With the rise of ‘Not Provided’ and the recent death of the beloved Google Keyword Tool, it’s clear that the biggest player in search is trying to reduce SEOs’ obsession over keywords. These changes also reflect Google’s increase in monetization of their keyword data. Why else would they allow you to compare organic versus paid traffic on bid keywords in Adwords while leaving Analytics users in the dark?
If you aren’t as cynical as I am, it’s easy to see that the new tool was actually designed for the PPC specialists. My biggest pet peeve is the removal of the “closely related filter." This is clearly the biggest blow for SEOs. The tool is definitely still usable for keyword research, especially on the ultra local level, but it clearly isn’t really intended for that task.
This doesn’t mean that keyword research is dead; it just forces SEOs to begin using more alternatives to Google’s tools.
Free Keyword Tool Alternatives
To this date, there are only two completely free keyword planner alternatives. While, they are not optimal for SEOs, these free tools can help you decide on new niches to target or plan your next link building campaign effectively.
Bing Keyword Tool
The biggest disadvantage with using the Bing Keyword Tool is that the data is not from Google. The volume is usually hovering between 10% and 25% of Google’s planner for most keywords. However, unlike the Keyword Planner, you have a “strict” filter that acts like the old “closely related” filter which is great for increasing your keyword target spread.
The tool is still in Beta and I look forward to seeing how Bing capitalizes on SEOs’ complaints about the Planner. You’ll also need to claim a website in Bing Webmaster Tools in order to use the tool.
Google Trends & Webmaster Tools
The only advantage of both these tools is that the data is straight from Google itself. The numbers are definitely questionable and only a very limited amount of data is available.
Webmaster Tools limits itself to keywords on which your sites are already getting impressions. The data helps you strategize but won’t give you any data on words you might be interested in ranking on.
On the other hand, Google Trends can also be useful for planning content for referral traffic, but the data does not give you any idea of the actual traffic your article might get if it ranked first on the keyword.
Freemium Keyword Tool Alternatives
The problem with a lot of keyword research tools is that they are advertised as free tools, but there are usually some limitations to free access. You most likely will still need to sign up with an account, and even spend some money to get the best keyword data from them. The free versions aren’t always useful as stand-alone software. This is especially true when trying to find new keywords. This can obviously be solved by using a suggestion tool like Ubersuggest.
Don’t be fooled by the Wordtracker home page. Their free keyword tool can be found on this subdomain. The tool will give you access to US, UK and Global search volume for the keywords you put in, but not much else. This is where Ubersuggest will come into play. To actually get suggestions and get country level keyword search data, you will actually have to sign up and pay a small fee.
SEMRush is one of my favorite tools because it’s extremely versatile. The reason why I like the tool so much for Keyword Research is that it also gives a lot of PPC info, which is great for figuring out the most profitable keywords. However, it suffers from most of the problems the other freemium tools in that its broad range suggestions of new keywords is not very robust.
Paid Keyword Tool Alternatives
If you’re looking to invest in a paid tool, be careful! There are a lot of tools that will get you to pay and not really be much help at all because they either require proxies, multiple Adwords accounts, or merely just change the user interface and give you the same data you could get for cheaper elsewhere.
Advanced Web Ranking
If you’re already using Advanced Web Ranking and just hate the UX of the new Keyword Planner, their tool does great and will let you compare Google results to SEMRush, Wordtracker and more. In addition, you’ll also get to see where your site currently ranks during the keyword research which is a great!
All things considered, there are a lot of options out there, but if you want Google’s data, it might be best to just stick to the planner and use a paid tool like Advanced Web Ranking to provide a better user interface. Looking towards the future, I can see a lot more and better free tools being developed by big SEO software companies and I can’t wait to see what they come up with.