Keywords have gotten some criticism in recent years, thanks to spam tactics like keyword stuffing and low-quality content. But keywords are still the foundation of your SEO (and SEM) campaign, and it’s critically important that you take the time to choose them carefully. Keyword research is more than just brainstorming some ideas and assuming you’re on the same line of thought as your audience.

How do you know the keywords you’ve chosen will be profitable? How do you know how much competition there is, or if it’s possible to outrank the existing competition? Should you go short-tail or long-tail? The answers to all these questions lies in keyword research, and we’ve rounded up 25 of the best tools to help you pinpoint the keywords and phrases that will form a solid foundation for your SEO efforts.

  1. Google AdWords Keyword Suggestion Tool – Let’s start with the most obvious (and totally free!) tool for generating keyword ideas and gauging the potential for your keywords, and that’s Google’s free AdWords Keyword Suggestion Tool. You do need a Google account to use it, but we’re guessing that’s not going to be a problem. Simply enter some words or phrases in the search box and the AdWords Keyword Suggestion Tool will provide data on each as well as a slew of related recommendations.
  2. Google Trends – A little less obvious, but still offered by the massive web presence we all know as Google, Google Trends is actually a handy tool for keyword research. Once you’ve narrowed down some ideas, use Google Trends to figure out just how popular your key phrases have been around the web throughout a pretty impressive historical timeline.
  3. Google Correlate – Google Correlate is yet another Google tool and another step in the complex keyword research process if you choose to use it. After you’ve identified some promising Trends, figure out how those trends correlate to real-world events using Google Correlate. Are certain search terms more popular in winter? What other phrases have trend patterns that mimic yours over time? It’s not necessary to use this tool, but a pretty cool available option for doing things like planning seasonal campaigns.
  4. Wordtracker – One of the most widely known keyword research tools, Wordtracker is subscription-based, starting at $69 per month. Wordtracker also offers an ancillary tool, Keyword Questions, that helps you identify the questions people are asking around the web that relate to your target keywords—providing opportunities for meaningful conversations.
  5. Compete – Compete isn’t free, but you’ll get a slew of handy tools and resources at your fingertips, such as benchmarking, keyword research, web rankings (not based just on Google rankings, but any Compete metric) and more. It starts at $199 per month, so this tool is better suited for serious analyzers who spend a great deal of their time poring over keyword stats and other metrics.
  6. Keyword Discovery Tool – Keyword Discovery compiles data from all the major search engines, so you’re not limited to seeing what’s been happening on Google (or better yet, you’re not limited to focusing your SEO efforts solely towards Google). A subscription here is comparable to Compete, at $199.95 per month.
  7. Bing Ads Intelligence Tool – Remember how we just mentioned not focusing all your SEO efforts on Google? We were serious about that—yes, Google is the giant, and it’s not likely to fall from its throne anytime soon. But that doesn’t mean you can’t focus some of your efforts on other search engines and bring valuable traffic from there as well. So try out the Bing Ads Intelligence tool, which is downloadable and operates in a familiar Excel interface.
  8. SEO Book – SEO Book’s Keyword Suggestion Tool is based off of Wordtracker data, also offers a Keyword Typo Generator, a tool that suggests common misspellings and typos searched for online. If you use this tool well, you can generate traffic based on the common mistakes of searchers.
  9. HitTail – HitTail is a nifty tool that identifies the most profitable keywords to target based on your existing traffic, and where you’ll likely rank on popular search engines if you do so successfully. It’s not free, but plans are reasonable—starting at just $9.95 per month depending on your search volume.
  10. HubSpot Keyword Grader SEO Tool – HubSpot’s marketing software provides a variety of different tools for your inbound efforts, including its Keyword Grader SEO Tool. The Keyword Grader tool lets you know if a selected keyword is too difficult to rank for, and therefore not worth your effort, offers suggested alternatives, lets you track your competitors and monitor their rankings over time.
  11. Wordze – Wordze offers more than 15 built-in tools to take your SEO campaign to the next level, including a WordRank tool which tells you exactly which keywords to target and a quick list generator that reveals 1,000s of potential keyword possibilities. Try it free for 30 days, then pay as little as $1.25 per day.
  12. Niche Watch – Niche Watch doesn’t actually generate potential keywords for you, but it does help you identify who your main competitors are once you’ve built a short list of target keywords. And if you want to outrank your competition, you have to know who the top-rankers are so you can study what they’re doing.
  13. Wordstream – WordStream’s internet marketing software goes beyond making keyword suggestions, helping you optimize your web pages and structure your content in a logical hierarchy. You can also find negative keywords that you want to avoid in your campaigns, and group keywords into helpful, more organized clusters. Plans start at $225 per month.
  14. serpIQ – With plans starting at $49 per month, serpIQ lets you analyze your competition and discover new keyword opportunities without the hassle of using various tools and toolbars and compiling your data into an Excel spreadsheet by hand.
  15. KeywordEye – Get all the essential data in a visualization with KeywordEye, which helps you understand how other websites are linking to you, monitor your anchor text, and simplify your keyword research in one. A free plan searches 10 Google country keyword databases and provides up to 100 keyword suggestions per report. Pro plans are also available.
  16. Keyword Spy – Keyword Spy offers real-time competitive analysis of keyword usage and AdWords spending, an ROI analysis for your target keywords and a keyword builder tool for generating hundreds of suggestions. Pricing starts at $89.95 per month for either research or tracking, or you can get both for $139.95 per month.
  17. SEM Rush – SEM Rush is a comprehensive platform for both organic and advertising keyword research, a long-tail keyword generator, and chart functions for comparing various SEO metrics. Price plans start at $69.95 per month.
  18. Good Keywords – Good Keywords is a free tool to help you organize your data (export .csv data from the Google Keyword Tool), create long-tail keywords using a variety of filter options, generate key phrases from misspellings and organize your keyword lists using Keyword Manager. Good Keywords is a free download.
  19. KGen – A Firefox Extension, KGen helps you identify strong keywords across web properties that you visit. That means you can use it for your own sites or for competitive analysis.
  20. Wordpot – A simple interface, simply enter a keyword in the search bar and instantly generate a list of possible keyword opportunities, including synonyms, related words and associated words. It’s free to use!
  21. SpyFu – Download your competitors’ keywords using SpyFu for just $79 per month. Data includes every keyword your competitors have ever purchased on AdWords, every organic rank and every ad variation for the last six years.
  22. Market Samurai – Market Samurai not only helps you choose the right keywords and analyze your competitors, but provides tools for choosing the most profitable domain name available and find and publish content right to your blog. A single payment of $149 gets you access to everything.
  23. Soovle – Soolve helps you find hot topics across all the major search engines. Enter a search phrase and get instant targeted suggestions for various search engines—you can even customize which engines you see results from.
  24. Raven Tools – Raven SEO Tools is a comprehensive set of tools that combines both Wordtracker and Google AdWords data to provide you with a complete set of suggested key phrases. Instantly track your keywords in Google, Yahoo and Bing and get traffic metrics for any keyword, all from within a single dashboard.
  25. Majestic SEO Keyword Checker – Majestic SEO’s Keyword Checker is a free tool allowing you to enter up to five keywords at a time for various metrics including how frequently each is used in anchor text, in a URL, titles and anchor and title text combined.

What keyword analysis tools do you rely on? Do you prefer free tools or are you willing to fork over some hard-earned cash for advanced keyword analytics? Share your favorite tools with us in the comments!

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