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  • It is a known fact that keywords and topics are amongst the primary ranking factors for search engines. The Google Keyword Planner, which is the leading research tool for online marketers, has seen changes which have left people confused as to where to turn now for their keyword and topical research.

    Many were already using multiple tools to conduct more comprehensive keyword research but for those who depended mostly on this tool now options are very little. They can either now start spending on AdWords campaigns to activate their accounts or change their source of data altogether.

    What changes did Google Keyword Planner see?

    Google has offered the services of its AdWords Keyword Planner freely for a long time now. Many search engine optimization professionals made use of this tool even though they did not advertise on AdWords. But recently Google changed all that and decided that only AdWords customers with active accounts will be provided detailed data. For other users that do not meet the unannounced minimum spend needs the results are not specific numbers rather ranges.

    Along with this the Planner also has set limits to the amount of detailed data that is presented or accessible to users. The limit has not been specified but one it has been reached the detailed data goes back to data ranges

    Some of the most frequently asked questions regarding these changes include:

    * Who does it affect?  The answer to this is not directly given instead Google chooses to answer who is not affected and that is the advertisers with active campaigns. On the other hand inactive users that have not been running AdWords campaigns will now have to buy ads in order to get access to detailed data

    * For users with inactive accounts will access be reinstated?- No, any one that does not have an active campaign will not able to access search volume data from this tool.

    * Is it similar to the “technical issue” in June 2016- In June this year Google’s Keyword Planner tool stared showing ranges to all users be it active or inactive with lead to protest. Though this was initially called a temporary technical issue with detailed data being reinstated to users in a few days, 12 days later it was made permanent. The Keyword Planner detailed data was removed for inactive users. The only technical glitch in June was that these changes were prematurely launched and affected both kinds of users.

    * The minimum spend need for this tool? – As such there is no set requirement to the spend limit or data limit, but some have stated that a monthly spend of $50 is enough whereas others have even faced problems seeing data after spending just under $300 a month. Another speculation is that the way to gain access to the tool is by meeting the minimum bids recommended for the ad groups that one is bidding on.

    * How soon does one see detailed data after ad buy is activated? – If one somehow meets the unspecified minimum ad spend, access to detailed data within the tool should be activated within 24 hours.

    * Why did Google take such a step and bought such changes?- Some say it is all about the money and a desire to put only big brands in power while cutting out smaller businesses with limited advertising budgets.

    * Apart from this another reason could be (which sounds more logical) that providing data and hosting and computing data costs money, thus, such changes to the Planner. Along with this it could be that since many third party keyword research tools access Google Keyword Planner, to provide their own data, the company wanted to finally cut out such scrappers. These tools demand a lot of data quickly from the Planner and so, Google cut out access altogether to those you do not pay for such services.

    Other options for Keyword Research

    The top option is to simply stat paying and run an ad campaign in AdWords. But since spend limit is not specified and will have to experiment with the bidding to find the minimum amount. Though this sound easy for businesses with a good advertising budget, it is not feasible for small businesses. Some speculate that one could just activate a campaign and get access in 24 hours and then again switch the campaign to inactive. There have been no mentions of how long an ad campaign should be active, so this can work for short term for specific projects.

    The other option is to research and find another tool or source for keyword data. There are many tools available for keyword research online but most of them got their data from Keyword Planner itself. After the changes brought about by Google these sources are no longer viable.

    Bing also has a keyword research tool which offers digital marketers services. The tool which is named the Bing Keyword Research Tool does not require users to log into Webmaster tools, within which it lives. This tool is more of a way to help SEO professionals that are using Bing’s webmaster tools as compared to being a tool that caters to sell advertising. A thing to remember though is that this tool will present data is a whole different manner as compared to Google’s Keyword Planner. It will only show data regarding Bing searches over a three-month period. So, one should not expect the data received here to match Google’s data exactly.

    There is another free keyword tool which is offered by Wordstream. This tool only offers searches per month data to paid account users, but it does have a visual indicator that shows search frequency to free users. This helps advertisers judge the relative value of keywords when put up against each other.

    Other tools that offer keyword research, usually scrape from the Google suggest box which comes at the top of result pages. Some even pick up suggestions from Yahoo, Bing, YouTube and Amazon.

    UberSuggest is amongst the leading suggestion scraping tools out there and a good option for advertisers. Even though such tools do not have any numerous data associated with them, they do play an important role in producing keyword ideas. Such ideas one can take to another keyword tool and find search volume and related data.

    These are few options that are free and reliable. They hold a good reputation for data integrity and even disclose their data sources. For SEO professionals not looking to spend much on Keyword Planner, these can be a good option.

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