A few weeks ago I opened the Google keyword planner to do some research for one of my clients. It’s an everyday task for me, so imagine my surprise when I was suddenly shown this message: “To use Keyword Planner, you need to have at least one active campaign”.

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After a moment of confusion and several page reloads I found out that Google had announced some major changes to the Keyword Planner tool.

So what’s changed?

Frankly speaking, this update is nothing but a limited version of the Keyword Planner that now presents a reduced traffic estimate to some advertisers. Instead of giving a relatively precise estimate of how much traffic you can expect for certain keywords, they now show a broad range which looks like this: 0, 1-100, 100-1K, 1K-10K, 10K-100K, 100K-1M, 1M+. It’s better than nothing, but only just. Here’s what it looks like in practice:

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Who will be affected by the change?

Following a lot of rumours, Google stated that the limited Keyword Planner could appear in two cases:

  1. For advertisers with a “lower monthly spend”.
  2. For advertisers who reach a limit on the number of searches for search volume data.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find out what the “lower monthly spend” means exactly, or how many searches were allowed before the results were broadened. On the positive side, the first rumour that you need an active campaign running to use the tool at all is not true. This is especially good news for all the SEOs out there who are frequent users of the Keyword Planner but don’t run PPC campaigns. This means that having an AdWords account is enough to be able to use at least the limited version of the tool. The other affected part could be Google themselves as the new restriction could be a chance to move away from them and towards other powerful tools.

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A move in the wrong direction

If you were relying on the Google Keyword Planner and do not meet the new requirements to get the same results, then the tool is now almost useless to you. The broad estimates don’t allow for an in-depth analysis nor do they provide any validity or clarity to which keywords will be most successful for your campaign. For small and medium sized companies, which have a tight marketing budget, this could be another hurdle you encounter while trying to keep up with your competitors.

Personally, I think this adjustment is a move into the wrong direction. Initially offering the same opportunities to every kind and size of business, Google now indirectly benefits only those organisations with a larger available budget. These restrictions won’t cause any advantages in terms of user experience, but only try to make advertisers invest more money into their campaigns in order to get back the data they want. Even though I’m aware that it’s always a necessary give-and-take – in this case more precise data in return for higher spend – I’m sceptical about the consequences for competition in AdWords.

What it means for the work at Reef

Here at Reef, we’re unlikely to see the above error message again. As Google confirmed, MCC accounts that manage multiple active AdWords accounts (usually used by agencies) will normally see the full data view. We also have the added bonus of being a Google Premier Partner, so we think we’ll be in Google’s good graces for quite some time to come. If your business is affected by these changes, or you simply want to enhance your PPC endeavours, get in touch with the team here at Reef!

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