Keyword research is crucial in any SEO or on-page content strategy, as it helps you to gain in-depth insights into the terms your customers are actively searching for, so you can create content that answers their needs.

With several keyword research tools out there, it can be hard finding the right one for you. We’ve outlined three of our favourites below, to help you take your pick!

Ahrefs

We use Ahrefs at connective3, as our keyword research tool. You can sign up for a seven-day trial for $7, but there are various long-term payment plans you can sign up to. The recommended one is ‘standard’, which costs $179 a month, enabling you to track 1,500 keywords. You have to pay $30 extra for every additional user, but it’s worth it – otherwise you risk being kicked out halfway through your research when someone else logs in!

To analyse your website’s performance, simply add your URL in at the top and hit search. This brings up the site explorer section, where you’ll see the following information:

  • Domain rating (DR) – a score out of 100
  • Backlinks and referring domains
  • Organic keywords

If you click through to ‘organic keywords’, you can filter by country. You can then organise by search volume, keyword difficulty, traffic, and position. If you want to see what a specific page ranks for, you can type it in at the top.

On the side menu, navigate to ‘organic keywords’ and ‘new’, and you’ll see the latest keywords you’re ranking for. Alternatively, if you click ‘movement’, you can see which keywords have changed positions, and when.

To find new keywords to rank for, click on ‘keywords explorer’ at the top. You can either type in one or several keywords, and it will take you through to a page that shows you the following:

  • The keyword difficulty of the keyword: This is a mark out of 100 – the higher it is, the harder it is to rank for
  • Search volume: This shows averages searches made per month in your chosen country. Those with higher search volumes tend to have higher keyword difficulty, because more people naturally compete for higher levels of traffic
  • Clicks: This highlights the percentage of clicks vs organic and paid
  • Global volume: You can see which countries are searching for this keyword the most

If you scroll down the page, you can look at other similar keywords that people are searching for – we used ‘content marketing’ as an example, and you can see the list of related keywords that are presented to us.

There are several filters at the top if you want to include or exclude specific words, or see the SERP features. You can also look at related keywords that are questions. For example, the following is brought up for content marketing:

  • What is content marketing?
  • Why is content marketing important?
  • How to create a content marketing strategy?

If you head back to the ‘keyword explorer’ overview page and scroll down, you’ll see a visual graph of the search position for your chosen keyword, and a list of sites that rank the highest organically.

Ahrefs also has a rank tracker, which enables you to track keywords over time for specific brands (on the standard plan, you can track 1,500 keywords). Alternatively, while it’s more work, if you don’t want to pay for it, you can just get the data from Ahrefs and track them yourselves on a spreadsheet.

To identify keywords your competitors are ranking for but you aren’t, click on ‘content gap’ on the side nav. Simply type in your competitor’s URLs, and you’ll be presented with a list of keywords your competitors rank for, that you don’t.

SEMrush

SEMrush is very similar to Ahrefs in terms of the information it provides you. However, I personally find the layout of the information to be a lot cleaner, so if you want to screenshot images to clients, SEMrush might be better.

However, it’s all a matter of personal preference. The only thing I would say, is that SEMrush and Ahrefs work out their search volumes and keyword difficulties in different ways, so make sure you only report back to clients using one of the tools – otherwise, the numbers won’t make sense.

When it comes to pricing, you can try a free seven-day trial with SEMrush, or choose from one of their three different pricing plans. ‘Pro’ is the cheapest, at $99.95 a month, and if you just want to know your own and your competitors’ rankings and traffic sources, then this plan is fine.

To find out your own organic rankings, simply type in your URL and hit search. Select which country and device you want to analyse (Ahrefs only lets you see mobile rankings on the more expensive payment plans).

Scroll down to the ‘organic research’ section and you’ll see an overview of your:

  • Top organic keywords
  • Organic position distribution: A visual overview of how many keywords you rank for in positions 1-3, 4-10 etc
  • Main organic competitors: Who you think your competitors are, may not actually be the case when it comes to similar keywords and ranking positions
  • Competitive positioning map
  • Branded traffic trend
  • Branded vs non-branded

To get a full list of the keywords you rank for, click through to ‘top organic keywords’, where you’ll be able to filter them to get the information you need. Like Ahrefs, you can export all the data. You can also use this feature to check your competitors’ rankings, and identify any additional keywords you could be targeting.

If you click onto ‘backlinks’, you’ll get an overview of the categories your referring domains fall into, in addition to the most common anchor texts.

To identify new keywords to rank for, head back to the dashboard, and type in a keyword at the top – we’ve used ‘content marketing’ as an example again.

The ‘keyword magic tool’ gives you a full list of related keywords. You’ll need to pay if you want to see the full list. Like Ahrefs, you can use the filters, and include or exclude specific words. You can also see a list of related questions that people are searching for.

Google Trends

If you don’t want to pay for a keyword research tool, then Google Trends is a great, free option. Granted, you don’t get anywhere near as much in-depth information as you would with Ahrefs or SEMrush, but it’s a good starting point that will allow you to see the kind of things people are searching for.

You don’t need to create an account to use Google Trends – just type in a search term or topic and click search.

You can get more granular by looking at the search trends for a specific country, timeframe, category, or search type (web, image, news etc).

You can then break down the interest by regions, and then cities in those regions. However, not all searches will bring back the same amount of information – whereas one may show the interest in five cities, another could just show London’s.

Scroll further down the page and you’ll see a selection of related topics and queries. These queries can be ideal if you’re looking for additional keywords to target on a specific page. You can also compare the interest of one keyword with another.

Whilst this doesn’t compare with the level of information Ahrefs and SEMrush provide, as a free tool, Google Trends is particularly good! And it’s especially useful if you want to look into recent fads – look at that rise in interest for ‘banana bread’!

Final thoughts

If you’re not sure which keyword research tool is right for you, then sign up for some free trials and have a play around. They all offer similar information, so it’s more a case of deciding which one feels right for you.

Alternatively, if you want some help with creating an on-page content strategy through extensive keyword research, then get in touch with us to find out more information about our SEO services. Alternatively, for the latest digital marketing news, head on over to our blog.

Elle Pollicott

Elle Pollicott

Content Strategist