One of the many problems facing SEO’s these days is how to carry out effective keyword research.
With [not provided] now accounting for about 80-90% of organic keyword data in Google Analytics, we’re effectively working blind when it comes to trustable data on what search terms are being used.
There are lots of ways to shed light on keyword data – from studying the landing page data in Analytics to relying on data from Bing/Yahoo and using the search query reports in Google Webmaster Tools (which are ridiculously rubbish if you ask me).
The most popular way to research different keywords, get new keyword ideas and compare search volumes is to use the Keyword Planner in Google AdWords.
However, I’m increasingly becoming more and more uncomfortable with using this tool as the data it provides doesn’t quite seem right.
Because I work in an agency that handles a lot of PPC accounts, I have a lot of paid-for data at my disposal so I decided to put together a quick comparison together to see if there are any big discrepancies between actual AdWords data and the figures in the Keyword Planner.
For the record, I picked the test keyphrases at random and got the AdWords data from the ‘See Search Terms’ reports of each campaign. All the keywords were receiving ‘first page’ impressions throughout the month, so the ‘Impressions’ data is probably the best representation of search volumes for these keyphrases I can get.
Test 1 – musical instruments
Here’s the data from AdWords for two reasonably popular musical instrument-based search terms for the month of October 2013 (I’ve blocked out some irrelevant data so I don’t get in trouble with the PPC team!):
As you can see, impressions for the month for [Yamaha flute] were 4,559, and for [buffet clarinet] they were 3,909.
Now let’s see if these impression figures correspond with the ‘Avg. Monthly Searches’ in the UK in Google’s Keyword Planner:
Errm, no. That’s a pretty huge discrepancy. I know this is an ‘average’ figure taken from 12 months, but even accounting for that a difference of about 670% (for [Yamaha flute]) is ridiculous!
Let’s try another one…
Test 2 – [magic whiteboard]
Again for the month of October, here’s the impressions data for the search term [magic whiteboard]:
And here’s what the Keyword Planner says:
Only a difference of about 200% this time!
Let’s do one final test:
Test 3 – product term
For this I’ve picked the fairly long-tail term [Samsung ue40f6400] – which is a TV.
Here’s what the AdWords data gives us for October 2013:
And here’s the Keyword Planner data:
That’s a difference of about 187%.
I get the feeling that I could go on all day with this and get the same results!
So what’s going on here? Is the Keyword Planner simply not to be trusted, or is my non-scientific study ignoring some obvious fact that is skewing the data?
I’d love to get your opinions on this so please join the discussion in the comments below, also – let me know what tools/processes you use to determine search volumes and pick your target keywords because as of now I officially don’t know the best way to research keywords for an on-page optimisation plan!
One last thing, let me know if you have any cool ideas for studies and insights you might want to see from all the AdWords data we have (obviously with no brand terms included!) – I’m thinking of putting together a big research study together based on ‘what types of keywords convert’, what do you think?