In the summer of 2016, Google announced that it would be showing ranges for Search Volume rather than detailed numbers. Just recently, these changes have shown up in various reporting systems including our own. As of this week, Boostability’s own tracking system was able to pick up on actual changes.
As of September 15, 2016, our Keyword Research team found these expected fluctuations throughout our database of Boostability clients.
As announced by Google, (and confirmed by Boostability) below are the ranges Google reports:
- 100,000-1 Million
- 1 Million+
How Do These Changes Affect My Keyword Planning?
The numbers from Google are both vague and inaccurate, which can portray the wrong expectations when doing your own keyword research. You will find that other trustworthy sources such as Search Engine Watch report that the new Google Keyword Planner is “even more inaccurate”.
Several sources report that Google has started to combine related terms. This means Google is pulling together search terms such as seo, search engine optimization, and search engine optimisation (with an s rather than a z) as one keyword with an expected search volume of 673,000.
This means you can no longer separate keyword variations such as plurals, acronyms, words with or without spaces, and variations in punctuation. This is what gives the Keyword Planner a false sense of search volumes. Why? Because those searching online are still searching these variations, so why would Google want to bundle them in the first place?
What Is Boostability Doing About It?
Our Keyword Research Team is carefully analyzing all accounts, monitoring individual keywords, and keyword groupings (plurals, acronyms, variants, etc.) to continue to show the same expected search ranking and traffic results.
How Is This Reflected In Boostability’s LaunchPad Reporting System?
As you might expect, ranges, as compared to exact numbers, are not very helpful for keyword research. Our Keyword Research team has been tasked with entering the minimum number of the range in LaunchPad for our customers to see and review when presenting a customer or partner with information regarding recommended keyword lists.
Learn more about LaunchPad reporting and what it is.
Why This Change Is Good
First, let’s go with the positives.
Trust that while we all have a little PTSD about Google’s ability to pull the carpet out from underneath each of us. Google has also promised to make changes more slowly and report on major changes ahead of time. This is much better than their previous ability to throw the Internet’s worst surprise party every time they tweak their search algorithm. We can trust that because this is exactly what they have done with this update.
In late June, Google announced this update would be happening within the next several weeks, and here we are in September, seeing it for ourselves. The new slow-and-steady Google is a Google we can all get along with. So first things first, don’t fear Google changes anymore.
Find the positive side of all changes. Google is a massive corporation. While it can be assumed their updates come from self-interest, the good news is that Google’s main value as a company is that they want to help the world. So skip over notions of self-interested corporations and understand that Google has hundreds if not thousands of people constantly analyzing how to make your search experience better.
Google sees the big picture and, as businesses using Google products and who are interested in search rankings, we all should be on board with the changes they see fit to print.
This is a good reminder that reported search volumes and estimated cost per clicks should be seen as directional signals and not the end-all, be-all of search engine marketing.
What Do I Need To Do To Comply With Google’s Recent Keyword Update?
Google’s changes are always meant to have a positive benefit for advertisers. Google wants to see you in top search results just as badly as you want to see yourself rise to the top, and if Google seems to be making this journey harder on you, what they’re really trying to do is give you some more concrete steps toward intensely valuable content.
Here are our tips for the “What Now?” question:
We simply aren’t there yet. This is new. What we do now is test, test, test! Analyze any changes to the strategies you already have in place, and wait.
The worst thing you can do is anticipate what this means and start changing your keyword usage and strategy drastically to go along with what you assume will happen to your search rankings. Instead, wait to see if anything happens to your rankings and then create a new action plan.
Without a doubt, as changes start to unfold and Google does their own analysis of how many websites were affected by the most recent algorithm update, they’ll let you know (in so many words) what you can do to work on reversing any negative affects if your website happens to be one of the sites taken for a ride by this new change.
Know Your Facts
Even some of Google’s biggest changes in history rolled out with an effect on less than 4% of all websites. Recently, Google’s changes tend to affect less than 1% of overall sites, and changes like these seem to be targeted toward major sites that simply shouldn’t be in the search results for certain search terms.
Pros & Cons
Customer experience is all fine and good, right? We are all internet searchers, in some cases long before we were business owners. So, as a consumer of Internet search terms, we can all do a digital wave in celebration of more relevant content coming through search terms and keeping us, as searchers, from having to repeatedly Google changes in our keyword usage to find exactly what it is we are looking for.
As an advertiser and business owner, your first reaction may be to panic and think that all that time and hard-earned money spent on keyword variations is now at a loss. While your feelings are valid, the truth of the matter is, it’s not. Your time and money have not been wasted, and here’s why:
If you’ve been focusing advertisements on low-level search terms to rise to the top of search results with keyword variations and local-targeting, your keyword optimization toward those exact words still exist. They’re still completely valid. They are still required for you to climb the ranks, literally.
While a business owner may be angered that they’ve been focusing all their efforts on “search engine optimization” as a long-tail keyword to avoid the high volume search of “seo,” only to find that these search terms have now been grouped together, that does not make your content any less relevant or your efforts suddenly void.
When conducting keyword research for on and off-site content creation, and when analyzing keyword targeting information, you now have the opportunity to reach multiple searches at once by simply adjusting the way that you query (search) for new search terms.
This means that previously, when searching for “seo” as a search team, Google would return main results for that keyword alone.
Google has always known seo and search engine optimization mean the same thing. Of course they have! They practically coined the term themselves. But now, they’ve decided it is best for their search engine to see these two separate keywords as the same thing as well. This is meant to better serve the consumer’s intent.
As a result, we are moving into an era where customer experience is more important than ever, and “brand intent” is the new buzzword everyone should be attaching themselves to. Where content was once king, in 2017 “Intent” is going to rule the Universe.
With this update we are moving into a space where brands will be recognized in the SERP (search engine results page) for the content that is most relevant to a search query rather than an exact keyword.
Advertisers will need to reset their expectations and show that keywords versus keyword groups being used continue to see similar SERP (search engine results page) rankings and traffic.
Another pro is that, for now, you can retrieve old data from Google’s previous keyword reporting. Search Engine Land reports that to find individual keyword information one must use Google’s Keyword Planner to view slight variations. Add these variations to your plan and select the “review plan” button, or, just start with “plan your budget and get forecasts.”
When you are reviewing the plan, you need to change the date range, enter a bid, and click on the keyword tab. View this image for more information. Having done this, you can now see individual keyword information.
Here are some known issues and cons of recent Google Keyword changes:
- Using Third Party Tools
For those using a third party source to manage their Adwords account (example: WordStream), these tools rely on the previous specifications Google provided for individual keywords and variations. Now, in order for these tools to accurately suggest keyword changes, they will have to undergo massive updates to their entire system. Third party tools will be weary about getting started on these changes right away because with one Google update, there’s usually a much bigger announcement in the near future.
- Inflated Numbers
As you can imagine, with keywords being grouped together now, search volumes are inflated for variations that were once very low-volume variations. Since advertisers will no longer see search terms displayed individually, it will be difficult to determine just how far a variation can take you in search results.
You may think, “Well, that doesn’t matter because it all comes out in the same search results page,” and that is true, the variations in searches are endless and that extra 4th or 5th word added to a search term can make a world of difference to what someone sees in search results. Therefore, variations will still matter, it will just be very difficult to determine which variation will matter most without first trying and testing the keyword.
- Website Reporting
Whether you view your keyword reporting through Boostability’s LaunchPad system (which has already updated to cater to this change) or you view other reporting directly through your Google Search Console, this change will affect your SOV (share of voice) and trending keyword data. The keywords being reported and tracked will change drastically from what you have seen before, and be less accurate than previous reporting. SOV (share of voice) is a measurement based on search volume in relation to search ranking. Trending data is also based on search volume. So as you might imagine, even Google’s Trending Topics page will seem different from previous trends. Overall, the purpose of the change is to make trending topics seem more concise.
What Do Others Have To Say About This Change
Search Engine Watch: Google’s Keyword Planner Just Became More Inaccurate by Chris Lake
Performics: Google’s Keyword Planner Search Volume Changes: Implications For Marketers by Jennifer Hyla
The SEM Post: Google’s Keyword Planner Now Combines Keywords For Search Volume by Jennifer Slegg
Search Engine Land: What the heck is going on with Google Keyword Planner? By Ginny Marvin
Search Engine Land: How to get the old Google Keyword Planner volume data by Patrick Stox