Google Keyword Planner update

Google made a change to the Keyword Planner tool last month, lumping together search volume estimates for similar keywords.

In this article I’ll show you how to find out which of your search terms have been grouped together from any sized dataset, using Google sheets, but firstly here’s a bit more about the update:

Google keyword planner update groups together interrelated search terms

Running through the data, it appears Google has grouped ‘things’ together for the most common term used. So although we search for different words, it assumes we’re really looking for the same thing.

The term ‘SEO’ is a good example…

Google keyword planner update combines search volume data for popular abbreviations with full-length counterparts

From the graph below it seems that Google doesn’t add the SEO abbreviations and the full-length phrase together, it simply moves ‘Search Engine Optimisation’ into the higher group.

Google keyword planner update SEO vs Search Engine Optimisation

It seems to occur more often for well-known abbreviations i.e. NFL and National Football League is the same (see chart below)

Google keyword planner update acronym vs full word

But strangely USA and United States of America have different search volumes.

Historical search volume data removed from Google keyword planner

Google has also removed historical search volume data for these keywords. If you look in Keyword Planner now, Search Engine Optimisation has the same volume as SEO for the last 12 months.

Which is great, because it’s not like all of these keywords return different SERPs, and sometimes even different knowledge cards or anything.

Google keyword planner update client confusion

Why did Google start to combine keyword search volume?

I’m pretty sure this will force people to use broad match keywords more within AdWords, which means new campaigns will be forced to spend more money in the initial setup before they can start narrowing their target keywords.

In the meantime, be prepared for some clients/colleagues to be like:

“Yeah, but, na, but, yeah, but, na”

The Google keyword planner update combines search volume of keywords and their plurals

The plural keywords we see in this chart didn’t all of a sudden experience jumps in traffic volume, they merely got lumped together with their un-pluralised (higher volume) keyword counterparts.

This is frustrating, especially if you have a keyword list with lots of keyword variants – and even more frustrating if you were using your search volume data for something important, like traffic estimations.

Discover combined Search Volume terms using Google Sheets

Now for the nitty gritty. Of course, finding out which keywords are now lumped together with their un-pluralised equivalents is going to be a tedious task. So here is a pretty quick way of uncovering your plural keywords using Google Sheets.

Google keyword planner update discovering keywords with the same search volume using Google sheets

1: Keyword list with Search Volume

First, open your keyword list, with the most up to date search volume, in Google Sheets.
Within the Pi Datametrics SEO platform, you can do this straight from Position Table Explorer using the “CSV download” button at the bottom of the page.

Google keyword planner update fuzzy match plugin

2: Find Fuzzy Matches

Next, install an add-on called Find Fuzzy Matches to Google Sheets. This add-on will go and search for close match words within your range.

After it’s installed, go to Add-ons > Find Fuzzy Matches > Start and a dialogue box will appear on the right-hand side of the sheet. Highlight your keyword range.

Select the max number of different characters to 3 so it looks for words ending with ‘ing’ as well as just the plurals. Hit Search for typos.

It will generate a list for you in the dialogue – press export and it will take that data to a new sheet.

3: Vlookup and an IF statement

The export is sort of useful, but we can go one step further and bring in a little more data.

Firstly, delete the columns the correct value & address – >we don’t need them.

We are going to pull in the search volumes for the keywords next to them now. So in cell C2 we are going to look up the volume for A2 and in D2 we will get the volume for B2.


Google keyword planner update Vlookup and an IF

In the example above – the formula returns the same value because it’s the same word. Drag the formulas down for all your keywords.

Google keyword planner update related keyword search volume

Now to see if the search volumes match.

In E2 we are going to write an IF statement that first determines whether A2 and B2 match and, if not, whether C2 and D2 match. We want a 1 to appear if the keywords are different but the search volumes are the same.


Google keyword planner update - Google sheets - IF statement

Drag that formula down across all of your keywords, once more. Now sort column E. All the 1s represent plural keywords that have been tied in together, to show the same search volumes as their un-pluralised keyword.


Google keyword planner update - keyword plurals with the same search volume


Google keyword planner update - keywords with different search volumes

So, there you have it. Now you know which of your terms have been affected by the dreaded Google keyword planner update.

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