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What does Google Keyword Planner mean in SEO?

The Google Keyword Planner is one of the most valuable tools available for search engine optimization. The information it will give you can save time, money and a whole lot of stress but beware! It is not always that accurate as I'll explain at the end.

What is the Google Keyword Planner


In short its a free online app which will tell you how often people search different words or phrases on Google. It will tell you how many searches were carried out each month over the last year and give you an idea of how hard it is to rank for those keywords.

This isn't the complete tutorial to the Google Keyword Planner - Google gives you that here. I'm going to talk about how you can really use the data so if you have never given the app a try go and have a play with it first. Everything else I'm about to say will make no sense otherwise.

Why use the Google Keyword Planner


If you are doing Search Engine Optimization it means you want to optimize pages to rank for something specific, right? A specific word or phrase. But before you start your optimization you want to avoid two common mistakes made in SEO:


  1. Optimizing for a keyword or phrase that no one ever searches - yes you will go straight to the top of Google but it won't generate any traffic.
  2. Optimizing for a keyword that is so popular and competitive you will never stand a chance of getting in Google's top ten pages, let alone the top ten search results.


This second mistake is the one I see most often. A client will approach me to SEO their website and present a list of phrases they want to rank for. A closer look reveals these phrases are all searched millions, or at least hundreds of thousands, of times a month.

Their thinking is simple "If I can rank for that phrase and just get 2% of my visitors to buy something then I'll be able to put in that order for a yacht this year and start posting instagram photos of me with my feet up boasting about what an Internet entrepreneur I am."

Sure, but the cost of SEO to outrank the big fish that currently dominate those popular phrases will probably bankrupt you, even if you sold everything you have. Those big names you see in the current search results had to invest heavily to get there.

The accuracy of the Google Keyword Planner


First off if you are not using Google Ads then the planner only gives you ball park figures. In my experience you need to be spending around $300 a month to get more accuracy.

However even with ball park figures it is still extremely useful at identifying the mega popular phrases that you will want to discount. It does this both by showing the number of searches but also a dollar figure estimating what you would need to spend per click if you targeted it in Google Ads.

That second figure is really rough though. It depends on loads of factors such as the country you are targeting, the time of the day, any demographics you specify (such as men only), and so on. Don't take it literally.

Its also great and generating other keywords and phrases which you may not have thought about, in fact its a real gold mine here and probably the most useful part of all.

The not so popular keywords and phrases are known as the gray tail. These are what you stand a good chance of ranking for.

But when it comes to what I call the super gray tail - words searched regularly but rarely - its not so good. Because my agency manages Google Ads for clients I have access to the full accurate Keyword Planner data but even with this it will report zero searches when in fact there might well be a regular 20+ searches per month.

That's important because the super gray tail is where you can start getting visitors straight away as there is almost no competition and this is one of my strategies when launching a brand new website which has no backlinks.

If you want to double check a keyword or phrase and see if it really is never searched create a quick page on the Internet and run some Google ads. It won't cost you much as you'll have almost zero competition and it will certainly pay for itself - either because you would have wasted time optimizing for nothing or because you'll discover a super gray tail phrase which you will probably rank for within days using only the simplest SEO.

So yes, the Google Keyword Planner is an extremely useful and powerful tool, and its free. It will definitely stop you wasting time trying to rank for keywords and phrases where you don't have a cat in hells chance. But at the gray tail end treat what you see with a pinch of salt and do some double checking of phrases that the tool tells you have zero searches.

I'm Tim Hill, a Search Engine Optimization and Online Marketing specialist. I created this site to help others understand that SEO is not a mysterious black art!.

If your a newbie try the Getting Started in SEO page, otherwise feel free to dig around and learn more.

Find me on Facebook or get in touch if you need help.

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