Lies, Damned Lies and the Google Keyword Planner


The numbers in the Google Keyword Planner are about as real as the tooth fairy.

Sure, they’re convincing enough: 2,900. 33,100, 590, 170, that kind of thing. Rather than “about 3,000” or “a few hundred”.

And certainly not “we really haven’t got a clue because the storage space and processing power we’d need is too much – even if we were prepared to share our secrets” which is more like that actual reason.

There are regularly threads in forums and questions on the web asking why the keyword planner showed thousands of searches, the person got to page one and their traffic for the page in question stayed as close to zero as makes no difference.

And there are other cases where the keyword planner shows next to no traffic yet the page gets lots.

That second thing happened to me a while back.

A friend had a particular make of central heating boiler. It came with a built in time clock that is about as intuitive as an early digital watch. But the manufacturer didn’t want to spend the extra few pence on including the two sheets of paper to tell anyone how to set it.

That was OK when the plumber installed the boiler – they’d done that enough times to be able to set it without instructions.

But when there was a power cut and the timer needed re-setting, that was another issue.

We got out the paperwork – nothing there.

We searched the web – nothing there.

We rang the hotline and got the usual “your call is important, please hold” message.

Obviously the call wasn’t particularly important as we had to hold for 30 minutes.

Finally, the instructions were emailed to us.

And, as a public service favour to any other owners of the same boiler we put them online.

The Google Keyword Planner gave the same figures in 2010 as it does now in 2015:

An average of 10 searches per month except in October (the month in the UK when it starts getting cold and people need to turn on their heating) which had 20 searches per month.

Searches for the boiler’s time clock but without the word “instructions” were slightly more varied. They gave an average of 20 searches in September, 70 searches per month in October and 30 for each of the following winter months:

Keyword planner searches for boiler time clockOK, that’s kind of convincing.

Now let’s look at the actual figures my site got.

Keep in mind that they’ve dropped in recent years – the boiler is getting older so will gradually be replaced, the manufacturer has finally worked out that the internet exists and has put the instructions on their own site and – because their site has high authority – it comes up higher in the search results.

But these are the WordPress stats for the single page:

WordPress stats for boiler pageNot just slightly more than the keyword planner predictions.

Often more per day than Google’s tool claims for the whole month.

And remember that in recent years those figures have been affected because the page is no longer at number one in the results. So a lot more searches will be going through to the manufacturer’s site.

Which is why I don’t believe the figures in the keyword planner.

They’re fiction.

That’s not an isolated incident. It’s normal.

The other thing to remember is that the keyword tool is out of date.

It’s not updated very often and keyword phrases often don’t show up for months or even years.

Keyword phrases that are being searched for – often lots of times.

And if you use the keyword planner, you’ll miss out on the traffic for those phrases.

Instead, I use the suggestions that Google makes as you type.

Those suggestions are much more important to it than the tool for advertisers.

Because advertisers are really just looking for a broad brush approach as to whether their advert is likely to reach enough people.

But if searchers don’t get good suggestions, they’ll check out competitors like Bing.

So the suggestions are slap bang up to date and they’re kept up to date.

If you’d like to know how to find those suggestions and use them to your advantage, check out this page.