Google Keyword Planner: SEO Friend or Enemy?

Google Keyword Planner: SEO Friend or Enemy?

Google AdWords Keyword Planner

If you are a regular visitor to the PosiRank blog, you have no doubt read Alex’s SEO Checklist   (and hopefully you’ve actually USED it to take action!).

It’s no accident that the first section of Alex’s checklist focuses on keyword research and analysis. Keyword research is the backbone to any great content. If you want to create content that offers real value to your customers, and if you want that content to be visible to those customers, you need to make sure you are focusing on the best keyword phrases relevant to your subject matter. This means finding keywords that reflect a buyer’s mindset and aren’t too competitive.

Note: For more information, be sure to check out Alex’s SEO Checklist here.

What is Keyword Research?

First, let’s get a clear idea of what we mean when we talk about keyword research. In basic terms, keyword research is the process of identifying keyword phrases, their search volume (number of times per month people enter that term into a search engine), and overall level of competition (i.e. how hard is it to rank at the top of the search engine results for that phrase).

There are many factors that determine what a “winning” keyword phrase will be. These factors include:

  • The overall purpose of the content
  • The target audience
  • The desired action/response to the content
  • The competitiveness of the keyword vs. the overall value of the visitor
  • The commercial intent of the search term (i.e. “tire kickers” vs. people ready to make a purchase)

…and many more.

Keyword Research Tools

There are many keyword tools available in the market today, both free and premium. One of the more popular resources is Google’s own Keyword Planner.

In fact, many marketers rely solely on the Keyword Planner for their keyword data. Is this a good idea? Let’s take a closer look at the strengths and weaknesses of the Keyword Planner.

What is the Google Keyword Planner?

First off, it would benefit us to take a moment to discuss exactly what the Google Keyword planner is. Briefly, Keyword Planner is an official Google product, which offers traffic estimates, competition stats, and related keywords for your targeted market.

Google Keyword Planner evolved from two other Google tools, the Google Keyword Tool and the AdWords Traffic Estimator. With Keyword Planner, Google offered a more integrated workflow to marketers.

The Downsides of Using Google Keyword Planner for SEO

At first glance, it might seem that this free tool from Google might be an SEO marketer’s dream. However, there are some very importance factors to consider before you utilize the Keyword Planner to design your next campaign.

Google Keyword Planner Focuses on Paid Advertising

The Keyword Planner was created specifically for Adwords advertisers. This doesn’t mean that organic marketers can’t take advantage of the data offered by the Keyword Planner, but this is something that every marketer should keep in mind.

Google Throttles Keyword Planner Data for Lower Spending Adwords Accounts

Let’s pause for a moment…this bears repeating…

Google throttles the data provided by Keyword Planner, based on the overall spend of the user’s Adwords account.

According to this post , “Advertisers with lower monthly spend may see a limited data view in the Keyword Planner. For example, you may see values such as 0, 1-100, 100-1K, 1K-10K, 10K-100K, 100K-1M, 1M+ in the average monthly searches column. In addition, other advertisers may trigger the limited data view by reaching a limit on the number of searches for search volume data.”

 Rounded Averages and “Traffic Buckets”

Google Keyword Planner utilizes “buckets”, in which it groups keywords by traffic volume.

For example, if Keyword Planner shows that a keyword has a traffic volume of 201,000, this does not mean that keyword actually generated that amount of traffic. Instead, that number simply reflects that the actual traffic number is closer to that “bucket” than the closest smaller bucket (165,000) or the closest larger bucket (246,000). Yes, that’s an 80,000 range!

This post on the Moz blog describes this concept in greater detail. In fact, Moz identified approximately 85 logarithmically proportioned traffic buckets. This means that “the bigger the search volume, the less certain you can be about the accuracy of the Average Monthly Searches, especially relative to other terms that fall in the same group. In fact, the largest buckets have variances of nearly a quarter million searches per month”!

Since most marketers look to the “Average Monthly Search Volume” number as a basis for their business decisions, traffic predictions, and ad campaign budgeting, it is incredibly important to realize that this number is not an accurate reflection of actual traffic statistics. Rather, it is a number that has been rounded up or down to the nearest bucket, which can sometimes yield very inaccurate numbers.

Keyword Planner’s Competition Score

 Another set of data provided by Google Keyword Planner is the “Competition” score. Many marketers might not realize that this competition score does not reflect the difficulty in ranking a keyword phrase organically in the SERPs.

In fact, the Competition rating in Google Keyword Planner is simply a reflection on the activity for that keyword within the Adwords platform. In other words, a low competition keyword means that few advertisers are bidding on that keyword. This is NOT the same as an SEO difficulty score (although there is often a correlation between the two).

Is the Google Keyword Planner Worth Your Time?

 After reading all the above warnings, you might be wondering if the Google Keyword Planner should even remain in your toolbox.

Despite these shortcomings when it comes to using the Google Keyword Planner for SEO research, it still is a very valuable tool that can offer many useful insights toward your marketing strategies.

For instance, Keyword Planner is very effective for generating new related keyword ideas. You can also use it to “scrape” a specific site or landing page for related keyword phrases. This, combined with its flexible filtering options, make the Google Keyword Planner a pretty useful tool to gain insight on your competition.

SEO-centric Keyword Research

There are many keyword research tools available that are specifically designed for SEO keyword research. Alex’s checklist makes reference to some of the best available.

If you don’t feel up to the task of taking on the research yourself, please be aware that keyword research and optimization are just a fraction of the services offered by PosiRank. Please contact us to get your campaign underway today!

forex ea
Written by
Paul Ceppaglia
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Rob Andrews

Since 2007 Rob Andrews has worked in the SEO and Content Marketing fields and is an established writer and trusted provider of thought-leadership for hundreds of SEO, advertising and marketing agencies worldwide. Read More

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