Andrew Ruegger

Andrew Ruegger

Partner, Director of Strategy & Insights

How to: The Keyword Planner for SEO

Have no Fear, The Google Keyword Planner is Here!

As of late July, 2013 Google has officially removed the AdWords Traffic Estimator tool from its selection of AdWords utensils. Don’t panic, the Traffic Estimator didn’t completely disappear it has just been rolled up into a new tool, the Keyword Planner. The Keyword Planner tool is a combination of the now deceased Traffic Estimator tool and the Keyword Tool (a tool that generated keyword ideas). Google even displays this happy message promoting their new toy:

Keyword Planner promotion message

The Downsides

You must have an AdWords Account to use this tool. This means if you have not signed up to use AdWords or ever had AdWords access granted to the email your using, you will not be able to use the Keyword Tool.  This shouldn’t come as a surprise to you because this isn’t the first tool Google has done this with.

The new tool also makes it more difficult to get a variety of match type data exported quickly. Previously a user could select the match type box and see all types: Exact, Phrase, and Broad simultaneously on the same page. Although it’s still possible to view some information on the Broad and Phrase matching types, the process is slightly more time consuming and the data is related specifically to Paid Search metrics, and not organic search volumes.

Two Major Functional Downsides:

  1. Volume cannot be segmented by device, Google has rolled all devices search volume into one number.
  2. The only search volume data that is available for export or viewing is exact match!

How to Get Access

You can click here to see if your account has access to the tool: Keyword Planner Tool

If for whatever reason you can’t access the tool, don’t worry, it’s quick and easy to add Adwords to your account without actually having to run any paid campaigns.

If you need access please follow the instructions below:

Log in to your Gmail account, select your image icon in the upper right and then select “Account:”

Account Access for Keyword Planner

Your assortment of products will vary but if you cannot use the tool it is because you don’t have access to Google Adwords, which you will notice is absent from the account below:

Google Products

The quickest way to gain access is to click here: Keyword Planner Tool and then fill out the AdWords Registration Process as shown below:

AdWords Registration

Be sure to fill this out accurately. Because I only practice AdWords in Kazakhstan, in the Aqtobe time zone, with my favorite legal tender, the Vietnamese Dong, that is what I have selected.

However, these settings will be your default search volumes by locations and Costs-Per-Click (CPC) by currency when using the tool so be sure to fill it out accurately.

AdWords Registration Selecting a Time Zone

Select “Continue” to verify your Account where you will be presented with this screen:

Adwords Registration Confirmation Screen

Click “Sign in to your AdWords Account” which will take you to the AdWords Campaigns Dashboard where you can learn about Paid Search if you so choose.

From now on you can access all AdWords tools including the Keyword Planner from this account. I suggest adding it to your favorites bar for quick access.

Keyword Planner Toolbar Directions

Keyword Planner Use and Functionality

Overall the Keyword Planner tool is superior in both capability and functionality due to integration of specific elements previously found only in the Traffic Estimator or the Keyword Tool.  When factoring efficiency and usability into the equation, the new tool’s enhanced sophistication allows users to quickly pull large sets of data or spot check single keywords with an increased number of overall filter settings. The data export is essentially the same in format, there are a few additional columns related to paid campaigns, but all the worthwhile data is still exportable.

After familiarizing yourself with the tool you’ll be able to pull data more efficiently than before. The tool offers a plethora of exciting features for AdWords users by presenting unique keywords and ad groups specific filter settings by language, CPC, month search average, town, city, county, country, or any combination of all adjustable settings. You can target Antarctic, which of course bears the disclaimer “Limited Reach” (Limited IPs Detected).   You can even get results of “Nearby” locations based on initial input. Despite being developed to assist AdWords Marketers the Keyword Planner tool remains a necessity in the life of an SEO.

Search for keyword and ad group ideas

This section of the tool is specifically designed to help enhance Paid Marketer’s ad campaigns, but don’t count it out as an SEO when looking for new ideas to reach your target consumer. And although this section is the remnants of the late Keyword Tool, as an SEO you should shift your attention to primarily using “Enter or upload keywords to see how they perform” for all keyword volume checks and monthly data pulls.

Keyword Planner Search for keyword and ad group ideas

This section of the Keyword Tool would be especially helpful when asked to offer insights or produce strategies on geographic locations or languages you’re not familiar with. You are even capable of pulling keyword data for seven languages separate by tabs:

Keyword planner Volumes and Keywords

Volumes & Keywords returned are based on obscurity of term and location

Additionally you can gain product insight by segmenting ideas further than before with the expanded “Product Category” field:

Keyword Planner Product Category Field

Or what terms have high search interest around a product category or website URL. In this example, only Bags & Packs was selected in the “Product Category:”

Keyword Planner Product Category bags & packs

The graph icon presents a nice visualization of the terms’ 12 month search interest:

Keyword Planner 12 Month Search Interest graph icon

Keyword Planner 12 Month Search Interest graph

The option shown below to “Add keywords as” Broad, Exact, and Phrase match can help build an AdWords campaign with a variety of match types, however, the display Avg. Monthly Searches do NOT change based on this selection.

Keyword Planner Add Keywords by Match Type

If you were to select “Add All” Google creates an AdWord’s “Your Plan” which is where the match type drop down will allow you to see daily estimates for clicks and cost based on the selected match type:

Keyword planner Add all keywords in product category

After adding keywords to “Your Plan”, you can view additional insights on keywords & cost expectations. This can also be used by an SEO to better understand the AdWords PPC cost trends of phrases and overall AdWords strategy and management. All metrics change based upon the dynamic elements such as “Bid Range” and “Match Type” (Broad, Exact, and Phrase all function properly in this section).

Keyword Planner Paid Campaign Insights

The export functionality has been simplified; making it easier to pull average and monthly search history by selecting “Segmented Statistics by month,” while maintaining the traditional export with only average search volume. “Excel CSV” is the best format to use for SEO purposes while the other choice “Adwords Editor,” is specifically for Google’s PPC management platform (Learn More about Adwords Editor)

Keyword Planner Export Functionality

Segmented Statistics by Month – Excel CSV: Similar to trends in Traffic Estimator “Segmented Statistics” exports average keyword volume and monthly volumes of the past 11 months. The columns are sectioned by Adgroup, Keyword, Avg. Monthly, Competition, Avg. CPC, Impressions share (paid), In account? (paid), In plan? (paid), Extracted from (paid).

Keyword planner Segmented Stats export

Excel CSV:

Keyword planner Segmented Stats export excel CSV

*All data exports in exact match through keyword ideas.

Enter or Upload Keywords to See How They Perform

This section is the closest option to the former Traffic Estimator tool, and there are very few downsides in comparison. It’s very convenient to check single keywords or large sets of keywords previously formatted in an XLSX or CSV file. You can copy paste a list right into the field and get search volumes, or upload a list if copying and pasting is not your thing. This is the best tool to use as an SEO for volume checks and exports. There is no check box for “Match Type” which encourages you to format your keywords appropriately as shown below:

Keyword Planner Upload keywords

However, if you are doing SEO, you won’t necessarily need to format your lists because the section of the tool we should use the most is “Get Search Volume” and the returned results are always “Exact Match.”

Alternatively, if you are doing a Paid campaign or want to experiment with the “Get Estimates” portion of the tool, you can use excel to easily format your keyword lists to have the proper punctuation for the match type you need:

Get Search Volume Estimates Excel Function

Get Search Volume Estimates Excel Function Results

Click here for Additional Details on the file format for upload: Keyword Planner Upload Format

After your keywords are entered, for SEO purposes use the “Get search Volume” function. The “Get Estimates” section mainly benefits individuals in Paid Search marketing. “Get Estimates” however will display the various match types of data from your input. So if you formatted your list for partial match volumes, “Puppies” you can learn more about those volumes in the “Get Estimates” section, otherwise, “Get Search Volume” is where most SEOs should go:

Keyword Planner Upload keywords example

You’ll land on the recommended “Ad Group Ideas” tab which provides new groups and keywords that have enough interest to run AdWords campaigns. There are some potentially valuable insights to be gained from Googles recommendations, specifically when doing research for a Keyword Strategy:

Keyword Planner Ad Group Ideas

For most SEOs, you’ll just be looking for search volume data and should select “Keyword Ideas” to get your recently inputted list of keywords and their volumes:

Keyword Planner Keyword Ideas tab

*Regardless of the match type formatting Google always returns your keyword ideas with exact match volumes.

The tool has the potential to display up to 100 keywords and their volumes, competition, and Avg. CPC on a single page, and allows inputs of up to 1000 keywords. The display ranges from 5 – 100 keywords per page and can be changed by selecting the down arrow on the lower right-hand corner of the page:

Keyword Planner Keyword Ideas number of keywords

The tool will not allow more than 1000 keywords at a time:

Keyword Planner Over 1000 keywords error

You can export your full list by clicking “Download Ideas” located on the upper right of the page, similar to the old Keyword Tool:

Keyword Planner how to Download Ideas

Selecting “Segment statistics by month” will give you the past 12 months of search volume for each term. Leaving it unchecked will provide you the average of the past 12 months:

keyword planner Segment Statistics by month download option

And you will get your nice, malleable data that SEOs needs:

keyword planner Segment Statistics by month download excel file

Multiply Keyword Lists

The third section of the Keyword Planner is “Multiply keyword lists” and it’s true to its name. Its primary function is to make it easy for Paid marketers to combine two to three lists of keywords:

Keyword Planner Multiple Keyword Lists

And produces expected results:

Keyword Planner Multiple Keyword List results

I guess this could be helpful for Paid marketers to create better keyword lists that don’t use Excel and rely completely on AdWords tools. But this tool has no real value to SEO.


Overall, the new Keyword tool is not much different. Considering exact match data is the best way to present search volume to clients there are no major downsides to the new tool. The export of data is 1 click further away, and the tool tries to direct users to Paid search metrics at every turn. That being said, the tool was designed for Paid Search, not to help SEOs do keyword research or check keyword search volumes. However, it still provides the keyword data we need while providing additional methods to segment geographical and product category information and search interest. When used correctly, the tool is actually more helpful for an SEO than it was before.


  • Provides more sophisticated filtering functionality
    • Increased diversity for geo-location search interest
    • Increased product category selection options
    • Volumes always export in exact match
  • Provides additional insights for Keyword Research


  • Only exact match keyword volumes can be exported
  • Mobile, Desktop, Tablet cannot be segmented
  • More complex and potentially confusing to new users
  • Most additional buttons and functions funnel users into building an AdWords Plan or Campaign

Additional Notes and References:

Users have reported a discrepancy in volume reporting while the old and new versions of the tool existed simultaneously. Google has stated this may be the case for certain queries, but the new volumes are more accurate than before.

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