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Why you shouldn’t use Google’s keyword tool for SEO

July 28, 2010 66 Comments

The internet is full of advice to use Google's keyword tool to work out what search terms to optimise for. Here's why you shouldn't do this - and what you can use instead.

Update: This problem has been fixed. But here's another reason why you shouldn't use Google's keyword tool for SEO research.

On the face of it, Google's tool looks promising. You put in a keyword or search term you're interested in (perhaps because you want to know what words to use in a headline or what tags or sub-category names to use in your navigation). You get a list of related keywords. And you can see how many searches there are for each one. You then know which are the most popular - and can target those.

Except you shouldn't do this. Here's why.

Karen Gillan

Let's start with Karen Gillan, who plays Amy Pond in Doctor Who.

Logged out

If you use the keyword tool when you're logged out, you see this - and a warning to "Sign in with your AdWords login info to see the full set of ideas for this search" (the tool is free - but you have to register and log in to see all the data):

Karen Gillan logged out

Karen Gillan logged out

(All these screenshots are based on google.co.uk searches (though see the warning at the end of this post) with a phrase match type - ie any searches which includes the words shown in the quote marks in that order.)

Logged in

Log in, and you see this:

Karen Gillan logged in

Karen Gillan logged in

Annoyingly with a phrase search, the straightforward term you entered ("Karen Gillan" here) isn't showing.

But more importantly, as you can see by comparing the two screenshots, the logged out version of the tool didn't show you the most popular search term with the phrase "Karen Gillan" in - namely "Karen Gillan underwear" (nice).

Logged out again ...

You can force the logged-out tool to show you the result for "karen gillan underwear" by searching for that specific term:

Karen Gillan underwear - logged out

Karen Gillan underwear - logged out

Comparing logged in and logged out

Now, fair enough, there was a warning to log in to see all the relevant keywords. But if you've been paying attention, you'll have noticed something a bit odd about the search volumes

Logged in:

  • Karen Gillan underwear - 1,900
  • Karen Gillan pictures - 590

Logged out:

  • Karen Gillan underwear - 9,900
  • Karen Gillan pictures - 3,600

The numbers aren't the same. But I suppose they're at least out by about six times each, so the same order of magnitude ...

Only, that's not always the case.

Jennifer Aniston

Let's look at Jennifer Aniston.

Logged out

If you're logged out, you see these results:

Jennifer Aniston logged out

Jennifer Aniston logged out

Logged in

If you log in, you see these results instead:

Jennifer Aniston logged in

Jennifer Aniston logged in

You should notice two things. First, "Jennifer Aniston pregnant" is at number two when you're logged in, with 18,100 searches a month. This search term didn't show when we were logged out, but fair enough, there was that warning to log in to see the full set of results.

But, secondly, the numbers don't match again. When logged out, "Jennifer Aniston's hair" was shown as having 60,500 searches a month. When logged in, there are only apparently 12,100 searches a month.

Logged out again

Again, you can make the missing search terms appear when you're logged out if you know what they are by typing them in the box. If we do that, we get this for "Jennifer Aniston pregnant":

Jennifer Aniston pregnant - logged out

Jennifer Aniston pregnant - logged out

Comparing logged in and logged out

To sum up, we're looking at these numbers:

Logged in

  • Jennifer Aniston pregnant - 18,100
  • Jennifer Aniston hair - 12,100

Logged out

  • Jennifer Aniston pregnant - 49,500
  • Jennifer Aniston hair - 60,500

It's not just that the numbers are different, they are in a different order. When logged in, the tool says people search for pregnant 1.5 times as much as hair. When logged out, hair is 20% more popular than pregnant.

What Google News thinks

To make matters worse, if you go to Google News and start typing Jennifer Aniston's name, you see this in the Autosuggest feature - which is supposed to show you what people are searching for right now:

Jennifer Aniston - Google News autocomplete

Jennifer Aniston - Google News autocomplete

There's no mention of hair, and "Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt" is more popular than pregnant - even though when logged in, the keywords tool told us that people were twice as likely to search for her pregnant (18,100 searches) as with Brad Pitt (9,900 searches).

Katie Price

Here's a similar story.

Logged in

This is what you see when you search on Katie Price's name logged in:

Katie Price logged in

Katie Price logged in

Logged out

And here are the logged out figures for two search terms.

Katie Price and Peter Andre:

Katie Price and Peter Andre - logged out

Katie Price and Peter Andre - logged out

Katie Price video:

Katie Price video - logged out

Katie Price video - logged out

Comparing logged in and logged out

Compare the figures again:

Logged in - the same:

  • Katie Price and Peter Andre - 14,800
  • Katie Price video - 14,800

Logged out - one is 50% higher than the other

  • Katie Price and Peter Andre - 40,500
  • Katie Price video - 27,100

When you're logged in, the tool says the search volumes are the same. When you're logged out, it says there's 50% more searches for "Katie Price and Peter Andre" than there are for Katie Price video.

What Google News thinks

Go to Google News, and you can see that the current second most popular Google Autocomplete is Katie Price pregnant - behind "Katie Price and Peter Andre" and with Katie Price video nowhere to be seen.

Katie Price Autocomplete in Google News

Katie Price Autocomplete in Google News

When you're logged in, though, the number of searches for Katie Price pregnant is negligible:

Katie Price pregnant - logged in

Katie Price pregnant - logged in

Which means that the term people are searching for right now, according to Google News, isn't even worth looking at according to the keyword tool.

What all this means

You can't trust the logged-out version of the tool, as it doesn't show you everything.

The search volumes you see for a specific search term are different when logged in or logged out. I've seen a supposition that, when logged out, you see total search volumes but when logged in you see searches that triggered an Adwords ad. This would make the logged-in version of the tool useless for SEO, as what it's showing you is determined by PPC budgets (when the money's spend, there are no more Adwords ads, so those searches are ignored). Alternatively, it's just a bug as suggested here. Either way, the data is screwy.

However, you shouldn't trust this data anyway, even if it was unscrewy, as the Adwords tool doesn't show search volumes. It shows "the approximate 12-month average of user queries for the keyword on Google.co.uk and the Google Search Network". This basically means it's counting EG adwords panels on parked domains as "searches" - and inflating the search volumes.

Even if you did trust it, for the search terms above, which do tend to be fairly newsy, I'll give you, the Adwords keywords tool isn't reflecting what people are searching for now.

To sum up - the data's odd, inconsistent, and out of date. Don't use it.

Well, what shall I use?

To decide what to optimise pages for, I tend to use a combination of Google Insights, Google Autocomplete for web searches and Google Autocomplete for News. The latter have their issues (such as these).

But by plugging what you see from the Autocomplete data into Google Insights, I think you get a much better picture of what people are really searching for. If you're up to APIs and stuff, rather than copying what you see, you can automate the autocomplete discovery. Or you can use this awesome keyword discovery tool that does the same thing (hat-tip to @rishil).

You might also like
  1. … alternatively, the Adwords Keyword tool is spot on
  2. Google’s bizarre and rubbish celebrity boyfriend / girlfriend feature
  3. Final proof that the Google Adwords keywords tool is useless in the UK
  4. What The X Factor tells us about Google’s keyword and search-volume analysis tools
  5. Google keyword tool: only certain ‘exact numbers’ show

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66 Comments »

  • I'm having to use all my willpower to not see what results come up for "Karen Gillam Underwear".

    Other than that, it's worrying that this tool is so inaccurate. I'd be interested to hear someone from Google try and explain it.

  • What's worse if you create or use another a/c the volumes change again. I've been discussing the issue in the Seobook community recently. I'll write a post at some point with some data samples.

  • Its also odd that you'll find that certain terms will have exactly the same number of searches, and long tail variants just seem to disappear into the aether.
    Superb choice of research material. I guess you have a bra based client? No?

  • The biggest mistake doing search engine optimization based on the google adsense keyword tool is that few seo's understand the results. Most optimizers think the results are showing them the number of searches performed for their keyword search on the google search engine, this is not even close to the truth. The numbers are the results of how many times the keyword was used on the google ad network, the google ad network is any website that displays google ads. This tool is useless for determining how many times a month a keyword or phrase is search on a search engine. And another joke are all the keyword tools, it only takes me about 30 seconds to run my research and find the best keywords and phrases to use.

  • Peter Bull says:

    These errors have been in this keyword tool from day 1, however Google carried on and made it the default tool. I really don’t understand why they did this when the errors were so obvious.

    Even more frustrating was when Google chose to remove a lot of the functionality of the old keyword tool!

    They seem to have sorted the old keyword tool again now, so I’m back using that until they get these issues sorted out once and for all.

  • David Waterhouse says:

    Very interesting post. I have always wondered about the accuracy of his tool, so thanks for highlighting this Malcolm.

    I find Insights the best, usually.

    One question: Which tool is the best for tracking breaking news search trends Malcolm?

  • [...] it is surely a massive boost to certain brands ... (if you likes this post, you might like this one on the google keywords tool and its (lack of) effectiveness as a keyword research [...]

  • Ben Dixon says:

    This is annoying as I just did hours of keyword research for a new site based on this tool! Does anybody know of any downloadable programs that are a reliable alternative?

  • Excellent insight Malcolm - will definitely rethink what I've been doing - and advising others to do!

  • gadget says:

    What's your thoughts on the recent volume changes to affect the keyword tool?

    At the time of writing this article "Karen Gillan" was 301,000 but its now 49,500.

  • Petra Peach says:

    I'm using Market Samurai for keyword research, which has just been updated as it gets its keyword data from Google. At the moment it's not working too well and your research results have just thrown another spanner in the works. Not sure what figures to trust at the moment, but thanks for highlighting this Malcolm.

  • [...] care to disagree? (Previous posts on problems with the data include this one and this [...]

  • TJ Kazunga says:

    It's funny but I've used the G tool for many years without a problem. The difference is I've always assumed the numbers were inaccurate and use it to gauge the relative popularity of a keyword....

    No tool will be totally accurate and the best way I know of to find out some numbers for a particular keyword is to run a PPC test with the keyword in an adgroup targeting exact search. Run it for as long as you can but even if you ran it for a month you wouldn't get 100% accurate figures.

    A combination of common sense, asking non-seo peeps what they would type in and writing copy to rank for a wide number of long tails is the way to go - keyword tools can help guide you but don't rely on them as gospel.

  • I agree with the author here. I did everything I could to get to page one on Google for a keyword in my niche. When I got there I was sure my website would be busy. I get 1 or 2 visitors to my site for this keyword with no sales which is unbeleivable when Google keywords tool says there is 18,100 searches for it per month!

  • Mark James says:

    Ok in my experience the google keyword tool has been amazingly wrong - years ago before I became wise to this I would buy domains and set up websites on the strength of what the google keyword tool told me - it was a god like thing.

    OK many years after wasting alot of time and money I realise that it can be totally wrong and has plenty of mood swings - maybe the google keyword tool is female(only kidding I love women)

    It can be incredbly wrong in my experience - sometimes saying millions are searching for a given word and the next time you look it is a few hundred!

    You are better to use something like wordtracker or to cross check the top sites for the keyword to see how many hits they get a day.

    Never rely on this tool alone and use common sense - if it sounds silly it usually is.

  • Yanney says:

    This is a really good article Malcom!

    So the question is "how do decide which keywords to target?"

    I will be very interested in hearing any proven systems you (and readers) are using that works...

    Thanks,

    Yanney

  • Hi Malcolm, this post was very useful and I'm pleased I found it before I spent too much time on Google's keywords! Mark suggest checking the keywords against top sites. How does this work? have linked to your blog. Thanks, Carolyn

    • Carolyn - sites like Alexa or Compete.com let you see keywords driving traffic to individual sites (though the data is open to question). The Google keywords tool has improved again lately so it might be worth using once more. However, I'd never rely on it to make major decisions about EG site architecture. For the latter, I'd pull together data from as many sources as possible. My favourite quick and dirty solution is Google Suggest - seeing what Google suggests when you start to type words into the search box.

  • There doesn't seem to be any tool out there that is completely accurate. I think the best bet is to take information from a variety of different sources to decide what keywords to go after.

  • kurt says:

    interesting, very interesting but!!!!
    dont get me wrong, i am no SEO expert in any way shape or form.
    due to spending tens 1000's per year on SEO firms/experts for several years without getting any results i started looking into all the various stats given to me by these so called experts!
    the experts and google keyword tool say/show for my industry the most popular phrase for me is typed into google 6600 times on average per month. Great i thought, i want position 1 or 2 for that search. i set up a PPC campaign for the amount estimated by google and waited for the phone to start ringing!!!! which it did( about 40 times per month AT A COST OF £900 pm!!!!). hmmmmm...
    Then i started messing with my sites (and messed around with my own SEO) TO MAKE A LONG STORY SHORT I NOW HAVE 3 OF MY WEBSITES ON PAGE 1 OF GOOGLE(positions 1,2 and 4)( THESE POSITIONS ARE ALL IN THE ORGANIC SEARCH SECTION) for this greatly desirable phrase. oh and 2 google map listings for same phrase.
    So i dominate page 1 of google for this phrase.. correct???
    Well i can tell you i only get around 200 calls a month from this domination!!!!!
    THE MORAL OF THE STORY IS DON'T BELIEVE THE STATS AND DEFINITELY DON'T DO PAY PER CLICK CAMPAIGNS.
    GOOD LUCK ALL

  • Hi Kurt, you have obviously got the hang of SEO and you make a very good point about PPC, but maybe you are not getting a greater number of calls because you haven't maximised your copy on the landing pages. An interesting statistic would be how many click throughs you get from Google.

  • Mo Mastafa says:

    Hey Malcolm, you raise some very interesting points.

    Personally I use a range of keyword research methods and keyword research tools including the Google keyword tool. Unfortunately, most keyword research tools get their data from the same source... Google!

    So I tend to just use them as a guide and instead rely on lots of testing and tweaking until I find the truly best performing keywords instead.

    I also find that using your Google Analytics stats is a cool way to find decent long tail keywords which I can easily rank well for.

    For example, if I find I am getting small amounts of traffic from Google for a keyword that I have not even optimised for (e.g. 20+ searches a month) then I will do a quick SERPS check to see where I rank for that keyword.

    Usually I find I rank somewhere at the bottom of the first page, which can explain why the search traffic is so low, but this also suggests that there is more traffic to be gained if I only take the time to put in a little SEO effort for that keyword. And usually it is the case.

    It's a good way to go after the "low hanging fruit".

    • Jon says:

      Mo - I'm with you all the way on this. It's the only way I know to get really hard evidence. After all it's real traffic to your site which you control. Each month I take a look at the traffic through analytics, find 10 long tail keywords getting results (ie mvoing through my sales funnel), check Google SERPS and then optimise each page for the most effective words.

  • Steve Lowrey says:

    I too have built websites based around the Google Keyword Tool suggestions and with a little applied common sence I can't complain as I have some amazing first page results.

    I don't however like the changes at all to the new layout and I am looking at Word Tracker as an alternative.

  • MMO Worlds says:

    Oh my goodness, I have been using it as though it was really accurate.

    Here's a simple tip - go to Yahoo Answers and check what questions people are asking. This will show you what people want and what words they are using to search.

  • mike says:

    this is a great article! thank you for this, I have made my whole online business attempt on the information I received from google's keyword tool.
    I didn't even know about google insights, which I am now going to use, Thank you very much!

  • Freud says:

    Not really sure I agree with the main article, some of the points raised are fair. Google is an authoritive body within the world of search (slowly being taken over by facebook) the number crunching is human intervention based on human searches. There isn't a human responding to each and every query made on their reporting tools! How can google selectively spit results out to be in their favour? Think about it, it's counterintuitive to their entire model of bidding. They may not be transparent in how their SERPs algos work but their bidding for CPC is transparent enough to provide accurate 'historical' data for future predictions.

    This articel like so many others of its kind are nice long tail pullers to enhance traffic for adsense! Yes No?

    Love peace and hope that this planet survives the presence of humans!
    Freud

  • Yes, this tool is very frustrating. One way to get an idea of actual search volume is to run a test AdWords campaign (but costs money, perhaps this is what Google intended all along?). Otherwise, it's always good to get a sense check on the numbers using other keyword data sources such as Wordtracker and SEM Rush.

  • Uh, doesn't logging in just show you localized search trends based on your Google account settings? I get the same results logged in as I do if logged out but chose 'United Kingdom' as the country. I'm in the UK obviously.

  • Emma says:

    hi all, thanks for this article - can i ask given that ive never really played with google insights, what the best features are/how to best use for gaining insight on strongest/most accessible keyphrases, search volumes and competition?

  • Ashish says:

    A very nice research plot Malcolm; just wanted to confirm are we talking about searches happening over Google Search Network and trying to compare them with what is happening at Google.com or its CC-tld (UK or any other geography)? Such tools since the time of goto.com which I have used were essentially meant for pay-per-click advertising.

    Keyword research for SEO needs a bit different kind of approach which starts from defining your universe using a set of primary broad keywords, find best successful competitors and evaluate their keyword strategy, rule of thumb till is to see the CPC data to evaluate popularity and fitment of keyword in long tail of buying cycle, add elements of seasonality (peaks and lows) if the keyword that you are searching for is affected by seasonality; keep in mind the golden 80/20 rule; 20% of keywords will drive 80% of traffic and sales.

    It would be a good idea to group or categorizing them; like branded keywords; keywords with search intent; keywords with information intent; keywords with location filters, competitors etc. and keep filtering the same by applying various pre-fixes and suffixes;
    When inventory is compiled; its fare to validate them using search count, CPC, and consider KEI validation for your primary keyword/s (as there is lot of spam now a days), validate your inventory using "close quote".

    Here we should keep a clear eye on what Malcolm, Mo Mastafa, Freud. To sum-up, I strongly agree that Google keyword tool is not meant for SEO keyword research; and it needs to be properly validated and reviewed; Think; Google or any search engine is going to favour and a provide a direct KW research window for SEO community anytime:)?

    Success of any SEO is to put right page; in front of the searcher; at right time in context of the buying cycle, bringing home page on every search or showing wrong pages on wrong search will be a waste time from all perspective; The "don’t make me think rule of usability" works here as well.

    Special thanks to Malcolm, Mo Mastafa, Freud for their valuable comments.

    Ashish

  • yes its so annoying to think these searches are way out in accuracy well back to the grind stone start again using your advice on goggle insight and autocomplete thanks for telling us.:-)

  • Tony says:

    The keyword tool results usefully show trend monthly local search volumes month by month over nearly a year - where the location of 'local' is set by the searcher. There is also a 'norm' search volume figure for each keyword.

    Google News figures are more about latest short-term search volumes.

    Comparing the two is like comparing Google insights with Twitter trends.

    Search volumes for the seed keyword entered in the tool are given in the 'search term' section of the results while related keywords are shown in the 'Keyword Ideas' section.

  • This information appears to be out of date.

    I just re-did the test using 'jennifer aniston', both signed in and signed out. Signed out, Google now requires you to break a captcha first. Checking the first ten results, I got identical search volumes in both cases.

    Could you verify? If so, you should put an 'edit' statement at the top of your blog post. It's a very popular post (it appears very high when you search for 'google keywords tool'), and most of your readers will assume it's still accurate. I nonetheless found the post useful and I hope you will update it to reflect what is current.

  • John says:

    There is only one tool to use for SEO research; Hitwise.

    Anything else is just folly.

  • Vishal Vivek says:

    Hello Malcolm ! I tried to check the search volumes with signed-in and signed out version for dozens of different keywords but both show the same statistics.
    Where is the problem ??? With your data or my system is laying prank with me:)

  • business electricity rates says:

    The biggest mistake doing search engine optimization based on the google adsense keyword tool is that few seo's understand the results. Most optimizers think the results are showing them the number of searches performed for their keyword search on the google search engine, this is not even close to the truth. The numbers are the results of how many times the keyword was used on the google ad network, the google ad network is any website that displays google ads. This tool is useless for determining how many times a month a keyword or phrase is search on a search engine. And another joke are all the keyword tools, it only takes me about 30 seconds to run my research and find the best keywords and phrases to use.

  • Tomer says:

    Interesting article.
    The Google algorithm is aiming for one thing and that what should we remember all the time - to think as human searchers.

    At the moment I changed my mindset and aim to think as the searcher at a particular niche I tried to think what would I search and then check the data with different sources to verify that I'm on the right track.

    Just from my experience,
    Tom

  • Lowell says:

    I only use Google's free tool to do quick research, then go deeper with other programs. That said, with the free tool I only pay attention to exact matches. It quickly rules out deceiving traffic results. Thanks for the post and I am going to play around with this based on your comments and the update you mentioned.

  • Constantin says:

    I never believed in this tool from the start. The real numbers is that only google knows it. They don't tell the true figures because they use it for google get rich quick. On the other hand that other highly searched terms the tool will not even show it.
    There are other keyword tools out there but to get the number of searches its hard. It will be nice to have more search engines out there.

  • duncan says:

    I have been using google Keyword tool for a while and I totally believed in the stats. Thanks for an eye opening piece.

  • Rieke says:

    Hi Malcolm,

    I stumbled upon your site today and want to thank you as you finally canceled some of my doubts with your post.

    The Google odds are un-understandable :)

    Just to tell you what happened regarding your site: My IP is situated in Italy, I was searching for the Google Adwords tool and saw the title of you post. But when Google finished the search, it means the site was finally uploaded (my connection is a horror), your site didn't come up. I had to search for it again separately...

    Only one of the daily odds - kind regards, Rieke

  • Chris Naish says:

    Eye opening post Malcolm!

    I'm fairly new to this game but I have noticed that figures from the Google keyword tool are inaccurate when you actually start to rank for them.

    I just started a new method of doing keyword research that I hope will give good results, Take a look at it here: How to Find Good Long Tail Keywords for Your Niche Using SEO Analysis From Alexa (Hope you don't mind the link to my site?)

    After analyzing my own ranking sites using this method it is pretty clear that it gives fairly good results regarding the keywords that bring the traffic. I think testing will give good results.

  • Woody says:

    I have been using the G tool for the last 5 years and never noticed that I build mini search engine sites taylored around what people are suppost to be searching for, based on your find some searches that i get that say 5000k searches per month might only get 500 that would explain why some of sites do better than others, this is a realy good find Malcolm just shows you not everything is what it seems to be. keep us all posted on any new finds.

    Regards
    Lee

  • Graz says:

    Google's keyword tool has worked perfectly for me and has proved to get results. Although I take the search volume with a pinch of salt, it's great and I wouldn't stop using it.

  • Daniel says:

    Quite interesting post, Malcolm.

    I was just using the Google Ad word Keyword tool just now.

    You made me jump a bit, with what you said about the logged in and logged out Google keyword returned search results.

    Until you said it was a bug that had been remedied. I thought I could have used those extreme variations in search results for justifying my sometimes not so good Keyword research results.
    The Google tool is quite good for a quick run through of possible Keyword options.

    I do have Market Samurai for more in depth Analysis. Though, Market Samurai uses the Google Keyword tool for it's own Keyword Analysis module.

    Also, Market Samurai, as great a tool as it is, can sometimes run very slowly before returning the data you require.

  • Hi, you page always comes up when I search for the G keyword tool as I dont have it bookmarked. I am so glad I read this and that others have the same issues/thoughts about G keyword tool. I just take 20 percent off the top of any numbers I get in exact matches due to how google gets to their numbers. It has worked for me so far. Are there any other tools out there?

  • Emil Glownia says:

    I have made through testing of google analytics and I can confirm it overestimate keywords.

    With EXACT option I get global impression that are largely overestimated for keywords that are short. The shorter the keyword to larger the difference. For instance one keyword was 18,100 (12month average) but reality is that I get only 5,500 impressions (checked on google webmaster for top 1 page that gets all impressions and confirmed by expected traffic for top 1 about 50% clicks from impressions).

    Another keyword shorter is 110,000 impression but reality is that it probably is only 10-15k. It seems EXACT still add ups related keyword it seems to work like starts with (not exact). I checked this theory and it kind of seems to much very well. I believe this is google bug which they don't want to see.

    I have certain keyword that are very accurate but there is only this kind of "keyword" and it is 6 words in total so quite unique.

  • Georgiy says:

    Heya!
    The amazing tool you referred to doesn't work....
    Is there anything else you can recommend? Maybe ubersuggest?

  • Barbara says:

    I was just about to use this tool, although I did notice that it related to "adwords" which I imagine has a different agenda and which I don't want. I just want to see what words are most searched in my HR support and CV writing fields.

    I stumbled across your blog (which clearly has excellent SEO) and it's blown me away! At least, it's put me right back to Square One!

    Where to start?

    Barbara

  • Johnny B says:

    Hi Malcolm,

    Interesting post and it's comforting to see that you have a genuine interest in females and their underware.

    It's also funny to see that you completely slate Google's Keyword Tool but you have no real concrete evidence to back it up and the best bit... you clearly don't know SEO if you are using broad phrase match data to work out keywords and riding the back of an old wave to drum up business for your fred-in-a-shed business freelancing dream.

    I would suggest you start off on the ground level and get in with a company to learn SEO rather than cast your fishing rod out there in the hope confused newbies will come running into your arms. You need to understand local and global search matches as well. As a seasoned SEO expert, I could help you out and point you to a number of tutorials on SEOMOZ so you can learn how to approach SEO, rather than try and pick holes at the giant that we are all dependant upon which is Google and will always be Google for the foreseeable future.

    If you are not using Google Keyword Tool you are missing out a treat and you should be using it. There is no other software app out there that provides reliable consistent accurate data on natural search which represents around 90% of natural search SEO in the UK.

    • Thanks. Er, this post is 18 months old though. And I was only using broad-match terms to make a comparison. And I don't use this tool as should be clear. But I'll definitely check out some SEOMOZ tutorials, soon, and hold off posting any more blog posts until I've watched them all.

    • Haroun Kola says:

      I was intrigued to find this post, just searching for the url to tool to send to a client, and my SERPs give me two articles slating it.

      Rather than drumming up support for myself and my freelance business, I think I should go and pay some more attention to the seomoz tutorials too :)

  • Jakub says:

    Good point but I tested it and got the same results when logged in or out.
    NEVER TRUST TO KEYWORD TOOL!!! I managed to optimise my website for the most searched and the most copmetetive keywords in my niche. One of the keywords has 27 000 exact searches per month according to Google and I got to the #8. Believe it or not I only get 1-2 clicks per day! The other keyword has 23K exact searches per month and I got it to #2 believe it or not this only gives me about 25-35 clicks per day!
    GOOGLE's keyword search information are NOT ACCURATE. I would expect to get at least 170 clicks per day for these two keywords and it barely gives me 40 clicks if I am lucky.
    In addition I must agree with some of the comments above as Addword campaigns are useless and expensive. Who the hell pays £0.70 per one click!(in my case) Google addwords are madness AVOID them at all cost!

  • pemedia says:

    Hi Malcolm.

    Some interesting points here. I have never really relied on Google's keyword tool and agree with Jackub that the results I see tend to differ significantly from the number of visits expected when on page 1.

    I will continue to use Google keyword tool for long-tail keywords but after reading this I am going to make more of an effort to back up this research with additional testing.

    Perhaps you could write a short article suggesting alternatives?

    Thanks

  • Hippi says:

    Google keyword tool is really Google Adwords Keyword Tool and therefore is no accurate indication of natural searches whatsoever. Its interesting to see the shock of this even on a 2 year old post. why any self respecting SEO would tell a client there are 10k exact match monthly searches for their dull as ditchwater *insert own product or service here* is beyond me.

  • Misato says:

    What I find really odd is the Google keeps screwing it's Adwords advertisers ( in other words, their own customers ) and also those who SEO their webpages, and the excuse that is given is that Google is penalizing junk websites in favor of keyword relevant websites. Well, that's all it is, is an excuse, and it's total B.S.

    There are many times I do a search on Google, and the top ranking websites that Google displays are no where near relevant to the search term I used.

    A real good example of this is one time when I searched for anime related websites, and used 'anime' as part of my search term, one of the websites that showed up one the first page of results was about animal sex and beastiality.

    I was like WTF??? No were in the search term did I use the word animal, sex, or beastiality, and this was even with a search setting of moderate. I've also noticed that totally off-the-wall and irrelevant websites are showing up more and more with Google searches.

    This is gonna date me, but I remember when Yahoo was the most used search engine, and I don't recall ever getting the number of irrelevant websites that Google is and has been showing recently. Maybe we should all go back to Yahoo.

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