Ah, the good old days of what we all once knew as the “Keyword Tool,” an SEM utopia where everyone was welcome to research keyword ideas and understand search volumes. While this same basic functionality still exists, the new tool, ah, “planner,” is a bit bulkier and less intuitive.
The first time I logged in after the tool was updated, I was prompted with a few choices:
which would be fine, except I use this tool on a weekly basis and still have to read through the choices every time I log in. I’m 28 and I’m made to feel as though I have the memory of an 80 year old man. While we know Google’s shift to focus on context rather than individual keywords through the Hummingbird update will have longstanding impacts on SEO, AdWords advertisers will notice the same shift towards context prevalent in the Keyword Planner as well. While many people are talking about how Hummingbird changes SEO, there are changes such as this that affect AdWords advertiser’s as well, which is still today Google’s largest revenue stream.
After running search volume estimates for a handful of keywords, the resulting screen is in fact, not showing me keyword search volumes. Instead, I’m presented with keyword ideas for new ad groups. Again, which would be great if their suggestions were helpful. Who wants to take bets on how long it takes your daily budget to get sucked up by just one of these ad groups from the time you set it live?
In all seriousness, the suggestions aren’t terrible if you know how to interpret the results. Instead of taking Google’s recommendations word for word, it’s best to take one or two keyword suggestions and build your own ad group. Part of me also feels that the recommendations provided in the original Keyword Tool were more semantically accurate than the recommendations they show now. Of course, there’s now added flexibility because you can choose words you absolutely want included as part of the keyword. Which would be great, if it worked (I’ve frequently seen keywords in the results that don’t take my requirements into account).
But alas! you can still choose the handy option to “only show ideas closely related to my search terms.” Why you’d need to see adult ideas when your original list consisted of “FHA loan financing” I have no idea, but what the hell why not shake things up a bit?
To get down to business, if you aren’t running an AdWords account, you won’t have access to this tool. So what should you use? Here are my recommendations for attaining the same data (and arguably more accurate) 100% free:
1. Google Trends. Google trends won’t provide you with search volume numbers, but you’ll get to see an index of the keyword relative to the total number of search queries ran in the world. The best part is that since the Keyword Planner only shows you the past 12 months of data, trends gives you a much larger trend, complete with forecasts where applicable.
2. Google Webmaster Tools. For a more accurate measurement of actual search volume, check your webmaster tools account for information specific to your website. This is the best source for obtaining information on when your site appeared in search, in what average position, and what the search queries were that users entered to see your site.
3. Ubersuggest. For new keyword ideas, look no further. It’s simple and to the point, and I believe the semantics of the results here are far better for practical use than what Google provides. I’ll say no more, just give it a shot.
With these three tools, you’ll no longer need to rely on the Keyword Planner for insights. If you do have access, don’t discount it all-together. It’s always best to use multiple tools in conjunction with one another, just find what works best for you.