RankIQ vs Keysearch: A detailed comparison of 2 food blog keyword research tools, how they have helped me increase my Google traffic and which one is a better choice if you want to invest in only 1 food blogging keyword tool
I started my Asian Recipes food blog determined to turn it into my full-time job.
Unfortunately, for the 1st year or so, I focused on the wrong things: I spent a lot of time on Instagram (@greedygirlgourmet) and neglected SEO, as I felt that the latter was too challenging for me to master efficiently. (I also didn't put any recipes on the blog so, looking back, I really don't know what I was thinking!)
Then, a few months ago, Instagram locked me out of my own account, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as I turned my time to food blog SEO instead and these 3 months have already been more fruitful than the last 3 years of work on Instagram! (From bleeding money not the blog, I now have 4 very small income streams, just enough to offset blog expenses.)
Note: I've recently started working on Pinterest, after taking Allison's Jumpstart Your Pinterest course (Click through for a review.)
Food blog SEO Resources
Top Hat Rank webinars
I started out by listening to the free SEO webinars by Top Hat Rank (click the link for the summaries) and 1 of the SEO experts on them, Casey Markee, recommended the Cooking with Keywords food blog keyword research course.
Cooking with Keywords
Initially, I dithered over whether to sign up, as I wasn't earning anything from the blog (and I'm already paying for monthly hosting etc) but I am so glad I did, as it helped me to better understand what I was doing wrong and what I needed to do going forward to make Google like me more. (Aleka, the course teacher, recommends 1 paid keyword research tool such as Keysearch to get full value from Cooking with Keywords, although she does share free options as well- click here for my loooong review of Keysearch for food bloggers.)
A quick summary of the course's impact is that it helped me increase my Google traffic by 154% in just 1 month's time & helped me earn my 1st ever income blogging (if you're interested in income reports, leave a comment and I'll be happy to share going forward :)) - but click here for a full review of the Cooking with Keywords course. (Note: the boost was also partially thanks to seasonal traffic.)
Encouraged by my success, I decided to sign up for RankIQ, an AI-powered SEO that a full-time food blogger friend had been recommending for some time and that I'd put off due to the expense. I have a comprehensive RankIQ review available through this link, explaining how it works and how it has helped my blog (88% increase in Google clicks just based on updating old posts using RankIQ, for example.)
You may have noticed that, this graph shows traffic for 1 updated post only. Obviously 1 post is not sufficient "evidence" and in my RankIQ review, I go into more detail about the change to search traffic for all the updated posts in total.
Although I find looking at only the RankIQ-targeted posts more useful than measuring the change in Google search traffic for my entire site (due to the fact that I'll naturally lose Google clicks during this period due to it being just after a major Asian holiday), if you're really curious about my site-wide stats, here you go.
According to Google Search Console, I had 223 daily Google clicks on Feb 15, which is when I first used RankIQ (I updated an old post) and on March 20, I had 348 Google clicks. In other words, in spite of the fact that the end of Feb/ March is off-season for Asian food blogs (it's after Chinese New Year and thus there's an organic loss in traffic), my total Google clicks still increased by 52.5% after using RankIQ for 1 month on 19 blog posts (about 4 new posts written about keywords selected from the RankIQ library with the rest being updates of my old posts.)
Note: I cancelled Keysearch mid-Feb to make sure there's no overlap and these results are purely from using RankIQ. Around May 2022, I decided to give SEMRush a go and am loving it so far. Finding high volume, low competition keywords with SEMRush is just as quick as with RankIQ! I haven't explored its other functions yet, and once I do, I'll share my thoughts on how this SEO marketing tool compares to the others.
As the 2 keyword research tools- Keysearch and RankIQ- have some similar functions, I decided to specifically compare their effectiveness in increasing Google search traffic, to see which is a better investment if you only have the money to get 1 tool. (In the perfect world, I'd like to have both on-hand, but funds are always tight for new bloggers!)
My food blog keyword research tool review will thus look at these 3 aspects of RankIQ vs Keysearch in detail:
- Writing new posts:
- How easy is it to find keywords 1 can rank for?
- How reliable is the "competition score"- does 1 actually rank for the "easy" keywords? If yes, how quickly does 1 do so?
- How much traffic do these posts bring in?
- Updating old posts: RankIQ's Content Optimizer vs Keysearch's Content Assistant
- Did my Google traffic increase after updating and, if so, by how much?
- How quick is the process for each tool?
- Rank tracking
- Customer service
Note: if you want to learn more about these functions of RankIQ and Keysearch, please click on the respective links to check out my full, rather long-winded reviews of these tools. Keysearch does have some functions that RankIQ does not, such as YouTube research, but none that I particularly miss 🙂
Finding keywords I can rank for: ease & speed
The process is extremely fast with RankIQ- that is its whole premise after all (it is a keyword library specifically dedicated to low competition keywords with decent search volume. Initially, I wanted to add up all the keywords that were relevant for my food blog in the RankIQ libraries but after going through 10 or so of the niches, I had to give up as THERE WERE JUST TOO MANY KEYWORDS, even though I was only looking at the "ultra fast" and "very fast" ones!
Note: if you have a non-Western blog, like I do, and are wondering if RankIQ would have suitable keywords for you, it even has whole sections devoted to "Indian" recipes, "curry" recipes etc so I didn't have any problems finding keywords that fit my South East Asian Food niche.
So far, I've written posts for both "ultra fast" keywords and "very fast" keywords from the RankIQ keyword library: for both, I've always ranked within the Top 5 SERP within 24 hours, according to Google Insights. When I've gotten round to trying the "fast" and "average" keywords, I'll update again with the results for those.
In summary, it is very easy to find keywords that even a low-DA blogger can successfully rank for using RankIQ (I have a whole long list of long tail keywords waiting for me to find time to write posts on them now- my DR, according to Ahrefs, is a measly 4.5 so if I can rank, anyone can :P) and the difficulty levels assigned to the various keywords on RankIQ are pretty accurate, based on my experience. Moreover, the ranking process is also extremely quick.
If you're wondering whether it would be possible to rank without using the RankIQ Content Optimiser, I'm sure you can if you manage to find a low-competition keyword that is the right target difficulty for your blog. (The Cooking with Keyword course teaches how to do so and I used what was taught to write some of my highest-traffic posts.) However, it will take time to find these keywords and you may not rank quite as quickly.
Quite inadvertently, I wrote a post based on an "ultra fast" keyword I found in the RankIQ library but forgot to run it through the Content Optimiser. It took 2 days before my post showed up in Google Insights, and it was tottering between page 1 and 2, with a position of 10+. For all the other posts that I've optimised using RankIQ, I've always ranked in the Top 5 within 24 hours.
Anyway, I left it for a week or so to see if it would move up (it didn't) and so I've just run the post through RankIQ to make sure my post is as Google-friendly as possible and corrected my mistake but thought this serendipitous finding would be of interest to you.
So Keysearch differs from RankIQ in that it doesn't have a keyword library per se: instead, you get to choose any keyword you want and check (among other things) its search volume and competition score, which tells you how many people look for that keyword and how difficult it is to rank for it. The difficulty levels are colour-coded and the higher the number, the more difficult it will be to appear on the 1st page of Google for that keyword. So technically, I can use Keysearch (which is cheaper than RankIQ) to hunt for low-competition keywords and save money.
Not very accurate
Unfortunately, I personally find that the Competition Scores on Keysearch are not very accurate. Everyone says when you find a light blue keyword on Keysearch (i.e. easy to rank for) GO FOR IT and, after searching long and hard, I did manage to find a few such keywords. However, when I checked the current Search results, the keywords didn't seem that easy to me based on my competitor analysis but I decided to give them a go and, as expected, I didn't manage to rank for quite a few of those posts! (In contrast, I ranked quite high in the SERP (search engine results page) for keywords that Keysearch deemed more difficult.)
Note: I don't claim to write perfectly SEO-optimised posts. However, whatever mistakes I make when I write my KeySearch posts will be the same ones made when writing the RankIQ posts, so it's a level playing field for both tools, so to speak.
Even in the cases where I did rank for a keyword that Keysearch deems to be "easy", the process was quite slow- it took several weeks for me to make it onto the 1st page of Google using Keysearch, whilst it happened almost overnight with RankIQ. For example, 1 of the long tail keywords I found only saw me ranked 14 after publishing in early January 6. It was only in mid February that I moved up to 7.8 (and now in mid-March, I'm in the Top 5- thank you Cooking with Keywords!)
Note: I prefer comparing apples to apples and using the same metrics. However, I'm using a screenshot of GSC above and not Google Insights here as this post is over a month old and no longer shows up in Google Insights, which only displays data for the last 28 days.
Another examples is how when 1 of the recipes had 2 possible names, Keysearch gave 1 a competition score in its 30s and the other in its 20s, so I obviously chose the "easier" keyword. Lo and behold, my post actually ranks HIGHER for the more difficult keyword!
Suffice to say, I don't have much faith in Keysearch's competition score 😛 Thankfully, the Cooking with Keywords course taught me how to do my own assessment of whether I can rank for a keyword and I find this much more accurate than Keysearch. The only thing is, it definitely takes longer to do so than simply pulling a keyword out of the RankIQ keyword library.
I used Keysearch for 10 weeks and only managed to find 3 long tail keywords with low competition. However, do note that you can always target keywords above your difficulty level, as your blog will only grow in strength as time goes by, if you keep working on it (i.e. you may not rank now, but you may rank next year!)
Note: Brandon Gaille (of RankIQ) uses SEMRush as a point of comparison in his introductory video, but it's more expensive and confusing to use than RankIQ & KeySearch as it has soooo many functions(at least 2x more). Moreover, the general principle is the same: whether it is KeySearch, Ahrefs or SEMRush, their value proposition is offering you millions of keywords to search for and lots of searches.
That's great but it does make it more tricky and time consuming to use compared to using RankIQ's keyword library which is a compendium of low-competition, decent volume keywords. (He likes to say low competition, high volume keywords, but that's quite subjective- I'd say the keywords all get decent volume but not necessarily all high volume.) SEMRush and Ahrefs offer good value as they have a lot of additional capabilities but you may not need those functions if you just have 1 blog.
Update: I've just started trying SEMRush- and ma loving it- as Aleka (of Cooking with Keywords) has mentioned that as we get more familiar with keyword research, Keysearch may get more frustrating/ restrictive, something I definitely agree with!
RankIQ Content Optimizer vs Keysearch Content Assistant: updating old posts
Both Keysearch & RankIQ have a similar content optimisation function. i.e. a tool that shows you how to write a best post that Google will love. It's called Content Assistant in Keysearch & Content Optimiser in RankIQ. (I won't go into how both work, as I've outlined that in their respective reviews.)
Updating posts: change in Google traffic
Looking just at the search engine results, the posts I updated using Keysearch had a 39% (208 to 289 clicks)- 66% (250 to 416 clicks) increase in the number of Google clicks whilst RankIQ updated posts generated 88+% more Google traffic. (If I look at all the Keysearch optimised posts, the net increase in Google clicks is 39%. However, 1 of the updated posts could have a seasonal element to it, so if I remove that post from the equation, the change in Google traffic becomes 66%.)
Note: I updated the Keysearch posts first, so their effect was measured over a longer period of over a month, in comparison to RankIQ, for which some posts have only been republished a week or so ago. Generally, it takes at least a few days before I see an increase in traffic, regardless of which tool I use.
Do note that I did see decreases in traffic for 1 post updated using RankIQ & 1 post updated using Keysearch, but the net effect is a 39/66-88% increase when measuring the impact on all the updated posts (i.e. I gained more Google clicks than I lost.)
Updating old posts: Google rankings
Generally, I care more about the actual number of page views than rankings (as the first is more closely related to monetisation of my blog), but just in case you were wondering about rankings: 13 of my most searched keywords in the last 28 days came from RankIQ-optimised posts, according to Google Insights. (All of these posts had not ranked prior to updating using the Content Optimiser.) In contrast, only 1 of the most searched keywords in the last 28 days came from a Keysearch Content Assistant-optimised post.
In terms of trending keywords, according to Google Insights, 20 of these came from the RankIQ-optimised posts, and only 1 from Keysearch-optimised in the last 28 days.
I have 104 posts in total, and only 19 which have been run through RankIQ. If we translate this into percentages, this means that 18.3% of my blog posts were RankIQ optimised, but 26% (13 of 50) -40% (20 of 50) of my top keywords are from RankIQ. I.e. the RankIQ posts are working much harder than the other posts on my website!
Note: Google Insights only shows the data for 50 keywords. Also, if you're wondering why I don't just run all my posts through RankIQ, Brandon has kindly outlined some criteria to determine whether a post should be updated in his podcast and most of my content is too new to benefit from an update. (The rest is too irrelevant in Google's eyes to warrant updating.)
Content Optimiser vs Content Assistant: ease of use
RankIQ wins hands down again- Content Optimiser is just so much more user-friendly and I can update my posts on it much more quickly than I can with Keysearch. (It's not perfect, just much much better than Keysearch. As food blogging is such a big category, Brandon actually shows you how to use the Content Optimiser to write a recipe post in his intro video.)
Here are some other things I prefer about RankIQ:
- the RankIQ Content Optimiser GRADES your content, so you know exactly how much more optimising you need to do before your post can rank well. With Keysearch, I had to go with my gut feel.
- in RankIQ, it is immediately obviously which keywords you need to add to the post you are optimising (you can set it to just show the words you are missing), but it is not at all obvious with Keysearch (both the missing and already included words are shown, just differentiated by color.) I often find myself adding the wrong words and only realising at the end of the update.)
- Not to mention the fact the Keysearch shows the keywords on different pages, so you need to toggle back and forth to see which ones you've added/ are missing/ have inadvertently deleted (RankIQ shows everything on the same page)
- You can do some (not all) formatting with RankIQ: for example, links, photos and headings carry over between RankIQ and WordPress. I found that most of my formatting disappeared with Keysearch- I guess it's not so much of an issue when you're publishing new posts as you can always write then format but it is a PAIN when updating old posts. Lots of wasted time.
The 1 thing that I preferred about the Keysearch Content Assistant is that is also shows frequently asked questions for you to include in your post- unfortunately, for all the posts I was updating, the questions shown were totally weird and irrelevant, but hopefully that would improve with time...(An instance is when I was writing a Korean recipe post, and the FAQs were all about Japanese crackers... I hope Keysearch realises that these are 2 different countries who, more often than not, don't like each other that much?)
RankIQ for the win again.
Both tools are pretty easy to use but, once in a while, something will crop up that isn't quite clear. I messaged Keysearch in mid-Feb with a question and haven't heard back: frankly, I don't even remember the question now because it's been so long!
In contrast, with RankIQ, you get "live" support as there is a Facebook Group for RankIQ in which you can post your questions and Brandon will reply. For an example of the kind of queries people ask in the group, and Brandon's answers, read my full review of RankIQ 2022.
Moreover, there is a "Click for Help" button within the RankIQ tool itself. I've sent in queries several times and, each time, I received a reply within 24 hours.
RankIQ wins hands down. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE RankIQ's rank tracker as it speeds up the process and saves me SO much time!
Why do I love RankIQ's rank tracker? Primarily because it saves you a ton of time: the information is presented so clearly that it's extremely easy to absorb and see which part of your blog needs work/ which efforts of yours have paid off.
RankIQ actually pulls its data from Google Search Console (GSC) so, technically, you could probably do everything that it doesn't on your own. HOWEVER, it is a super slow process to use GSC to monitor the keywords yourself- you have to toggle between tabs and click on MANY sections to get the data, all of which adds up to a LOT of time. I used to use GSC to monitor my keywords and posts quite a bit, but I have never managed to cover everything as extensively as the RANKIQ rank tracker does, because I just don't have the bandwidth to do so. (There may be a more efficient way to use GSC, but I've not discovered it yet.)
Unlike Keysearch, you don't appear to be limited to the number of keywords that you can track on RankIQ. As far as I can tell, RankIQ tracks all my keywords at no extra cost. (I only have about 100 posts at the moment, so I am not sure if this would hold true for a blog with many more keywords- I presume you would be restricted by the upper limit on Google Search Console and will email Brandon to check.)
I personally feel that it is very important to monitor ALL the keywords a posts ranks for (i.e. the RankIQ way) and not just 1 or 2 (i.e. the Keysearch way- unless you keep topping up and paying for more keywords) as you can easily update a post you should NOT touch if you only look at 1 or 2 words.
This is what happened to me in December! At that time, I was using Keysearch and limited to 50 keywords so I only tracked the most important keywords for each post. Based on the data I saw, I decided to update a post and traffic TANKED after that- it was 1 of my top posts too! (That's actually the 1st post in the screenshot below :P) I've tried to reverse the changes, but haven't been able to tell if the change has been effective. If not, I'll probably update it using RankIQ.
You can only track 50 keywords with the basic plan- to get any real value out of Keysearch's rank tracker, I feel you would first need to determine which are your most important keywords then manually track them.
As mentioned in my Keysearch 2022 review, in which I go into more detail about why Keysearch's rank tracker is not for me, you need to update each keyword individually to check on the position in real-time. I.e. if you are monitoring 50 keywords- which doesn't really cover many posts as my top posts rank for at least 50!- that will be 50 clicks (and every time a keyword has been updated, a pop up stops the screen, adding to the time it takes to update all 50.)
The 1 thing that I prefer about Keysearch's rank tracker is that you can quickly see who is in front of you in the SERP, which is useful if you've noticed that your rank for that keyword has fallen. However, because of the way the data is presented, it is hard to get an idea about whether the fall in rank is significant enough to merit updating the post. You really need to see the change in clicks & positions for ALL the keywords the post ranks for to decide. (Moreover, Aleka of Cooking with Keywords has mentioned that the Keysearch SERP isn't always accurate!)
Another advantage that Keysearch has over RankIQ, in terms of rank tracking is that you can pull up a graph tracking the rank of 1 keyword. However, it can sometimes be misleading e.g. it says you rank 15 but the graph marks position 20 (or maybe I'm just reading it wrongly? I do have a Masters in Business Administration though, so my graph-reading skills shouldn't be too dire!)
To cut a long story short, I find RankIQ's rank tracker much more practical and efficient than Keysearch and am a big fan of it. However, if I was to invest in an SEO tool JUST for rank tracking, there may be better tools out there. (I haven't tried any besides these 2 but I've heard Ahrefs' rank tracker is good. Aleka also has a course all about rank tracking if this is an area you want to learn more about- I've not found time to sign-up for it, so can't comment on it.)
This is where Keysearch shines- it is cheaper. The starter plan is about $13.20 to $17 (depending on whether you have the 20% discount code- "KSDISC.") Even if you downgrade to 8 queries a month, RankIQ will still cost $29/month (or $49/month for 16 queries.)
However, in my opinion, it's really value that counts at the end of the day and not price, which is why I left this section for last. In terms of value, RankIQ wins for me.
The questions I asked myself are:
- can I afford $29/ month? If not, then the comparison between the 2 tools is moot!
- What do I prioritise? The $12-$32 extra dollars a month OR working more efficiently and freeing up my time to use on both parts of my blog/ life? (RankIQ has sped up my work process so much I confess I've become a bit lazy :P)
- How many posts can I actually write a month? Will I be able to write more than 8 (what I get with RankIQ's most basic plan)? If I don't write more than 8 posts a month, the fact that I can run more searches on Keysearch (vs RankIQ) won't really benefit me!
To summarise the above for RankIQ vs Keysearch:
- RankIQ makes it much faster to write new posts than Keysearch. These posts also rank in Google more consistent and more quickly.
- When it comes to updating old posts, RankIQ increased the number of Google clicks by 88% whilst Keysearch only raised it by 39-66%
- Moreover, the RankIQ Content Optimiser is much easier to use, and I can update more posts more efficiently than I can with Keysearch
- In terms of rank tracking, RankIQ again helps me work more effectively than Keysearch
- When I need help, I get a reply within 24 hours from RankIQ (it's been over a month from Keysearch and still radio silence)
All in all, I prefer RankIQ to Keysearch. If you are a blogger looking to build up your traffic as quickly and efficiently as possible, and value freeing up time to use on other things, I would recommend RankIQ instead (and would be super grateful if you would use my affiliate link, at no cost to you :))
Note: That is not to say that RankIQ is for everyone- I've covered this in my review of it. For example, for super successful bloggers that go after big keywords such as "roast chicken" i.e. ones which high volume AND high competition with the juggernauts such as Serious Eats & what not ranking, I am not sure if RankIQ is the right keyword SEO tool for them. As I have not tried using RankIQ for such competitive keywords (my DA is on the low side), I don't know how well it works for these types of posts. I promise to try when creating seasonal content at the end of the year, and will update you on the results after doing so.
Lastly, Keysearch is quite a bit cheaper than RankIQ, so if it's not possible to fork out an extra monthly $12 for a blog that is not generating any income, Keysearch is a decent and affordable keyword research tool, if you have the time to spare. (Note: you will need to understand how to do effective keyword research for Keysearch to work for you. If you aren't familiar with it, I highly recommend the Cooking with Keywords keyword research course, and I've shared an overview of my experience.
Other food blog SEO posts
Before you go, you may also be interested in these posts on building backlines & traffic for food blogs: