Building an effective PPC campaign means using keyword research tools. There are a lot of options out there these days, with tons of free (and freemium) research tools for PPC and SEO.
And then there are lots of digital marketing tools with a whole ton of features that you might not even be sure you need. Is that $99 a month a wise investment if you’re just running a few PPC ads?
Choosing your keyword research tool might depend on your general marketing strategy. If you’re building both organic search results alongside optimising your paid search campaigns, there are definitely a few tools you’ll want in your armory.
So which is the best keyword research tool for pay per click marketers?
Free vs paid keyword research tools
So, as there are lots of free keyword research tools, surely you can just use them, right? Well, yes, of course. A lot of them offer free functionality, with an upgrade to unlock their full potential. But in general, the free packages usually limit the amount of searches, results or insight.
This freemium offering usually hooks you into the service with the aim of tempting you to buy the full package later. Which is fair enough, if you see value in their free offer, why not go all in?
The paid options usually include a whole suite of useful features that you might not see the benefit in early on. But, if you’re planning an organic search campaign (SEO) alongside your pay per click marketing, it can be wise to just pay for the premium packages.
Saying that, there are some excellent free options.
We’ll take a quick look at the best free and paid keyword research tools on the market.
Free keyword tools
Totally free and full featured. These are super useful tools for when you want to get started on your keyword research without shelling out the big bucks.
Google Keyword Planner
This completely free tool from Google gives you some great insight including an accurate prediction of the cost per click and search volume on Google.
- See top of page bid prices
- No restrictions with searches or results
- Pretty easy to use
- Not that many extra bells and whistles
Useful for understanding the popularity of your search terms over time, and even finding some trending search terms. Another totally free keyword tool from Google that works well with Keyword Planner and another tool, Keywords Everywhere, which we look at shortly.
- See historical traffic trends for keywords by specific location or worldwide
- Also shows you some of the trending search terms if you want to jump on those
- Completely free
Another excellent free tool for keyword research, although truthfully the results aren’t much more in-depth than Google’s Keyword Planner.
The benefit to using Keyword Finder is that it’s a bit more user friendly and intuitive than Google’s planner. You can also filter your results for negative keywords too.
- Totally free and easy to use
- Shows traffic volume and yearly trends
- Useful for coming up with variations of keywords
Freemium keyword tools
These software packages all offer a very good free option, which will probably suffice for many marketers. However, they usually offer lots of extra benefits once you take the plunge into their paid packages.
Answer the Public
This nifty little free tool helps you find long tail search terms or modifiers that could be your new competitive search term.
What Answer the Public does is highlights the questions asked around your seed keywords. Some are obvious, others are more surprising. They might not always be the most profitable search terms, but Answer the Public can be a great option to generate new keyword ideas.
There is a pro option but for most small business owners, the free package is more than enough.
- 500k searches per month for free (which should be enough for most SMEs)
- Discover long tail search terms that you might not have considered
- Works best if you also have Keywords Everywhere (see below)
A nice free tool with limited functionality, Ubersuggest is a useful way to do some backlink and SEO/paid keyword research for free. Some of the data can seem a bit inaccurate if you run it through another tool such as Ahrefs, but there’s no doubt that it’s still very useful.
If you’re doing a bit of competitor research on a budget, this is an excellent tool. Although, most keyword research is focused on SEO, it can apply to paid search too.
One advantage that Ubersuggest has over many of the others on this list is the option to buy outright. Most charge $100 a month (or thereabouts), but you can get Ubersuggest for $290, all in.
- Very useful keyword suggestions for paid and organic search
- Backlink analysis and content suggestions for SEO
- Very affordable plan for marketers on a budget
Ahrefs Keyword Generator
We’ll look at Ahrefs again shortly. But as a handy free keyword tool, this is very nice. Pop in your seed keywords and the generator spits out 100 suggestions. Useful if you’re starting out or you just need to get the creative juices flowing.
- Includes some nice Ahrefs touches, like difficulty rating
- Lets you search keyword ideas for Google, Bing, Amazon and YouTube
- Literally the tip of the tip of the iceberg of Ahrefs capability
Paid and premium keyword tools
If you’re serious about your digital marketing, you’ll need to add one of these handy tools to your list.
A simple keyword research tool that’s actually great value for money. For $10 you get 100,000 keyword searches – which is loads.
Keywords Everywhere is an extension for Chrome or Firefox that shows the volume of searches, the average cost per click and the competition for anything you type into Google.
But, and this is the clever bit…. It also suggests related search terms in the side column. Indispensable.
- 100k searches for $10 is excellent value for this tool
- Shows results in browser
- Shows search volume and keyword suggestions on a 16 websites including YouTube, Amazon, Bing, Answer the Public etc
- An essential tool for budget keyword research
We’re moving onto the big boys now, and Ahrefs has become the tool of choice for many digital marketers. The reason for this is access to keyword research, in-depth competitor research, accurate traffic stats and backlink data.
In short Ahrefs is a fully featured research tool for SEO and PPC marketers. There are some nice freebies, including a free keyword generator and backlink checker. But for all the premium features you’ll need to subscribe.
- Excellent insight into your most popular organic and paid keywords
- Track your competitors keywords too
- The free keyword generator gives you 100 keyword suggestions, which is cool
- Prices start from $99 per month
Those elusive long tail keywords can be hard to find, and choosing the best ones even trickier. KW Finder makes finding effective long tail keywords pretty straightforward, using your seed keywords to find low competition search terms.
In terms of PPC keyword research, it offers the functionality of some of the higher priced packages but for a fraction of the cost.
- Nice and intuitive layout, perfect for non-technical types
- Claims to help you find your long tail keywords in 3 minutes…!
- At under $30 a month, it’s much cheaper than some paid options
If you’re looking for a fully featured keyword research tool that isn’t gonna break the bank, SpyFu will probably be on your shortlist. It offers everything from spying on your competitors paid campaigns, to suggestions for effective keywords.
You’ll even get told which keywords work best for your competitors and a nice clear presentation of keywords from ‘don’t buy’ to ‘great buy’.
- Lots of keyword research tools for PPC and SEO
- Despite lots of features, is nicely laid out and easy to navigate
- Excellent value for money, starting at $33 per month
Which keyword tool to invest in?
The free Google tools are great, although they do have some limitations. They’re not the easiest tools to browse niche keywords or come up with clever new ideas.
Keywords Everywhere is a fantastic and very affordable tool, well worth the $10.
When it comes to a premium option, it will depend largely on your search engine marketing strategy in the long run. And your budget…
Ahrefs is an excellent tool, with tons of features. But at $99 per month for the cheapest package, it isn’t for everyone. SpyFu offers a similar package and is also excellent for PPC keyword analysis and tracking, so many will be tempted by this one.
If you want a value-for-money keyword research tool that you can buy outright, Ubersuggest is definitely a wise investment. In fact, you can pick up the full package of Ubersuggest for the price of three months of Ahrefs basic subscription.
Lastly, don’t forget to protect your PPC ads from the ever-present threat of click fraud. Fraud has been shown to affect around 90% of all pay per click ad campaigns, with between 10% and 60% of clicks being from non-genuine sources. Read our report on click fraud in 2020.
ClickCease offer the industry leading click fraud prevention software and will ensure that you get the best return on investment from your PPC ads.
Read more about click fraud and ad fraud in our in-depth guide.