Can we trust Google Keyword Planner?

Can we trust Google Keyword Planner?

17th September 2013

While we mourn the loss of the Google Keyword Tool, we need to ask ourselves if the new Keyword Planner is trustworthy or not. Spoiler alert: It is not… 

Around one week ago, we lost the Google Keyword Tool. Replacing the Keyword Tool was the new, but far from improved, Keyword Planner ”combining the Keyword Tool and Traffic Estimator into one”.

At first glance it sounded promising, and I had big hopes after reading articles such as this one. But after trying it, I am disappointed and a little bit scared.

Let’s forget about the lost features like “closely related” for a moment. Even then, there is still a lot that doesn’t make sense in Keyword Planner. Most importantly, the volume numbers seem odd, especially for low volume keywords, and the estimated search volume simply cannot be trusted.

At first I thought the confusing volume numbers might be a typical Google-phenomenon where small languages are left out in updates (my language is Norwegian). But after discussing with others within the search-field, internationally, we discovered that the new tool is just as bad in other, bigger languages and countries as well. And not only for SEO-use, many AdWords professionals I have talked to are just as disappointed as me, and feel like they cannot trust the tool anymore.

If you want hard facts, take a look at these numbers from Conductor. They report that even though Google claim search volume numbers will increase in the new platform because the numbers include both mobile and desktop searches, 25% of search volumes have stayed the same or gone down.

Want some examples? Well, here you go:

When finding keywords for our own field, SEO, this happens:

In Keyword Planner, the term “søkemotoroptimalisering” (the Norwegian word for search engine optimisation) have got far bigger volumes than the term“SEO”. Actually, “SEO” has no volume at all according to the Keyword Planner. Really? No Norwegians search for “SEO”, but you find close to 900 searches for “søkemotoroptimalisering” in a month? Really?

sokemotoroptimalisering vs seo i kw planner

When searching for the exact same keywords in Google Trends, this happens:

sokemotoroptimalisering vs seo i trends2


Interesting…. So we see totally opposite results for the same language, the same country and the exact same keywords…

In Google Global Market Finder, with search volume from the old Keyword Tool, the numbers are more aligned with Trends, and the opposite of Keyword Planner:

kw in google market finder

The same thing happens when looking at the volume for some other keywords from our field:


analyse mm in kw planner


Obviously, no-one searches for “adwords” in Norway, but “seo norway” have 40 searches a month? And no-one searches for “analyse” (Norwegianfor analysis)? Really? Google Trends says otherwise, or to be more specific, the exact opposite:


analyse mm trends


Comparing the same keywords to Bing’s volume (taken from the MOZ keyword difficulty tool with Bing data) makes me even more confused. We know that Bing only have a market share on around 3-4% in Norway, but for these keywords the local volumes are larger than in Google.

So, we get 929 Bing searches for “SEO” a month, but no-one searches for it in Google? Really? “Søkemotoroptimalisering” does not make sense either. It’s the same number of searches as in Google, with only 3% of the market share…. It simply does not make sense…

bing search volume

I am also confused as to why the global and local search volumes in the Bing example are the same, even for Norwegian words like “webanalyse” and “analyse”, but I will leave it at that for now.

I tried all of the above both with and without inserting a destination page in the Keyword Planner, and the results were the same. I also tried it with several other keyword combinations, and they were all just as confusing.

So what do we do now?

Yes, there are a lot of other keyword research tools. Sadly, many of them get their data from the Google or Bing API, which leaves us confused.

We have tools that fetch keywords from competitor’s web sites and links. These are good as well but fail to give us the estimated search volume and potential for those keywords.

We also have, as mentioned before, the Bing Keyword Tool. This is great, if you’re doing keyword research for a big, non B2B company using one of the big languages. The problem with a small country/language is that Bing’s volume for B2B keywords are too low to show any volume at all.

To conduct great keyword analysis without trusting the Google Keyword Planner, you haveto combine a lot of data, that  don’t always match up, but that will give you a more clear view.  

My advice is to combine the following tools to get as close as possible to a good keyword combination for a website:

The key information from the client (what they believe are their most important keywords)

+ Google Keyword Planner

+ Bing Keyword Tool

+ MOZ keyword difficulty tool

+ Kvasir Nøkkelhullet søketrender (Norwegian tool)

+ Google Trends

+ PPC search query reports from the client’s account

+ Google Anaytics data

+ Webmaster Tools search query report

+ The number of results for that exact keyword in Google

+ Common sense

+ Maybe some sort of keyword analysis tool (if you want to pay for it, if not, the free ones mentioned above will do)

= A keyword strategy that takes time, but that can be trusted enough to be implemented and tested

So, keyword analysis lives on, but please Google, please give us the old Keyword Tool back, or at least a Keyword Planner that is trustworthy! We know you still have the Keyword Tool data, it is still in there. Thanks!


Written By
Agnete Tøien Pedersen is Head of SEO in iProspect Norway and has years of experience within SEM, SEO, web publishing and journalism. She is also chairman of the Board of Ethical SEM in Norway, BraSøk. On a daily basis she is working with customers of all sizes, in Norway, the...
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