Good keyword research produces the linguistic DNA by which your business is found, and it should be used in everything from product databases through URLs to social media posts.
So why do I tell you to stop paying for it?
Because almost everyone selling keyword research uses tools that provide unreliable data–including Google’s own tools, which are often the underlying source of many other tools. As of this September, this problem just got worse (for details, see http://moz.com/blog/keyword-research-and-targeting-without-exact-match-whiteboard-friday).
I’ve arrived at a method for integrating the data from a few sources, but this adds so much cost that until I streamlined this process, for about three years I did not sell keyword research to smaller businesses. And even well funded clients had several more cost-effective tasks on the list.
The crux of the matter is that good keyword research is all about the longer, more specific phrases (the “long-tail”) because they contain the shorter, more competitive and searched for phrases. And it’s precisely the long tail data that is unreliable in all sub-$10,000/yr. tools. And no, Google’s Hummingbird update (like its 14 years of predecessors) does not reduce the importance of exact matches in SEO writing.
Bottom line: if your SEO vendor or employee doesn’t explain this situation and how they deal with it, don’t proceed.