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Major Changes to Google’s Keyword Planner

A favourite Google tool is the Keyword Planner – originally known as the Google Keyword Tool – which is used by many SEO and AdWords professionals to research the keywords being used on Google. However, access to this tool has recently undergone some significant changes, the main one being that it’s now necessary to have an active Google AdWords account to access the full data available to users.

The Keyword Planner is a free AdWords tool for advertisers to enable users to build new search campaigns in AdWords or to expand existing ones, but it’s just as useful to identify the best search terms to target through an SEO campaign. It’s possible to search for keyword and adgroup ideas, see how a list of keywords might perform, and create a new keyword list by multiplying several lists of keywords together.

Amongst other changes introduced fairly recently is that now, instead of showing individual search volume estimates for each keyword or keyword phrase, Google has decided it would be better to lump all of that data together. So even though the keywords ‘SEO’ and ‘search engine optimisation’ are two different search variants, Google displays the search volume for both as the same. So while you might think that each keyword or keyword phrase has unique figures for its searches per month, Google actually adds these two terms’ results, to display the combined total for both.

It’s worth noting that the Google Keyword Planner’s figures have never been 100% accurate and this combined figure means that the tool is even less reliable than it used to be. As well as lumping data together, which can be an inaccurate way to perform keyword research or estimate search volumes for a Google Adwords campaign and it’s been speculated by some that there might be additional keywords included in with this data, completely skewing accurate estimates. This is why experienced SEO professionals use other premium tools, like Moz and SEMRush.

In summary, the Google Keyword Planner is now combining:

  • Plurals with non-plurals for any word in the keyword phrase
  • Some acronyms with longhand version (e.g. ‘SEO’ and ‘search engine optimisation’)
  • Stemming variants: -er, -ing, -ized, -ed etc keywords (ie. designer, designing, designed)
  • Words that can be spelled with or without space (ie. car park and carpark)
  • Words with and without punctuation (ie. kid toys and kid’s toys)

These aren’t always the case however, as ‘Christmas Day’ and ‘Xmas Day’ have different search volume results, which means that while Google is combining some data together, that’s not a hard and fast rule across the board.

The other main change to the Keyword Planner is access. You would need to have an AdWords account to have full access to the data available from this tool, but not necessarily an active one, although this has now changed so that the data is more limited unless you are running an actively spending AdWords account. Although the spend is not necessarily high, it does mean that users do need to be spending money on AdWords for at least several weeks before being able to see the keyword data, which will otherwise be shown with some broad and fairly meaningless number ranges.

If you want to know more about how we can help your business succeed through essential keyword research, contact us now for details.