Editorial teams and content creators are always on the lookout for useful tools for keyword research and content planning.
To help with that, I’ve put together a list of the best options for keyword research, competitive analysis and monitoring search and social trends.
There is a wide universe of tools out there and my intention is not to cover them all. Instead I’ve highlighted the ones I like best and regularly recommend to editorial teams. I’ve also focused primarily on tools that are free or relatively inexpensive.
If I haven’t included something that you frequently use, let me know and I may add it to the list.
1. Google AdWords: Keyword Planner
Google’s Keyword Planner has become a hassle for new users to set up since it now requires having an AdWords account. But it is still the preferred choice for keyword research, and it is good to get the data right from the source. You can use Keyword Planner to compare terms, get new content ideas, explore topical categories, monitor seasonality and compare desktop vs. mobile, among other tasks.
2. Google Trends
Editorial teams like using Google Trends because there is no sign-up or login required. It doesn’t provide search volume figures but it’s a quick and easy way to compare various terms and examine both long-term and more recent trends. In addition to drilling down on specific timeframes and topical categories you can focus specifically on Web search, news, image, shopping or YouTube. You can also get weekly email updates on priority terms.
3. KW Finder
KW Finder is a newer tool that I like a lot. It pulls in monthly search volume data from Google Keyword Planner and “interest over time” graphs from Google Trends. This is complimented with competitive data on the top 10 Google results for the keyword and an overall keyword difficulty score. There is a free version (limited to five searches per day) and then the paid versions are very reasonable, especially if you pay annually.
4. Bing Keyword Research
Bing Keyword Research is available within Bing Webmaster Tools. You have to be logged into your profile so this one has less appeal to editorial teams. But it is a useful additional source of data for exploring topics for content planning.
Wordstream is a popular paid option. Their main focus is PPC but as with Keyword Planner the data is useful for SEO too. They offer several free tools including a basic keyword tool, a niche finder and a keyword grouper.
6. Keyword Tool
Keyword Tool is handy for pulling suggested search/autocomplete data for Google, Bing and even YouTube. Just enter a term (e.g. “football”) and you’ll get suggested search data for it plus every letter in the alphabet and some other combinations:
A good approach is to use Keyword Tool to explore keyword ideas and then plug your main candidates into Google Keyword Planner to get the search volume figures.
Ubersuggest has similar functionality to Keyword Tool. It was first on the scene but Keyword Tool has become more popular of late. When doing more extensive research it’s good to check both because their data does vary a bit. One advantage of Ubersuggest is the ability to drill down on specific verticals like images, news, shopping, videos and recipes.
8. Google Webmaster Tools: Search Queries
While not a keyword research tool, the Search Queries section in Google Webmaster Tools offers a good way to find out what terms are currently driving search impressions and clicks for your site:
This will help you to understand what’s working and what isn’t, and what topical areas you can potentially expand on. And now that the vast majority of keyword referral data in analytics tools is “not provided” or “keyword unavailable” it’s one of the best available sources for referring terms. Extra tip: try using Supermetrics Data Grabber to extract this data and trend it over time.
1. Site:[domain] searches
One of the easiest ways to mine competitors for keyword and content ideas is to do a site:[domain] search in Google: [site:example.com search term].
This will show you what content they’ve created around specific topics and provide insight into their optimization targets too.
Plug a competitor’s domain (or your own) into SEMrush and you’ll get a data dump of thousands of keywords that it has top 20 Google visibility for, as well as the specific URLs that are ranking. There’s also a domain comparison report that allows you to see what terms a competitor is ranking for that you are not (or alternatively what intersecting terms you share). In addition SEMrush is a good keyword research tool. It provides search volume figures for matching phrases and related keywords and it has a keyword difficulty scoring system.
SimilarWeb is fast becoming the preferred tool for competitive analysis projects. It provides fairly extensive data on the audience and traffic sources for any site (including direct, search, social and paid).
Specific to search, you can drill down on what percentage of total traffic comes from search engines and get a breakdown by engine and vertical (i.e. web, news, image, video and shopping search). It also provides data on ranking terms (for keyword ideas) and top performing pages and sections.
4. Moz Keyword Difficulty Tool
In addition to identifying keyword targets it is also important to get a sense of just how attainable they may be. The Keyword Difficulty Tool from Moz analyzes the top 10 ranking pages and provides data on domain and page authority, link signals and on-page optimization to help you understand what you are up against. A keyword difficulty score is also provided.
1. Google Trends: Hot Searches and Top Charts
By the time a trend makes it to the Hot Searches report in Google Trends it is often too late to capitalize on it. That’s by design. Google used to provide a fresher and longer list but too many sites used it to try to game Google News, so they modified the format. However it still has some basic value and you can also sign up to get email alerts when a new trending topic is added. There is also a Top Charts report that lets you examine popular topics in a variety of categories like business, entertainment, sports and more.
2. Google News: Top Stories
An easy way to see what topics are currently hot in Google News is to check the Top Stories module in the left rail of the homepage:
Clicking on a particular category like Business, Technology, etc. will also show you the trending topics in that section.
3. Bing News: Trending Topics
Bing News also provides trending topics on its home and section pages, as well as links to news that is trending on Facebook and Twitter.
There are a wide range of tools for monitoring trending topics and content performance in social, too many to try to cover here. But I’ll point out a few free and easy options that I often suggest to editorial teams. For additional suggestions see my post on social media analytics tools for publishers.
1. Social Mention: Trends
The Trends section on Social Mention provides a frequently updated list of the top 20 trending terms across various social channels. The quality of the data has varied in the past but in recent years they have tightened it up. So it’s a good source for a quick check.
I like Buzzsumo a lot. Enter any domain or topic and get a list of the most shared content across Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Google+. You can filter by the last 24 hours to see recently trending topics or explore larger timeframes for content ideas and competitive analysis.
NewsWhip, an offshoot of the social analytics tool Spike, provides real-time data on editorial content that is trending on social media. It doesn’t provide a list of trending terms but a quick scan of the top headlines will clue you into what the hot topics are. So it is a good source of both ideas and basic competitive analysis. You can filter by location and specific topical categories.
4. The Reddit Edit
The Reddit Edit is a simple dashboard that highlights articles that are currently doing well on the Reddit homepage and some specific subreddits. As with NewsWhip, this will give you a quick sense of who’s doing well and for what topics. There’s also a separate section that highlights trending stories from mainstream news sites.
5. Topsy Social Trends
Topsy’s Social Trends is a good source for monitoring trending topics and articles on Twitter. Select “English” and then “Links” in the left rail and you’ll get fresh data on what content links are currently being shared a lot in tweets.