Google Limits Access to Keyword Search Volume Data

Keyword Planner Change Now Showing Limited Data to SEOs

Google Adwords Keyword Planner

You can say goodbye to Keyword Planner now. As of September 13, Google will only be displaying search volume data in ranges to SEOs and non-advertisers. No longer will SEOs be able to see how many times a specific keyword is searched on a monthly average unless they pay.

Google said the reason for the change was to block bots from accessing the keyword planner tool.

“We recently made a change to Keyword Planner that shows search volume data ranges based on spend and how you use the tool,” says Cassie from Google. “This change aims to prevent ‘bots’ from submitting an overwhelming number of searches in Keyword Planner, which was slowing down the tool and occasionally causing errors that prevented people from using the tool.”

There’s no word on how much you have to spend to unlock search volume data, but this is a huge blow to the SEO community.

Keyword Planner Search Volume

Search volume ranges aren’t helpful, especially if your keyword falls on the lower end of the range.

Google Keyword Planner Changes in 2016

It’s been a rough summer for SEOs, as Google has been modifying the best keyword research tool in the industry. Earlier this summer, Google began lumping search volume data for similar keywords. Many SEOs were upset at the change because the slightest variation of a keyword—say “-er” versus “-ing”—can entail a completely different meaning. Strike number one.

Then, the Keyword Planner began showing an error message that read: “To use Keyword Planner, you need to have at least one active campaign. If you have an active campaign and are still seeing this message, try reloading Keyword Planner in a few minutes.” Google later stated it was a bug and users didn’t need to have an active campaign. Strike two.

Google’s (probable) end goal for all of these Keyword Planner changes was achieved when the search engine officially began blocking all non-advertisers and low spenders from specific keyword data on September 13. Final blow.

What is the Keyword Planner?

The Keyword Planner is an SEO essential. It’s a free keyword research tool—so long as you sign up for a Google AdWords account—and it provides you Google’s own data. It shows you average monthly searches, competition level, suggested bid, and ad impression share along with other features. Google AdWords’ Keyword Planner was designed to help PPC advertisers build campaigns, but the search volume data became invaluable to those in organic search.

What This Means for SEOs

With basically a pay wall to access complete details of a keyword, SEOs will now have to rely on other keyword research techniques to make data-driven decisions. Other keyword research techniques include:

  • Looking at auto-complete suggestions
  • Taking note of “Searches related to”
  • Scanning title tags and meta descriptions
  • Using other keyword research tools

Do Keywords Even Matter Anymore?

Yes, and no. Keywords are still important to SEO because they still matter to Google. The company’s advertising platform, Google AdWords, depends on keywords to display relevant ads. However, keywords don’t matter as much as they did before.

Ever since Google revamped its search algorithm to understand semantics and user intent, keywords have become less and less of a ranking factor. Hummingbird enabled the search giant to consider the context of a query and ultimately provide more relevant results. That’s when the shift toward concepts or topics began.

SEOs had to provide context within their pages or blog posts, which means they would end up describing their keywords in other ways or provide background information. As a result, overall quality of pages essentially got better because they weren’t as littered with a single keyword.

Note: not all SEOs have adopted this mentality toward keywords and SEO. Believe it or not, there are still some old-school “SEOs” who still use exact-match keywords throughout their content in attempt to rank on the first page.

Keywords are still relevant to SEO, but in a different way. Now, you’re looking to use a head keyword with a group of tail keywords. Or you’re looking to use a long-tail keyword to best describe your content. Keywords aren’t dead, but they’re not the ticket to ranking either.

How to Approach Content Writing in 2016

When doing keyword research either by the above-mentioned techniques, it’s important to keep topical authority in mind. SEOs shouldn’t choose a keyword based solely on search volume. Instead, they should decide on what the content will be about, what it’ll cover, and its takeaways.

From there, they can decide on the keyword that accurately summarizes their content. The keyword they end up with in many cases may be a long-tail keyword, as a head keyword wouldn’t describe their content in detail.

Remember, content is one of Google’s top three ranking factors—not keywords. Aim to write on a specific subject in-depth and you’ll naturally use keywords, synonyms, and related keywords in your content.

In the meantime, the SEO community will have to wait and see how this limited data will affect their campaigns and performance.