Google Keyword Tool Replaced by Keyword Planner

Speak with any organic search strategist and they will tell you that keyword research is the key to any organic search campaign. For the past few years one of the tools used by many SEO and webmasters has been Google’s Keyword Tool. It was clean and concise and great for obtaining estimated search volumes for potential keywords that one wanted to incorporate into their content and optimization efforts. Now if you try to access the Google Keyword Tool, you will see an error page stating that Keyword Planner has replaced Keyword Tool. As Barry Schwartz from SEO Roundtable stated:

“The keyword tool is one of the oldest and most useful tools from Google. Seeing it go is pretty historic.”

I previously discussed the future of keyword research, and stated that its future was bright. The morphing of the Google Keyword Tool into Keyword Planner diminishes this brightness slightly for organic search strategists. According to Google:

“With Keyword Planner, we’ve combined the functionality of Keyword Tool and Traffic Estimator to make it easier to plan search campaigns. That’s why Keyword Tool is no longer available. You can use Keyword Planner to find new keyword and ad group ideas, get performance estimates for them to find the bid and budget that are right for you, and then add them to your campaigns.”

With this new update:

  • The search volume data is different. Google states that the average search volume is higher as they are showing the average volume for keywords on all devices (desktop, tablets, mobile)
  • There is no match type for search volume (i.e. broad match vs. exact match). There is only historical statistics for exact match.
  • Local monthly searches and global monthly searches: These two columns have been replaced by the “Average monthly searches” column, simplifying the search volume data you can get. The average monthly search volume is specific to your targeting settings, and you can get data for an entire country or individual cities and regions within a country. Note that you can still get global monthly search data by targeting all locations.
  • There is no device targeting with Keyword Planner (however this may be available in the future).

So how is Google spinning the “benefits” of Keyword Planner? Well, Google is suggesting that with Keyword Planner, you can see various historical statistics alongside your keyword and ad group ideas, such as the average number of searches for a keyword. Keyword Planner also gives you keyword traffic estimates. Okay, so how is that different than the Keyword Tools which was much leaner and dare we say more user friendly for site owners to gain insight into keyword activity specific to their web properties?

From an organic search perspective, the previous Keyword Tool from Google was a solid tool because of three things:

  1. The ease of use – you could add in a number of keywords and obtain great insight on these keywords quickly.
  2. The ability to obtain both global and local estimated search volume data – as a reminder this data was an average and not “exact” but at least it was relevant as to determining what terms people may be searching for. As a reminder Google defines, “Avg. monthly searches” as: “The average number of times people have searched for the exact keyword based on the location and Search Network targeting that you’ve selected. We average the number of searches for the term over a 12-month period.”
  3. Providing competition data – while this was just a rough guide, it did provide some insight as to whether a keyword was moderately competitive, hyper-competitive or not competitive at all.

More from Google on the historical statistics available from Keyword Planner.

Keyword research is an incredibly key piece of both the organic (SEO) and PPC process, and is continuous and iterative. I’m not really sure that the Keyword Planner is an improvement or not. From an organic search perspective, Google has now made it more time consuming to conduct keyword research.  Identifying keywords that are relevant to one’s business and website is at the foundation of all search campaigns. While Google is working to provide the most relevant listings in their results they are a publicly traded company and they need to focus on their bottom line. You may have noticed Google’s focus in recent years to promote their own products, AdWords, local, Knowledge Graph etc. The end result is that the organic search results (i.e. the ones that most people trust) are becoming increasingly difficult to find. The problem is that Google cannot monetize the organic area of the SERP without diminishing the user experience. The fact is more people click on organic than paid search results (based on various studies including studies that we did dating back to our Enquiro days).

With the Google Keyword Tool being retired, it almost feels like Google was taking another shot at organic search strategists, forcing users to use their AdWords accounts. Of course there are other keyword tools and tactics used for completing keyword research but at some point you just want to be able to trust Google and know that they are doing the “right” thing. I’m not so sure killing the Google Keyword Tool was the “right thing” for them to do.