6 Best Keyword Research Tools for SEO Success (2023 Comparison)

Best keyword research tools

No matter where you’re at on your SEO (search engine optimization) journey, keyword research is essential to success. The best keyword research tools can help you identify opportunities, compare against competition, and track your progress with keyword rankings.

There are a lot of different keyword research tools out there, and it can be tough to know which ones are the best. To help you out, we’ve compiled a list of the eight best keyword research tools for SEO success in 2023.

What is a Keyword Research Tool?

Keyword Research Tool: Abstract graphic about the different pieces of SEO

A keyword research tool is a software application that helps users find SEO keywords related to their business or topic of choice. It allows users to research and analyze various keywords to determine their competition, monthly search volume, and more.

The 6 Best Keyword Research Tools of 2023

Odds are, you’ve probably heard the phrase “keyword research” tossed around by marketing experts and SEO professionals. Essentially, it is the process of identifying words or phrases that people are searching for in search engines like Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc. The goal is to find keywords that have a high volume of searches (meaning a lot of people are looking for them) and, relative to how much authority your domain has, low competition (meaning not a lot of other websites are ranking for them).

Keyword research is essential for optimizing a website or blog for search engines because it allows you to identify which keywords are most likely to result in increased organic traffic. Different keyword research tools offer different features, so it’s important to select one that best meets your needs.

Now that we’ve answered that question, let’s take a look at the best keyword research tools for 2023.

1. Google Keyword Planner

Google Keyword Planner is a free keyword tool from Google. It is designed for advertisers, but it can also be used for high-level keyword research and identifying search intent indicators. With this software, you can get data on average monthly searches, competition, and suggested bid prices. It also suggests related keywords that you might want to target.


  • Search volume and other statistics are pretty accurate, as they come straight from Google itself
  • Free to use with your Google Ads account
  • Provides information on CPC (cost-per-click) and competition level


  • Limited data on SERP features and mobile search results
  • Provides a wide range for keyword search volume estimates rather than an exact number
  • Not as robust as some of the paid options on this list. If you’re serious about keyword research, you’ll likely need to supplement Google Keyword Planner with another tool.
Google Keyword Planner with information on keywords related to "keyword research tool"
Google keyword plan for “keyword research tool” with information on CPC, secondary keywords, level of competition, average monthly searches, and more.

In summary, Google Keyword Planner is best for advertisers, or for those who are just getting started with keyword research. The free version provides enough data to get started, but if you’re looking for more in-depth keyword data, you’ll need to supplement it with another tool. Keep in mind that you can pair this tool with other tools like Google Search Console to complete a well-rounded SEO tool suite that not only helps with content planning but tracking your analytics as well.

2. Ahrefs

Ahrefs keyword tool dashboard

As of 2023, Ahrefs is probably the most popular keyword research tool out there, though Semrush doesn’t fall far behind. It is well-stocked with everything you could possibly need for your keyword research journey – from SERP features to keyword difficulty and even clickstream data.


  • One of the most comprehensive keyword research tools available
  • Has a huge database with over 500 million keywords
  • More refined data for search volume, keyword difficulty, etc. than Google Keyword Planner (though Google is most likely conservative with its numbers for good reason)
  • Features like Site Explorer and Content Explorer allow users not only to find keywords for their own site, but also to gain insight into their competition’s keyword strategies and how others are utilizing those keywords in their own content.


  • The interface takes a little bit of time to get used to.
  • Ahrefs users tend to get into a “groove” with their keyword research process and utilize only some of the platform’s many features (but still pay the full monthly price).
Ahrefs keyword explorer
Part of the Ahrefs keyword explorer dashboard with information on keyword difficulty (KD), volume, and more.

For transparency’s sake, Ahrefs is DOS’s SEO tool of choice, as it provides consistently accurate data that has helped guide our blog’s growth and increase our traffic from Google. That said, we do utilize other tools to complement our complete SEO research process – but more on that later.

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3. Moz Keyword Explorer

Moz Keyword Explorer dashboard

Moz Keyword Explorer is a solid keyword tool that covers all the basics, with a few extra features thrown in. With Moz, you can get data on keyword difficulty, SERP features, organic clickstream data, and more. Moz as a whole debuted back in 2004, so it has a long history of growth and some solid data to back it up.


  • Offers a wide range of features even with its free plan
  • Organic CTR score: This unique feature estimates the click-through rate for a given keyword based only on the organic (non-paid) results on the first page of SERP.
  • The data is accurate enough for most users’ needs.


  • Only 10 free queries per month per free SEO tool
  • The paid plans are a bit on the expensive side, starting at $99/month, so the tool might not be worth it for smaller companies.
  • With the standard plan (the cheapest plan available), you are only allowed three campaigns, which means you can only track and garner performance data (SEO audits, weekly rankings, performance issues) for three separate URLs. You’ll have to upgrade to the medium plan, which is considerably more expensive, for more campaigns.
Moz Keyword Explorer dashboard
Moz Keyword Explorer (free version) with information on volume, difficulty, organic CTR, and more for “keyword research tool.”

The bottom line is that, while Moz is a great tool, it might not be the best value for your money. Compare it to Ahrefs, which has a similar pricing model, but gives you an unlimited number of verified projects (similar to Moz’s campaigns). So, as long as you can verify that a site is yours or your client’s, you can track and audit it to your heart’s content without worrying about an upper URL limit.

4. Ubersuggest

Ubersuggest home page

Ubersuggest is a keyword research tool that is part of the larger Neil Patel digital marketing empire. As such, it comes with all of the bells and whistles you would expect from a keyword tool – SERP features, keyword ideas, traffic estimates, etc.


  • Free to use, though there are paid plans available
  • The paid plans are some of the most affordable ones on this list, with a standard plan starting at $29 a month. This plan includes all of the features you could want from a keyword research tool and allows for up to three projects.
  • The data is accurate and Ubersuggest pairs well with other Neil Patel products.


  • Not as beneficial for companies within niche markets
  • The interface can be difficult to navigate, and customers sometimes criticize how overwhelming the tool can be.
Ubersuggest keyword dashboard
Ubersuggest’s keyword report for “keyword research tool.” It shows information on search volume, difficulty, CPC, and more.

Neil Patel is one of the best-known digital marketers in the world, so it’s no surprise that his keyword research tool is top-notch. The fact that it is free to use is really just the icing on the cake – though the paid plans are still very affordable compared to some of the other options on this list. If you are looking for a keyword tool that is part of a larger marketing ecosystem, Ubersuggest is a great option.

5. AnswerThePublic

AnswerThePublic home page

AnswerThePublic, owned by Ubersuggest, works a bit differently than traditional keyword research tools, but it offers great insights on long tail keywords using autosuggest data from Google, Bing, etc. It arranges the data into a visual “cloud” that allows you to quickly see related keyword queries and how popular they are.


  • You don’t even have to create an account to try it out. Just type in a word and see what long tail keywords it finds for your topic.
  • The visual nature of the data makes it easy to spot patterns and related keywords.


  • AnswerThePublic is great for finding long-tail keywords and generating content ideas, but it’s not as useful for other types of keyword research (like competitor analysis or keyword difficulty scores).
  • Its first paid plan is $99, the same as the pricing for Ahref’s and Moz’s standard plans, but it does not offer nearly as many features. If you’re looking for a tool that does more than just long-tail keyword research, you’ll have to look elsewhere.
AnswerThePublic visualization of long tail keywords related to "best keyword research tool"
AnswerThePublic visualization of long tail keywords related to “best keyword research tool”

We don’t want to knock AnswerThePublic or anyone who swears by it – it certainly provides unique and valuable insight on long-tail keywords that other tools don’t offer. And the fact that it offers free search queries for anyone, regardless of whether they create an account, is rare and impressive. For anyone trying to create a unique blog that targets the questions no other blog is answering, you should give AnswerThePublic a try. But, for comprehensive keyword research, you’ll need something more robust like Ahrefs or Semrush.

6. Semrush

Semrush homepage

Speaking of Semrush, it rounds out our list of the best keyword research tools. Semrush is an all-in-one digital marketing platform that offers features like competitor analysis, traffic analytics, position tracking, and more. It’s frequently used by SEO professionals and digital marketers to improve their search engine optimization efforts.


  • A wide range of features: You can use Semrush for your keyword research, competitor analysis, site audits, and link building.
  • A bit older than some of the other tools on this list: Semrush was founded in 2008, making it one of the oldest digital marketing platforms still in operation. This means it has a large and established user base with a wealth of experience to share.
  • SEO writing assistant: The SEO writing assistant is a unique feature that helps you write content that is optimized for your target keywords. It gives you real-time feedback on things like keyword density and readability.
  • If you’re not ready to try out one of their plans, you can still perform 10 search queries per day for free using the Keyword Magic tool or the Keyword Overview tool. The list of related keywords it returns is limited (for the free plan), but the data is solid.


  • The interface can be overwhelming and confusing for first-time users.
  • It only provides data on Google searches, so this may be a con for a company hoping to target other search engines like Bing. Still, because keyword research tools collect data based on what people are actually typing into the search engine, the data will likely be similar across different search engines.
  • There aren’t multiple seats included, regardless of the plan you choose. However, you can purchase additional seats at a different rate per person depending on the plan.
Semrush keyword report for "keyword research tool"
Semrush’s (free) keyword report for “keyword research tool” that includes information on volume, search intent, CPC, and much more.

Semrush is considered the #1 keyword research tool by a lot of SEO experts – and for good reason. It’s an all-in-one platform that can be used for keyword suggestions, competitor analysis, backlink checking, and more. However, its interface can be confusing and overwhelming for first-time users, and it lacks comprehensive data from multiple search engines like other comparable tools have. All in all, if you’re looking for a comprehensive keyword research tool, Semrush is a good option – just be prepared to spend some time getting used to the interface.

What is the Best Keyword Research Tool for Content Marketers?

content marketers using keyword research tools

The answer to this question will be different depending on who you ask and what their SEO strategy looks like. We believe that there’s more than one way to succeed with SEO, but also that there are tried and true methods that should not be ignored for the sake of paving one’s own path. At DOS, we are satisfied with Ahrefs, but we pair it with other SEO tools so that our SEO strategy is robust and all-encompassing – without being overly complicated.

As for which keyword research tool will best complement your strategy, we suggest pinning down what exactly you’d like for your dream tool to accomplish. Will you focus more on competitor analysis or long tail keywords? Do you want to target niche markets or oversaturated ones like digital marketing, for example? Do you want to avoid SEO pitfalls like keyword stuffing or keyword cannibalization? Another point to consider surrounds the other SEO tools you already have in your arsenal. Will your keyword research tool pair well with those? The answers to these questions will impact your decision, so it’s important to be clear on your goals before beginning your search for the best keyword tool.

You can always play it safe, though! As a matter of fact, we encourage it. Why not start with a free keyword tool like Ubersuggest, and then move on to other tools once you have a better understanding of your needs? This way, you can be confident in your decision and avoid spending money on a tool that you may or may not need in the long run.

Otherwise, you can’t go wrong with any of the paid tools on this list. Just remember: the best keyword research tool is the one that best meets your needs.

Final Thoughts on the Best Keyword Research Tools

The best keyword research tool for your strategy will depend on your needs, but most keyword research tools have a few things in common: they provide information on the value of keywords, offer suggestions for other keywords you should target, and give you insights into your competitors’ strategies.

The best ones are usually paid (though there are some good free options), and they offer a variety of features that can help you with keyword research, competitor analysis, backlink checking, and more.

If you’re just getting started with SEO or keyword research, we recommend starting with a free option like Ubersuggest or Google Keyword Planner. Once you get a feel for how keyword research works and what features you need, you can upgrade to a paid tool like Semrush or Ahrefs.

Still, have questions about which keyword research tool is best for you? Leave a comment below, and we’ll be happy to help!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the most accurate keyword research tool?

None of the tools available in 2023 will be 100% accurate, but they will all give you a good idea of the best keywords to target for your SEO efforts. Semrush, Ahrefs, and Ubersuggest are all considered to be accurate and reliable keyword research tools.

What is the best free keyword research tool?

There are a few good free keyword research tools, including Ubersuggest and Google Keyword Planner. Some paid tools have free or lite versions that you can try without inputting card information, including Moz Keyword Explorer and AnswerThePublic.

Which keyword research tool should I use?

The best keyword research tool for you will depend on your budget, needs, and preferences. If you’re just getting started with SEO, we recommend starting with a free option like Ubersuggest or Google Keyword Planner. Once you get a feel for how keyword research works and what features you need, you can upgrade to a paid tool like Semrush or Ahrefs.

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Disclaimer: Some of the links in this article may be affiliate links, which can provide compensation to me at no cost to you if you decide to purchase a paid plan. These are products I’ve personally used and stand behind. This site is not intended to provide financial advice and is for entertainment only. You can read our affiliate disclosure here

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About Kouressa Smith

Kouressa is DOS’s resident Website Content Manager. In this position, she directs the content creation for DOS’s website development projects. She develops SEO strategies, maps out the overall direction of content per website, and helps facilitate the creation of that content. Kouressa has over seven years of experience writing professionally and an educational background in creative writing and technical communication at Texas Tech University.

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