2 min

Google Keyword Planner is Dead: Here's What to Do Now

by Aleks Vizulis on September 19, 2016


This past month a huge number of people have become furious at the Google Keyword Planner, previously one of the most useful parts of the Adwords suite. Google updated the Planner to change the type of information it provided – a choice that has now divided search frequently into vast categories where details can get lost. This is a serious problem for content marketers, but we've got a few solutions for you to get over the hurdle and back to meaningful results.

Why Is This a Problem?

It renders the Keyword Planner useless for most users. Keep in mind, this was the top-used free keyword research tool on the internet. For many marketers, it was a go-to wellspring of useful information when planning out any important SEO strategy. But now, when you search for a particular phrase all Google gives you are broad ranges that don't include any specific information. For example, you may type the phrase "content marketing" into the Google Keyword Planner and it will return these results, "Well, between 10,000 and 100,000 people on average searched for that phrase last month." Google_keyword_planner.png

That tells you absolutely nothing about the phrase in relation to its popularity or use, especially when you're trying to pick out the best long - tail phrases for gaining more traffic. There's simply no detail anymore, which makes decision making difficult or impossible.

Why Did Google Make the Change?

That depends on who you ask. The official explanation for the big change is that a lot of third parties were creating bots to quickly use the Keyword tool over and over again, harvesting a vast amount of data to be used for other purposes.

That's a fair answer, but the truth is more complicated. You see, not everyone gets these vague ranges...some companies still get the traditional, detailed SEO phrase results. Who still gets the full information? You guessed it – the advertisers who spend the most on Adwords. Even more annoying, Google isn't telling anyone when the cutoff amount is for getting full information: It could be $1,000 per month, it could be $100,000. But the goal appears to be getting more advertisers to spend money on Adwords to "unlock" the features that have always been there. You can imagine many agencies aren't happy with this new pay-to-play slant. 

Two Solutions for Your Keyword Planner Tool 

Solution 1: Forecast

So, what's a company to do with its go-to tool? Your first option is to visit a different part of the Keyword planner, the forecast tool. You can find this by heading over to Get ideas, adding keywords to your plan, and reviewing your plan in Adwords. In the review section, you can see forecasts for all the keywords you picked, including valuable details. You can enter various pricing amounts for bids and see how this changes forecasts as well. The problem with this method is that it's very time-intensive, and to those used to the old planning tool it feels like walking backwards through a hula-hoop. However, it's better than nothing, and a good choice if you want to stay with Google.

Solution 2: Use a New Keyword Planner Tool

Your other option is to jump ship and use a different keyword planning tool altogether. And, to string a metaphor along, there are plenty of fish in this particular sea. Take a look through a few popular options and see if they meets your needs as well – or better – than Adwords. Remember, change isn't necessarily a bad thing if you can improve your tools.

  • Keywordtool.io: Simple, free, and very fast, Keyword Tool is a good replacement for easy searches and long tail studies. For casual keyword work, it's a great place to start.
  • Answer the Public: This newer and odder keyword tool gives you a wheel of questions for any particular phrase. Search a keyword and see the most popular questions focused on where, which, why, how, and other basic question formats. You can even switch between different countries.
  • Kwfinder: We like this tool because it provides a bit more information, and allows you to specific both location and language, which is great for more local-focused SEO work.
  • Hubspot Keywords: The Keyword tab on Hubspot is filled with useful information. The catch is that to really take advantage of it, you need to be a Hubspot user, which may not match up with everyone's strategy. However, it should feel familiar for those who used Adwords.

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Aleks Vizulis

As operations manager at 21 Handshake, I bring an analytical perspective to the discussion table. My vision is to take projects from 'just strong' to superb. Often you will find me capturing behind the scenes photos in the 21 Handshake office or at a clients location. I play a fierce round of 18 during warm weather and catch me on the slopes during the other months of the year!

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