How Does Google’s Keyword Planner Changes Affect Keyword Research?

SocialB Digital Marketing Blog Last modified: 11 Oct 2016 by Cheryl
Paid Search (PPC) | SEO

Keyword research has always been an integral part of SEO and whilst there are many tools in the marketplace that a business can utilise, Google’s Keyword Planner has been the free ‘go to’ keyword tool for many.

To use the Keyword Planner and other Google tools, users have been required to have an active Google Adwords account, although you didn’t have to have an active campaign. Now users with a lower monthly spend are seeing restricted data in the Keyword Planner tool, although there is no indication yet of what a lower spend constitutes.

Google is limiting the amount of data available and displaying the keyword search result within banding volumes, as follows:-

  • 01–100K
  • 100-1K
  • 1K–10K
  • 10K–100K
  • 100K–1M
  • 1M+

These are very broad, and as you can see from the example below the keyword ‘social media’ is banded between 10K and 100K.


Google’s reasoning behind the changes is to prevent ‘bots’ and other services from abusing the intended use of Keyword Planner. They state that the search volume estimates still provide an accurate and helpful view of how many clicks and impressions keywords may receive. From a user’s perspective, these changes appeared aimed at users who don’t advertise and were using the tool for research for free. Unfortunately, this also means that small businesses with a lesser spend are being penalised too.

Looking forward, Google has recommended using the forecast feature which lets you see weekly or monthly projections for clicks, impressions, and cost. Although if you are looking for more organic search volumes, this method may not be the answer as it is steered more to AdWords campaigns.


So unless you’re prepared to up your Adwords spend, you need to find an alternative keyword research tool. Unfortunately, most of these will cost you a monthly or annual fee, but here are some examples of where you can start looking; Moz Keyword Explorer, SEMRush, SearchMetrics and WordTracker.

The other alternative is to look at keyword research from our customers’ perspective, by taking a walk down the user experience path using our intuition more, you never know it might work better at giving customers what they are searching for.

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