The Top 4 Free Keyword Research Tools

Harrison ContentMay 11, 2024
SEO Tools
The keyword research landscape is saturated with options – there are hundreds available, ranging from the basic to highly sophisticated. These tools vary widely, some offering minimal assistance while others prove to be incredibly powerful.Effectively leveraging the best tools for keyword research can significantly enhance your workflow; they not only assist in pinpointing the optimal keywords to focus on but also provide the essential data required to achieve high rankings. However, this shouldn’t mean having to break the bank to gain access to essential keyword insights.Drawing on extensive experience advising numerous clients with diverse keyword research and SEO content optimization needs, I’ve witnessed the full spectrum of what’s available – the good, the bad, and everything in between. Recognizing the crucial role of selecting an appropriate keyword research tool, I evaluated more than 70 options that include free features. Following thorough testing, I’m presenting the four most effective free keyword research tools that cater to a variety of needs, from all-encompassing solutions to those designed for niche applications.

The Premier Free Keyword Research Tools

  • Moz Keyword Explorer as the leading comprehensive free SEO keyword investigation tool
  • Google Keyword Planner for delving into paid search terms
  • Ahrefs for straightforward SEO tools
  • Semrush tailored for seasoned SEO experts

What Defines the Ideal Keyword Research Tool?

How our assessment and testing of apps is conducted

Our top app selections are crafted by individuals who have dedicated a significant portion of their careers to experimenting with, evaluating, and discussing software. Unless specifically mentioned otherwise, we invest dozens of hours in the research and examination of apps, utilizing each application as it was designed to be used, and judging it based on the standards we’ve established for that category. Our article placements and links are never influenced by payments from any app or website – we cherish the confidence our readers place in us to provide genuine reviews of the categories and apps we evaluate. For an in-depth explanation of our process, explore the comprehensive overview of how we choose apps to highlight on the AlphaRank blog.

The characteristics that define an exceptional keyword research tool are fairly simple: input a keyword and the tool provides insights on it. However, the application of keyword data is diverse, prompting my search for tools versatile enough to accommodate numerous scenarios, as well as some tailored for the most common purposes of keyword research.


In the evaluation phase, the deciding factors I focused on to ascertain which applications would make our preliminary selection included the following criteria.


  • Included Data. Top – tier keyword research instruments supply all the essential data for ranking with your targeted keyword. Each app we’ve included comes with, at the very least, metrics on traffic volumes, keyword difficulty, and a competitive analysis of the Search Engine Results Pages (SERP).
  • Data Sources. The reliability and accuracy of your keyword data are paramount, making it crucial to consider the origins of each tool’s data. All the tools we’ve selected source their data from credible platforms like Google Analytics or Google Search Console at a minimum.
  • Keyword Optimization Advice. Navigating keyword research tools shouldn’t require a decade of SEO expertise; the finest offerings provide clear and actionable advice for keyword optimization. Some tools (like Ahrefs, Semrush, and Moz) conduct thorough SEO audits, covering everything from site speed and technical minutiae to domain authority and content clusters. However, our focus was on identifying tools that are accessible for any business owner or marketer to swiftly grasp their target keyword and improve their site’s ranking potential for it.
  • Free Plan Generosity and Upgrade Options. There are tools that offer very limited insights under a “free plan” or impose time constraints, essentially rendering them trials. Our selection only features tools with truly valuable evergreen free plans, and when it’s time to level up, the paid upgrades won’t necessitate emptying your wallet.
  • Standalone Capability. Given you’re in search of a cost – free solution, your keyword tool should serve as a comprehensive utility, not reliant on any additional paid tools or extensions to deliver results.


In the quest to identify the optimal keyword research solutions, I put each qualifying tool through a rigorous examination process by adhering to a detailed testing protocol. The following outlines the steps of my testing procedure:

  • If necessary, I signed up for an account and engaged with any onboarding or tutorial resources provided (although several of these free applications do not require account creation or offer onboarding experiences).
  • I conducted searches using a diverse range of keywords – examples include “free keyword research tools,” “chocolate cake,” and “best white sneakers”—to evaluate the tools’ performance across various search intents.
  • I assessed the related keywords they suggested, the range of metrics available, and any other associated data. Attention was paid to the data’s origin, whether it was sourced from Google, encompassed information from non-search-based platforms (such as social media or forums), or originated from the tool’s proprietary databases.
  • I scrutinized the free plan’s limitations, whether they pertained to duration, quantity of search results, metrics provided, number of permitted searches daily or monthly, or other restrictions. I also considered the expense of upgrading to a premium plan if it became necessary.
  • Where applicable, I explored supplementary keyword research functions such as competitive gap analysis, content optimization capabilities, and more.


After dedicating over a dozen hours to engaging with these applications this year, I’ve pinpointed the four preeminent keyword research tools—each offering a practical free version—as listed below.

A Quick Overview of the Top Free Keyword Research Tools

SEO Tools

Moz Keyword Explorer (Web)


SEO Tools

Advantages of Moz:

  • Data is displayed in a user-friendly manner compared to several alternatives
  • The “Priority” score simplifies the process of identifying valuable keywords
  • A wide array of tools is accessible at no cost


Drawbacks of Moz:

  • Offers less data compared to more comprehensive tools
  • The complimentary plan is limited to 10 searches per tool each month


Moz’s SEO toolkit encompasses a variety of instruments tailored for keyword exploration. Although it may not provide as extensive a data array as some comprehensive SEO utilities do (for instance, historical SERP rankings or the aggregate keyword positioning of competitors), I view this as an advantage. It ensures a more streamlined experience for individuals outside of the professional SEO sphere, all while delivering essential metrics.


The Keyword Explorer within Moz permits an investigation into any selected keyword, revealing its search volume, competitive difficulty, and potential for organic clicks. Further exploration reveals an evaluation of the top contenders for that keyword alongside recommendations for related search terms.


My standout feature within Moz is the “Priority” score, which significantly streamlines the process of keyword selection by offering a clear verdict on the keyword’s viability for pursuit. This score is an amalgamation of considerations such as search volume, organic click-through rates, and competitive difficulty, enriched with “My Score”—a personalized relevance rating based on your insight into your business’s needs and market standing.


Additionally, the Keyword Gap tool, a component of Moz’s Competitive Research suite, enables identification of keywords for which competitors rank but your site does not.


Moz’s pricing structure: Access to keyword research utilities is granted freely for up to 10 inquiries per tool each month, inclusive of up to 1,000 keyword recommendations and 10 SERP reviews per inquiry; subscription plans for Moz Pro commence at $99/month, accommodating 150 keyword inquiries monthly.


The Best Free Keyword Research Tool for Paid Keywords


Google Keyword Planner (Web)


SEO Tools


Advantages of Google Keyword Planner:

  • Entirely free to use indefinitely, regardless of Google Ads usage
  • Offers valuable forecasting tools for budget management with Google Ads integration
  • Capable of generating keyword ideas directly from your website


Disadvantages of Google Keyword Planner:

  • Not suitable for conducting organic keyword research


Google Keyword Planner stands as a premier choice for PPC keyword investigation, providing comprehensive services free of charge, with no concerns about hitting limits or incurring additional costs for upgrades.


The tool is split into two principal functionalities: preliminary keyword exploration for new ideas and a secondary, more detailed component focusing on search volumes and predictive analytics.


With its “Keyword ideas” function, Google Keyword Planner operates much like other tools in the market. You input a basic keyword, and it generates a slew of related keywords complete with information on monthly searches, trend analysis, competition levels, potential ad impressions, and suggested bid prices. Users can fine-tune their keyword selection based on factors like brand affiliation, specific web sources, and others. For those engaged in Google Ads, the “Forecast” tool simplifies the process of ad planning and budget allocation.


Beyond paid search contexts, Google Keyword Planner can also contribute to organic search strategies by highlighting opportunities for natural ranking that could potentially reduce PPC expenditure.


Pricing for Google Keyword Planner: It’s available at no cost.

The Top Free Keyword Research Solution Offering a Comprehensive Set of SEO Tools.


Ahrefs Free SEO Tools (Web)


SEO Tools


Advantages of Ahrefs:

  • Complimentary suite includes diverse SEO functionalities
  • Exceptionally user-friendly interface
  • Provides keyword analysis for alternative platforms (YouTube, Amazon, Bing)


Disadvantages of Ahrefs:

  • Access to data is somewhat restricted in the free version


Although Ahrefs doesn’t offer its entire suite without cost, it does provide a commendably comprehensive collection of free SEO tools ideal for basic keyword exploration tasks. The array of gratis features sprawls from a Free Keyword Generator and Keyword Difficulty Checker to a Keyword Rank Checker and extends to keyword insights for platforms like YouTube, Amazon, and Bing.


The keyword generation aspect of the tool doles out as many as 150 keyword ideas (comprising 100 phrase match keywords and 50 questions) at no charge, with insights on monthly search volume and a peek at the keyword difficulty for the foremost 10 listings. The difficulty tool supplements these insights with a difficulty score, a guesstimate on backlink quantities needed for ranking, and a SERP examination of the top contenders.


While these instruments won’t match the data depth provided by a premium account, the suite’s scope is definitely its hallmark. Ahrefs’ complimentary offerings collectively arm a basic SEO campaign with everything from keyword sourcing to link building, site audits, as well as the monitoring of ranks and web traffic. Should financial resources allow, a switch to a paid subscription would put you at par with some of the most elite tools in the SEO arena.


Pricing for Ahrefs: The Free Keyword Generator yields up to 150 keyword suggestions with truncated data, and the Keyword Difficulty Checker comes with a difficulty rating, backlink prediction, and a rudimentary SERP analysis; premium memberships commence at $99/month, delivering 500 search credits monthly, enriched data, and the capability to create up to 5 keyword lists.


The Top free Keyword Research Tool for Advanced SEO


Semrush (Web)


SEO Tools


Advantages of Semrush:

  • Extensive, detailed keyword information
  • Comprehensive array of targeted keyword research functionalities
  • Relatively ample offerings within the free tier


Disadvantages of Semrush:

  • Potentially daunting for novices in keyword exploration
  • Highest-priced option for premium enhancement


For those venturing into the deeper aspects of SEO, Semrush offers a wealth of keyword data and facilitates meticulous scrutiny of SERP attributes and incisive analysis of current rankings. Semrush’s suite includes an array of research tools catering to various needs, such as standard search volume and traffic estimation, bespoke content-focused research, and comparative keyword gap assessments.


What truly distinguishes Semrush is its comprehensive toolkit: the basic Keyword Overview, the explorative capabilities of the Keyword Magic Tool, a Keyword Manager, position tracking, competitive Keyword Gap insights, and Organic Traffic Insights. Once integrated with your Google Analytics or Search Console, it even reveals elusive “not provided” search terms.


An additional perk is the SEO Content Template, which streamlines the creation of SEO-focused content briefs and optimizes your writing in real time, evaluating readability, authenticity, tone, and SEO compatibility with a visually engaging bullseye graphic. This tool actively ticks off SEO suggestions related to keyword usage, links, and imagery as you progress.


However, all these advanced features imply that a full upgrade is a considerable investment, though initial use at lower volumes remains free.


Leveraging Zapier allows for seamless integration between Semrush and other tools you use, managing SEO workflows, automating site assessments and re-crawls, linking with Google Analytics objectives, and more. Here are a few examples demonstrating what you can achieve with Semrush’s connectivity:


Pricing for Semrush:The complimentary version allows for up to 10 Analytics reports daily and tracking of 10 keywords. Subscription plans commence at $119.95 per month, featuring up to 10,000 results per individual report and the ability to monitor 500 keywords each month.

Is it Feasible to Use AI for Keyword Research?

Engaging AI chatbots such as ChatGPT and Bard for keyword research tasks is possible—but is it advisable?

The primary advantage of opting for AI assistance lies in its ease of use. You have the ability to request clear-cut, uncomplicated outcomes, receiving responses that are both straightforward and efficiently presented.


SEO Tools


The outcomes are concise and ready for implementation, with Bard excelling in aggregating information from multiple datasets and devising strategies for both high-volume and niche keywords. (That is, provided it’s providing accurate information.)

Although ChatGPT lacks integration with Google Keyword Planner, it managed to perform a modestly noteworthy job that proved to be somewhat useful.


However, both ChatGPT and Bard encountered challenges with tasks that went beyond the scope of the aforementioned prompt, yielding advice that was ultimately quite broad and nonspecific…


SEO Tools


…or, in some instances, not providing any response whatsoever:


SEO Tools


In essence: AI chatbots are not designed to conduct keyword research comprehensively. They lack the capacity for crucial functions such as compiling keyword lists, preserving analysis and keyword reports, monitoring search engine rankings, comparing competitive keyword gaps, or providing extensive content optimization. This is the current state of affairs, at least.


Should you find yourself in a situation requiring quick, basic insights about a keyword, an AI chatbot might offer minimal assistance. However, as things stand now, it’s not advisable to rely on an AI chatbot as your go-to tool for keyword research. This is particularly true considering the plethora of highly effective, specialized keyword research tools that are available at no cost.

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Tags      Marketing         SEOMentioned Apps           Semrush