Keyword Research is often the core foundation of any online marketing campaign. Whether that is researching a new product to invest in or understanding your readers’ and buyers’ interests in more detail. Whatever you’re using the research for, there are a vast amount of applications and uses for it which can help improve your business and your understanding of user intent. The success of a campaign is often dependent on the quality of keyword research done.
I picked out the top two keyword research tools(SEMrush and Long Tail Pro) out right now and pit them against each other in a dual review post. Read on to find out how I picked a winner from these tightly matched competitors.
Who will be crowned king of KWR?
You’re only as good as the tools you use.
I score each tool based on a number of criteria in no particular order:
- Ease of use
- Interesting Features
- Keyword value metrics
- Test Run Results
Each tool will be given a final score out of five John Muellers(The head honcho and key contact at Google for SEO) which you’ll see on the red ribbons. With each tool I run a small test of choice keywords while recording how long it takes to gather them, how many keywords were gathered and the general experience. The final score will be the sum of the mean(Add up the scores and divide by number of scores).
I look at each tool from the perspective of a blogger, a small business, an SEO agency and lastly the lone CEO who likes to tinker and do a little research for themselves.
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So without further ado, lets get started! Ready? Set? GO!
“It’s best to have your tools with you. If you don’t, you’re apt to find something you didn’t expect and get discouraged.” – Stephen King
Contender #1 – Long Tail Pro
Long Tail Pro
Long Tail Pro Keyword List
Long Tail Pro Expanded Keyword Info
Long Tail Pro Adding Keywords
Long Tail Pro Rankings
Quick Facts: Huge upgrade launched in July 2015 | 70,000+ users | Created by Spencer Haws from NichePursuits.com | Currently in Version 3 | Uses Adobe Air | Has a $1 Trial
Hot and in fashion Long Tail Pro has been flavor of the year for 2016. It has had a surge in popularity in the past few months and deserves the credit it has received. What Long Tail Pro lacks in advanced power user features it certainly makes up for in sheer simple usability and usefulness for bloggers like myself and those looking for quick and high quality keyword research on-the-go.
What stands out
I believe that Long Tail Pro’s strengths rest with its simplicity, speed and ease of use.
- As a blogger it allows one to easily gather keywords and ideas for posts without investing much time and effort.
- As an SEO agency with client proposals to write it perfectly allows the user to quickly gather some quality keyword research on-the-go.
- As a brand or e-commerce store Long Tail Pro will dig deep enough to find good keywords in a timely manner for new product ideas or for SEOing product pages.
If I could describe Long Tail Pro in three words I would say sleek, simplistic and complete. I could clearly see that the software was designed by a team that understands the needs of the variety of types of SEO specialists out there and the less SEO-informed who just need a simple tool that is powerful enough to present what they need without getting too technical.
1) Ease of use
Using Long Tail Pro is a breeze, there is nothing that you have to specifically learn or play around with for more than a minute to understand its use. Learning to use Long Tail Pro is a short sequence of going “oh, that’s pretty cool!” and moving onto the next feature.
Everything is laid out in a clear manner to the user and the settings area reveals just a small and simple set of options.
I often feel that usability is often overlooked among users and it demands respect as a real feature of a good tool and something that is often harder to achieve than the driving core process of the application itself. It is hard to find an application that works simply, swiftly and effectively and while using Long Tail Pro that’s exactly how it feels.
It has been a long time since I’ve come across a tool that has managed stay simple while being able to produce almost everything one needs. With that in mind I have to award Long Tail Pro 5 out of 5 John Muellers.
2) Interesting Features
Long Tail Pro has a number of good core features which help give a clear picture of the quality of keyword for SEO such as:
The Moz keyword metric
It uses an API provided by Moz to access data on a keyword, this is part of the Keyword Value Metrics I talk about later. This is a great feature for understanding the competition for a keyword and I believe the metric is very useful. Moz provides a wealth of information on a site’s core make-up. Being able to access this data through one API saves a lot of scraping for a keyword tool and it was very wise for the developers to use this API.
This is the average number of reviews for the top ten products showing in Amazon when the keyword is searched. This is useful for understanding how fierce the buying intent for products related to the keyword is. It also gives you an indication on if you should dig deeper for this keyword in Amazon to see what is available.
Rank tracking for your website
Long Tail Pro provides a crude rank tracking feature. When I tested it with the default settings I often found it to have gotten stuck on captchas and was not very effective. This is one of the only features which caused problems for me. Long Tail Pro might not have every feature out there, but it has what you need and that is what matters most, I don’t believe rank tracking is a feature that is very relevant to a keyword research tool and it feels a little bolted-on so to speak. In order for this feature to work properly the tool would likely need proxy options or an excessive delay on each request to Google.
Long Tail Pro does not have an amazing array of features, but it has exactly what you need for your initial keyword research needs. There are some features such as trends and other ways it could dig a little deeper but in all honestly, they are not essential and I think LTP has the right idea by keeping is simple. However I was slightly disappointed by the bolted-on rank tracker. I award Long Tail Pro 3.5 out of 5 for their features.
I found Long Tail Pro to be consistently successful when generating keywords, search volumes, Moz Keyword Metrics, Amazon Reviews and pulling data when clicking to open up a keyword’s data. However I did find a few issues with the Google Title Competition feature.
Long Tail Pro does not offer the option of using proxies that I have found and without using proxies Google throws up captchas while using this feature. The same can also be said for the Rank Checker which did not work for checking Google rankings.
I tried re-entering captchas for the rank checker but it simply was not working for me on several occasions. There is an option within the settings panel to change the delay between retrieving data from Google in order to prevent captchas and this might provide more success if set higher.
While using LTP I only ever experienced these few issues and I do believe that by increasing the delay in the settings it will resolve these issues but you might have to give Google a few hours or maybe a day to get back in their good graces once you trigger captchas consistently. The captcha problems could be fixed if LTP allowed for captcha solving and for proxies, but I’ve not been able to find out. I awarded Long Tail Pro 3 out of 5 John Muellers for reliability.
4) Keyword Value Metrics
Long Tail Pro uses their own calculated metric called and shown as “KC”, it is a metric to describe how competitive a keyword is. It uses the Moz API to pull the required data to calculate KC so you’ll need to register with Moz and get an API key. It takes a couple of minutes and is completely free so no worries there, LTP will also give you a prompt to get the API key when needed so don’t panic and wait for the prompt while using the tool.
According to the Long Tail Pro blog, this is the current formula for calculating competition:
KC = Page Authority (PA) +/- Page Title Factor +/- Keywords in Domain Factor +/- Domain Length
PA = (Several Factors including: Domain Authority, Site Age, Page Links, Juice Page Links, Social Signals, and More)
I think the most important part of the formula rests within the PA where Page Links are calculated. I’m not sure how Long Tail Pro pulls social data as I’m not aware that Moz API has this available and I haven’t seen any scraping in the debug section(You can find the debug panel in the settings).
The tool still has a more traditional competition metric that some SEOs still use such as Google Title Comp which is the basic Allintitile: query.
I think LTP has a well thought out and fantastic approach to calculating competition. The Moz API data it uses is reliable and trustworthy and the formula looks logical (if you actually attempt try to figure it out for yourself that is!). For Keyword Value Metrics I score 4 out of 5 John Muellers.
5) Test Run Results
I used our test keywords (SEO Techniques, Blackhat SEO and Keyword Research Tools) and recorded the data.
Long Tail Pro allows me to use all three keywords together when generating keyword ideas so this is a combined run of all three at once:
Time taken: 49 Seconds
Number of keywords found: 1944
I was surprised at how fast it was able to gather the keywords(Considering it uses a scraping technique) and the range of keywords found was very good too.
I found the whole process pretty simple, apart from having to enter my account password for Google there was nothing else I needed to do apart from wait less than a minute for the results. The list of keywords was on point and I found some nice little gems for this post. I award Long Tail Pro 5 out of 5 John Muellers for the test run.
It is clear why Long Tail Pro has risen to the top of the pile, it manages to do what other tools don’t by being lightweight, portable, fast and very easy to use. Perfect for technical SEOs looking for fast research and the lone non-techy company CEO or business manager doing a bit of homework on their own products. I only had a few minor issues with Long Tail Pro such as needing to install Adobe Air to use it, some initial setup and a few captcha problems.
Overall I can say I’ll definitely be using LTP in the future because of how easy it is to use and how quickly I can sort through lists to pick out the keywords I want to use and save for later. The final score LTP receives is 4.1 John Muellers out of 5.
Long Tail Pro Platinum
- Compatible with Mac & PC
- Good customer support
- Great value for money
Contender #2 – SEMrush
SEMrush Keyword Analysis Overview
SEMrush Keyword Analysis Example 1
SEMrush Keyword Analysis Example 2
Quick Facts: Completely website based – No desktop tools | Can be used on mobile or tablet | Incredibly popular and powerful | 8 years of updates and experience | A team of 270 in 4 offices behind SEMrush | 900,000 users | Constant updates for the past 8 years
For those of us who have been involved in SEO for over a decade SEMrush feels as old as SEO itself. A lot of SEO related tools tend to drop off and become stale over time, but SEMrush has gone from strength to strength by constantly reiterating and improving on their features. That kind of tenacity takes a lot of dedication and effort on behalf of the team developing it and I think that is commendable in itself.
SEMrush is like the Swiss Army Knife of SEO Tools, for most tools that fit this description they often try to do too much without doing it well enough, they often end up with a tool that feels clunky, unreliable and confusing because they don’t pay enough attention to what their users want and instead just cram as many features in as they can. The SEMrush toolset is the exception, it has an array of features for what feels like everything you need but it does not compromise on quality.
About this review…
The current Keyword Analysis feature of SEMrush is located in the menu on the left side of the screen under “Keyword Analysis”. However SEMrush is currently beta testing a new iteration of this tool called the “SEO Keyword Magic” tool.
I’m going to be basing my review off of both of them. I am doing this because I’ve tested both and I have found that the new SEO Keyword Magic tool is simply put, much much better than the current one.
I’ll still be using aspects of the Keyword Analysis tool as they are still both used together, but I can certainly say I felt the new tool is a big improvement. See the image to the right for the location of both tools in the menu.
What stands out
SEMrush has been in the game so long and developed such a great tool that it feels like they’ve achieved their core goals of creating a fantastic SEO tool with all of the features needed to be useful to bloggers, small businesses, big brand companies and SEO agencies.
What stands out to me about this observation is that with features like the new SEO Keyword Magic tool it is clear that SEMrush is trying to pioneer and develop new and more powerful tools that we might not have thought possible before. When a company begins pushing the boundaries like this while maintaining great quality in their work you know that they’re going to be one of the top providers around and worth taking notice of.
SEMrush has a lot of features and I felt that there was definitely some information overload at first. However, the information is always pretty relevant and while there is some learning curve that will be traversed before you get familiar with the tool, I don’t think it is excessive or a problem.
Ironically, for such a well developed tool I felt there was a lack of features within the keyword tool, but I’m not talking about a lack of information or data, I’m talking about the ability to sort through keyword lists, to save them inside a campaign or project and being able to filter.
Luckily, this is where the new SEO Keyword Magic tool kicks in. I found it to be much simpler, more powerful and easier to use than the Keyword Analysis tool. With the SEO Keyword Magic tool you can do several types of filtering that I’ve not seen in other keyword tools which I’ll talk about later. Exporting keywords now only takes a single click, the design and layout looks cleaner and I can see what I want right in front of me, no scrolling unless I needed to look down the list.
I find the SEO Keyword Magic tool very easy to use. However it does lack the power of the main Keyword Analysis tool as there is a limit on the amount of keywords you’re able to see and export which is disappointing.
I think SEMrush has realised some of the shortcomings with their current keyword analysis tool(In regards to Ease of use and usability) and is in the process of creating the SEO Keyword Magic tool to try and address it, but at the same time I don’t think they want to compromise on their focus of giving users large file exports of keywords so they may filter as they see fit. This is great for power users but not for those will little time, smaller requirements or those who simply want the keywords presented without having to export. I awarded SEMrush 4 out of 5 John Muellers for Ease of use.
2) Interesting Features
A unique and interesting idea. This feature will allow you to filter keywords based on different criteria of the Google search page. So for example, if you want to filter keywords that do not have videos on the page then click SERP Features and then check the box for Videos. This is a great little feature and it expands to all sorts of things such as Instant Answers, Knowledge Graph and about fifteen others to choose from.
Detailed Keyword Data
SEMrush is able to provide much more data on a keyword than most keyword tools. Clicking on a keyword will open up the overview of that keyword and a wealth of information about its trends over the past 12 months, the distribution of CPC by country and even a history of PPC ADs that have appeared for the keyword.
One-Click Keyword Filters
A small but really cool feature is a box to the left next of the main set of keywords. This box contains a list of words which appear in the keyword list, but the cool thing about this is that if you click the little eye icon next to a keyword it instantly filters all keywords containing this word from your main list. It is a small but really useful feature to help sort through lists quicker.
I find that SEMrush is focused on pure power, huge databases of keywords and a lot of data fetched really quickly and displayed all over the screen for you to absorb. With respect, I feel that SEMrush actually lacks a little in being able to sort through the keyword lists, however as I said previously, they are addressing this partially with the SEO Keyword Magic tool. For Features I score SEMrush 4 out of 5 John Muellers.
One of the great things about SEMrush is that it pulls a lot of its data from databases that it keeps. This might leave some data ever so slightly stale but the plus side is that everything is almost instantly delivered. It took very little time to gather related keywords and the other wealth of data that SEMrush delivers.
Another great reason for using databases is that SEMrush doesn’t need to scrape data from Google’s Keyword Tool using your computer and that means it has no need for proxies or captchas, all the data will be near instantly presented to you unless the site is down.
I only experienced one moment where some in-depth data would not be loaded, a minute or so later I refreshed rand it was working again.
There is only one issue I have with SEMrush concerning reliability and it ties in with a feature problem too. Other desktop keyword tools use savefiles containing the current research and even if your internet connection is down they can load up the data and sort through it. SEMrush doesn’t have this ability as it is completely website based, it also does not have the ability to save your progress into a campaign ready to be loaded on the next visit. All data must be experted via excel or CSV.
However I think it is worth mentioning, on the flip side, SEMrush can be used with your tablet or phone which is something most other tools are unable to do.
I think SEMrush is one of the most reliable tools for keyword research simply because it relies on their own databases and not your computer to gather the keywords. SEMrush has been live and rocking for 8 years now with minimal outages so it is definitely a tool you can rely on. I scored SEMrush 4 out of 5 John Muellers for reliability.
4) Keyword Value Metrics
Keyword Difficulty(KD). SEMrush uses their own built in formula to calculate a keyword’s competition from the data in their databases. The metric is a percentage from 0 – 100 with 0 being super easy to rank for and 100 being the hardest. I contacted SEMrush and was given this explanation of the metric:
“KD depends on domain strength of all the domains that are competing for a keyword in TOP-20. The more domains from this list are well positioned and strong overall, the more difficult it is to compete with them. Normally, from 70-80% and up would be highly-competitive keywords. -Nadia.”
Update 24th May 2016 – David Black, Director of Customer Success as SEMrush commented on Keyword Difficulty “We have our own SEMrush Rank which is based on the domains “visibility” in organic search. Naturally, you always see the big guys at the top, wikipedia, youtube, amazon, etc. Well, Domain Strength, as Nadia described is a scaled version of the SEMrush Rank from 0-100%. Keyword Difficulty is just the average Domain Strength of the top 20 domains on any given keyword. I hope this sheds a little more light on it.”
I feel like there is not enough information available on how the metric is calculated, I’m sure there are some good calculations being made behind the scenes but unless I can see it I can’t have confidence in it. These types of automated competition metrics are extremely important for quickly understanding the value of a keyword or the potential opening in a niche market. Unfortunately, for this KD metric I could only award 2.5 John Muellers out of 5.
5) Test Run Results
I used our test keywords (SEO Techniques, Blackhat SEO and Keyword Research Tools) and recorded the data.
Testing SEMrush was a little difficult because I had to test each keyword individually, there is no way to get related keyword for all three keywords together. What I found was that for each keyword it took around 2 seconds to retrieve the related keywords, which is magnificent. However, the SEO Keyword Magic tool only allows me to export a few keywords, so I had to use the main Keyword Analysis tool. This is fine, but I really would like to be able to save my keyword sets online and sort through lists to filter out keywords and to simply have the freedom to tinker with them online. I can filter keywords in the SEO Keyword Magic tool but it doesn’t support very many keywords and I can’t save my progress or add them to a campaign, so I was a little disappointed there.
Number of keywords found: 3875
After I exported all of my keyword to excel, combined the sheets and removed duplicates I ended up with 3875 keywords which is a really good number. There are a damn lot of keywords in those excel sheets and with some excel wizardry to sort and filter keywords based on criteria one could dig deep and find some great long tails. This power user approach is fantastic, but I really would like to see a more non-techy friendly capacity to filter through such a big list, as I said earlier, a way to save progress and filter through keywords is needed here.
I would lose to see campaigns that I can save keywords to, but for the purposes of this particular test I have to award 5 out of 5 John Muellers for speed and sheer volume of keywords. Good o you, SEMrush!
In a world where technology is advancing at a lightening pace and the demands of marketers are ever increasing SEMrush has delivered for both power users and the small businessman, blogger or big brand CEO. SEMrush has been pushing boundaries for the past 8 years and I don’t expect them to stop now so I believe it is safe to say that they will be continually evolving and developing their tools for years to come, there are not many tools I could give the same description.
I think a lot of SEMrush’s power rests with the databases it uses to store keywords and data. The lightening fast retrieval speed and the huge numbers of keywords it can export is a testament to this. However I feel like it leaves me high and dry afterwards. I certainly want to see more in terms of keep these keyword lists and sorting through them. I know a lot of potential customers who use SEMrush in the past but don’t have ways or time to filter through excel sheets. The final score SEMrush receives is 3.9 John Muellers out of 5.
- Compatible with tablets and mobile
- Excellent customer support
- More tools than you’ll ever need
Reviewing these two juggernauts has not been easy. They are BOTH amazing tools for KWR and while this post is already very long there is so much more to talk about with each tool.
I think some final points that stick in my mind with each tool are:
Long Tail Pro
- Incredibly easy to use
- Save campaigns for later use
- Great Keyword Value Metric
- Presents data very well, everything is pretty clear
- Mac compatible
- Free trial
- Great Power user tool
- An SEMrush subscription provides MORE than just KWR tools
- Great customer support
- No need for scraping, pulling keywords and Keyword Value Metrics is almost instant
- Can be used on tablets, mobile and Mac
- Constantly being updated and has some great tools in the pipeline
The good news is that there is no wrong decision when picking between these two. The scores we saw earlier show that Long Tail Pro edged SEMrush by 0.2 John Muellers. I don’t think that is enough to separate them so it really comes down to personal opinion now.
I think logically, SEMrush has to win because there is so much more there for a user to look at and use. But personally, if I’m honest, I simply like using Long Tail Pro more than SEMrush in its current state. This will probably change if SEMrush can give the SEO keyword Magic Tool the ability to use as many keywords as the main tool and if they give me the ability to save campaigns of keywords. I think that would be enough for me to choose it over LTP and I really would like to see those changes.
As of this moment in time I crown Long Tail Pro as the winner of this colossal bout between giants of the Keyword Research arena.
Next time you see this someone asking about the best keyword research tool in a forum – feel free to use this post to help them.
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I sincerely hope this comparison is useful to you, your company and your business. If you do find it useful and would like to say thanks then please please do SHARE THIS POST using the various social media icons below. That would be the best “thank you” you could give.