Let me start by saying that I think this industry sub-category is fairly under-developed, and mismanaged.
For how long people, and commercial companies in particular, have been involved in Keyword Research, whether for PPC, SEO, or other Market Research Purposes, the deeper I dig, the more surprised I am at the lack of advancements and innovation, since Google’s inception, and popularization of this field.

To the unpracticed, or perhaps simply uninterested, it’s easy to look at a few big companies, like Moz, Ahrefs, SEMrush, etc, and be impressed with what is available.
The power of a well-known brand says a lot to us before we actually take a closer look at the details.

Everything out there has actionable potential, in some form or another, depending on how it’s used, but I have two main issues, with the current environment:
1.  Research is Difficult to Connect, Organize, and Implement
2. Price-Point

Retainer-Based Keyword Research Service Price Comparisons

Scale is from 0 to 100, and some service providers offer more robust plans which are much more expensive.

  • Google Ads Keyword Planner | Basic | Monthly License
  • Wordtracker | Basic | Monthly License
  • Keyword Keg | Basic | Monthly License
  • Longtail Pro| Basic | Monthly License
  • KW Finder | Intermediate | Monthly License
  • SE Cockpit| Basic | Monthly License
  • SpyFu | Basic | Monthly License
  • Keyword Tool | Intermediate | Monthly License
  • Moz | Basic | Monthly License
  • SEMrush | Basic | Monthly License
  • Ahrefs | Basic | Monthly License

One-Time Fee Keyword Research Service Price Comparisons

Scale is from 0 to 100, and some options are quite a bit pricier.

  • Fiverr | Basic | Cost Per Order
  • Legiit | Basic | Cost Per Order
  • Konker | Basic | Cost Per Order
  • Rank Tracker | Basic | Lifetime License
  • Market Samurai | Basic | Lifetime License

Real-World Keyword Research Methodology 

Keyword Research Tool Pricing Comparisons 1

Now, if you are making decent money, $100/mo is not a huge deal. 
I pay all kinds of monies for all kinds of subscriptions, but asking for a retainer that can amount to a few hundred, or even a few thousand dollars per year, is not at all reasonable for what is pretty basic information, already made publicly available by Google.

I have used a decent variety of these kinds of “premium” tools over the years, and I’ve also done a lot of consulting for a wide variety of businesses.
When I was first starting, I spent A LOT of time searching for presumably hidden gems, and eventually I developed a routine and a system for interpreting various data-sets.

After a lot of practice, I realized that what it really came down to was not “thinking” everything perfectly, but rather diversifying, and approaching it as though it were a numbers game, instead of spending all my time and energy trying to FORCE something to be successful, and plan it just-right.
Fortunately, when it comes to SEO, this is exactly what Google wants, and it’s the #1 reason why every single business, for every single consult I’ve ever done, has the exact same problem. 

The #1 Keyword Research Problem

Keyword Research Tool Pricing Comparisons 2

Everybody wants to rank for some big keyword, for their industry, and they ALL lack content, and diversification.
So, from a Keyword Research Standpoint, I would be doing consults for clients, and identifying opportunities, but in my personal projects, I wasn’t really using the metrics all that much. 

As a specialist, I’m more interested in building a brand, whereas the average client perception is that someone with knowledge can simply flip a switch, and give you what you want, like dropping a scoop of ice-cream on a cone, or something.
Those who are decent in this field understand that it’s more about doing some “good things” in Google’s eyes, and basically seeing what happens.

With enough experience, we can get a feel for predictable results, to some degree, and certainly depending on methods and environments, but in the end, any SEO Guy with common sense knows that you’re still just building a brand, and waiting for Google to give you a thumbs-up.
That being said, competitive insights can be interesting, but it’s not gonna help you avoid the long-term task of loading your asset with valuable content. 

Interpreting Keyword Research Competition

Keyword Research Tool Pricing Comparisons 3

Competition metrics are still useful, because they can help you know where to start, and to create a more specific plan over time, but you can still make a great plan without knowing anything about the competition.
The more complex the search, the more likely that it is lower competition, and that’s all you need to know, in order to make a great plan.

ALL of the major tools on the market, to my knowledge, are completely focused on putting a number on the relative competition, and there is this idea that if you know that number, then somehow you are going to have the keys to successfully ranking something or other.
I love charts, and graphs, and all that stuff, but none of that connects to actually making things happen to get there.  

Mapping your Keyword Research Data

Keyword Research Tool Pricing Comparisons 4

What you really need is to be able to assign keywords to an article plan, forward that to a writer, and have a system that tracks the whole creation process, integrating it with your Keyword Research Data. 
That way, you can take a large list, and actually make a practical plan for expanding your territory, expanding what is essentially the digital real estate of your brand in question.

The current market is focused entirely on the raw data, but not the actual strategy, organization, or implementation of that data, and based on my years of experience, I think those things are 100x more important than simply having the basic metrics.
In pursuit of that kind of system, I found myself crafting my own solution through a simple Google Sheets Spreadsheet.

This FREE Google Sheets Keyword Research Template is All you Need.
There is NO sign-up, or opt-in, or special purpose necessary to get this resource.

I have made this Completely FREE to the Public.
If there is any catch, it is that in order to import the raw data properly, you need to be paying a small monthly amount to Google Ads, so that they will show you the exact monthly search volume. 

Recommended Keyword Research Essentials

1. Google Ads Keyword Planner
2. Google Sheets

I know, for a fact, that it is no more than $15/mo, and it might even be less, but I’m not sure.
All you have to do is setup a simple Google Ad, for something minor you want to drive traffic to, then set a daily budget of about $0.50, and within a day, you should be receiving exact Search Volume from their Keyword Research Planner. 

From there, you can follow one of my FREE Guides on importing the data, and I also offer paid consulting if you need extra help.

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