The 10 Best Alternatives to the Google AdWords Keyword Tool

Google AdWords Keyword Tool

Ever since Google announced the impending demise of the AdWords Keyword Tool and their preference for its new avatar – the Keyword Planner, yet another hot discussion has sprung up in the SEO community. This time, strong adherents of the free-for-all ideology are riled at Google’s decision to make the Keyword Planner accessible only to marketers who’ve explicitly signed up to Google’s AdWords (which is one step more than having a Gmail account), taking it closer to being a paid tool in future! I don’t see this as a hindrance, because most other keyword (or other) tools require you to create an account and sign in before you can use them, even if they’re free. But if Google does it, we have reason to pounce on them, don’t we?

One possible problem is that although the Keyword Planner has some cool new features (including integration of the Google Traffic Estimator, which will be retired too), as of this writing, the indispensable Exact Match and Phrase Match features are nowhere to be found! Whole books will become useless without these, so I hope Google will eventually port them to the Keyword Planner. Nor do you see the “Include specific content” option, which is a life-saver for the adult industry, which spends the most on Google PPC.

We’re not here to dwell on the good and the bad of Google’s decision. I personally am elated that this debate has brought the crucial SEO function of Keyword Research into the limelight once again. There’s more to it than taking the first 10 results from the Google Keyword Tool and scattering them left, right and center in your content. Savvy keyword research is what separates strategists from headless chickens.

The team at E2M is taking this opportunity to analyze other significant (and free to use/try) keyword research tools out there. We are asking ourselves what data and logic should ideally go into keyword research, how this logic can be programmatically applied to the creation of tools, and what the best ways are to consolidate and use their output. Here’s a quick look at 10 other keyword research tools, some well-known and some you’d do well to know. These are not alternatives to the AdWords Keyword Tool on their own, but each of them performs some function of the AdWords tool in its own unique way, and all of them aid and abet your keyword research quite well.


We’ll start with a simple one that might soon fade away. Mergewords displays three boxes, where you can enter distinct parts of a long-tail keyword. You could use one for your primary product-related keywords, another for product attributes and the third for a location or query strings. Just press Merge! to see the assorted mishmashes. It’s now done in by the new Keyword Planner, because Google has incorporated a “Multiply Keyword Lists” feature that does exactly this and then clusters it into Ad Groups.




WordStream boasts of a trillion-keyword database and you can try 30 keywords for free. There are little checkboxes enabling you to customize searches by filtering adult keywords or “nichefying” results. There are more options for finding negative keywords and grouping your keywords. The full version spews out tens of thousands of results for many keywords, the top 100 of which are available for free.WordStream



SEMrush is a true heavyweight. Only the first 10 results are free, though. You can search by putting the keyword itself in the main box to see volumes, trends and other data across ten different Google regional domains and Bing. Or better still, you can type in your site or that of a competitor to see the top 10 organic keywords it ranks for.

So you get only 10 keywords right? No! SEMrush also indicates 10 organic competitors for the site! You can then go to these competitors’ profiles and get the 10 organic keywords they are ranking for. It might turn out that five or so of a competitor’s keywords may not be in the niche of your liking or will overlap with your results, but you can find use for the remaining five. Thus, you can grab about 50 valuable keywords, give or take a few. I don’t recommend going more than one level deep with competitors, because the keywords your competitors’ competitors are ranking for may not be closely relevant to you and you’ll tend to lose focus.



SEO Book Keyword Tool

Powered by WordTracker, the SEO Book Keyword Tool shows you realms upon realms of data. So much that I can’t even decide on a screenshot. To call it exhaustive would be a gross understatement. You get search volumes from WordTracker, Google and Bing, data from Google Trends and Google Insights, traffic estimates Compete and Alexa, and much more. SEO Book points you to the 10 suggestions provided by Google Instant for your keyword, and then 10 more for each of those suggestions, and so on. It also delivers Yahoo! suggest results as returned by

Finally, you can also click onwards to vertical search results including blogs, directories, answer sites, classifieds, videos and groups to form a holistic synopsis of your keywords and your competition.

SEO Book Keyword Tool


Keyword Eye

This is the new kid on the block. Keyword Eye is a “visual” tool that displays keywords in increasing or decreasing sizes based on their search volume or AdWords competition. The Basic version offers 10 keyword searches per day on any of 10 different Google country keyword databases and 100 results per report. Keyword Eye is powered by SEMrush, and consequently gives you great data on competitors.

Keyword Eye



KGen is a nifty Firefox add-on that is somewhat like the Google Index > Content Keywords feature of Google Webmaster Tools. It can be viewed as a sidebar in Firefox and calculates the strength of keywords on the page you’re on by evaluating the number of times they’re used, the weightage assigned to them according to the HTML tags wherein they’re enclosed, and their positions in the text. You can take quite a few actions such as setting up negative words to be ignored, changing tag weights and exporting results.



Bing Keyword Research

Bing Webmaster Tools is becoming a force to reckon with with each passing day. It has some super-powerful tools that must be giving sleepless nights to Google were it not for Bing’s paltry market share. Click on a site added to your BWT, navigate to Webmaster > Diagnostics & Tools and click on the second one in the list: the Keyword Research tool. You can filter your search by country and language. You can also search for keywords that appeared in Bing results within a custom date range. I wish this tool wasn’t so tedious to access, what with you having to add a site to BWT before you can use it, even though your keywords need have no relation to the site in question.

Bing Webmaster Tools Keyword Research



In its own words, KeywordSpy enables you to “unveil your competitors’ most profitable ad copies & keywords” and “learn from time-tested ad campaigns.” It offers a magnanimous wealth of data; the “Related,” “Similar” and “Misspell” results taken together can give you keywords similar to Phrase match and Broad match results. Further, KeyWordSpy now allows you to comb most major Google country domains.

KeywordSpy is one of the best tools for competitor research. Like SEMrush, it shows you organic as well as PPC competitors. And there’s a bonus—you also get to see their ad copies! However, just like SEMrush, KeywordSpy displays only 10 results (Whoever said the best things in life are free… wasn’t a digital marketer!) and you have to resort to looking at your competitors’ keywords for more data.


One severe impediment to non-native English speakers in India, Europe and elsewhere is lack of vocabulary. If you hated grammar class in school but are now faced with the herculean task of keyword research, consider your problem half-solved. Head over to for synonyms and related terms. For example, a search for “interior design” returns terms such as décor, colors, furnishings of a place, adornment, color scheme, decoration, and ornamentation. It also returns a couple of “relevant questions” that your targets are likely to ask, such as “How to become an interior designer?”

I said your problem is half-solved because even if you don’t speak the Queen’s, you still have to know that “interior decoration” is a reasonable substitute for “interior design,” but “interior ornamentation” is not.



Show of hands – weren’t you wondering if I forgot Übersuggest with each passing tool in this list? Well I saved it for the end. The king of secondary keyword research, Übersuggest gives you all the terms “suggested” by Google for each letter after your keyword, in alphabetical order. It now offers vertical results for images, news, shopping, video and recipes.

There’s a clear explanation of how this tool works on the Übersuggest home page, so I’m going to skip on the duplication. Plus, its popularity and usage is probably next only to the AdWords Keyword tool.



There, now. We’ve given you a preliminary overview of ten cool keyword tools. Of course each of these has its own strengths and caveats, and at least for now, none can match the effectiveness of Google’s Keyword Tool, particularly in language, location, or device-specific results. Google gathers and analyzes vast amounts of data and as you know, the rich only get richer.

I also want to emphasize that Microsoft Excel and Google Docs perhaps play an equal, if not more important role in keyword research than any of these tools, because at the end of the day, the mountain of data you end up with is of no use if you can’t perform calculations, sort, filter, present or store it in a way that’s best suits the task at hand. Head over to Distilled for a comprehensive Excel for SEOs guide. Alternatively, bug this guy—he’s the Sensei who trains Excel ninjas in the dark of the night.

As search engine optimizers and marketers, we have to constantly keep testing and fine tuning search terms. Tools will always be there to help us collect and organize data but only humans can fully understand human intent, even if you argue that husbands can’t understand wives!

Rohan is responsible for project delivery and campaign management at E2M Solutions. He keeps the wheels spinnin' and the beavers grinnin'. He is @searchrook on Twitter.
  • Pano Kondoyiannis

    I prefer Übersuggest as keyword research tool. 😉

    • Rohan Ayyar

      Right, Pano! I love Übersuggest for its quick list that we can see in one go, and it rarely misses any important keywords.

      • Maria Davies

        Have you guys tried to it looks better than ubersuggest – no ads, more keywords

    • Lee Odden

      Pano, I’m a big fan of Ubersuggest as well.

    • Jason Gardose

      Me too, Übersuggest has been a big help to me when searching for keyword permutations.

      • yourpcuniverse

        me too

  • Anthony Mangia and aren’t really full alternatives to the Google Keyword Tool like the rest are, though they certainly have their place in keyword research. You should consider adding Long Tail Pro to the list – more of a full-featured tool.

    • Rohan Ayyar

      Ha ha, got you! I said at the outset: “These are not alternatives to the AdWords Keyword Tool on their own, but each of them performs some function of the AdWords tool in its own unique way.” :)

      Haven’t checked out Long Tail Pro – it looks interesting!

  • Scott Krager

    While not quite as extensive as the tools above, we have a nice little free meta keyword tool that pulls in suggestions from Google Suggest, Related as well as Youtube and Bing suggestions:

    • Rohan Ayyar

      It’s neat! You should add a Download to CSV!

      On a different note, I like your Meta Site Explorer too. :)

      • Scott Krager

        Ah thanks! Yeah, the MSE is pretty much the link tool I always wanted, so decided about a month ago to just start building it myself. V1 is getting good reviews!

        And working on download to CSV shortly!

  • Luke Malcher

    This is a great list. I love using MOZ for their ‘keyword difficulty’ tool which is a real help! I have also used MarketSamurai in the past too which i would also recommend!

    • Rohan Ayyar

      Thanks, Luke. I would have definitely included Moz’s Keyword Difficulty were it not only for PRO members. The PA and DA of the top 10 ranked sites on the same page gives some great indications as well.

      MarketSamurai is cool too!

  • Hybrid Domainer

    Great article thanks a lot, the one part you said about the adult industry pays the most to Google PPC ? Really ?

    • Rohan Ayyar

      My bad. The industry that spends the most on Google PPC is insurance. The adult industry tends to splurge (the most) on non-explicit internet marketing activities, spammy or otherwise, such linkbuilding and retargeting, due to the delicate nature of its business.

  • Jason Diller

    All of these are awesome

  • Denis Smith

    Thank you man but do you think these even come closer to Google? Besides, what is Google thinking? I logged into the new keyword planner with one of my several Google accounts but couldn’t figure out how to check keywords search volume. I also like Ubersuggest which I wrote about in my blog a year and half ago.

  • Nikhil Alex

    Thanks for the great post.
    Now as the Google Keyword planner is rolled out completely, did you check the search volume difference. I am seeing considerable difference in results. May be they are now just showing Local Search Volumes.

    Any insight?

    • Rohan Ayyar

      You’ll see more search volume in the Keyword Planner because it includes mobile devices.. The Keyword Tool only included searches from desktops and laptops by default. Keyword Planner doesn’t provide separate data for mobile devices as of now, which is a shame.

  • I Knowledge Factory

    Thanks for the list…
    Above all I like Ubersuggest one of the most useful keyword research tool.

  • Darryl M

    Interesting list. Who uses Bing really? Thesaurus is great for synonymous. Kgen brings up a warning. The others are stronger standards. Thanks for the list, and Übersuggest is a new asset to add to my vault.

    • Rohan Ayyar

      Microsoft has a way of making up for innovation with persistence :) In 1985, folks went “Windows? What’s that?” In 2001, they asked “Whoever would want an Xbox?” Bing is a ray of hope we won’t always be at Google’s mercy!

  • Guest

    Hey, spammer! Thanks for dropping by.

  • Ashish Ahuja

    great info, but after google keyword tool how many of these will remain free is the question

  • Sachin Yadav

    i love 2nd one

  • Orlando Local SEO

    Even SEO experts make mistakes. Whatever we choose the right keywords
    can make or break our SEO campaign. We should all be aware on this. So
    that we can make our work success and give a good result in Search

  • Linn Caroline

    Thank you for this article! One function that I do use a lot is “related keywords”, where the tool shows me what other keywords I should consider. Which one of these would be best for this you think? Also, which one is better at other languages than English? I use norwegian keywords, and need a tool that will help with these.

    Thanks for any help!

    • Rohan Ayyar

      Ubersuggest is your best bet for “related keywords” because it gives you Google’s AutoComplete suggestions. The SEO Book tool also lets you see suggestions from multiple sources in one place.

      For foreign language SEO, I can point you to Ubersuggest again – just select Norwegian from the drop-down where it says English/USA by default. There’s also a little-known Google Translate entity called Global Market Finder: I’ll leave you to figure it out on your own…

  • Lowongan Kerja

    hi, is it free? many tools but i need free

    • Divy Singh Rathore

      you may use Bing Webmaster Tools, but it may not provide keyword based on google search

  • HD_Alive

    Actually i am confused which one will give good results, as the keyword tool was best and will these alters will give the correct measures!! read this

  • alleyglobal

    Ubersuggest is th ebest

  • jonathan nevit

    what about ?

  • Jennifer Mark

    thanks for the information. I was looking out from quite a long time the day when google keyword tool changed to keyword planner. Ultimately I got the list. Now i have to play around to get compatible with these tools.

  • Spook SEO

    I love keyword tool. This is very essential in SEO. These Google Adwords alternatives are awesome. Rohan, you deserve the best thank you for the 10 best suggestions. You rock man!

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  • hazmilucky

    thanks master, i will try that tools. Thanks a lot brother.

  • Karolin Bierbrauer

    Thanks for the list. I either use the Google Keyword Planer or SEMrush. I have tried out some others but they are either not satisfying or very complicated to handle.

  • Divy Singh Rathore

    Hey i prefer Bing Webmaster Tools. Its nice and easy interface

  • waqas kaifi

    hi i very like it,s a great thanks so much.

  • Get on with Sports

    Great post

  • ronmartin05

    Here’s a tip, especially for local businesses – it’s called day parting. As in, you schedule your ads only to appear during business hours of the day. If you follow customer trends in clicks and conversions by the hour of the day, you’ll notice the peak hours. You can bully out your competitors on bids by focusing on certain times of the day. Make sure you are constantly optimizing based on these trends. You don’t want to miss your customers, but if you’re on a tighter budget, just wait for ‘the right moment’ of the day and bust out the cannons to hit your prospects when they want you most. I have it all managed for me, so no sweat. Simon can set you up to get managed if you’re interested, just call him at 256-398-3835.

  • iAm Melissa

    Great list of best keyword Research tools. Thumbs up!

  • Jewlord

    None of these are free. bye.

  • meet acharya

    Thanks, you r very helpfull for me.
    your post are good.

  • satheesh bogaram

    you can find by using google

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