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What 3 big Google updates mean for your SEO strategy

James A. Martin | Oct. 17, 2013
Recent changes to Google's search algorithm, its keyword planner tool and the availability of search query data may have you rethinking your SEO and online marketing strategies, but experts say it's best not to overthink things.

But in late August, after months of warning, Google deep-sixed its AdWords Keyword Tool completely and replaced it with the Google AdWords Keyword Planner.

What does it do? Google Keyword Planner lets AdWords campaign owners research relevant keywords for their ads, group them, estimate traffic the keywords will generate and more.

Why the switch? Google's stated reason: "With Keyword Planner, we've combined the functionality of Keyword Tool and (the AdWords) Traffic Estimator to make it easier to plan search campaigns. That's why Keyword Tool is no longer available. You can use Keyword Planner to find new keyword and ad group ideas, get performance estimates for them to find the bid and budget that are right for you, and then add them to your campaigns."

Clearly, Keyword Planner is targeted directly at advertisers, not organic keyword research. Not surprisingly, some SEO professionals dislike at least parts of the new Keyword Planner. The old Keyword Tool was accessible to anyone, notes Andrew Youderian, founder of Spire Digital LLC, which owns several e-commerce businesses and blogger for his site But Keyword Planner requires a Google AdWords account (which is free) to use.

Youderian also notes that, unlike the Keyword Tool, Keyword Planner no longer lets you segment keyword search volume data by desktop, tablet and mobile. This had been useful to determine what percentage of search traffic for a keyword came from mobile devices, he says.

The Keyword Planner does retain some utility for organic keyword research. For example, Burr notes, you can now view keyword volume on a "hyper-local basis," which helps businesses "get a better idea of the volume and competition in their geographic area."

What does it mean for SEO? You don't have to buy an ad to explore Keyword Planner's keyword research data. Instead, set up an AdWords account (if you haven't already) and use Keyword Planner to research keyword search volumes.

Other free keyword research tools to consider include the Bing Keyword Research tool (which requires a Bing Webmaster Tools account), Wordtracker and SEMRush.


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