Still Using Google’s Keyword Planner? Your Time May Be Up.

Cover Photo by Caleb Woods on Unsplash

Over the years, I’ve joked that “Google giveth, and Google taketh away.”

Here we go again.

And this time, it may directly affect how you do business.

Here’s what’s happening…

The free ride is over

Years ago, Google’s Keyword Planner was considered a fairly viable keyphrase research tool. Accessing it was easy, the data was decent, and, most importantly, it was free. Sure, it was created for PPC ad research, but it (mostly) did the organic trick.

In fact, many writers (and even agencies) relied on Google’s Keyword Planner for all their organic keyphrase research.

Then, over the years, Google changed the game.

At first, you had to be logged into Google to use the tool. No big deal.

Then, you needed to create an AdWords account to access the tool. You didn’t have to spend money, but you did need to sign up.

Then, Google started to show search volume ranges rather than specific numbers (unless you were a major advertiser; then you got to see it all.)

Sure, search volume ranges made the data fairly worthless (especially compared to paid keyphrase research tools,) but some loyal folks stuck with it — probably because it was free.

Not anymore.

Good news: Google rebuilt the Keyword Planner from the ground up. Bad news: Google is deactivating all AdWords accounts with no active spend over the last 15 months.

What does this mean?

Photo by Nigel Tadyanehondo

If you’re not spending money with Google, you’ve been kicked off the Keyword Planner island. If you want back on, you have to reactivate your account, reinstate a PPC ad campaign — and yes, actually run it and pay money.

You don’t get to play with the latest and greatest Keyword Planner without paying (for a PPC campaign.)

Plus, Google is instituting the change this week. So, there’s virtually no warning.

How bad is this, really?

It depends.

Many companies and writers have dropped Keyword Planner in favor of another, more robust keyphrase research tool. This is a good thing.

However, if Keyword Planner has been your best keyphrase research buddy, it’s time to find another option — fast.  Check out tools like Keyword Finder, Moz, Ahrefs, and SEMrush. Try their free trials. See what feels the best to you.

Yes, these tools cost money. But look at it this way — you’ve been getting a free ride all these years. It’s time to see where a real keyphrase research tool will take you.

Once you roll around in all the juicy data a paid tool provides, you’ll never go back to free.

Besides, a good keyphrase research tool is just as important as your computer, your website, and everything else you need to run your business.

Photo by Kaizen Nguyễn

It’s time to take the plunge.

What do you think?

When I published this information in my weekly newsletter, the feedback was split down the middle. About half of my respondents were freaking out, and asking for my keyphrase research tool suggestions (here you go.) The rest said they stopped using Google’s Keyword Planner a long time ago, and enjoy the tasty data a paid keyphrase research tool provides.

How about you?

Are you shaking your fist at Google, cursing them for taking away yet another “useful” tool? Or, did you read this with Zen-like calm, knowing Google is … well … Google? Comment below and let me know!

6 replies
  1. Andrew Glasser says:

    While this could hurt small businesses and individuals who do their own PPC, I don’t see this as a problem for Agencies or individuals with an MCC (with at least one active account) — what’s to stop a person from accessing Keyword Planner from a separate account, exporting the saved lists, and then reconfiguring and uploading them directly to the defunct destination account via AdWords editor?

    • Heather Lloyd-Martin says:


      Yes, for larger companies/agencies, it’s not a big deal. They’ll still have access. However, there are *a lot* of small businesses/freelance writers/even small SEO agencies using Keyword Planner. Because it’s free. :)

      On the bright side, it forces freelance writers/small agencies to finally get out of the free trap and try a better keyphrase research tool. That makes me happy.

      Thanks for posting!

  2. carolyn says:

    I switched over to Keyword Finder many months ago. Although it’s not entirely free, it provides a whole array of tools for a very reasonable price

  3. Dave Royall says:

    For those of us just getting into the game (or thinking about getting into it), Google has taken away an important learning tool. You have to actually pay to place ads before you can have access to the tool that will help you understand how best to target those ads? That’s like saying you have to start paying PGA dues before they’ll let you swing a club.

    • Heather Lloyd-Martin says:

      Ha — I love the analogy.

      The good news is, it looks like some folks still have access. So, maybe Google is doing this selectively. Or, they thought better of it. Whatever the reason, I’d probably look at a free tool like Ubersuggest over Keyword Planner, anyway. :)


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