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The Keyword Planner "upgrade" letdown

At Ripen, we’re big fans of change. Growth is change. Evolution is change. Quarters in your couch cushions are change.

But sometimes, change is bad… especially when the thing that’s changing was working just fine to begin with. Case in point: Google’s decision to “upgrade” its External Keyword Tool to the all-new, mostly terrible Keyword Planner.

Doing less with less

Google has gone out of its way to prop up the benefits of its product “upgrade”. In its official support post, there’s lots of jargon about “helping marketers” and “optimizing bids.” But there’s very little about what the big G removed from the old keyword tool.

  • There is no longer a local vs. global volume comparison
  • Keyword volume estimates are now limited to exact match (no broad or phrase)
  • Overall search volume data specificity has been slashed
  • Per-device targeting and estimation has been eliminated

With these sweeping changes, Google has removed much of its product’s value as a research tool. Marketers with expert search knowledge can no longer find the exact data and pricing they need to compete. The data is not just hard to find or buried in a new “advanced” menu – it’s completely gone. Additionally, bid estimates have fluctuated thanks to the new targeting procedure, so your previous cost data could now be irrelevant.

And just to sow extra salt, the search giant tried to bypass the worst changes with condescending hand-waving.

google keyword planner sad

Check out the fine print: “The devices in bold (the ones you purposely filtered out before) represent new reach opportunities available in upgrade campaigns (whether you like it or not).”

Advertisers can no longer precisely control what they’re willing to pay across devices, leaving the desktop/tablet split up to Google’s discretion “based on bids from similar advertisers.” Awesome!

Taking the easy way out

If it sounds like Google’s keyword planner has been crippled maimed for the sake of ease of use, you’re right on the money. The previous version of the keyword tool provided a slew of targeting options, but was probably a bit daunting for the online marketing newcomer. Google’s updated UI includes led-by-the-hand navigation, automatically managed features, and fewer angles of attack.

It’s not completely cataclysmic, of course. Savvy sales teams can still do keyword research and bidding, just not with the accuracy and specificity of the old tool. There are even small improvements, including finer geographic segmentation and a larger limit (10,000) on keyword list uploads.

But overall, power users (read: our Marketing department) lose out. We’re certainly in favor of making marketing more approachable – we just wish it didn’t come at the cost of depth and  flexibility.  Had the upgrade to the keyword planner not come at the sacrifice of so many critical data points, the upgrade would have actually been beneficial to both new-coming advertisers and seasoned ones.  But, unfortunately for the marketing world, that’s not the case.