One of the most helpful instruments in any search expert’s arsenal is the Google Keyword Planner. For readers not familiar with it, it’s a free tool from Google AdWords that helps marketers find and use their keywords effectively. Keyword Planner is the starting point for search marketers to create keyword lists for optimizing website content and ad copies for campaigns. This helps to broaden their reach, create maximum impact and determine the most competitive bids and budgets.
It is a general rule that data from Keyword Planner is not set in stone and is used only as a directive. However, with recent changes we have found that the traffic estimates are much less accurate and therefore, not the most reliable. In the last few months we’ve seen two major alterations that could affect the way you approach search. In this post, we’ll review the first, the fact that keyword search volumes have been compromised.
So what does this mean exactly? The aggregation of alterations of similar words and phrases to give a combined total such as plurals, abbreviated words etc is flawed. We can no longer expect to find different volumes to determine which keyword variations have the highest or lowest volumes. This makes it trickier when planning paid campaigns and optimizing website content. It would take a few weeks of testing before you could filter down which specific keywords really brings in the traffic.
Since we rely on the Keyword Planner for average monthly search volumes, competition scores and historical data, we end up overestimating specific keywords and their reach. If a particular keyword has a specific reach different from its plural form or un-abbreviated form then we would effectively be looking at a search volume for 10 or more keyword variations and would no longer be able to measure them separately.
Here are a few examples we’ve found Google is using as variants.
PLURALS AND NON-PLURAL KEYWORD VARIANTS
ACRONYMS AND FULL-FORM TEXT
VARIANTS WITH A SUFFIX LIKE –ER, -ED, -ING, -IZED
For instance, we get the same volumes for reach and reached but not reaching.
And for dance and dancing, but not dancer or danced.
KEYWORDS WITH AND WITHOUT SPACES
KEYWORDS USING PUNCTUATION AND NOT USING PUNCTUATION
There are no set rules when it comes to determining which types of keywords Google clubs together. It’s most likely in the semantic value associated with keyword variations.
On the flip side, if we look at things from a search and insights perspective, having a ball park figure for certain terms (and their close variants) helps to prioritize terms better and build broader categories. This helps to focus on wider categories and tap into more opportunities as opposed to focusing on variations of similar keywords that would keep us from discovering what lies further away.
You can read part two of this post on the second major modification to Keyword Planner here. If you need help optimizing your content for the right keywords, reach out to us and we’ll get you on track.