Seasons change. For many of us who relied heavily on the old Google Keyword Tool for research purposes outside of those related to paid search campaigns, the air felt downright frigid. Back in July, Google unveiled its plans to sunset Keyword Tool and urged its loyal (and extremely frugal) user base to start getting to know the Google Keyword Planner. This came as a shock to the system for some and had us scrambling to evaluate other options including paid keyword research services like WordTracker, WordStream, Raven and others.
Alas, I come bearing good news. While the new Keyword Planner definitely feels very different from its predecessor, it is also very helpful for SEOs, search engine marketers, content marketers and general keyword research hounds alike.
Here are some highlights of the subtle differences and similarities from old Tool to new Planner.
Keyword Tool vs. Keyword Planner – The Similarities
Keyword Filters – When pulling a large list of keyword phrases, it can be helpful to filter this list to include or exclude important words related to our project. The include/exclude operators are still present in the Keyword Planner to save us time.
Self-Selected Keyword List – The old Tool allowed us to check each term that we would like to pull in to a custom list for download and/or further analysis. The Planner does the same. We have the option of downloading the entire list (red arrow below) or selecting keyword phrases individually and exporting the list of selections to Excel (green and blue arrows).
Competition Score – The Planner uses the same High/Medium/Low competitive scoring system that Keyword Tool users will find familiar. When these values are downloaded or exported as demonstrated in the note above, they are translated into a quantitative score on a scale of 0.0 to 1.0. Those keywords with competitive values closer to 1.0 are more competitive, and a keyword with a score near 0.0 has minimal competition currently.
Geographic and Language Filters – Just like the old Tool, the Planner also allows us to add filters for location (down to the city) and language. We can also have the Planner show results just from Google searches or numbers to comprise Google and its search partners.
Keyword Tool vs. Keyword Planner – The Differences
Login Required – You don’t need to have an active Google Adwords account to access Google Keyword Planner, but you must have a Google account (aka Gmail).
Local and Global Searches – In the old Keyword Tool, one could decide whether keyword search volume would be presented with Local tallies or Global quantities. In the Keyword Tool vernacular, “Local” was synonymous with “domestic” or “US only”. These options have been eliminated and replaced with “Average Monthly Searches.” We can still target countries, cities and states however.
100+ Alternatives – Both old and new tools provide alternatives to the phrases originally entered by the researcher. The Keyword Tool would limit alternative phrases to 100 (50 keywords on two pages of results). There does not appear to be a hard cap on the alternative phrases put forth by Planner. I have run initial queries that spit out well over 500 alternatives.
Suggested CPC Bid – Since the Planner is accessible within Adwords, it should be viewed primarily as a paid search research utility. As such, Google automatically includes a suggested CPC bid in search results (see the blue arrow below). This can be helpful however when determining if a specific keyword should be reserved for organic, paid or both SEO and PPC initiatives based on varying degrees of competition.
Monthly Search Trend – For every suggested keyword result, the researcher can take a look at search volume trend (see green arrow above). This is helpful when working to determine seasonality based on historical data.
Search Volume Ignores Match Type – Previously with the Keyword Tool, one could designate search volume for a broad match phrase (that phrase plus derivatives) or an exact match phrase (search volume for that specific term alone). Now the Google Keyword Planner ignores broad, phrase and exact matches and provides a blended number to simplify results.
Ad Group Ideas – Beyond a list of keywords with competitive scores and CPC bid suggestions, Google also pulls similar terms into Ad Group clusters. These are obviously helpful when developing paid search campaigns, but they can also come in handy when planning for the development and creation of specific content groupings or website sections. From an SEO perspective, each collection of keywords in an Ad Group could also be used when collecting viable terms that could come into play for a large quantity of new web pages and related online assets that require optimization.
Additional Keyword Filters – Thankfully, the include/exclude keyword operators are still present in the Keyword Planner. Additionally, you will find a separate set of filters that help us to find keywords at a certain popularity or competitive threshold. There are filters for average monthly searches, competition score (high, medium, low), suggested bid and ad impression share. This last metric will only come into play when analyzing phrases that are already active in your Adwords campaign.
Additional Keyword Research Utilities
The primary tool within the Keyword Planner interface allows us to find and discover new keywords to optimize content, build out campaigns or gather demand-oriented research data. In addition, the Planner provides a couple other helpful tools that can impact paid search campaign development.
Get traffic estimates for a list of keywords
This is a feature used by paid search marketing practitioners looking to expand their Google Adwords campaigns. By uploading or simply pasting a list of desirable phrases, the marketer can determine the relative impact of cost per click adjustments, daily spend alterations, the addition of new keyword phrases, etc. In essence, the “Enter/Upload” feature enables search marketers to analyze the influence of pay per click campaign changes before they are enacted.
Multiply keyword lists to get new keyword ideas
If our goal is to compare multiple keyword phrase derivatives, the “Multiply” function helps produce a large quantity of relevant keywords for the purpose of analysis. In the example below, the “Multiply” function will combine keywords from all three lists to produce 64 different phrases (4 x 4 x 4 = 64). We can then compare and contrast the merit of targeting each of these keyword derivatives for our optimization efforts.
Similar functionality is available from a free online tool called, Mergewords.
Ready to get started working with the new Keyword Planner? Check out the following written tutorial and start building a keyword list of your own. Feel free to reach out and contact me with questions.