Recent changes to Google’s Keyword Planner have effectively converted it from a tool that you could use in many areas including search engine optimization, content marketing, and paid search to a tool that helps you in just one area, which is the management of large-scale paid search campaigns.

Specifically, Google rolled out a change that limits its full view of keyword volume estimates to only those advertisers who are running active AdWords campaigns at a certain spend threshold. What is the threshold? No one knows because Google has not shared this information. It could be $1,000/day; it could be $100/day.

Keyword research companies are also directly impacted by the recent changes to the Keyword Planner as they limit requests to the Keyword Planner API. As a result, the 3rd-party platforms that rely on this API to provide you with keyword data may have to degrade their service.

Unless you manage large-scale paid search campaigns in AdWords, you’re going to need to find a new source for the data that you, or any 3rd-party platform you work with, used to get from Keyword Planner. But even if you do meet the minimum requirements to access Keyword Planner, you might still want to find an alternative source for keyword data. Here are three reasons why:

1. Keywords are grouped together into contextual groups

Google’s Keyword Planner now provides data on keyword groups instead of actual (exact match) keywords. Keywords and their variants are being grouped together into what Google called the “raw form of the keyword” in its U.S. Patent #9,378,517. For example, Keyword Planner will combine metrics of:

  • Plural words with their singular version (i.e. it groups queries for ‘car’ and ‘cars’ under car)
  • Words that share the same root and general meaning (i.e. it groups queries for ‘advertisement’ and ‘advertising’ under advertisement)
  • Compound words that can be spelled with or without a space (i.e. it groups queries for ‘healthcare’ and ‘health care’ under healthcare)
  • Phrases with different punctuation but a similar meaning (i.e. it groups queries for ‘pack n play’ and ‘pack ‘n play’ under pack n play)

This change prevents users from seeing estimated search volumes and additional metrics for exact match keywords, which is the basics of zoning in on a customized target for both organic and paid programs.

2. Keyword search estimations are in wide range buckets

Google’s Keyword Planner now averages monthly searches for these keyword groups into huge buckets instead of providing more granular estimates like it did in the past. These buckets include the following wide ranges: 10 – 100, 100 – 1K, 1K – 10K, 10K – 100K, 100K – 1M, 1M – 10M.

This gives you very little to go on for planning a content marketing and search engine optimization strategy that would optimize to high volume keywords because keywords with 10,001 queries per month will look the same as keywords with 99,999 queries per month.

3. MoM changes in keyword performance mean nothing

Percent change comparisons between one month and another are now useless in Keyword Planner, as they are based on the keyword buckets, not on the underlying actual data. So, if a query increases in popularity and moves from the fourth bucket to the fifth bucket, this shows up as a 900 percent change even though it may just be moving from 90K to 110K average monthly searches, which would be a 22 percent change.

For instance, a check on ‘used cars for sale’ in Google Keyword Planner shows the inaccurate 900 percent change.
Google keyword data

Bottom Line: If you don’t run large-scale paid search campaigns with AdWords but still want to be able to plan your SEM, SEO and content programs on concrete keyword information, including search data on actual keywords, granular estimates of search volume, or accurate comparisons of search volume over time, you’re going to need a replacement for Google’s Keyword Planner. Jumpshot’s keyword data includes this information and more. Our keyword data isn’t just a replacement to Keyword Planner, it’s a major upgrade.