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The 10 Best Free Keyword Research Tools for Startups

by Neil Patel

Startups begin with an idea, but lack deep financial resources.

They are, therefore, reluctant to spend money on something as basic as keyword research.

Bootstrapped owners use the free Google’s Keyword Planner, check around with their potential customers for keywords, and write down any keyword that they brainstorm.

All of that is fine but startups must know that they need to research into four major types of keywords:

  • Primary and secondary keywords
  • Key phrases (long-tail keywords)
  • Correlated keywords (or LSI [Latent Semantic Indexing] keywords)
  • Synonyms

I’m going to reveal 100% free (no fremiums, no free trials, no BS tools) keyword tools that will help your startup achieve keyword liftoff.

Regardless of your niche, audience, focus, and goals, these keyword research tools will give you the advantage that you need to take your SEO to the next level.

I’ve organized this list of free resources into those four areas I mentioned above.

Primary and Secondary Keywords

Google Keyword Planner

You probably already know this tool and, so I’ll summarize it briefly.

Keyword planner allows you to enter in the name of your product or service, your landing page, product category, and any targeting or customization preferences.

Google keyword planner

Fill in the fields, select your category and targets, enter your competitor’s URL as “Your Landing Page,” and hit the “Get Ideas” button.

download results

In my case, Google Keyword Planner returned 800 searched-for keywords.

Download yours as a CSV file and title it as “01 Keywords” or something else with a number because there will be other files to download/create.

This is the best starting place for keyword research, as it will provide you with the most comprehensive and targeted list of words.

But it’s just the start.

Google Trends

Google Trends not only allows you to compare the popularity of one keyword over another, it also tells you which keywords are rising in popularity in your markets, thereby allowing you to exploit the top keywords in your niche.

Check out this image. I compared the keywords “sewing machines” and “sewing machines USA” and discovered that almost no users search for “sewing machines USA,” maybe because it sounds unnatural or is too broad of a geographical area.

google trends

I scrolled down, and look what I found — my main markets existed within the USA, providing outstanding geotargeting data!

No other free keyword research goes into such detail.

keyword research by regional interest

That’s not all: scrolling further down revealed the top and rising keywords related to sewing machines!

keyword research related searches

Google Trends is an indispensable, but often overlooked, keyword research tool. You must use it!

Long-Tail Keywords

Google Suggest

Here’s how you use Google to research long-tail keywords:

Search for your keywords on Google and scroll down to the bottom of the page to view related searches.

Save the keyphrases:

related searches

That’s it. These keywords are algorithmically generated as a result of other popular and productive searches, so they deserve consideration in your keyword planning phase.

Google Search

Make a list of words that you can add before or after your keywords.

For example, many people use voice search these days and, therefore, they may be asking a question.

Where do I buy a sewing machine?

Your keyword research may take into consideration these longtail queries that start with a question word: When, what, which, why, how, does, can, etc.

Type a question-related search into Google. Now add an asterisk (*), a Google wildcard operator, on the end of the query. This acts as a blank (as in “fill in the blanks”) and Google populates it based on the most searched for word.

For example: “How * sewing machines,” “How sewing machines *,” “Which Sewing machine *,” etc.

The following image contains 4 screenshots that show how Google suggests long-tail keywords:

sewing machine example search

How you use this feature depends on your product and service, of course.

There are thousands of niches out there and every niche has its own peculiarities and pain points. You should intelligently use the Google Suggest feature to hunt down the top searched and relevant long-tail keywords.

Keyword Tool exploits the Google Suggest API to discover long-tail keywords.

It goes deep down and researches many permutations and combinations, ending up with a solid list of very useful long-term keywords.

The tool is free, but charges a monthly fee if you want to go deeper down or get volume information.

If you’re in cash-is-tight startup mode, I recommend you work with the free version until you start making money.

Correlated Keywords or LSI Keywords or Contextual Keywords

In 2013, Google introduced Hummingbird (an algorithmic change), which placed a higher emphasis on the surrounding context of a search query.

The idea was to deliver a relevant, quality result, and not just pages containing the keyword repeated all over the content.

Google started searching and ranking content based on synonyms and correlated/contextual words.

It is extremely important today to ensure that your content contains strategically placed contextual keywords and synonyms.

Here are the contextual keywords discovery tools:


Wikipedia is an amazing source of contextual keywords. Just search for your keyword/s and read the page. You will come across a goldmine of LSI keywords.

For “sewing machine” I discovered at least 10 contextual keywords in the text above the fold. As a bonus, Wikipedia contained a diagram that specified sewing machine parts (more contextual keywords!).

I’m sure you will discover a wealth of information in your niche.

wikipedia for keyword research

Industry terms and jargon

Search for terms, slang, technical terms and jargon that are bandied about in your niche. There will be quite a few sites giving out this information.

Make a list and save it.

Google Correlate

Google Correlate doesn’t work well when you enter a keyphrase. But when you enter a single keyword, it throws up LSI keywords that are pure dynamite.

Check this image out. The vast difference between the results for “sewing” and “sewing machines” is just too much to ignore:

google correlate


You may not think of WordNet as an SEO tool, but it definitely has potential.

WordNet is developed by Princeton University, is 100% free, and helps you research semantics and lexical relations.

Check it out, and give it a try for keyword potential:

wordnet search

BONUS: Rip your Competitors’ Keywords

Download Xenu Link Sleuth, a plain Jane broken link checker. Install it, open it, click file and enter your competitor’s URL in the “Check URL” field.


Xenu will download all their pages including titles and descriptions. Read through the titles and descriptions to learn how your top competitors are using keywords and then strategize a path forward.



I don’t know if you’ve been counting, but there are 10+ free keyword research tools and resources listed above.

A word of caution is in order. After researching, you will develop lists containing primary and secondary keywords, long-tail keywords, LSI keywords, and synonyms.

And you’ll be getting ready to use them in your content and on page SEO.

But how many keywords will you actually use?

Remember, if you stuff your content with keywords, you’re going to lose ranking in Google, not gain.

So here’s what you should do:

  1. Write naturally and weave in your researched keywords as and where necessary. Usually, this happens automatically as you’re creating helpful content.
  2. Your long-tail keywords will mostly contain your primary or secondary keywords. Take that into account.
  3. Pepper in a synonym or a couple of relevant contextual keywords here and there, but don’t overdo it.

That’s it. You have the tools and all you have to do is research and deploy keywords in your content!

It’s time your startup got noticed.

What is your go-to free keyword research tool?



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Neil Patel

Neil Patel is the co-founder of Crazy Egg and Hello Bar. He helps companies like Amazon, NBC, GM, HP and Viacom grow their revenue.


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  1. Mesum says:
    August 17, 2017 at 10:01 am

    I am doing keywords research since many years, But these logics I have never observed thanks Neil for this logic of angle to observe things.

  2. Murali says:
    August 7, 2017 at 12:37 pm

    Hi, Neil really it is a great post for start-ups. I will go through with these tips. Thank you

  3. Lancelam says:
    July 6, 2017 at 2:27 pm

    Hello, Neil, this is a very informative post. I am looking forward to using one of these tools. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Anonymous says:
    May 31, 2017 at 2:50 pm

    Great list Neil. For people with a limited budget, having access to free keyword research tools is a great alternative to the pricey premium ones. For clients who prefer to do some of their own keyword research (.e.g. for blog posts), I usually recommend Google Suggest, Google “autocomplete” and Correlate. Those 3 alone can help guide them in the right direction to coming up with some relevant topics for their industry.

  5. Murad Hossain says:
    May 6, 2017 at 12:04 am

    Thanks a lot for sharing Free keyword Research Tools. I Always Used Google Keyword Planner and Semrush. Both Keyword Tools Gives Me Great Results. Thanks again for your valuable post.

  6. Manish says:
    April 27, 2017 at 12:20 am

    I always use and recommend Ahrefs and semrush for my keyword research, well long tail pro is also a best alternative.If you can’t buy semrush or pro research tools, you could do the basicresearch with google keyword planner.Well Thanks for the article.

  7. Anke says:
    April 7, 2017 at 8:08 pm

    Hi Neil, thanks so much for taking the time compiling this useful list of free tools. I agree with you if someone just starts up it might be a wise decision not to spend too much money on additional expenses.In the long term though I think it is money well spend when investing in a paid keyword research tool. I recently discovered KeySearch which is reasonably priced and I also love Jaxxy.
    What are your thoughts on these two tools?
    Best regards from Anke

  8. Ivan Palii says:
    April 7, 2017 at 3:42 am

    Most of these tools don’t introduce new features. And now it’s one of the most important criteria for seo masters as I know. Google, Bing, Amazon change own algorithms every year, and keyword suggestion tools should do it also. So, only semrush, kparser and serpstat make changes regularly. What do you think about others?

  9. shailesh shakya says:
    March 22, 2017 at 3:18 pm

    Hello Neil Sir,

    Awesome Intuition you have provided here. I like google keyword planner. because it is totally free and has all the key metrics like CPC, Competition, Search Volume etc.
    Instead of that I also like WORDZE Keyword research tool.because this tool lets you allow to do keyword Competiton Analysis, Long tail keyword analysis and also have the same potential as google keyword planner.

    Thanks for Sharing these types of beneficial Content.

  10. Star Townsend says:
    January 17, 2017 at 7:14 am

    Wonderful list. I am using all the keyword research tools for my Website. Thanks for the useful content..

  11. Navdeep says:
    July 28, 2016 at 2:27 am

    I personally like GKP and But one can not deny the usefulness of other listed keyword research tools. They are must for anyone wishing to rank high in the search engines. Using 2-3 tools for keyword research can give better results.
    Thanks Neil for such an useful information. Really helpful.

  12. AArti says:
    July 26, 2016 at 9:52 am

    Thank you Neil. You have introduced amazing list of keywords tools in this article. Which one is best in your experience? Would you like to share with us 🙂

  13. Lorent Bates says:
    July 11, 2016 at 8:26 am

    Amazing list of tools!
    Thanks for covering this.
    Most of just never settle with one single tool even for single automated action. I’m using both SERPStat and SPYfu, for example, researching competitors for my clients.

  14. Corey Zeimen says:
    June 20, 2016 at 10:20 pm

    I like to also use the good ole fashioned Websters Thesaurus too.

  15. jay paul says:
    June 18, 2016 at 5:39 pm

    Thanks a lot for sharing your knowledge with us.
    thank you Neil

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