Google, keywords and the case of the disappearing data

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Several public-facing keyword tools have been shelved after Google cracked down on web apps which don’t adhere to its terms of service. Here, ClickThrough Marketing’s web applications manager, Neil Paterson, summarises what is going on.

It may sound like the title of a terrible fantasy film, but the reality is that Google is now withholding keyword data from a major SEO tool, which the search giant deems to be breaking their terms and conditions.

Keywords – the search terms a user types into Google – are the basis of all SEO and PPC campaigns.

And keyword data, such as estimated search volumes and estimated costs per click, are vital to help both SEO and PPC Internet marketers decide where exactly to put their budgets.

With this hunger for data in mind, many online tools claim to present all the keyword information you could ever possibly need in a slick, beautiful and (of course) chargeable way.

But Google has, over the past week, seen fit to withdraw access to keyword data from a very high-profile tool - by rebuffing the robots of SEOmoz.

This in turn caused the pre-emptive pulling of Ahrefs’ Keywords Analysis tool.

But why would Google pull the plug?

Firstly, it is important to realise that Google’s keyword data has a value.

And Google is a business.

Therefore, Google’s terms dictate that if you use their keyword data in a tool, that same tool must also provide a way to create and manage paid advertisements.

This is where SEO companies are failing to comply.

SEO relates to natural search results, and natural search makes Google a big fat zilch for its coffers.

So, if a tool provides subscribers with estimated keyword search volumes, used exclusively for SEO purposes, it seems Google has no reason to continue supplying the free data which makes the tool valuable.

What this will mean for Keyword Analysis tools in 2013

It may be a case of comply or die.

Previously, SEO-focused tools needed to integrate paid-search functionality, or they simply wouldn’t be entitled to see Google’s keyword data.

Refusal to integrate paid-search functionality means keyword analysis becomes, at best, difficult. At worst, it will be completely unreliable (keyword volumes that don’t include Google? Hmm.)

Businesses affected by this clampdown will need to rely on the strength of their other SEO offerings to survive.

And let’s not forget, PPC tools are not exempt either. If ad management functionality is not included, these tools will likely suffer the same fate as their SEO counterparts.

All is not lost, however.

Keyword analysis tools that exclusively make use of your own reported keyword data aren’t in breach of Google’s terms of service.

Web apps, such as ClickThrough’s own PPC reporting tool, BidCops, can make marketing suggestions based purely on your account’s activity and keywords – and such reporting-only tools are fully compliant with Google’s terms.


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