Since May, Google has been prompting users of its External Keyword Tool and Traffic Estimator to use the Keyword Planner to ‘get keyword ideas and traffic estimates at once’.
For now, you’ll notice that both Keyword Tool and Traffic Estimator remain on the Tools and Analysis drop-down menu.
With phasing out of the two tools scheduled for July-August 2013, anyone using keyword research needs to get to grips with Keyword Planner, and sharpish.
We’ve conducted live tests using a client’s scenario to give you a very practical marketer’s guide to using the Keyword Planner.
What’s new in the Keyword Planner?
Logged-in users only
If you’ve historically accessed Google’s External Keyword Tool or Traffic Estimator via the Captcha prompt, you’ll no longer enjoy that anonymity.
[pullquote_right]In order to use the new tool you must have an Adwords account.[/pullquote_right] Create a new Adwords account or, if you already have a Google or Apps account, sign in with your existing login information.
Once you’ve logged in and clicked through the Tools and Analysis menu and chosen the ‘Keyword Planner’ option, you’ll notice the first difference immediately.
Don’t panic. The majority of the old functionality is still there. You simply have the option to upload and/or set data via prompts in the a wizard before progressing to the results.
For new advertisers and search marketers who may have been unfamiliar with the myriad options in the old dash upon first viewing, the addition of prompts prevents ambiguity in the new tool.
As it was in the previous External Keyword Tool, your search results are grouped either by Ad groups ideas (PPC) or Keyword ideas (PPC/Content Marketing).
New functionality: saved keyword analysis
What’s pleasant about the new tool is that when you sign back in, it asks whether you want to resume your previous keyword exercise or start over.
By undertaking the pre-Keyword Planner searches that you’ve brainstormed with your client, you can confidently get to grips with the new dashboard and search for ‘exact matches’ to add a real focus to your keyword research.
If, however, you’re looking to diversify traffic traction and get a broader keyword (or link) profile, you can always use the ‘broad’ or ‘phrase’ match options.
These will enable long-tail keywords to be built into your client’s search marketing campaign, critical with voice-activated search built into so many mobile devices today.
New functionality: use the ‘Wizard’ to get specific
The whole interface is distinctly more intuitive. When you first log in, you’re prompted for the type of search you want to conduct.
Three filter options are available before you reach what was the old dashboard and results pages:
New functionality: Multiply Keyword Lists
The other great new facility we’ve got to point out here is the wizard’s option 3: Multiply Keyword Lists.
If you have one CSV containing multiple locations and another with keywords, you can upload them both into the wizard.
This then produces a set of keyword results that matches each of the locations to all the keywords where there are results high enough to justify the pairing as viable keyword phrases.
New functionality: visualise your keyword research onto Google Maps
As the search facility behind the new Keyword Planner dashboard now incorporates Google Maps, you can physically visualise your content strategy or PPC campaign by blanketing your target area.
This addition will not only help to display potential localised targets but also help plot potential growth of a client’s business organically in the real world.
Understanding where your client’s customer base is and may be in the future is critical to a targeted AdWords campaign or content marketing strategy.
You can also add or remove locales to help refine your search, ensuring that the results incorporate the entire catchment area and show regions where a different tack is needed for your keywords.
The inclusion of “country, city, or region” Geo-targeting to expand our search in a natural way really comes into its own using this new feature.
What’s different about Keyword Planner?
Desktop and Mobile undifferentiated
One of the main differences in Keyword Planner is that the separation of Desktop and Tablet/Mobile devices in the search results has been amalgamated into one figure.
We can only assume the reason for this development is that webmasters serious enough about driving traffic to their website to delve into keyword research have developed responsive websites. In other words, they have a mobile-optimised version as well as a desktop template.
New layout, same content
However, after you’ve hit the ‘Get Ideas’ button, you are taken through to the familiar console. Here, you’ll find the ‘Ad Group Ideas’ (no longer in Beta) results tab being displayed.
Use the right tab
Remember, Adwords Keyword Planner is built with constructing PPC campaigns in mind, so you’ll invariably be presented with the Ad group tab first.
Expand the results to see if there are related searches that Google is also prompting you to include by going back to the Ad Groups tab.
The options here are not infinite, but if your client is adamant they want total optimization, you can spend hours here drilling down to finite data.
In this sense, the wizard and dashboard beyond are similar to like the old keyword tool.
You can add single or line-separated keywords and have multiple results returned, depending upon the type of match you’ve chosen as well as other filters now available.
Repurpose existing pages – you can type in that page’s specific URL. Results will then be displayed for what the page is telling Google it currently represents and you can build from there.
Limited knowledge of a niche – you can conduct your search using one of literally thousands of pre-determined categories.
Broaden your keyword selection – ensure you’re not focusing your website too narrowly (think Webspam/keyword-stuffing) or missing the mark completely. It’s always a good idea to collate these similar results and suggest ‘like’ words and phrases to achieve growth.
This will help bring in more traffic than the specific keywords alone and you as their SEO stand less chance of a call in two months’ time after the indexers have discovered the intently-focused nature of the website from your client, blaming you for their site dropping down the rankings
Keyword match selection
Keyword matches have also changed. If you left the settings as they were in the old keyword tool, you would be presented with statistics for ‘broad match’ results by default.
Whilst this may acceptable for advertising on a global scale, if you’re concentrating on local niches the results are perhaps too generalised.
By entering simple formatting into option 2 of the wizard around your keyword(s), you can dictate whether you want to return a:
- broad match – keyword
- phrase match – “keyword“
- exact match – [Keyword]
If you choose [exact match], only historical information is now displayed.
No more default global search volume
The last point of note is that where there were two columns of monthly search results, local and global, there is now only an ‘average monthly searches’ column.
This change assumes that you have already set your targeting demographics in the wizard before running the Keyword Planner tool to deliver relevant research results.
If you do want to return global search results, simply remove your target filters from the wizard and re-run the tool.
So, why did Google change to Keyword Planner?
The official Google line suggests the following:
- This tool has been created for Adwords keywords, to gauge traffic those keywords could attract and to display cost per click to help calculate an advertising budget
- Help local businesses, the core group of the tool’s users, to find keywords for their ad and PPC campaigns more easily and with more local relevance
- Availing the tool to those without an account was a huge drain on resources
- Provide a facility that test-drives campaigns before launching them into the market
- Encourage more business to use Adwords by simplifying the process (very strong assumption)
Adwords, google’s ‘cash cow’, needs to be as accessible to as many businesses and marketers as possible to generate revenue and the new tool with its flexibility and ease of use is a giant step in that direction.
Simpler to use for small businesses
Local businesses appearing alongside household names in the search results, a very real possibility if the new Keyword Planner is used effectively, will help smaller businesses begin to create brand recognition of their own.
Hence, you’re not only greeted by three keyword research options, but also how-to guides for:
- how to use Keyword Planner
- building a display campaign
- more differences between the old tool and the new one:
The shift in search that’s brought about the need for a new keyword tool
Both SEO and SEM are no longer marketing methods that work to a strict template, rely on paid link-building or can be achieved with automated software packages.
As Google’s algorithms get smarter, the less chance these dubious methods have at producing long-term ranking results.
Being found in search is a lot tougher than 3-4 years ago and involves very real knowledge of your customer (as an SEO) or of your target market (as a business).
Blackhat SEO is dying
Some black hat tactics, or even borderline grey, may yet get initial results. They won’t last long with the burning desire to deliver relevant results that’s fuelling Google’s current Webspam drive.
The emphasis has moved to delivering quality content that customers find appropriate and are subsequently likely to engage with, hence the need for powerful keyword research.
You have to know and understand your client, their demographic, niche and where their customers are likely to spend time.
This is where more time spent analysing results in Keyword Planner instead of blindly blasting content out into the blogosphere will reap long-term rewards.
Beyond Google and keyword diversification
SEO all comes back to thinking like the customer, even if you are writing your own content. Think about which keywords best describe the product, article or page you plan to be found for.
Use these as your starting point, filter them into the Keyword Planner and the results will suggest how customers use search for exact and similar matches so that you can have a magnet for the terms most relevant to you.
More groundwork lays a firmer foundation for future yield
Relying on one tool for your entire keyword research arsenal is definitely better than blogging blind.
However, even with its new bells and whistles, do you often feel that Google is leading you along an alleyway where they control the light switches and only show you what they want to?
As such, it’s worth incorporating other search tools to give you a more rounded overview of trending local keywords.
Don’t forget Google Analytics as part of your keyword research. You may already have several golden keyword nuggets driving traffic to your website, some which may surprise you.
You can choose to either strengthen your site for those by repurposing existing content or you may want to increase the power of other keywords by diluting existing traffic signals if they’re not relevant to your strategy.
Blumenthal’s Category Tool and this local keyword research tool from Local Marketing Source are two of the better ones for drilling keyword research down to local level.
On wider scales, SEMRush, the Wordstream Free Keyword Tool and Screaming Frog’s SEO Spider (all have free versions) can give you an overview of what websites are already telling indexers and what you need to do to make them even more discoverable.
If you spend the time to incorporate these search tools with results displayed in your Google Analytics account and the Keyword Planner, you’re genuinely ready to take on the SERPs with a full armory.
Quite literally, the Keyword Planner is a blueprint hinting at guidelines for you to find keywords that will grow your brand online using the answers Google is serving you on a plate.
When we’ve got burning hot content, every webmaster or content marketer is itching to have that content up and available for traffic. Sometimes it’s to the detriment of keyword research.
In our opinion, there really is no excuse now for content marketers, search marketers or even affiliates to fly blind any longer.
Evergreen > Flash News
Not only will you be casting your keyword catchment net further by incorporating long-tail keywords that Google suggests is related but, by diversifying, your content is more likely to be Evergreen than a flash in the pan article, only popular whilst those one or two keyword phrases you’d otherwise be targeting are trending.
While you’re adding value to this extent, not only is your client likely to engage your services for longer, but you’ll also realize that niche domination, with the proper groundwork and the right tools, is literally at your fingertips in this new, improved Keyword Research Tool.