Keyword Generation Tools & Tips


keyword suggestion tools and screenshots

The keyword research process, whether for paid SEM or SEO, should always start with 3 steps:

  1. Understand the mission – What are web goals? What you are selling? What kind of audience do you want to target?
  2. Brainstorm – Generate lists of as many relevant potential target keywords as you can.
  3. Analyze – Gather data and evaluate the potential keywords.

This article is all about step #2, with particular emphasis on free long-tail keyword discovery tools and methods you should be employing.

Google AdWords Keyword Planner Tool

For most SEO practitioners, including myself, Google AdWords Keyword Planner is the go-to tool  for discovering relevant keywords.  I’m not going to cover the basics; these articles already have done a fine job of that:


This tool is awesome, but not perfect. Below are a few drawbacks that often need to be addressed with other tools:

  • Adwords returns a lot of irrelevant keywords you shouldn’t care about.
  • “Chunky middle” keywords are often inexplicably missing from the list of ideas.
  • Longtail keywords with less than 5 or 10 queries per month are completely excluded from the list of ideas.
  • There is no way to validate a potential longtail keyword that has under 5 or 10 queries per month as something someone might actually search for. (AdWords reports only as low as 10 queries per month, though perhaps they round up from 5 or more.)
  • The purpose of that tool is to increase AdWords revenue. Therefore, it makes sense that the results of Keyword Planner steer users towards keywords with commercial intent and high cost-per-click.


Here are a 5 quick tips on bypassing irrelevant results to dig down and extract relevant long-tail keyword ideas:

Google Keyword Planner useful features

5 useful features for generating keyword ideas from Keyword Planner

  1. Entering Your Landing Page or other site’s URLs can be handy. Dan Shure has some great tricks on this here.
  2. Check out both the Ad group ideas tab and the Keyword ideas tab.
  3. Adding Negative keywords can help trim the fat.
  4. Turning on Only show ideas closely related to my search terms basically returns results that only contain your seed keywords. This is handy once you know what you are looking for.
  5. Keywords to include, found in the bottom left,  is my favorite feature. Enter two or more words on one line to see keyword ideas that include all your words in any order.  You can enter two or more words on one line surrounded by quotes to see keyword ideas that include all those words in that exact order (like a Phrase Match).

Autocomplete-based Keyword Suggestion Tools

Google autocomplete

Google Autocomplete in action

How they work

There are a slew of keyword generation tools that basically append and prepend letters and numbers to a seed keyword and return all the results from Google Autocomplete.

Autocomplete tools are a great way to quickly dive deep into the long tail from a specific seed term. They also bypass AdWords bias and help validate that users are searching for the longtail keywords that AdWords won’t show any volume for.

Google recently announced that it would be cutting off access to the Autocomplete API on August 10. Tools completely reliant on this API would lose functionality if access was cut. But many Autocomplete-based keyword suggestion tools are still working, as they can be powered in other ways, such as:

  • Bing Autocomplete (or other search engines’ autocomplete) – It’s not Google, but it still gives you a lot of really great ideas.
  • SERP Scraping  – There are tools that can programmatically make search engine searches and extract the Autocomplete results in real time. The downside is that this violates the terms of service of all search engines: the engines try to prevent scraping to save on their bandwidth, often blocking IP addresses that appear to be scraping search engine results pages. To combat this, scrapers can slow down hit frequency (which means scraping can take a little while to return results), try to mimic human search behavior, and/or use proxy IPs.
  • Historical data? It is feasible for a keyword suggestion tool to store Autocomplete data and return that data when users use their tool.
  • Selective API permission? It could be possible that Google is continuing to allow Autocomplete API access to a select few services.

Quick tips – Use wildcards and questions

Google suggest wildcard trick

wildcard trick in action

Google Autocomplete can suggest queries  that not only start with your seed term, but also end with the seed term, or are sandwhiched in or around the seed term. Before you hit “Enter”, simply type an underscore (_) in the desired location after you type in the seed term. See more examples in the Rand Fishkin post I learned this trick from (great examples in the comment section). Some of the suggestion tools support this functionality.

Autocomplete is also a great way to generate questions people ask. Question-based keywords are excellent indicators of what information users see. Additionally, questions are becoming increasingly popular queries as users increasingly converse directly with their smartphones.

Suggested tools

Below are some Autocomplete-based keyword suggestion tools that are still helpful as of September 14, 2015. is my favorite of the bunch. It’s simple, free, fast, and returns a lot of results. It seems to support the wildcard tric and provides a whole tab of great question-based keywords. It also enables you to select from multiple languages and regions and from Google, YouTube, Bing, or Apple App Store. Also, for reasons unknown to me, it seems to be working per usual as of Sept. 14. screenshot in action

UberSuggest is the keyword suggestion o.g. (original generator). It seems to have switched to be powered by Bing Autocomplete.

Soovle returns up to 10 results of suggestions from 7 search engines as you type in the seed term. The 10-result cap prevents heavy lifting, but Soovle can be a fun way to kick off brainstorming.

ScrapeBox is powerful scraping software with a feature called Keyword Harvester that can simultaneously scrape the suggestions of multiple seed terms from the SERPs of any search engine.

Answer the Public has some nifty visualizations of its keyword suggestions.

Answer the Public Screenshot

Answer The Public in action

Check out this Greenlane SEO article from January 2015 for more tips and info on keyword suggestion tools.

Generating Target Keywords from Your Own Data

Always make sure you’ve thoroughly examined keyword data from your own site.

AdWords Search Terms/Queries

If you are spending on AdWords, you have some very valuable data for SEO keyword research.  Retrieve it from the AdWords Search terms report or the Google Analytics AdWords Search Queries report. (Do not look at “keywords”, which are not the exact queries users searched for.) Pay special attention to queries with conversions.

AdWords Search Queries Report in GA,

AdWords Search Queries Report in GA, sorted by revenue

Google Search Console Search Analytics

Always look for keywords under your nose. That’s why you should use Google Search Console’s Search Analytics Report (formerly Google Webmaster Tools’ Search Queries Report) to see the keyword you are already ranking for.

Be sure to pay attention to keywords you are not ranking highly for, especially those with high impressions. Also, Excel and the Search Analytics Queries and Pages filters are your friends.

keyword ideas from Google Search Console in Excel table

Queries to that contain the string “tool” that do not rank in the top 10, sorted by impressions.

Bing WebMaster Tools

You can also check out the search queries that led to visits from your site from Bing and Yahoo!. Just check out Bing Webmaster Tools Search Keywords report.

Bing Webmaster Tools Search Keywords

Bing Webmaster Tools Search Keywords report

Site Search

If your site has an internal site search, the terms users searched for might give you some content and keyword ideas. Just check out the Google Analytics Site Search Report. If you have not configured site search, you may still be able to get some historical data from page reports if your site searches have URLs in the format string + search term, e.g.

internal site search pages

Pages from a site whose site search URLs always start with “/?s=”

More Ways to Get Keyword Ideas

There are a few additional ways to find questions your users ask beyond using the tools we’ve already discussed. General Q&A sites, like Quora, can be a good source of relevant questions. Niche forums, like the ones at Moz or Houzz for example, are excellent sources of questions. Google Advanced Search can help you mine forums more effectively. Also, see what questions sales and service gets: talk to some of your company’s reps and ask them for FAQs or mine the logs of web helpdesk tools like LiveChat or Zendesk.

Old fashioned research on a topic always gives you some ideas as well, so don’t be afraid to get all journalistic (or just look up your topic in Wikipedia).

Competitor sites can give you some great ideas. SpyFu and SEMrush are two tools that let you pull a list of paid and organic keywords that generate traffic for a given site. You can also use a keyword density tool to extract common terms from a given page, and you can use AdWords Keyword Planner to generate keyword ideas from any given page.

Bing Webmaster Tools Keyword Research Tool is a slimmed-down version of AdWords Keyword Planner that will generate keyword ideas and provides the number of Bing searches.

Rank Tracker, from SEO PowerSuite, is keyword intelligence software that (among other things) can pull in keyword suggestions from a whopping 20 sources (only one source at a time, though).

A thesaurus, like or, often comes in handy.

Combining 2 or More Lists of Terms into Long-tail Keywords

I saved this method for last (but not least) because it is a great way to find additional long-tail keywords you might have missed. Also, it works best after you’ve identified some different strong keywords. There’s plenty of tools to help you scale this powerful method, including:

SEO Book's Keyword List Generator

SEO Book’s Keyword List Generator in action

That’s it. Go get some keywords!

Reid Bandremer is a former LunaMetrician and contributor to our blog.

  • Asim Mughal

    Hi Reid,

    Thanks for sharing handy guide on Keyword generation Tools and tips. I would like to add one more tool/tip to get new keywords idea from your competitors. You have already mentioned tools in your post but this will work with a different way. Try Webbee SEO spider, just put your competitor’s website in Keyword Intelligence mode and press start. Wait for sometime (depends on website page numbers). It will fetch all the keywords that the given website is targeting. Download these keywords in excel and enjoy. I hope it will add more value in your article.

  • Lianne

    Thanks Reid! This gives me so many ideas for getting started with adwords campaigns for my volunteer gig!

  • anton svensson

    great stuff reid. i think you should include, a free seo tool that i’ve been using.

  • yanga

    Free and Open source tool helping to find the long tail keywords

  • Stephanie ( to boost keywords in search engines (google, yahoo, bing, yandex, aol, ask)

  • Harsha Srivatsa

    Hi Reid, I would also recommend using Google Trends, because Adwords tool used search data from its parent source search engine and generate value based keywords for us, I have an article to explain on this here

  • George Coem

    Spyfu is a nice tool but it’s too limited for my taste. It’s good when your focus is on UK and US but I work on projects from all over the world, so how do I use it for a client who’s focusing on Canada or Australia. These are most wanted countries in ecommerce. SERPstat, for instance, has all major countries + others like Lithuania, Kazakhstan and many more. Will SpyFu adress this issue?

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