1) Ahrefs to quickly see “the big picture” when it comes to any keyword I'm researching. I can instantly see the top holders in the SERPs. I then immediately take the top holders list and go check out their sites. I need to make sure I can beat them content-wise, otherwise I will search for another keyword to try and rank for, or perhaps go down the long-tail route. The Ahrefs tool and data quality get better and better every year. It's one of my favorite tools.
Note: the old software version of Long Tail Pro would have spit out several hundred adwords suggestions (many being irrelevant to the seed keyword) for this one seed keyword and then you would have to filter to see only what you wanted to see. With the new cloud version of Long Tail Pro, you set it to show only a certain number of keywords and it displays the most relevant keywords so you have less noise and confusion to filter through.
Well, if you haven’t heard the news yet, the word on the street is Google has shut down their widely popular keyword tool for public use. Now if you want access to Google sanctioned keyword data you have to sign up for an Adwords account. Of course there are a ton of theories surrounding why Google would make this decision, some are more obvious than others. But to many of us Google’s motivations seem pointless when we still have work to do! Luckly we exist in a vibrant industry where innovation is at the core of most of what we do. As such we have a slew of different tools available to replace Google’s tool.

Repeat this exercise for as many topic buckets as you have. And remember, if you're having trouble coming up with relevant search terms, you can always head on over to your employees on the front lines -- like Sales or Services -- and ask them what types of terms their prospects and customers use, or common questions they have. Those are often great starting points for keyword research.

"I rarely get excited about SEO and SEM tools...But, when it comes to keyword research it is virtually impossible to produce a quality worksheet without software. When I have to perform the same task for my customers, the process is even more daunting and time consuming...there is now a better way to manage huge keyword lists and this tool is called WordStream."
How do I research keywords? This is a common question I get from clients. And my immediate response is… Long Tail Pro! With the update to Google Adwords Keyword Planner (rendering it near worthless) without paying for Google ads and to test actually search volume for keywords, the generic Avg. search volume range they provide gives you ZERO actionable data! See example below:
I just have the free version right now so I don't know all that the pro one can do. But even the free version has A LOT of tools you can use, I haven't even figured them all out yet. But one that I have used is their Content Optimizer. You can take a new or existing content piece of yours, and compare it to one of your competitor's pieces on a similar topic, and see where you might be lacking based on the keywords that are used in each piece.
It's important to check that you have a mix of head terms and long-tail terms because it'll give you a keyword strategy that's well balanced with long-term goals and short-term wins. That's because head terms are generally searched more frequently, making them often (not always, but often) much more competitive and harder to rank for than long-tail terms. Think about it: Without even looking up search volume or difficulty, which of the following terms do you think would be harder to rank for?
This tool was originally created to carry out keyword research for paid campaigns using Google's AdWords platform. However, it can also be used to research organic keywords, providing estimated global/local monthly search volumes for keywords (i.e. their popularity) and their competition (i.e. how difficult they are to rank for) for organic search.
Wordstream is a free keyword tool that makes it easy and fast to get those keywords that your business needs most in order to drive traffic through paid and organic search.  All you need to do is enter a website URL or keyword and you will get hundreds of relevant keyword results that are tailored to your country or industry. Every keyword has an estimated CPC, competition score, and a proprietary opportunity score that will assist you in budgeting for your online campaigns. You can download your list in a CSV format and upload it in AdWords directly and begin to work on your new campaigns.
Long Tail Pro is a keyword research tool that helps you quickly find low competition keywords for your website.  In particular, the tool is built for people doing SEO (search engine optimization) as opposed to people doing paid ads (Google Adwords PPC).  I'm sure there are some advertisers that use the tool for paid ad keyword research, but the tool was built for SEO keyword research.
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