A lot of website owners ask a common question when it comes to keyword research — do free keyword research tools really work? This question is more than fair, as with most other things in life, and online — you get what you pay for. While there are exceptions to almost every rule, are keyword research tools one of these exceptions?
To find the answer to this question, you need to have a good understanding of what keyword research tools are and what they do. Keyword research tools, whether they are free or require some form of payment, are 2-dimensional maps in a 3-dimensional world. Granted, some of these “maps” are better than others, and certain tools try to add shadows and context, which can give you a better view of the search engine rankings landscape, but at the end of the day — keyword research tools are topographical maps for the lay of the search-marketing land.
Generally, you are going to receive more “depth” to your research using keyword research tools that you pay for — whether they are subscription-based services such as KeywordDiscovery and WordTracker, or one-time payment tools like KeywordElite. The reason for this should be rather obvious — when you pay for a service or software, the company you are buying from has a source of revenue so that they can invest in their data collection and interpretation of that data. If people invest in keyword research software, or tools, that are not any better than the freely available freeware versions that abound online — they won’t stay in business very long.
Getting to the point, though — many free keyword research tools are strikingly similar to the paid tools that are available today. This means that, more or less, you can receive some of the same type of data with free keyword research tools that you keyword search volume API with software that you pay for, or web-based tools that you subscribe to. Granted, the depth of information is not generally the same, but the type of information is.
Even free keyword tools can provide estimated search volume for a keyword phrase, the estimated number of competitors for that keyphrase, the KEI, or Keyword Effectiveness Index, the estimated Cost per Click (CPC) for services like Google AdSense, and so on. The major differences between paid keyword tools and free tools can be likened to the differences between using a GPS unit versus a hand-drawn map for a cross-country trip. They both can help you get to your end-result goal, but the GPS unit is going to provide context, and depth, that is not available with the simple, hand-drawn map.
Now, something important to note here is that keyword research is not an exact science, and a lot of times, whether you are using paid research tools or not, you’ll have to apply your own common sense to the equation. Data sets can be temporarily skewed for any number of reasons, and if something doesn’t quite seem right — you would do yourself well to question your findings, especially if you are going to base your business on it.
So, to answer the question as to whether free keyword research tools really work — yes, they do. While you’ll lack some of the deeper-reaching resources that paid keyword tools can provide — with a little bit of SEO know-how and common sense, free keyword tools can give you the information you need to get started on the right foot.