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Google's Keyword Planner: Stranger Than Fiction

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Posted 2nd June 2015 at 01:19 PM by trevord92

A lot of reports suggest that you use the figures reported by the Google Keyword Planner.

The figures it presents are better than nothing but you definitely shouldn't think that they're anything close to being accurate.

The main purpose of the keyword planner is to sell AdWords adverts.

The fact that marketers can use it to get a glimpse of possible search volume is a side effect that Google have to live with: they can't give potential advertisers figures without letting anyone else have access. After all, their computer can't tell in advance whether or not you're likely to give Google money by placing an advert.

We have a tendency to believe figures reported on our computer screens.

And the keyword planner figures are dressed up to look as though they're accurate. No suspiciously round numbers - they all look super-precise.

But they're not.

Anyone who's ever placed an advert or created some content based on those fgures could tell you that but they will probably blame all sorts of other reasons rather than admit that the figures they saw would make a prize winning novelist proud.

Let's quickly look at some of the reasons:
  • First and foremost, actual search volumes are as close to a trade secret as you're likely to get.
  • Storing all the figures on the off-chance that an advertiser will want them would use lots and lots of storage space (it's cheap but not in the kind of volume we're talking)
  • Keeping the figures up to date would need lots of processing power
  • Good enough is good enough - there are so many factors affecting the number of clicks that precision doesn't matter
On top of that, phrases in the keyword planner don't get updated very often.

I've had pages based on what some might call gut reaction (but with a lot of evidence backing up the gut) where I've ranked with almost no competition for a year or more while the keyword planner merrily ignores phrases I'm getting a decent number of clicks for.

I've also had pages - you can see the stats on my blog - where the keyword planner reports at best 80 searches a month yet I''ve had up to 1,389 page views.

Not a small difference by any stretch of the imagination and not an unusual occurrence.

So the next time you see a figure in the keyword planner, pinch yourself and ask yourself whether you (or Google's computer) is just dreaming.
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