Caitlin Burgess

Beyond Google Keyword Planner: 7 Easy-to-Use SEO Research Tools for Generating Content Ideas

Caitlin Burgess on Sep 27th, 2017     Online Marketing

As a content marketer, you know that your target audience needs to be at the center of your content strategy. After all, modern content marketing was born to help you create valuable content that satisfies your audience’s quest for answers throughout their customer journey.

However, as the digital landscape becomes increasingly crowded with content — and you feel more and more pressure to create content in less time — you’re likely looking for quick and dirty ways to create SEO-friendly, best-answer content that doesn’t require loads of your precious time. As a result, your first stop on the research train is likely Google’s Keyword Planner tool. But, let’s face it, while it’s an excellent tool, it can only get you so far.

The good news? There are several helpful research tools that can help you uncover real questions your audience is asking around the web — allowing you to gain new audience insights and fill your content plan with relevant, SEO-infused topics. Below we dive into some of those research tools that can help you do just that.

#1 – Answer the Public

Answer the Public brings Google’s auto suggest feature to visual life. Type in any keyword or phrase, and the almost immediately you’ll be served up a visual representation of queries that are organized by specific question modifiers such as who, what, where, when, why, how, will, are and can.

What makes this tool so fantastic is that it not only helps you identify topics, but potentially some of the nuances of intent behind those questions. The best part? It’s completely free and you can sign up for a short email course to help you use the tool “like a pro.”

Answer the Public for Content Planning

#2 – BuzzSumo’s Question Analyzer

BuzzSumo’s recently launched Question Analyzer feature is incredible, allowing you to find the most popular questions being asked from across the web. How? Essentially, BuzzSumo has created a database of real questions from thousands of platforms, including forums, Amazon, Reddit, Quora and other Q&A sites. Just type in a keyword and get a list of related questions sorted by topic, as well as details on volume.

BuzzSumo Question Analyzer

Total access to this tool does require a BuzzSumo Plus subscription; however, you can sign up for a free trial for this feature and try before you buy.

#3 – Übersuggest

Like Answer the Public, Übersuggest pulls in various Google’s auto suggest keyword queries. And while the tool doesn’t create the same kind of visual representation of questions, the Word Cloud feature does help you connect the dots in a more visual way. In addition, each keyword query allows you to select “Google Trends” so you can get a closer look at seasonality — which is great for future planning. Finally, Übersuggest prides itself on being a tool that can help you uncover new keywords that aren’t available in Google’s Keyword Planner tool.

#4 – KewordTool.io

Of course, we can’t mention Answer the Public or Übersuggest without mentioning KeywordTool.io. Like the former two tools, KeywordTool.io also uses Google’s auto suggest queries as its data source. In addition, like Übersuggest, KeywordTool.io allows you to tap into Google Trends and find keywords that aren’t readily displayed in Google Keyword Planner. So, on the surface, the main differentiator between these tools is user experience.

However, from what I can tell, KeywordTool.io’s paid version, Keyword Tool Pro, offers a little something different than the others. According to the website, “Keyword Tool Pro will not only give you keywords that are hidden from everyone else but will also provide you with necessary data to sort and rank the newly discovered keywords. You will be able to see how often people search for a keyword on Google (Search Volume), how competitive (AdWords Competition), and lucrative (CPC) the keywords are.”

KewordTool.io for Content Marketing

For many marketers, the final benefit may be the most intriguing, as we’re always looking to connect business value to our efforts.

#5 – Google Search Console

Google Search Console, formerly Google Webmaster Tools, is one of the most helpful SEO and content planning tools out there. From a technical standpoint, Google Search Console enables you to monitor and maintain your entire website’s presence in Google search results. But from a content planning perspective, Google Search Console allows you to see which queries actually caused your site’s content to appear in search results.

The best part? You can filter by page, allowing you to see how a specific piece of content is drawing visibility. This means you can not only find opportunities to optimize existing content with other related keywords it’s coming up for, but also identify gaps and related topics that can spawn additional content.

Google Search Console for Content Research

#6 – Ahrefs

Back in 2011, Ahrefs launched as an backlinks analysis tool. Since then, the tool has grown into a helpful competitive analysis tool, allowing users to get a deeper understanding of how and why their competitors are ranking — and how they may be able to leapfrog them in the SERPs.

When it comes to generating SEO-infused content ideas, there are a few features that are useful. For starters, the Keywords Explorer allows you to find keywords, analyze their ranking difficulty and calculate the potential traffic you could achieve. Then you have the Content Explorer, which helps you find the most popular content for any topics based on backlinks, organic traffic and social shares. Finally, the Content Gap feature allows you to explore the keywords that your competitors are ranking for, but you don’t.

Ahrefs for Content Marketing Research

While this tool isn’t free, you can sign up for a free trial. If you like it, there are a handful of monthly subscription options at different price points.

#7 – SEMrush

Generally speaking, SEMrush offers a lot of the same benefits as Ahrefs — from discovering and analyzing keywords to conducting competitive analysis. But one feature that is particularly interesting and helpful is the Social Media Tracker.

These days, social media marketing is an important and necessary part of any digital marketing strategy, serving as an engagement and content dissemination platform. With the Social Media Tracker, you’re able to compare your engagement trends to that of your competitors, as well as see the best-performing posts in terms of engagement. You can then use these insights to craft better, more relevant content that will get more traction on your social pages.

SEMrush Social Media Tracker

How Do You Choose Which Tools Are Right for You?

Your industry, budget, internal resources and unique business objectives are all deserving of consideration when selecting research tools that will be a good fit. But, with nearly all of these tools offering free usage or free trials, you certainly have nothing to lose by carving out a little time to test them out. So, choose one to start with and go from there.

What are some of your go-to research tools for generating interesting and relevant content ideas? Tell us in the comments section below.

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