The Google Keyword Tool is SUPER helpful for building a foundation for your keyword research strategy. At the end of the day, these search numbers are coming straight from the horses mouth. You can filter down to a hyper-local level and see which keywords are getting the largest search volume. Plus, with it’s integration with PPC you can get a quick idea about commercial intent by looking at the bid and competition metrics. How much are people bidding on KWs, higher = more likely to generate a return. Usually its aligned with search intent. That said, the trending data is a little less reliable. I would still use Trends to analyze the popularity/ seasonality of KW search volume.
The simplest KW research tool is google. Type in your topic and scroll to the bottom to see what related results show up. Use those to either write an article or to supplement other articles with some of the keywords. Yes, they are primary phrases so you may not rank for them right away but building your site with these in it will help get rank for them eventually. Also look at what other articles that show up for the keyword use.
In a nutshell, Long Tail Pro helps you quickly find keywords in bulk based on a seed keyword that you input. In addition to returning hundreds of related keywords, the tool also shows search volume (monthly search volume), advertiser bid, number of words, rank value, and my favorite Keyword Competitiveness (helps you judge the competition and keyword difficulty).