What's The Best Free Keyword Tool? (Updated For 2018) - Miles Beckler

What's The Best Free Keyword Tool? (Updated For 2018)

As an internet marketer, keyword research is one of the most important things you can do (especially if you’re doing content marketing).

However, recently one of the best keyword research tools around - the Google Keyword Planner - has been stripped of a LOT of it’s usefulness.

As Google put it in a recent post on their community forum:

 “Advertisers with lower monthly spend may see a limited data view in the Keyword Planner. For example, you may see values such as 0, 1-100, 100-1K, 1K-10K, 10K-100K, 100K-1M, 1M+ in the average monthly searches column.

In addition, other advertisers may trigger the limited data view by reaching a limit on the number of searches for search volume data.

These changes will ensure that AdWords advertisers are able to get the data they need to optimize their accounts.”

It’s thought that Google created these changes to:

  1. Make more money (which is legitimate - they have an incredibly useful tool after all)
  2. Keep free users from abusing their system (apparently this was a bit of an issue)

Regardless of the real reasons behind Google’s most recent change, the effect is the same: the Google Keyword Planner is MUCH less useful than it once was.

Check out the differences, courtesy of some screenshots snapped by Barry Schwartz for an article on SEO Roundtable:

Before the change:

What the google keyword planner used to show

There's a reason the Google Keyword Planner was the best tool around for such a long time. Look at all this amazing data you get - FOR FREE!

However, as they say... all good things come to an end.

Here's the Google Keyword Planner results after the change:

google keyword planner data after the change

As you can see, there’s a pretty massive difference here. Greg Finn, writing for Search Engine Land.com, says :”The ranges that Google will provide for those with small (or no) spends makes the tool almost useless.”

For example, the category “1-10,000” searches a month is NOT useful to you in the slightest.

You need to know more concrete numbers than what Google now provides in order to make data driven decisions with your online marketing. However, you may be in a place where spending money each month on a keyword research tool isn't viable - and you want to get your keyword research on without the $$$.

Don't worry - in this article, you'll find reviews of the 13 of the top free and freemium Google Keyword Planner alternatives, with the best ones picked out for you. And if you're not afraid to spend a little bit of money, read our article here on the best paid alternative Google keyword tool.

Why Keyword Research Is Important

If you’re a bit more advanced on your internet marketing journey, feel free to skip this section and go directly to our recommendations below. Also: keep your eyes peeled for the next post in this series, where you’ll find out what the BEST keyword research tool is, regardless of cost.

However, if you’re wondering, “why the hell is keyword research important in the first place?”, you’ve come to the right spot.

Keyword research allows you to create content that Google can find and show to other people. Keyword research also lets you see what other people are actually interested in learning about.

If you get good at keyword research, you can go from feeling like a blogger who is putting out stuff that’s never getting read…. To an honest to goodness content marketer who gets ROI from the content you put out.

It’s the difference between being on the freshman team or the varsity squad. Or as Steven Pressfield would say, it’s about the difference between being an amateur and being a pro.

You Gotta Beat The Competition!

The first page of Google gets 92% of all the traffic for any given search phrase. That... is a lot.  And the top 4 results on the first page get 2/3 of the overall traffic!

That means you really want to go after keywords where you have a realistic chance of ranking on the front page of the search engine results page. Even better if you can be in the very top results.

But in order to know that information, you gotta have the tools!

So if you want to feel like you’re really being serious on your goal to financial freedom, and if you want to squeeze the most results out of the effort you’re already putting in to creating content… KEEP READING!!

The Best Free Google Keyword Planner Alternative: SEM Rush (But There’s A Catch)

The short and sweet version is that SEM Rush is the best free alternative to Google Keyword Planner.

Why? Well, it has the best data selection:

a screenshot of using the sem rush keyword tool

another screenshot of using the SEM rush keyword tool

SEM Rush gives you:

  • Search volume
  • Related keywords
  • Phrase match keywords
  • Organic search results
  • Paid CPC
  • Ad copy for the keyword you typed in

SEM Rush also lets you put a competitor’s URL into the tool and get a ton of data about what keywords they are ranking for, how many backlinks they have, where those backlinks are coming from, their monthly search volume, and more.

The limitation of this tool is that it’s not truly free. You can use SEM Rush for about 10 free searches, and then you are asked to sign up for a free account. Once you have a free account, you can use about 10 searches before you are asked to upgrade to SEM Rush’s “Pro” plan at 70 dollars per month.

You’ll see what the best keyword research tool is regardless of cost in the next post, but for now we are focusing on free versions.

sem rush keyword tool competitor research results 1

Even more:

sem rush keyword tool competitor research results 2

10 free searches per day is quite a bit, and the data SEM rush gives is quite extensive - hence why it’s the winner of this roundup.

A Little Trick for Unlimited Searches

However, if you have a VPN, you can use it to refresh your IP and then you can get another 10 searches from SEM rush.

Ironically, this may not work if you’re signed into a free account.

If you don’t mind having to refresh your IP every 10 searches, SEM rush is clearly your best free choice.

The Best “Truly Free” Option: SEO Book Keyword Tool

showing the results of the seobook keyword tool

Let’s say you don’t want to bother with free accounts, refreshing your IP, or anything else, but you still want to get some valuable keyword data for free.

In that case, SEO Book’s keyword tool is your best bet.  It gives you plenty of data, including:

  • Monthly searches
  • Daily searches
  • Google vs Bing + Yahoo searches
  • CPC for paid ads
  • UK data

And SEO Book gives you this data not only for your exact phrase, but for a bunch of related keyword phrases as well. This data is WAY more valuable than just giving you keyword suggestions like a lot of the free tools we’ll list below.

You don’t get quite as much info as you get with SEM rush (such as the CPC ad copy) and there’s no competition analysis, but overall SEO Book’s keyword tool is quite useful.

The Freemium, Limited Use, And Free Account Requiring Tools

These tools are more useful than the truly free keyword suggestion tools you can find below.

However, that additional utility comes at a cost, such as:

  • Having to pay money after a certain number of searches
  • Not being able to see all the data without paying
  • Having to sign up for a free account

A lot of these tools have free trials, or you can use a VPN to get more searches daily. Let's get into the tools!

The Best Cheap Paid Option: KW Finder

Free Searches? - Yes

Search Volume Results? - Yes

Any restrictions? 3 searches per day for free

KW Finder is an awesome research tool. It gives you all of the most relevant information about any given keyword phrases on one screen laying it out in a super clear and intuitive format that boosts your keyword planning.

It’s only $49 a month for 100 searches a day but don’t forget free searches are an option! If you want to invest less than Ahrefs, SEM Rush or MOZ, this is the way to do it.

Besides that KW Finder is FAST!

It quickly gets you the keyword difficulties you need, other relevant keywords to include, and your back creating SEO content fast!

Another Great Freemium Option: Keyword Revealer

keyword revealer keyword tool resultsFree Searches? - Yes

Search Volume Results? - Yes

Any restrictions? You have to sign up for a free account - but then you get 3 free searches per day for life.

Keyword Revealer is a rock solid contender in the "free to very low cost" keyword tool arena.

If you get tired of the 3 free searches, you can get a big upgrade to 15 searches per day for only 10 bucks a month. That's a pretty sweet deal if you're on a budget.

You also get access to the "keyword difficulty" tool which shows you the highest ranking pages for your phrase, along with some of their stats. This info can show you how easily you can get a page to rank on the front page of Google for that phrase.

keyword revealer keyword tool difficulty ranker results

Moz Explorer: A Simple and Clean VPN Requiring Tool

moz keyword tool screen 1 results

Free Searches? - Yes

Search Volume Results? - Yes

Any restrictions? 2 free searches per day

2 searches per day isn't much. However... the Moz tool is pretty easy to use and well laid out. Since the paid option is quite expensive, if you're on a budget and you want to use this tool, you're probably going to want to have a VPN.

SERPs: OK, But Other Tools Are Better

serps keyword tool results

Free Searches? - Yes

Search Volume Results? - Yes

Any restrictions? A few free searches, then you can refresh the page and get more.

Compared to some of the other options here, SERPs is a little basic: it doesn't have any data on competition analysis for example.

The Truly Free Keyword Generating Tools

These keyword tools are truly free - but you get what you pay for.

Don't get me wrong - you can still use these tools to get some useful suggestions during your keyword research. However, without hard search volume numbers for these phrases, it's difficult for you to find the "gems" hidden in the dirt, so to speak.

Still, for raw idea generation, these tools are free, quick, and easy to use.

Answer The Public: A Unique Spin on Keyword Research

answer the public keyword data results

Answer The Public has a pretty cool interface that can show you a "mind map" of all the different suggested keyword phrases. It also uses an interesting "who, what, when, how, which" approach to keywords which is can be useful.

Basically, this is a great tool for generating keyword ideas.

answer the public keyword data results 2

Uber Suggest: Not The Best

uber suggest keyword tool results

I didn't find Uber Suggest to be all that noteworthy. I'm not sure what the "alphabetical" keyword categorization would be useful for.

However, it is free!

Keyword Shitter: Does What It Says!

keyword shitter keyword tool resultsApart from it's hilarious name, Keyword Shitter excels at doing exactly what you would think: giving you a metric ton of keywords related to your seed phrase.

You could use this as a really useful tool for generating a bunch of phrases that you could then plug into a paid or premium option.

Keyword Tool.io: Mehhhh

keyword tool results

This one is kind of a stinker. The Keyword Tool.io free version isn't very useful, and they aggressively pitch you to upgrade when using it.

Not a fan.

SEO Chat Tools: Good for Niche Research

The Keyword Suggest Tool

seo chat suggest keyword tool results step 0

SEO chat has a suite of useful, free keyword research tools. They help you generate a ton of seed keywords and then get free CPC and search volume information about those keywords.

If you're heavily in the research phase of an online business (aka you're looking for a niche) I think there's a lot of value here for you.


seo chat suggest keyword tool results step 3Note that there are actually two separate tools here: the suggest tool (shown above) and the related keywords tool (shown below).

When using both tools, make sure you make your way down to level 3 in order to get the most useful results.

seo chat related keyword tool results step 2


Soolve: Broad, But Shallow Keyword Data

soovle keyword tool results

The main unique draw of Soovle is that it gives you results from a bunch of different search engines at once, including:

  • Wikipedia
  • Answers.com
  • YouTube
  • Yahoo!
  • Bing
  • Amazon

The downside is that none of this data has any volume information attached to it... so it's a bit of a "shallow and broad" tool to use. However, if you click on any one area, you are taken directly to the SERP (search engine results page) for that phrase, which is a cool feature.

Which Free Alternative to Google Keyword Planner Should You Use?

If you don't mind using a VPN and refreshing the page (or just limiting yourself to 10 searches a day) SEM Rush is the clear winner.

If you want a truly free option, SEO Book is your best bet.

If you want a cheap paid option, KW Finder is your go to!

Stay tuned for our next post in this series where you'll find out the best keyword research tool is regardless of the cost involved!


About the Author Miles

Miles is a full time internet marketer who sells information products and a niche membership program with his wife, Melanie. Together they have created a lifestyle business that allows them true location independence and this blog where you get to see behind the scenes and see how they have built their online business from scratch.

Leave a Comment:

Michele Engel says January 3, 2017

Hi Miles, Thank you so much for posting such a useful and comprehensive article on alternatives to the sort of now defunct Google Keyword Planner. It is exactly the kind of specific, detailed information I was looking for--and the timing is perfect.

You've made a follower out of me, and I'll be referring others to your site, as well.

You rock!

Tailor Devid son says February 10, 2017

Nice information you have describe here about keyword Tool...Amazing to find so much information in one place!
Thanks for it! and congrats on your efforts

Scarlett Johansson says June 30, 2017

Great point you make there. good POST.. I like your perspective on this subject.

    Miles says July 2, 2017

    Whack spam attempt? #PlaceYourBets

Michael Brooks says June 4, 2018

I was in search for a keyword tool that provided accurate data (Google Data) and wasn't caching. A lot of these keyword tools will cache the data and they arent serving real live data.

So I went through your post above testing almost every single tool one by one. Comparing that data with Google's Keyword Planner for accuracy.

In the end I went with Keyword Revealer - they hit all the marks for me and have awesome pricing. Thanks for your detailed post!

    Miles says June 7, 2018

    Right on! Glad this roundup was helpful for you...

Laura says September 26, 2018

Hi Miles! I love the way you review keyword tools: very informative, visual and saturated!
The only thing got me upset, is that I didn't find MY TOOL in your list.

    Miles says October 1, 2018

    very sneaky Laura

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