In the next few weeks, the Google Adwords Keyword Tool is being retired. To get keyword ideas with Google, you will need to log in to your AdWords account and use their Keyword Planner. Google keyword research is effectively moving behind bars.
Brent Hodgson from Keyword Blueprint asks Wordtracker CEO Mike Mindel what these changes mean for people doing SEO keyword research.
Brent: Google is pushing website owners towards a high quality content strategy with recent updates that limit the value of some types of traditional SEO. That said, is keyword research still valuable now? Will it be valuable in the long term?
Mike: Keyword research is as relevant now as it was in the very early days of search marketing. Without insight into how your potential audience or customer base is searching for products or content, you're walking in the dark.
It's easy to guess how to target content, but without clear knowledge of who you're writing for, that guess could result in hours, days or weeks of misguided publishing that don't produce any clear results.
Brent: In general, what are your thoughts about Google removing the Google AdWords Keyword Tool? Is it a smart move on Google's part? Or shortsighted?
Mike: The temptation here might be to just say 'shortsighted' and leave it at that. However, looking at what may be the reasons behind this move (creating a tighter PPC tool that supports the AdWords network well), from Google's perspective, it's reasonably smart.
That said, the tool caters in no way towards those marketers engaged in organic SEO. In fact, the keywords returned aren't that helpful to someone who's starting out with a new site that they're trying to rank organically for.
So in terms of catering for organic SEO, it could be perceived as shortsighted - but Google isn't famous for supporting direct SEO, so in some ways it's a move that's to be expected.
Brent: Where do you think Google's new keyword toolset falls short?
Mike: There are a couple of obvious places. Firstly, the 800 keyword limit on lists of keywords returned from the initial seed doesn't always provide good insight. Secondly, access to the long tail of search is restricted because of the words that Google likes to present back to a user - lots of 'head' keyword terms, and fewer long tail keywords - so optimizing for further along the buying cycle is difficult.
There also appears to be less opportunity to find good content generation keywords in the data set. Reporting on questions that searchers are asking online, for instance, while having lower search volumes allows publishers the opportunity to engage potential customers in the spirit of being useful rather than directly trying to make an immediate sale.
Brent Can you share a little about how you've been preparing and adapting ahead of the big closure date?
Mike We've been investing a lot of our time and resources into preparing a huge new data set (which is now available in our Keywords Tool), and are continuing the work to enable our customers to get greater detail out of the data than Wordtracker has ever been able to provide.
Brent How do you think keyword research/SEO will change in the coming months as a result of Google's move?
Mike As the Google tool is now more than ever before wrapped around the PPC process, organic SEO users will find less value in spending their time with it.
Keyword research remains crucial as the bedrock of any organic SEO campaign, but the insight Wordtracker will be able to offer is going to allow SEOs to refine their research (particularly those people working with more seasonal keywords) to a degree that hasn't previously been possible with longer tail keywords.
We've also released an early version of Wordtracker Scout - which is a Chrome extension designed to uncover the true language of your market by allowing users to start their keyword research from any web page.
This will give insight into which keywords any web publisher views as important to their page, with added insight from Wordtracker's own keyword database, to give a view on how popularly searched and how competitive each of those keywords are.
Brent What's your #1 piece of advice to people who previously relied on the Google Adwords Keyword Tool? What should they be doing over the coming weeks in light of these changes?
Mike We've always encouraged organic SEOs to rely less heavily on Google's data as it is so PPC-centric.
Our message to anyone who's using the tool outside of specific AdWords campaigns remains the same - and we'd advocate using the new Wordtracker data to find the language that their potential customers are using, rather than relying on a tool that isn't specifically designed to fit their real needs.
And let us know what you think of the tool in the comments below. Your feedback is invaluable.