Given you have a good idea of where to start and are fairly confident you are speaking the same language as your client, jump start research by generating related keyphrases and long tail variants with the ever so easy to use Google Autocomplete. This tool makes predictions based on what you are typing that are a reflection of Google search activity.
Use the Google Adwords Keyword Planner to find new and related keywords, but ignore the search volume data! The search volume data in the planner is really only useful for keywords that you’re actually spending money to advertise on. Otherwise, these volumes are not reliable. While not really helpful to decide which keyword is most used by your potential audience, Google Adwords Keyword Planner makes a useful tool in coming up with ideas for potential keywords!
3) KWFinder is one of the "newer" kids on the block, but it's probably just about the easiest way I have found to find new long-tail keywords quickly. A couple of things I like about this tool is that it allows me to create lists of keywords. So I can group up my different sites by lists and revisit them at a later date. I can export the data to CSV and start building out campaigns. It also keeps a nice scrolling list of the last 20+ keywords you have looked up. The SEO difficulty indicator comes in very handy as well! As far as ease of use goes, KWFinder wins hands down.
Using the good ol' free Google Keyword Planner is great. But there is an alternate universe of Long Tail keyword phrases that live in Google's other database--namely, their "Autocomplete database." That's the database that is accessed when you're typing queries into the Google search box (notice that list of suggested keywords that pop up as you type?)
In fact, Google Suggest is the best way to find good long tail keywords that people use to find information on Google. Google admits that while Google Autocomplete (another name for the Google Suggest feature) was not designed specifically for marketing, it can deliver meaningful insights and help stay on top of trends. There are also many clever ways to use Google Autocomplete that can help you with SEO.
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.
3. Set your pre-search filters. Depending on whether you are looking for a new niche to build a site around or trying to find keywords to target on your already existing website, the minimum amount of local monthly searches (LMS) you set might vary. For new niches my LMS criteria is 1,500-5,000 searches, for posts anything from 10-800 is fine. Also, depending on one of these goals you can add a lower or higher number of words in the respective filter: for new niches 3 (or, at times, 2) words minimum, for new posts from 3 or 4 words up.
Curious if you’ve found a way to efficiently find underperforming keywords? Currently I have to manually click on each and every keyword to calculate it’s Keyword Competitiveness. Frustrating clicking it hundreds or even a thousand + times. I’d rather just add it as one of the scan settings and wait 8 hours for it to run all 1000 than having to manually click them for an hour and then waiting…
So which tool should you use? The simple answer is ALL of them!! If the data from several tools suggests that a keyword may be a good keyword to target, than you should feel fairly confident that it is. If your results appear to be contradicting one another for a particular keyword, then you may want to be hesitant in including that keyword in your selection. SEO professionals should never rely on one resource for research. No one tool is going to be 100% accurate and you stand the best chance at making the correct strategic decisions by using a variety of sources.
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.
They also seem to be getting this wrong often enough that I've got less confidence that the keywords that make up these groups really belong there. I recently tried to check the volume for the keyword [active monitoring] (the practice of checking on a network by injecting test traffic and seeing how it's handled, as opposed to passive monitoring) and the Keyword Planner gave me the volume for [activity monitor] (aka Fitbit).
Unlike similar tools, Serpstat is a page-oriented platform for in-depth competitive analysis. You can find competitors and define missing keywords for a single URL or even entire domains. You can also view historical position data for a range of pages organized by phrase, as well as see which pages have dropped in rank and their rank distribution as a percentage, which is very handy if you want to compare data from two different time periods or observe changes over time based on algorithm updates and other factors.
3. Finally, there's just good old research through trends and news. Google Trends, keeping up on industry news of the business, and even newsjacking (if there are relevant topics). These all require different resources depending on the business, but once you find the leaders in their news you can not only leverage them for keyword research but also glean insights into how you can become an industry leader yourself (and dominate SEO).
It’s very easy to use, fast and smooth and gives you tons of Long Tail Keywords. You only pay for the web based software once, so there are never any monthly fees. I’ve also been impressed over the years at how easy it is to update. These updates are free and the creator (Clever Gizmos) is always moving with the ever changing world of SEO and updated API’s to keep his program up to speed and fresh.