I’ve found google trends to be an interesting way to see if a keyword (and by extension a niche) is growing or shrinking, and whether it’s seasonal or not. I can’t think of any other tool out there that can reliably tell you this information, so that’s really useful. Also, if you’re building a site, especially an authority site, getting onto something that’s trending upwards is a fantastic idea.
This tool was originally created to carry out keyword research for paid campaigns using Google's AdWords platform. However, it can also be used to research organic keywords, providing estimated global/local monthly search volumes for keywords (i.e. their popularity) and their competition (i.e. how difficult they are to rank for) for organic search.