Jennifer Hyla

With insights from Jen Hyla, Senior Director, Performance Content

As Google’s algorithm becomes smarter, so does its keyword planner tool. The keyword planner tool allows users to see the average monthly search volume of specific keywords. Over the years, Google’s algorithm has begun to understand semantic search and now understands user intent and the contextual meaning of words and sentences.

But recently, the Keyword Planner has implemented some changes. Now, data from keywords with similar meaning will be bunched together. Google now understands that keywords such as “t-shirt” and “tshirt” or “dress” and “dresses” are the same. In the past, the Keyword Planner was providing two separate average monthly searches. Below we show the search volume of “dress” and “dresses”; historically these keywords have had unique monthly search volumes, but now you can see they are identical. It does appear that Google is in some way combining the search volume of both words and providing a higher average search volume for both keywords.

KW Planner Changes 1

Content optimized with keywords should always have the consumer in mind. Google’s recent search volume change plays into the idea of intent as Google is now understanding the similarity and meanings behind keywords.


It appears this round of updates includes bundling:

  • Plurals
  • Acronyms
  • Variants
  • Words with spaces
  • Words with hyphens and apostrophes

With this change, advertisers will need to baseline and reset expectations to ensure keywords and keyword groups being tracked and reported on continue to see similar SERP (search engine results page) rankings and traffic. Additionally, advertisers should also acknowledge additional implications:

Catering to Intent: Google’s change will have positive benefits for advertisers. When conducting keyword research for content creation and targeting, advertisers will now have the opportunity to reach multiple searches at once depending on the query. Previously, if a searcher searched “seo”, typically main results would display articles or content containing keywords. But now, Google is lumping “seo” and “search engine optimization” together to better serve the consumer’s intent. We’re now moving into a space where brands will be recognized in the SERP for content most relevant to the search query, rather than the exact keyword.

Misguided Search Volume: While this change is beneficial for advertisers, they should also be careful about how they interpret the search volume within Google AdWords.

KW Planner Changes 2

Image courtesy of The SEM Post

Because keywords are being bunched together, their search volumes are naturally higher than they really are. For example, because “seo” and “search engine optimization” are being combined, the search volume displayed is a combination. Advertisers will no longer see the search volume of keywords separately, but instead, they will be displayed holistically. With this information, advertisers should keep in mind their total audience by leveraging a specific keyword and its variants.

Website Reporting: Clients’ website reporting seems to be the biggest SEO factor impacted in this Keyword Planner change. This update will affect both SOV (share of voice) and trending keyword data that is being reported and tracked. SOV is a measurement based on search volume and ranking; trending data is also based on search volume.

To learn more about Google Keyword Planner changes, contact us today.

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