Why we now only report on Exact Match Google volumes

Posted by Owen Powis on 29 Nov, 2012
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Why we now only report on Exact Match Google Volumes from Wordtracker, the leading keyword research tool

Google are no longer providing Phrase and Broad Match data to external tools. This means we’ve had to remove it from ours. We think, however, that this a blessing in disguise. Here’s why.

The Google data we provide comes from the Google Keywords tool. This tool is designed for use for PPC but it has been widely commandeered by the SEO community.

The Google Keywords tool tells you how many people searched for a given keyword (the ‘search volume’). And it generates a number of associated keywords and their search volumes. This lets PPC advertisers know how many people will see their ads when they bid against certain keywords.

Sounds simple, but there are different ways to associate a keyword with an ad. These are called Match Types, and there are three of them.

  • Broad: Shows total volume for all searches which contain any part of the term or synonyms
  • Phrase: Shows total volume for all searches that contain all of the term
  • Exact: Shows volume for searches only on that term

Lets look at an example term, say wooden spoon. The different Match Types could match against:

Broad: wooden boats, silver spoon, wooden fireplace
Phrase: big wooden spoon, oak wooden spoon, wooden spoon engraving
Exact: wooden spoon

Relating this to SEO, Exact Match gives you the most accurate idea of how many people are searching for a given keyword. Broad or Phrase Match types will lead to an inflated figure that has little relation to the actual search volume.

But all keyword search volumes that Google gives you, exact or otherwise, are only an estimation. If you look within the tool you will see that Google search volumes tend to be grouped together. Lots of keywords have the same search volume. This is because Google estimates search volumes by looking at a small sample then extrapolating upwards. Eg, it might look at 1% of searches, see that there were 50 searches for pens, then multiply by 100 to say that there were 5,000 searches for pens across the whole population.

This data is valuable if you look at its relative size when compared to other keywords. But it won’t tell you the exact number of visits that each keyword will drive to your site. How many clicks you actually get will depend on a large number of factors. Here are just a few:

  • How you rank
  • The type of search result generated
  • Your search result
  • The other search results' influence
  • Etc etc

All these factors can change. For instance, how you rank varies from user to user, due to the effects of personalized search.

Importantly though, search volumes will tell you which of the keywords you are choosing between are the most popular. This is the key information.

The Google Keywords tool also misses out one other major factor, competition. It does have a competition column, but this is for PPC advertisers. PPC is an auction system, so the level of competition they face will be affected by the people who are bidding on their chosen keywords. This will have no relevance on your SEO though, so it won't help you.

Let’s look at an example for some keywords: facebook, apple, boats and gyms.

Google search results

So Google is telling me that terms such as gyms and apple have low and medium levels of competition. This is true for PPC because not many people will be bidding on those terms. But it's not the case for SEO. We can see this with when we look at the Wordtracker tool:

Wordtracker search results

The level of competition is given on a 0 - 100 scale, with 100 being high. Within the Wordtracker Keywords tool you can see a far more realistic picture of competition for SEO.

But there are some more tweaks we do to make the data we show as meaningful as possible.

When we show Google data this is now taken from searches across the Google Search Network.

This means it includes searches from all Google properties, such as Google Maps, Google Shopping, Google Images, etc. We think this gives a much more balanced idea of how popular a keyword is, so once again you are getting data which more closely matches the searches that are really happening.

So there it is, why you shouldn’t use the AdWords tool and why Exact Match is the only match that matters.

If you want any more help or support please do get in touch with support@wordtracker.com

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