Google have decided, rather unsportingly, to turn off the widely-used autocomplete API on August 10th 2015. This has understandably put elements of the search community ill at ease, given that a large proportion of search optimisation and online marketing is based around researching the data that google provides. Even in the age of personalised searches, google hummingbird and 15% of queries being new every day, the business intelligence and insight that tools such as ubersuggest and keywordtool.io could provide was considerable.
Many have speculated before that google is intentionally making the lives of internet marketers more difficult, amongst other things, by removing the wonder wheel, then google analytics keyword data, and now the autocomplete API. Most conspiracy theorists believe that this is in an effort to force more revenue through the adwords business model rather than through organic search, but regardless of the specific details the problem of competitive information loss remains.
Fortunately, there are a number of methods that one can use to gain keyword insights, both in terms of commercial queries and informational data, which can work just as well (or even better) than basic autosuggest tools.
Given that most keyword suggestion tools were free anyway, it would make sense to list those first.
Semantic-link is very useful. It finds semantically-related keywords that you can explore for developing ideas for content in many subject areas (it only works with one word at a time)
It works by grabbing results from Wikipedia, so think of it as a Wikipedia search tool. An example of some results for major league baseball, or MLB:
Results can then be clicked on to provide further ideas. This can be helpful for discovering topics and concepts to write about, and from a link-building perspective it can be helpful for searching google as well.
Soovle is unusual in that it provides autosuggest features from multiple search engines at once, as well as google:
Which is great for doing autosuggest-based research en masse.
Builtvisible's Content Strategy Helper
The content strategy helper is just that- a google spreadsheet that pulls in data from a number of sources (including Reddit,Digg and Yahoo Answers)
It is primarily intended as an aide to writing news articles and blog posts but it can also be used for more general topical research.
FAQfox takes a relatively simple idea (looking for questions and answers across the web in a given area) and allows the user to select where they would like to look for popular Q+A’s on a given subject:
You may then export the results, which can provide valuable insight into areas of keywords you may wish to explore further.
Contentforest searches through recently published blogpost titles on a keyword basis, which is particularly useful for brainstorming ideas and keywords for your own blogposts and news stories.
Mainly useful as a competitive research tool, nichelaboratory analyses the top 10 search results for a given keyphrase and then provides a detailed report on them, including metadescriptions, page titles and word clouds, which can often provide extra insights on keywords that competitors may be trying to optimise for. Additionally, although the meta keywords tag has long been defunct, many websites will still continue to put all possible keywords that they wish to rank for into their meta keywords box, which can prove to be unintentionally useful for a savvy competitor.
A free alternative to scrapebox (below) Searchtoolbox allows you to 'scrape' a large number of keywords from a variety of search engines including bing, eBay and amazon (the latter two are more useful for keyword research of commercially-orientated search terms)
Paid alternatives for commercial and informational search queries
One of the internet marketing community's favourite pieces of software, SEMrush has a wealth of information at their fingertips for both long and short tail keyword phrases:
As well as providing varied keyword information (here, for 'football shirts' SEMrush also provides details on the competition levels, result numbers, search volume, and trends of keywords in its database.
On the face of it, not something that you'd consider using for keyword research, but the full licence version of screaming frog can be very useful to us here, in a similar vein to FAQfox above (analysing communities for research purposes).
I'm slightly surprised that no one talks about this kind of option more. Why not tap into the communities that grow up around niche topic areas to your advantage for your research? For example, you could use screaming frog to extract URLs to examine for topics from:
-Good quality forums
Although not a perfect example, this taken from the jeepforum.com vendor subforum illustrates how a marketer could potentially use screaming frog to explore options insofar as keyword targeting is concerned, by looking at the page titles of forum posts:
The free version of Screaming Frog can still be useful, as it can crawl up to 500 pages-you may simply need to do one section of a given forum at a time. Also, a free option to the excellent screaming frog is Beam us up, which is not as well-known but works fairly well for crawling purposes).
As we have seen before, Scrapebox has many more uses than the blog commenting tool it is most often referred to as. One little-known function of the software is to perform keyword research:
As well as google, there are options for:
YouTube (valuable for video research)
There are also plenty of commercially-orientated engines in there as well such as google product search, eBay, Alibaba, and so on.
Other paid alternatives
There are also other highly-regarded paid alternatives such as Spyfu, Longtailpro and Market Samurai, that offer similar functionality based on keyword discovery. These tools are more robust from google’s planned change than the free tools as they do not rely exclusively on the autosuggest API. Spyfu, for example, along with SEMrush uses data from well over a dozen established keyword databases to draw its results.
Although tools such as ubersuggest will be sadly missed by those of us working within online marketing, it would be overly pessimistic to assume that keyword research will subsequently become much harder. Different approaches combined with alternative tools should yield the results that the autosuggest API provided previously.
Charlotte is chief whip when it comes to making sure words are in order at ICS-digital. You can get in touch with her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org