marketing keyword research for seo

Google discontinued their AdWords Keyword Tool on August 27, 2013. However, similar functionality is now available in Google’s Keyword Planner, which is part of the Google AdWords dashboard (from now on, one has to be logged into their AdWords account to access it).

How is the new tool different from the good old GAKT (Google AdWords Keyword Tool )? Many Web marketers regret that it’s missing some of the old functionality, while Google says the new planner is actually more advanced – you just have to know how to use it.

So, is this true? Let’s try to do SEO and PPC keyword research with the new Keyword Planner and see how it goes.

What is now missing?

Even though Google listed the changes that have been made on this page, I wanted to see it for myself, and here is what appears to be missing at a glance:

  • Data breakdown by device (keyword statistics for desktops, mobile devices and tablets are now displayed together)
  • Setting the match type for search volumes (before you could see monthly searches for broad, “exact” and [phrase] matches. Now you get them for the exact keyword)

Besides, when getting keyword ideas, your initial list now cannot go over 50 keywords as opposed to the previously allowed 200 search terms.

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What has been added?

On the bright side, there are some nice additions to the new Keyword Planner:

  • New traffic-related metrics (due to its integration with Traffic Estimator)
  • You can now have ad groups and separate keywords in a plan
  • The new tool lets you specify country, city or region for keyword ideas

Besides, you can now add up to 1,000 keywords (as opposed to the previously permitted 200) for analysis – not to be confused with providing an initial list. And, if you’re adding them by uploading a file of keywords, the limit is extended to 250,000 keywords.

Using Keyword Planner for SEO keyword research

It’s no secret that many online marketers have been using the predecessor of Keyword Planner (the AdWords Keyword Tool) not just for AdWords campaigns, but also to get SEO insights such as traffic volumes, etc.

So, how can one use the new Keyword Planner for SEO analysis? Here are some things you can with it:

1. Get keyword ideas

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  • Enter up to 50 “kernel” keywords
  • Specify your keyword targeting and click “Get ideas”

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2. Expand your list of keywords

  • Export keyword ideas in CSV by hitting “Download” in the top right corner

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Please note that the statistics for your “kernel” keywords will not be downloaded – just the data for the suggested keywords will. So, you will have to add the data for your (up to 50) initial keywords by hand.

  • Go back to Keyword Planner, and choose “Multiply keyword lists”

This will let you get additional keyword ideas and longer-tail keywords.

By default, you can enter up to 2 lists, but you can click the multiplication sign (X) to add a 3rd one:

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Paste the keywords you have in the CSV file into respective lists. You may add geo-targeted keywords, call-to-action search terms and other types of keywords for more results.

Then click “Get search volume” to get keyword ideas. What this feature does is it mixes the keywords in the lists and comes up with (rather spot-on) keyword suggestions related to those terms.

3. Narrow down your list to only relevant keywords

Eventually, you are likely to end up with a rather extensive list of keywords. So, how do you form a list that has only relevant keywords on it? Here is how.

  • Use the Include/Exclude option

Use the Include/Exclude widget on the left-hand side. It lets you:

  • Keep in only the keywords that meet certain criteria
  • Filter out  the keywords that are a poor match for your biz

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Plus, in this widget you can see the negative keywords in your plan. This is convenient, because this way you don’t have to add them to the list of excluded keywords – they will be omitted automatically.

  • Sort the keywords that are left  by “Avg. monthly searches”

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This will let you see which keywords are most frequently searched for by real users.

You may also click the graph-like icon next to each keyword to view its search trends:

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  • Export your keywords in CSV

After that, if you end up with just a handful of popular keywords, you can just write down this information by hand. However, if you have a rather long list of keywords, you can hit “Download” and export them in CSV:

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There, you can again sort them by Avg. monthly searches to see which keywords you should focus on first.

4. Determine the most profitable keywords

OK, here is the deal: simply having a list of frequently searched keywords is not enough for all-round SEO analysis. To get the full picture, you also need to estimate the competition for each keyword on your list.

You can do it by hand or with the help of a keyword tool. SEO PowerSuite’s Rank Tracker, for instance, lets one import a list of keywords and see how many webpages show up for each term in organic search. For that, you’d need to:

  • Download your keywords from Keyword Planner
  • Import them into Rank Tracker and check their Keyword Efficiency Index (KEI) parameter

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KEI is in fact a relation of the keyword’s search volume to the competition that exists for it. So, knowing a keyword’s efficiency index helps one pick out keywords with the biggest number of searches and the least competition.

  • Analyze top 10 pages ranking for the “fattest” keywords

Eventually, it’s also important to analyze the top 10 competitors (at least) for about top 10 of your keywords. You would want to assess those competitors’ backlinks, anchor texts, website structure and interlinking, and perhaps social media popularity to have an idea of how hard it would be to rank for a particular keyword.

Voila – once you do that, you may as well call it day. The next step would be to build your SEO campaign around the keywords you picked by following the process described above.


The new Google Keyword Planner may be a bit different from the good old Google AdWords Tool, but it appears to be still possible to research keywords with it with pretty much the same efficiency.

What have your experiences been with the new Keyword Planner? Do you follow a different procedure in researching SEO keywords? Please, share your thoughts in comments.

Image credit: pressureUA via iStockphoto

Read more: Doing Marketing Keyword Research with Google Keyword Planner (Part 2): PPC Insights