Let’s talk about those changes to Google’s keyword planner tool.
In late June, SEO nerds at large reported a major change to everyone’s most accessible keyword research tool for SEO.
Instead of showing individual search volume estimates for each keyword or keyword phrase, Google decide it’d be a grand idea to lump all of that data together.
Now, Google keyword planner is by no means 100% accurate. In fact, Google Keyword Planner actually hides a lot of data from those who don’t have a Google Adwords account. Sneaky! That’s why SEO professionals like myself use other premium tools, like Moz and SEMRush.
So what does this mean? How do you use the Google Keyword Research Tool?
Take a look at the screen shot below.
Even though 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 over 18,000 searches per month, Google is actually just combining these two phrases to display that together they have over 18,000 searches.
This means that the Google Keyword Research Tool is even less reliable than it used to be. Oy vey! On top of lumping data together – an incredibly inaccurate way to perform keyword research or run a Google Adwords campaign – it’s been speculated by some that there might be additional keywords lumped in with this data, completely skewing accurate estimates.
In a nutshell, the Google Keyword Research Tool for SEO is now combining:
· Plurals with non-plurals for any word in the keyword phrase
· Some acronyms with longhand version
· 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)
But that’s not entirely true. Here’s a screenshot of a search I performed earlier.
As you can see, different results for the same subject, but different keyword phrases. This means that while Google is lumping some data together, that's not a rule across the board.
What does this mean for me? Is there a keyword research tool alternative?
Despite Google Keyword Planner becoming increasingly unreliable, there are plenty of other ways to perform keyword research. Of course, many of these are paid for. There’s SEM Rush with plans that start from US$70/month, Keywordtool.io, and like I mentioned, UberSuggest. But many of these free tools are useless for local businesses. For example, I can’t get accurate data for ‘melbourne copywriter’ for Melbourne specifically unless I pay for it.
What to do next?
To flog an old, dead but highly significant horse, focus on providing good content and not on keyword stuffing. Of course, accurate search variants and knowing what niche keywords you should use - or long tail keywords - is going to be important for many businesses. It's often the long tail, low search volume keywords that will get you traffic! If you're a small business, competing with the big guys for highly competitive keywords is useless. You need those long tail, unknown keywords that Google won't show you if you're going to get any eyeballs on your business.
But I understand that “Focus on being helpful” is an often directionless, futile and trite adage, particularly when you need to know your user’s intent.
So here are a few options for you:
1. Use Google’s auto complete feature to find keyword phrases you might be missing. A few premium keyword research tools use the data extract from auto complete, so that is one way you can get around paying upwards of $80 a month.
2. Hire a professional to perform an SEO audit for you. If you don’t have time or the resources to do this yourself, hiring a professional SEO or SEO copywriter is an option. They'll analyse your entire website structure, your website copywriting and off-page factors, and then make recommendations based on this data. It's an effective way to start your strategy to rank higher on Google, and get more eyes on your business website. And they'll use those premium tools to find those keywords which will actually be valuable for your business.
3. Scour forums, chat boards and Facebook groups for search terms your customers or clients are using, and any problems they might be facing. I quite often use Whirlpool.com.au for research for one client in the real estate industry, and sometimes Reddit.com has used useful too.
Explore your options and figure out what works best for your business, client base and budget. There’s no one size fits all approach, so be sure to track your results, and pivot from there.