How to do Keyword Research for SEO: Best Free Tools

How to do keyword research featured blog image

If you are considering search engine optimisation (SEO) you have probably already done some research and come to the conclusion that before you can begin an SEO campaign you must do something called keyword research. 

What is keyword research?

Put simply, it’s a practice SEO professionals use to discover actual search terms that people type into search engines.

The research helps reveal words and phrases related to a particular business or industry, targeting which, can provide a profitable opportunity for an SEO campaign.

So, do you have to be an SEO professional to do keyword research like a pro?

Well it helps! However anyone can do it when provided with the right tools and direction.

This article will provide you with a practical understanding of keyword research, useful free keyword research tools to aid you, as well as actionable steps in order to succeed at finding the right keywords for your SEO campaign!

Let's get started!

Why do Keyword Research?

Keyword research is the 21st century's version of market research. It provides valuable insights into what your target market is searching for and how many people are searching for it. 

Keyword research helps delve into what motivates your target market, their goals and aspirations, questions they ask, as well as fears and concerns.

Being able to identify these aspects not only allows you to identify opportunities for keywords you should be targeting, but also influences the type of products and services you should be taking advantage of. 

Google Keyword Planner

Most people start keyword research with the Google Keyword Planner (GKP). It's a great tool to analyse search volumes and generate hundreds of keyword combinations.


It's the last tool you should use to find keywords that your competition doesn't know about.

Here's why...

The GKP provides you only with close variations of the keywords you type in. For example, what comes to mind when you hear the word "leadership"?

How about any of these: inspire, confidence, Steve Jobs, trust, communication, power?

When you enter the word "leadership" into GKP search box "Find new keywords and get search volume data", none of those related words words come up.

It's pretty rare for GKP to show you closely related keywords, and as this tool churns out exactly the same keywords to everyone using it, you can bet that your competition has them too!

With everyone having access to the same list of keywords, everyone is in competition and it's no wonder they are so difficult to rank for! 

So to find profitable keywords that your competition doesn't know about, we need to explore some alternative strategies.

Here are some of my favourite tools...

Google Autocomplete

When typing words in Google’s search bar, you may notice that Google helps you out by predicting your query and providing you with a list of suggestions.

It's a feature that has been around for a while now and it’s algorithm has become increasingly more intelligent.

The great thing about autocomplete is that all of the suggestions are based on actual user queries and provides a relatively accurate representation of what people are looking for.

Here are a couple of reasons why autocomplete is a fantastic resource for keywords:

  • It points out some of the most popular keywords
  • The keywords are ranked in order of popularity

So how do you go about using autocomplete for keyword research? It looks something like this:

Open Google. To avoid Google autocompleting previously-searched for terms, log out of Google or open an "incognito" window (Chrome: Shift + Cmnd + N).

  1. Type in your main keyword or phrase, for example "leadership"
  2. Write down the suggestions that appear in autocomplete
  3. After you type in your main keyword or phrase, type in any letter of the alphabet and write down the autocomplete suggestions
  4. Repeat Step 3 for rest of the alphabet, and experiment to reveal new keyword ideas

Long process right?

No one said keyword research was easy, however this technique is one of the best ways to reveal niche and location related key phrases.

Keyword Tool

Keyword Tool is a free online keyword research tool that uses Google Autocomplete to generate hundreds of relevant long-tail keywords.

The great thing about this website is that it extracts (almost) every possible Google suggestion for each letter of the alphabet and presents them to you in an easy to read, alphabetically organised list. 

It is essentially an automated version of the above Google autocomplete method.

Take a look at the example below, the search term "leadership" generated 710 results, all of which are based on niche phrases people are actually using!

The search volume data for your list of keywords is hidden in the free version of Keyword Tool, don't worry though, there is an easy way around this.

  1. Click the red "copy all" on the top right of the results page
  2. Go to the Google Keyword Planner and sign in to your account.
  3. Paste your list into the "Get search volume data and trends" box, enter any additional targeting settings if needed and click "Get search volume".

You will now be able to review your entire list of keywords and their search volumes from within the keyword planner! Remember, make sure you have the tab "keyword ideas" selected to view your list.

KW Finder

This is one of the most useful keyword research tools out there. Unlike Keyword Tool, KW Finder generates HUNDREDS of potential keywords to rank for that are semantically related to your search term.

Getting excited? You should be.

KW Finder also provides you with the global and local search volumes for the keywords as well as the difficulty to rank for grading all with one search. So let's try it out.

Screenshot of the KW Finder Homepage
  1. Head over to, enter your keyword and select your country (this will generate results from that chosen location).
  2. Click the "Analyze" button and KW Finder will work it's magic and present you with a list of hundreds of keywords that your competitors may be missing!
Screenshot of the KW Finder Results Page

This is a paid tool, however the good news is that you are able to make 5 searches every 24 hours when you sign up for a free account. While this isn't a huge number, choose your search terms wisely and this should do the trick.

Answer the Public

Answer The Public is a free tool, very similar to Keyword Tool in that it uses the auto suggest method, appending every letter of the alphabet to the keyword entered. 

Screenshot of Answer the Public website's homepage

However, they have made a some pretty neat additions.

In addition to every letter of the alphabet your keyword is appended with a variety of questions and prepositions that actually provide a much more insightful starting point for content ideas. It really helps you to get inside the mind of people searching for your niche. 

It's a really easy tool to use and all you have to do is enter your keyword into the search box and click "Get Questions".

Head over to Answer the Public to get started and enter your keyword into the search bar.

The data is presented with beautiful mind-map style graphics as well as organised lists for easy reading. You are also able to download the whole report with one click using the yellow "export to csv" button at the top of the page.

To find the search volumes for your keywords:

Follow the exact same steps we used for the Keyword Tool. Only difference is you will need to copy your keywords from the csv file.

LSI Graph

This is one of the newer tools that was recommended to me by Nick Stoyanov and absolutely love using it for researching content / keywords for blog articles. 

Latent semantic indexing (LSI) keywords are closely related words that are semantically related one another. It sounds very technical but it's actually very logical.

It's Google's way of understanding what a particular web page is all about. By scanning for closely related search terms it can help understand page content better.

So how can you use LSI for keyword research?

1) Head over to LSI Graph and enter your keyword in the search box.

Pretty cool right!

As you can see above, I now have a long list of keywords that are semantically related to my search term.

These particular keywords also provide plenty of topic ideas and sub categories that could be included within a blog post.


Screenshot of the homepage

Übersuggest is another easy to use, free tool that automates the Google Autocomplete process and helps you to expand on base keywords to find long tail variations to include in your blog articles.

It’s very similar to Keyword Tool and Answer the Public, yet has a few unique features:

1) Specific Google Properties search
You have the ability to look up Google Suggest results for specific Google Properties such as: Web, Images, Shopping, Youtube and News.

2) Filter search results
It has has a really useful filtering functionality that makes searching for particular keywords easy and saves time scrolling down the list.

3) Google Trends
Google Tends is accessible from within the keyword results list. Simply find your keyword, click it   and select “Google Trends” to be presented with the trend graph.

4) Expand on existing keywords
If you want to do further research on a particular keyword, click on the keyword and select “Expand this keyword” to be presented with a new list of related keywords.

5) Word cloud
Click on the "Word Cloud" tab for a visualisation of the most common terms associated with your query.

In this post we have covered some amazing free resources that make doing keyword research super easy.

These tools in particular generate hundreds of under the radar keyword ideas, many of which your competitors are completely missing!

What are some of your own favourite free keyword research tools? Let me know in the comments section below,  I would love to keep adding to this list!

Written by


Sam Obrart, Digital Marketer

Digital marketer at Atomic Marketing. I write about web design, business, Squarespace & SEO. Passionate about travel and entrepreneurship. Feel free to get in touch with me on Twitter!