Bad news for anyone using the Google Autocomplete API. As of 10th August 2015, Google will be ‘restricting access’, meaning that any sites or applications that use the API will need to find an alternative.

For those who aren’t sure what the Autocomplete API is, you’ve probably used Google’s autocomplete functionality outside of Google Search on sites without even being aware of it. If you use keyword research tools other than the Google AdWords Keyword Planner, or tools that suggest title ideas for blog posts, chances are, they are able to provide their services by utilising this API.


Fun with Übersuggest

As the API was unofficial and was never made public, it was never restricted either. This meant that developers could incorporate autocomplete services with their own sites, independent of Google Search. Eventually, Google decided that they weren’t happy with the way in which it was being used. The API was designed to be used for Google Search, and in Google’s eyes, not for any other purpose.

In an announcement on the Google Webmaster Central Blog on Friday, Google stated:

“We built autocomplete as a complement to Search, and never intended that it would exist disconnected from the purpose of anticipating user search queries. Over time we’ve realized that while we can conceive of uses for an autocomplete data feed outside of search results that may be valuable, overall the content of our automatic completions are optimized and intended to be used in conjunction with web search results, and outside of the context of a web search don’t provide a meaningful user benefit.

We want to ensure that users experience autocomplete as it was designed to be used — as a service closely tied to Search. We believe this provides the best user experience for both services.”

A number of keyword research tools, such as Übersuggest, are powered by the Autocomplete API. As far as I am aware, the Yoast SEO Focus Keyword autocomplete will also be affected, and I’ll be keeping an eye on this as a number of clients have WordPress blogs.

Basically, any service that has been created to assist with optimising content for SEO purposes using the autocomplete function is probably going to be in trouble. Once Google restricts access, developers will have to seek out an alternative to be able to carry on providing their services – and fast.

While this may be an inconvenience for digital marketers that conduct keyword research using alternatives to the Google AdWords Keyword Planner, those most affected will be the developers that created these keyword research tools, and developers that have integrated the API with websites and apps.

In terms of how this may affect the digital marketing industry, Colin McDermott, Owner of Search Candy said:

“Although closing the API will certainly be annoying for SEO tool developers, there are plenty of alternative APIs out there.

Bing run a near identical API service available here, and there are similar services from Yahoo, Amazon, Wikipedia and eBay.

From Google’s perspective, this is not something that will have any impact on regular search users; just pesky SEOs, so they will certainly be losing no sleep.

Although Übersuggest and similar tools are moderately popular, most SEOs I imagine won’t be particularly inconvenienced if it does end up going down – and let’s not forget that Google Autocomplete itself (not the API) isn’t going anywhere – so it will always be possible to use Google search directly to mine related keywords.”

For businesses that have been using the Autocomplete API ‘legitimately’, Google are offering up an alternative to replace the API in the form of ‘Custom Search’ – and there are two types to choose from:

The first, ‘Custom Search Engine’ is free, providing you don’t mind Google showing ads alongside the search results. There’s also the option to buddy up with Google as an AdSense Partner to get a cut of the revenue, so this may not be a terrible option for very small sites or bloggers.

The second is ‘Google Site Search’ – a product that a number of sites will be using already. Prices start from $100 per year, so it’s not extortionate, but perhaps a little disappointing for those that have been using the Autocomplete API for free. Obviously from Google’s standpoint, it’s tough titties.

Google doesn’t apologise for revoking access to the API – in fact, it states that ‘there are some times when using an unsupported, unpublished API also carries the risk that the API will stop being available. This is one of those situations.”

For me, one of the worst things about this is that is likely to be one of the sites affected by this change. Play it while you can, folks.


29th July 2015

I received an update from Alessandro, Creator of Übersuggest this morning:

“Don’t give up hope. We will be affected by this change so we are investigating possible integrations with other data sources (Bing, Yahoo, etc.).

Data provided from Google is obviously very important, but you will still be able to generate keyword ideas getting data from other sources.”