The old AdWords keyword tool is gone (thanks a bunch, Google) and with it one of the best free SEO tools available to small businesses interested in optimizing their content for search results. Alas, we will miss all the keyword ideas that were generated by each search, and yet not all is lost. Google replaced the old keyword tool with a new Keyword Planner, which is a part of your AdWords account. So there’s the kicker—you have to set up an AdWords account to use the tool. Fortunately, doing so isn’t hard, particularly if you already have a Google account. If you don’t have a Google account, I hate to break it to you but you’ve just woken up in the year 2013 so get hopping.

Keyword Search Volume

General research requires volume numbers, so that’s what we’ll target with the new Keyword Planner. Since we believe strongly in learning by doing, we’ll go through the steps one-by-one. If you don’t have an AdWords account, go off and set it up now…we’ll wait!

While we’re waiting for those folks to set up their AdWords accounts, I’d just like to point out that this type of sudden shift in direction is quite common with corporate solutions, and it’s a really good example of why you don’t put all your eggs in a basket that someone else owns. What do I mean? Take Facebook, for example; businesses that rely entirely on Facebook for their marketing are playing a very dangerous game because at any second Facebook might change direction and eliminate some or all of what makes the platform useful to the business. This happens all the time with social media and pre-packaged online services.

Okay, back to our tutorial on keyword research. Now that you have your AdWords account set up, let’s get started.

  1. Click the Tools & Analysis tab and go to Keyword Planner
  2. Click Enter or Upload Keywords to see how they perform
  3. Add in your keyword list (or upload it, nifty!)
  4. Filter for locations (for local search results) with the Targeting options
  5. Click Get Search Volume
  6. Your Ad Group will be shown on one line
  7. Click the group name to toggle open the results for each keyword

Screenshot of Google Keyword Planner options page

What you’ll see in the Keyword Planner:

To the left is the keyword, then a traffic graph (hover to open) for the past 12 months, then Average monthly searches, then competition level for AdWords and the average Cost Per Click (CPC)

Screenshot of Google Keyword Planner results

In the left sidebar you can adjust your targeting location. Type in the name of a city or state and the results will be filtered for searches from that area.

The Good and the Bad

I actually prefer the specific location filtering in the Keyword Planner over the old Global vs. Local results, which were too confusing to be meaningful. Another difference is that the results now include both mobile and desktop searches instead of just one or the other. To determine mobile vs. desktop traffic, you can use your Google Analytics account (or other analytics tracker) to see where your site’s visitors are coming from. As for the bad, the biggest loss from the old Keyword Tool is the keyword ideas that would pop up below the results for the specified search. The suggestions often would lead to the discovery of valuable niche keyword opportunities. Now, it’s all up to your imagination.

We’ll write about some alternative research methods in an upcoming post, but for now, you’d better resign yourself to using the Keyword Planner. It may not be what you’re used to, but it’s still useful and it won’t set you back $99 per month like many of the SEO company keyword tools.