For time immemorial, SEOs have been using Google’s Keyword Planner as their go-to tool to get an idea of traffic volumes for keywords and phrases. If you’re not in the know, Keyword Planner is a free tool you can use to search for keywords (e.g. Essex wedding venues, wedding venues in Essex etc.) and ad group ideas relevant to your product or service. Using historical data and traffic forecasts like search volume, you can identify keywords with the most traffic or those with lower volume.

Google’s Keyword Planner now combines keywords for search volume, a major change which has made search volume figures somewhat inaccurate and has SEOs up in arms.

Instead of showing individual keyword estimates for a particular keyword or phrase, Google has decided to combine data. The result being the same estimate for similar keywords or phrases. No longer will SEOs be able to choose keywords to use in their campaigns based on individual volume.

According to TheSEMPost, Keyword Planner now seems to combine many search variants, including:

  • plurals with non-plurals for any word in the keyword phrase
  • acronyms with longhand version
  • stemming variants: -er, -ing, -ized, -ed etc keywords (ie. designer, designing, designed)
  • words that can be spelled with or without space (ie. car park and carpark)
  • words with and without punctuation (ie. kid toys and kid’s toys)

image credit thesempost.com

The result being that increased figures are an amalgamation and not entirely accurate – thanks Google!

Jennifer Slegg brought this update to everyone’s attention:

For those that don’t notice the change – or worse, pulling the data from tools that haven’t updated to take into account the change – this means that some advertisers and SEOs are grossly overestimating those numbers, since many tools will combine data, and there is no notification alert on the results to show that how Google calculates average monthly searches has been changed. – Slegg via The SEMPost

This isn’t particularly good news, and in all honesty I can’t see what the benefit is to the end user or Google, can you? (comments welcome below).

Key takeaway:

Perhaps this update is another nudge from Google to remind us of the importance of content which holds both relevancy and context. Ashleigh Brown, Head of Biddable Media here at Browser Media had this to say:

This feels like another step by Google to make marketers’ and website owners’ jobs more difficult. Being even more secretive about keyword volumes means that we don’t know what variation is most important / most searched upon. It also means that if people want to find out true search volumes for different variations of keywords, then they’ll have to run paid ads to do so.

To counter this, we should all be writing content that is optimised for human reading and not for search engines, but keyword research can help with more than just website optimisation.