Google’s Keyword Planner, a once useful tool for the general public, has now been hobbled and is for the most part, useless.
If you have an AdWords account and haven’t bought any ads recently, here is what you will be greeted with:
This page shows ranges for search volumes. For a more detailed view, set up and run a campaign.
Like everything else Google does, ultimately, it benefits Google. Sorry, the truth hurts.
Now, Google wants you to start paying for AdWords campaigns if you want to use the original Keyword Planner tool.
The Average Monthly searches, as indicated above display some very vague data ranges. Practically useless for those who research long tail keywords for search engine optimization (SEO) purposes.
Here’s what Cassie at Google has to say about the issue:
We recently made a change to Keyword Planner that shows search volume data ranges based on spend and how you use the tool. This change aims to prevent “bots” from submitting an overwhelming number of searches in Keyword Planner, which was slowing down the tool and occasionally causing errors that prevented people from using the tool.
We’ve heard your feedback that this limited view of search volume makes it difficult to plan new Search Network campaigns. In these cases, we recommend taking advantage of the forecasting feature in Keyword Planner. While search volume gives you a sense of the market size, other settings such as bid, budget, device, and more, affect how much of this search volume a single advertiser can receive. Forecasts, on the other hand, let you customize these settings for a more comprehensive view of how keywords might perform.
As for “bots”, I would take that as a jab at SEO tools such as Long Tail Platinum and other keyword aggregators, which are legal software and actually very useful. I’m certain that Google is intelligent enough to distinguish between bots and actual users logged directly into their AdWords accounts, so why restrict access to them.
Hmm, maybe it’s MONEY??? Of course it is!
How many times have we seen offers for free 30 day trials or free versions of software, etc.? The strategy is to get consumers hooked on the conveniences of a product and once they are entrenched, make them pay for it. In Google’s case that does indeed make sense but also what about the other elephant in the room? Yep, Google Analytics. Most of us are using the service and would you really be all that surprised to see a price tag slapped on it someday in the not too distant future? I hope I’m wrong but as you can see with Keyword Planner, anything can change at Google’s whim.
What does this mean for small businesses?
Basically, it comes down to a simple choice. Sign up for Google AdWords and regularly purchase ads so that perhaps Google will see fit to lift the restrictions on Keyword Planner. You could also subscribe to various web tools such as SEMrush to help you find keywords but basically the free ride is over. We use SEMRush and highly recommend it for both keyword research and competitive analysis reporting. If you use our referral link we do get a small fee, so thanks.
It’s no secret that Google AdWords is a behemoth and that the more ads they sell, the happier they are. As it is now, Google Ads take up a healthy chunk of query results at the top of the page:
AND at the bottom as well:
For those of you who are attempting to work with do-it-yourself SEO and content creation, at no cost, these changes to Keyword Planner will make your tasks a bit more difficult. Most likely, you will subscribe to an online service for keyword research or hire it out. If you have any questions about this topic, please send us an e-mail or call 802-355-8775 to schedule a brief, no-cost consultation.