs backlink analysis
  • Connects to Google Search Console and archives data for easy access
Ahrefs results

Disadvantages

  • No free trial
  • Monthly subscriptions that are pricier than tools

Special Features Highlight

The Ahrefs dashboard is a powerful hub for monitoring site performance. It provides a snapshot of key metrics pulled from a variety

Ahrefs special features

of Ahrefs tools. You can keep an eagle eye on changes in your site health, domain rating, organic keywords, backlinks, and traffic. Click specific boxes to see the details behind the report and adjust your SEO strategy as needed.

Pricing

  • Monthly subscriptions range from $99 to $999 

What We’ve Heard

“If you’re serious about improving your website’s traffic and search engine rankings, Ahrefs is a tool you need in your arsenal.”

Shane Barker, Digital Marketing Consultant

Use Cases and Best Practices

To generate keyword ideas, enter your seed terms into Keywords Explorer. It pulls ideas from 10 different search engines, including Google, Bing, Yahoo, YouTube, Amazon, Baidu, and Yandex.

The results page shows you metrics for the keyword you’ve searched, including search volume, global volume, and traffic potential, which is the total organic traffic the first result gets. You’ll also get the scoop on how hard it might be to crack the top 10 spots in the SERPs, with estimates of keyword difficulty and the number of backlinks and referring domains you’ll need. From here, you can also explore matching, suggested, and autocomplete terms, as well as question keywords.

To see what your competitors are up to, navigate to the SERP Overview for insight into the top-performing pages, including the featured snippets and videos. Finally, fill in the holes in your content strategy by plugging your competitors’ sites into the Content Gap tool to see what keywords others are ranking for.

4.  QuestionDB

Best for Long-Tail Keywords

Intro to the Tool

QuestionDB takes a grassroots approach to keyword research, pulling data from online forums where users answer each other’s questions. Designed to tap into what audiences are curious about, this tool provides long-tail keywords in the form of questions.  

Pros and Cons

Advantages:

  • Generates keyword questions to help you thoroughly address a topic
  • Sources ideas from places other than search engines, providing fresh angles
  • Uses conversational-style language similar to voice search
  • Supplies keyword difficulty and competition data
  • Simple and affordable

Disadvantages:

  • Limited metrics
Question DB

Special Features Highlight

QuestionDB retrieves information from online user forums, such as Reddit. It’s like eavesdropping on how your audiences chat naturally around a topic, which aligns perfectly with the conversational style of voice and Google’s SGE.

Question keywords are long-tail phrases, which have lower search volume because they’re so specific in nature. However, they’re less competitive and can help you reach highly qualified, niche audiences with precise search intent. Use the results from QuestionDB to build topic clusters and establish expertise in a subject.

Pricing

  • Free plan (up to 60 questions and no data)
  • $15/month Solo Plan (100 searches per month)
  • $50/month Agency Plan (500 searches per month)

What We’ve Heard

“QuestionDB is a blog topic goldmine, drawing from various Q&A platforms like Reddit and Quora to deliver questions related to your keywords.”

@websearchmktg on X

Use Cases and Best Practices

To get started with QuestionDB, enter a seed keyword of up to three words. The tool will give you a list of questions and related topics to explore. For example, when we tested the tool, the search phrase “vitamin C” generated 315 questions. It also suggested topics such as “serum” and “pregnancy” to refine our query. Choosing the topic “soluble” generated another 50 highly targeted questions.

Question DB use cases

Once you’ve got your results, download them into a spreadsheet to organize keywords and plan content. General questions can be used as the core of an article, while related questions can be grouped into a single in-depth piece. You can also leverage the results to create featured snippets and FAQs.

5.  Google Keyword Planner

Best for Paid Advertising Keywords

Intro to the Tool

Keyword Planner helps advertisers choose relevant keywords and estimate their ad spend for pay-per-click campaigns. Because the data comes directly from Google, SEO specialists also leverage this tool to help drive organic traffic. Keyword Planner is limited in features compared to some third-party platforms but can uncover lucrative keywords and core themes for building topic clusters. You can find Keyword Planner in the Tools menu of your Google Ads account.

Google Ads

Pros and Cons

Advantages:

  • Free and easy to use
  • Search volume data directly from Google
  • Ability to target by device, language, and location
  • Search for keywords by entering a URL (entire site or single page)

Disadvantages:

  • Provides averages for search volumes 
  • A limited list of keyword suggestions compared to other tools
  • Only takes Google Ads into account for competition metric
Google Ads keyword planner

Special Features Highlight

While Keyword Planner doesn’t identify search intent, you can find keywords with high commercial intent. Organize the keyword results by “Top of page bid (high range).” This uncovers the keywords advertisers are willing to pay top dollar for, so chances are high that they’ll deliver lucrative traffic.

Pricing

  • Free with a Google Ads account

What We’ve Heard

“You can utilize Google Ads Keyword Planner, a free tool provided by Google Ads, as you prepare your marketing approach. With the help of this tool, you may find new keywords, come up with keyword suggestions, and launch a successful PPC campaign. This tool is useful for estimating bids as well.”

Reviewer, G2

Use Cases and Best Practices

Keyword Planner is a good starting point for discovering keywords related to your business, although you may want to combine it with another tool for more in-depth data.

For example, enter up to 10 keywords related to your products or services, separated with a comma and space. For best results:

  • Use a keyword and website.
  • Avoid using adjectives in your seed keyword, such as “affordable.”
  • Use multiple keywords or phrases if they’re related: children’s books, picture books, early readers, chapter books.

You’ll generate a list of results, which you can filter by category. If you aren’t happy with the results, click on relevant phrases to expand your search. Once you’ve selected possible keywords, head over to another tool for more precise search volume numbers or insight on keyword difficulty.

6.  SECockpit

Best for Competitor Keyword Analysis

Intro to the Tool

This robust tool provides plenty of data points to help you choose the right search phrases for your strategy. The intuitive interface makes the depth of data manageable. Keywords are presented in tables with color-coded metrics, which can be clicked on to see underlying data.

SECockpit

Pros and Cons

Advantages:

  • Data pulled from sources such as Moz and Semrush
  • Queries by location, language, and source
  • Customizable search results so you can choose the metrics you want to see
  • Web search trends and search volume from different periods
  • Comparative analysis with top 10 competitors
  • Optimized for mobile devices

Disadvantages:

  • No free tool
  • Requires an account for a trial
SECockpit pros and cons

Special Features Highlight

SECockpit provides an in-depth competitive analysis. When you search for a keyword, you’ll immediately see the top 10 pages for the keyword with data including MozRank, page authority, domain authority, and backlinks. You can delve further and run semantic searches for these pages. The tool returns a list of keywords that two or more competing domains rank for to help fill gaps in your keyword strategy.

SECockpit special features

Pricing

  • $25/month Personal Plan (10 keyword searches per day and 800 results per search)
  • $42/month Pro (50 keyword searches per day and 10,000 results per search)
  • $75/month Agency (unlimited keyword searches and 10,000 results per search)

What We’ve Heard

“SECockpit is by far the easiest, fastest, and most comprehensive and accurate keyword research tool I’ve ever used.”

Peter Sundstrom, Ultimate Marketing Strategies

Use Cases and Best Practices

Your SECockpit journey begins with a seed keyword, list of keywords, or website. You can specify language, location, and different platforms such as Google Ads, Google Suggest, Amazon Suggest, YouTube Suggest, and Google Related Search. Amazon, for example, can be a good source for high-value, transactional keywords.

Once you generate a keyword list, sort the table with the desired filters, such as search volume. SECockpit has also developed a proprietary metric called Niche Value, which weighs monthly search volume and difficulty to help you immediately see the potential of a keyword.

As you review the keywords, move them into lists and print or export them. Agencies can add their logo on the top of the report and easily provide the list to clients.

7.  TopicRanker

Best for Finding Competitor Weaknesses

Intro to the Tool

To rank in the top positions in the SERPs, you need to surpass your competitors in quality. That’s the theory behind TopicRanker, which inspects the top-ranking pages for issues such as thin content or poor loading speeds. You can then design your content to leapfrog these pages in the rankings. This platform also helps kick-start your writing with AI-powered tools for creating content briefs and first drafts.

Pros and Cons

Advantages:

  • Helps find less competitive keywords
  • Identifies weaknesses in top-ranking pages for a keyword
  • Provides content ideation

Disadvantages:

  • Must provide an email 
  • No long-tail keywords or semantic search
Topic Ranker

Special Features Highlight

Once you’ve decided to pursue a keyword you’ve found on TopicRanker, hit “Generate Content” to start the writing process. Choose from title ideas, meta descriptions, content briefs, and articles. This is helpful for those who want a leg up on the writing process.

Topic Ranker special features

Pricing

  • $9/month Starter (three reports per month with three keyword suggestions per report; no AI-assisted writing tools)
  • $59/month Basic (10 reports per month with six keyword suggestions per report)
  • $129/month Premium (30 reports per month with 12 keyword suggestions per report)

What We’ve Heard

“Hands down TopicRanker is the future of keyword research.”

Brian Dean, Backlinko

Use Cases and Best Practices

To get started with TopicRanker, enter your website and the topic you want to rank for. The tool generates a list of keywords based on issues it finds in the SERPs. As you click each keyword, you’ll see data for your site and the highest-ranking pages: load time, word count, readability, missing words in titles, and spam score. The tool also lists target benchmarks for each of these categories.

TopicRanker use cases

You can then launch the content ideation process, which puts a content brief or article draft in your hands. While these tools are a good starting point for writing, be sure to make the content your own. Add your expertise and shape it to fit your business goals and target audience. Remember, other businesses are also using these tools, so you need to find ways to add value and set your content apart from others.

Building Keyword Research Tools for In-House Use

As you can see, there’s a copious amount of data available to help develop your keyword strategy. The trick is to find the tool that gives you the information you need efficiently. It can be time-consuming to pull data from multiple sources, export it into spreadsheets, and navigate it all.

So, here’s one more hat tossed into the ring.  

If you know precisely what you need to execute your SEO strategies and your business has the resources and technical know-how, consider building your own keyword research tool aligned with your business objectives. You don’t have to start from scratch, either.

Platforms such as Ahrefs, Semrush, Moz, and Google Ads have APIs that let you tap into their data, giving you much more information than what’s available on the tools’ consumer interfaces. It’s a data gold mine. Pull backlink, keyword, traffic, and position tracking stats. Mold and shape the data to your heart’s content and present it in the format that’s most useful for you. This is how SECockpit incorporates Moz’s data into its interface.

A custom keyword tool is an investment, but in the long run, it can streamline your workflow. You can feed current data into your internal dashboards and custom reports, saving you from switching between tools and running separate tasks. In other words, spend less time pulling data from keyword tools and more time leveraging it to boost performance.

Can ChatGPT or AI Help With Keyword Research? 

Artificial intelligence has been making its presence felt across industries. ChatGPT can do a lot of things well but doesn’t have the same data as keyword tools, such as Ahrefs, Semrush, and others. However, you can strike up a conversation and ask ChatGPT to speed up keyword research in a few ways.

  • Brainstorming general keywords: Try prompts such as “What are questions someone might have about [topic]?” or “What are popular keywords related to [topic]?” ChatGPT can get overenthusiastic in its responses, so add “List only” to the end of your query to limit the result to keywords and avoid generating descriptions. You can broaden or refine the results and enter promising ones into a keyword research tool for more in-depth metrics.
  • Completing manual tasks: ChatGPT is a wizard at helping with tasks such as identifying search intent for a list of keywords or clustering keywords by topic. Simply paste in your list, and ask the tool to organize your information. You’ll have it done in a jiffy.
  • Ideating content: Content marketers are already leveraging AI to come up with titles, topics, outlines, and briefs. Content intelligence platforms powered by AI are taking this to the next level, providing customer insights and recommending topics.

AI isn’t yet ready to replace keyword research tools and human insight. Still, it’s an efficient assistant. “My educated guess for the near future of ChatGPT is that it’ll be integrated into keyword planning tools, content, and topic analysis features,” wrote Adam Tanguay in Search Engine Land. “AI-driven chatbots will become more entwined in the SEO planning landscape, not a separate workflow.”

The Future of Keyword Research

While a good keyword research tool (or two) is indispensable, there’s one thing to keep in mind. Modern SEO is shifting from a keyword-centric to a user-centric approach. Google sent us down this path with its helpful content system that prioritizes valuable and useful information.  

What does this mean? You still need a primary keyword to understand search intent, but you can spend less time fitting lists of semantic keywords into your content. Search engines have become highly skilled at understanding context and no longer rely on exact keyword matches in many cases. 

Instead, the value of keyword research is finding out what your audience wants to know about a topic and in what formats. You’re not relying on a keyword, in other words, but a theme. You need to roll up your sleeves, assess the competition, and provide the charts, videos, FAQs, or other content components that satisfy an audience’s appetite for a topic. 

Listen in as Crowd Content’s Rick Leach, and I discuss this shift from keywords to topics.

Finally, while AI tools such as ChatGPT aren’t replacing keyword research tools, we expect artificial intelligence will be increasingly integrated. And this is a good thing — the more powerful the tool, the easier it is to find that sweet spot between high-volume keywords, brand expertise, and your audience’s needs. 

Elevate Your Content Strategy

Keyword research tools come in all shapes, sizes, and prices. Your shopping list should include essential metrics such as search volume and keyword difficulty, with features such as competitive analyses and performance tracking as the icing on the cake. Whatever tools you add to your arsenal, combine them with human insight to create content that engages your readers. You can learn more tips and tactics for enriching your content strategies in our webinars with industry experts or sign up for Crowd Content’s newsletter

Carlos Meza

Article by

President and Chief Executive Officer at Crowd Content.

Carlos is a guiding voice in an SEO and content creation industry brimming with turbulent growth. He has leveraged his past experience as a technology executive, engineer, and corporate financier to bring innovative end-to-end content creation solutions to SMBs and enterprise clients around the globe — delivering high-quality, scalable products through the marriage of human talent, technology, automation, and artificial intelligence.

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