AdWords Keyword Planner Vs Keyword Tool: Which Search Tool Wins?

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As one of ClickThrough’s best paid search brains, senior PPC account executive Joe Farley has spent plenty of time with Google’s new Keyword Planner – the AdWords keyword research tool which has replaced the long-established Keyword Tool. He has a few things to say on the subject…

It’s been a good few weeks now since the AdWords Keyword Tool was officially replaced with the Keyword Planner, which brings together Google’s familiar keyword research tool and its Traffic Estimator into one streamlined package.

But is it actually any more convenient?

For a few months before the big switchover, Google allowed access to the Keyword Tool and the Keyword Planner, so we’ve had plenty of time now to play around with the new features – and mourn the loss of some useful stuff too.

And during this brief window where both were available, I hate to admit, I tended to opt for the familiar simplicity of the Keyword Tool.

Now though, we have no choice. And after a few weeks of using the new tool, I’m still wrestling over the question: which PPC keyword tool comes out on top?

The short answer’s easy: they’re both good… at different things.

The long answer’s going to take some explaining…

Google Keyword Planner Benefits

Let’s start with the positives. One of my favourite new features of the Keyword Planner is the ‘Multiply Keywords List’ option.

This feature’s really helpful. It lets you string keyword combinations together, and gives you search volumes.

This is useful if you’re targeting a number of products, for example, and need to have search volumes and estimates for phrases relating to each.

Here’s an example:

AdWords Tool 1

This setup would produce search volumes or estimates for:

‘buy bananas’
‘purchase bananas’
‘order bananas’
‘buy apples’
‘purchase apples’…

…and so on.

This is a very, very simple example. See that greyed out ‘X’ on the picture above? That allows you to add another level to the string. When you start adding lots of keywords, you can get lots and lots of combinations.

You can quite easily concatenate keywords together like this in a spreadsheet program such as Microsoft Excel. But being able to do this within the tool itself is a nice time-saver.

Google Keyword Planner now also gives daily estimates for clicks and costs, relating to your bid range.

AdWords Tool 2

This feature was previously part of the Traffic Estimator, and it really is useful to have this information to hand within the research tool.

But I’m sure many of you will be familiar with the old way of doing things – Ctrl C, Ctrl V, Ctrl C, and so on…

That might sound trivial, but being able to immediately tie search volumes to estimated clicks, impressions and positions – and then modify daily budgets or keyword choice accordingly – could end up saving lots of time and make effective campaign management easier.

It becomes a reactive process between the research and estimation tools, rather than the linear ‘A to B’ approach we’ve been used to.

Finally, it’s now easy to select location and language targeting for your keywords.

Now, you simply select targeting options from a sidebar menu. Choose from location or language targetting, add negative keywords, and choose whether to target Google alone, or Google and its search partners. Easy.

AdWords Tool 3

Google Keyword Planner Disadvantages

One of the biggest annoyances with the new system is that most stats don’t change when you alter match type – costs per click and impressions, and the volume of competition, are now based on exact match only. You can only see average monthly searches for exact match too.

Even if you choose to add keywords to your plan as broad match, when you export this data it still shows exact match information for these metrics.

AdWords Tool 4

However, changing the match type in your plan does alter daily estimates of clicks and costs, which can be useful.

But one of the best things about the old Keyword Tool was being able to instantly see variations in traffic and click costs by match type.

Another disadvantage of Google Keyword Planner is that you can no longer ‘split out’ traffic by device – looking at traffic, CPCs, and so on, for mobile devices and desktops separately.

Keyword Planner groups all this data into one, which makes it difficult to see how keywords perform across different devices.

Conversion and click-through rate are variable between mobile and desktop. It was easy to see these differences with Keyword Tool, which was very useful for determining ROI.

The new system also means that the displayed number of monthly searches in AdWords tends to be higher.

Obviously search volumes tend to vary seasonally anyway, but we’re still in ‘switchover time’, and this difference in data creates unnecessary hurdles when you’re trying to consolidate ‘old’ data with new.

To be fair though, Google is working on a feature that’ll show you device-specific traffic estimates – and since enhanced campaigns have brought all the devices together anyway, it kind of makes sense that the Keyword Planner doesn’t currently split out data by device.

These are, in the grand scheme of things, minor annoyances. The things that really get my teeth grinding are the features Google should have improved, but have simply carried over from the old system.

Case in point: Back in the days of yore, you could only upload around 200 keywords when looking for search volumes and keyword ideas.

Now you can upload way more than 200 keywords, but it only presents ideas for up to 200 keywords.

AdWords Tool 5

It would have been nice for Google to allow a bit of leeway with this. There have been plenty of occasions when I’ve already had lists of hundreds of keywords, but I want to use the keyword ideas function to fill in the gaps.

However, when using the estimator function, you can enter up to 1,000 keywords – or 250,000 if you upload them in a CSV file.

One more thing I’d like to see implemented is integration with Search Query reports.

The Keyword Planner is great for initial research, but when you’ve inherited an account – or you’re expanding your keyword selection for an existing account – it’s often better to simply use Search Query reports. This way, you can see what people actually search for, what’s been bid on in the past, what’s worked and what hasn’t worked.

This doesn’t mean the Keyword Planner is redundant. As I’ve mentioned, it’s great for initial research, and also for filling in gaps not covered by Search Query reports.

But it would be fantastic to have all this information in one place.

Conclusion: Which is the Best AdWords Tool?

The Keyword Planner is still very new. Although I’ve used it a fair bit, it’s still too early to say if it’s better or worse than Keyword Tool.

At the moment, I feel that it’s very much a work in progress.

Google itself says it’s launched the new tool to “simplify the process of building campaigns.” In theory, this is exactly what they’ve done – it makes perfect sense to combine research and performance estimations in one tool.

In practice though, it still feels a little clunky, and is prone to slowdown when you’re working with lots of keywords.

I do find myself missing the streamlined simplicity of the Keyword Tool, even if it meant transferring all your research across to the estimator manually.

But, again, this is early days. In my opinion, by converging its technologies, Google’s well on the right track.

What we really should be asking is: how is Google going to develop the new tool in future?

I’m sure that within a few months we’ll be using the tool that the Keyword Tool always should have been.

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