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Here at Receptional our SEO team have not been fans of Google’s new version of it’s keyword tool, which can often return unreliable or contradictory data.

Using the two tools in parallel, it was clear that the old tool returned different, and what seemed to be more reliable and useful data than the new tool. The new tool will also give wildly different results while logged in to a Google account, though to some extent such egregious inconsistencies may have been addressed.

Recently Google turned off the ‘previous interface’ (though it was clearly much more than just a different interface), forcing everyone to use the new version, and has now followed this up by crippling the tool for the US market. The UK version of the tool still returns good data, however this is unlikely to continue for long.

From Bad to Worse

As reported by AIMclear:

Attendees sat stunned at #SMX East as Baris Gultekin, Group Product Manager, Google AdWords, Google, Inc. clarified that the ubiquitous AdWords Keyword Tool now only provides keywords Google deems “commercial.”

An illustration:

Data for from the UK version of the tool (over 100 results returned):

US Version of the tool (3 total results):

What this means is that commercial sites that have targeted informational queries as a means of attracting related traffic and increasing brand awareness will now find Google’s keyword tool less useful for this purpose.

It also results in less keyphrase suggestions for many topics, and Google’s filtering of commercial/non-commercial searches is unlikely to be perfectly reliable. It appears that this set of results for Facebook is somehwat anomalous compared to other topics I’ve looked at, but marketers should be aware that a new source of keyword data may be required for comprehensive ideas on what phrases are worth targeting in the near future.

Google’s Motivation

I believe there are two main reasons for this change in the keyword tool.

1. Less data available for PPC marketers means higher competition and therefore greater revenues for Google from the fewer keyphrases that are returned. While some marketers may quickly wise up and move onto other tools, there will be many who will continue to use the Adwords tool, as it is integrated with Adwords. This goes hand in hand with the recent implementation of instant search.

2. SEOs will not be able to analyse changes in keyphrase volumes as a result of instant search on a large scale, only on a per-site basis.

It also makes getting into SEO less accessible, as the main competitors for keyword data are not free (for example Trellian costs nearly $2000 US a year), and could have a the effect of hampering commercial sites in targeting informational queries, which some may see as a good thing. In reality, it is more likely to leave the door open to big players who will have third party data, while shutting out newcomers and small players. This is a recurring, and slightly concerning theme with recent Google updates.