SEO keyword research tools can help marketing teams create content that their audience wants to see. Free tools include Google Search Console, Keyword Surfer, and Semrush.

All content marketing teams must master search engine optimization in order for their organization's website and related content to appear in search engine results.

When organizations don't do proper SEO keyword research, their web content may never reach their intended audience. However, content teams can use free keyword research tools to help them get the information they need to improve their SEO strategies. Many free tools do not have a paid option, while others offer free and paid subscription levels. Paid subscription tools can improve SEO strategies, but teams that only need keyword recommendations and keyword volume rankings can benefit from free options like Google Search Console, Rank Tracker, and AlsoAsked.

Why is keyword research important?

Content teams conduct keyword research to identify words and phrases people use to search for goods, services and tips. They also do this research to see how these phrases rank based on search volume in a given month. Content teams can use keyword information to develop and maintain a successful content strategy and to understand what content their audience wants to see.

Organizations should continually conduct keyword research as part of their marketing efforts, as search engines like Google frequently change the algorithms that determine content rankings. An organization's initial SEO strategy for its website or blog is just the beginning of the journey. Content teams must constantly monitor and optimize website content to keep up to date with algorithm changes.

8 free tools for SEO keyword research

Content teams will find many free tools online to help them gather the information they need to develop and improve their content and SEO strategies. Organizations looking to conduct free keyword research can consider the following SEO keyword research tools.

1. Google Search Console

Content teams can use Google Search Console to start keyword research and measure how well their organization's web content is performing on Google. This free tool analyzes the current keywords on a web page and displays their average search engine results page (SERP) position, impressions and clicks.

Marketing teams often use Google Search Console along with other Google services for web monitoring and analytics. Webmasters and content creators can use Google Search Console to see which pages have low traffic and need changes. The tool can also show which search queries drive the most traffic, so teams know what topics to cover in upcoming blog posts.

For example, users can combine Google Search Console with a Google Analytics account to get detailed keyword data and find opportunity keywords—phrases that rank in positions 8 to 20 with a high number of impressions—from the performance report. This report shows how Google ranks keywords in search queries from a snapshot over time. Content teams can use these keywords of opportunity along with on-page SEO improvements to increase their page's SERP ranking.

2. Rank Tracker

The most effective keywords that organizations should rank for aren't always obvious. Although certain words and phrases may be specific to business products, services, or industries, people may use variations of those words and phrases to search.

In order to find useful keywords or phrases for search ranking viability, an organization needs to know all possible variations of potential keywords and phrases. Rank Tracker is a free SEO keyword research tool that combines 23 keyword tools into one and provides users with a wealth of keyword ideas. This tool can show a keyword's traffic potential and SEO competition for those keywords.

Rank Tracker offers a paid version of its tool, but the free version offers enough data to analyze the traffic potential of keywords.

3. AlsoAsked

This tool can help organizations discover the questions people are asking about keywords and related keywords. As search engines have become more sophisticated, people are increasingly using natural language to search—for example, formal questions. AlsoAsked can help organizations understand the questions people are asking about keywords. It also helps identify search phrases, plan content and get the right content in front of potential customers.

In addition, the tool provides results for long-tail keywords—phrases that build on shorter keywords and are more specific—and shows relationships between those topics and questions.

4. Keyword Surfer

Keyword Surfer is a free Google Chrome extension that analyzes Google search results directly on SERPs. The goal of this extension is to assess the volume of queries for a given keyword in the Google database, which includes results from 19 countries. In the SERP and search bar, users can see global estimates, their country results, and the top 10 most similar keywords in search results.

5. Google Trends

From the Google Trends interface, content teams can see the popularity of a search term over time. The tool allows users to research individual words or compare keywords to see fluctuations in trends, such as by season, holidays, or annual releases of new technology. For example, if a business sells a lot of products for Mother's Day, Google Trends can show when keywords related to Mother's Day start to increase or decrease in search volume.

The tool also displays interest by region, breaks down time periods, and displays related topics and search queries.

6. Google Ads Keyword Planner

For marketing teams running pay-per-click search campaigns, Google Ads Keyword Planner can help separate their target keyword list between SEO and PPC targeting. The tool also displays keyword suggestions and search volumes that can provide insights for campaign planning. In addition, it displays a breakdown of data on cost per click, advertising competition and seasonal changes in traffic in one place.

Teams that are already doing PPC advertising can benefit the most from this tool, as they can use the search volume feature for their campaigns. However, in order to access the most detailed analytics for paid campaigns – not just search volume ranges – organizations must spend a certain amount of money on their paid Google Ad campaigns.

7. Moz Keyword Explorer

In addition to its paid subscription options, Moz offers a free version of its Keyword Explorer tool. The free tool, which offers 10 queries per month, can benefit content teams with no SEO experience. The tool doesn't include as many data points as some other tools, but it's also less overwhelming for new users.

Moz also creates a priority score that gives content teams insight into whether they should invest time and effort into a keyword. The tool calculates a priority score based on various metrics such as volume, click-through rate, and difficulty, as well as how an organization prioritizes a keyword for its business.

8. Semrush

Semrush offers a paid SEO tool, but its free model offers 10 free searches per day, which can benefit content teams just starting their research. Semrush's suite of keyword tools offer insight into organic search rankings and search volume data, as well as competitive keyword gap analysis.

Semrush also offers backlink analysis for teams who want to see which links are pointing back to their site. Users can also take advantage of the Backlink Gap tool, which compares an organization's backlinks with those of its competitors. Additional features like an SEO content template and topic research for content strategy planning make it a viable option for teams that want to start with SEO planning and strategy but plan to eventually expand to a subscription version.