“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:
Make more money (which is legitimate - they have an incredibly useful tool after all)
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:
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:
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.
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:
SEM Rush gives you:
Phrase match keywords
Organic search results
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.
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.
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:
Google vs Bing + Yahoo searches
CPC for paid ads
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!
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
The main unique draw of Soovle is that it gives you results from a bunch of different search engines at once, including:
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!
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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.