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The New Google AdWords Keyword Planner Tool & Alternatives

| 5 minutes to read

AdWords Keyword PlannerThe Google Keyword Tool is no more, replaced with a combination tool called Keyword Planner. But what is the Keyword Planner, and if you don’t like it, what alternatives are there? In this post we look at the new way to get your AdWords research out of Google, and other free and paid tools to help you do your keyword research.

What Is Google Keyword Planner?

As you probably know, Google has recently done away with the traditional Keyword Tool we mostly knew and loved, combining it with the Traffic Estimator to produce the keyword Megalodon that is the Keyword Planner.

The first and foremost difference between the two is that all historic data is for exact match only. Previously the default was broad match, with the option to select the other match types, but this is no more, which is a shame to say the least. You can still research the best match type for your campaign by putting your keyword ideas into the traffic estimator, but it does seem a bit long winded when compared to the previous process.

Secondly you are likely to notice higher search volumes across the board, as Keyword Planner combines data from all devices to calculate your figures.

How Does It Work?

The Keyword Planner is a marriage of the Google Keyword Tool, and AdWords Traffic Estimator.

The Keyword Planner has three main functions:

  • Search for keyword and ad group ideas
  • Enter or upload keywords to see how they perform
  • Multiple keyword lists

Search for Keyword and Ad Group Ideas

The new layout gives you a number of options to discover new keywords and inspire new ad group ideas. Not all parts of this form are compulsory, but by including as much information as possible you’ll get the most targeted results.

You can enter up to 50 keywords at one time, and/or one landing page and category.

You can also use this element of the tool to pop in your competitor’s landing pages and see what results are presented.

  • Enter or Upload Keywords to See How They Perform

Similar to traffic estimator, you can enter up to 1,000 keywords on screen or 10,000 via a CSV file (I am told), to get volumes of searches for each keyword. You have the option to get estimates or historical data which can be broken down into months, and competition data.

AdWords KeyWord Planner 2
  • Multiple Keyword Lists

This seems to be a time saving device as much as anything. By adding a list of counties to List 1 and the words ‘hotel’, ‘motel’, ‘B&B’ and ‘bed and breakfast’ to List 2 the tool brings up all possible combinations (you can have up to 3 Lists). You can then click through as with any other keyword list and see which are most likely to be beneficial to you.

AdWords KeyWord Planner 1

How Is Keyword Planner Different from Keyword Tool?

Data Columns

  • Monthly Searches

In the traditional tool we had a column showing local monthly searches, and one for global monthly searches.

AdWords KeyWord Planner 4

I was initially sad to see this feature had been removed, replaced with a single, seemingly generic ‘average monthly searches’ column. However this was short lived when I found that instead the new search volume data presents data specific to your target settings.

You can still see global search volume data by selecting all locations, or request data for a specific country, region, or city.

  • Search Share

This data column has been removed.

  • Ad Share

This column has also been removed, however Google say they are working on a replacement which will offer ad impression share data.

  • Google Search Network

This column has been removed, but there is a network option within target settings to replace it.

  • Approx. CPC (Search)

Instead we now have the Avg. CPC column which is actually more accurate than its predecessor, which displays actual CPC data.

  • Local Trends

This column doesn’t exist anymore but you can access search trends broken down by month if you download historic data, or by hovering over the graph icon for your selected keyword:

AdWords KeyWord Planner 5

What If I Don’t Like It?

If you just can’t get on with the Keyword Planner there are plenty of alternative tools to try.


WordTracker is a great system which lures you in with their simple, UX focused tool. Firstly, without even signing up you see your search volumes, your competition, and the highest deemed potential keywords for your industry.

WordTracker Review

Only after that will you need to register starting at $69 per month with a bunch of extras and incentives.


KeywordEye offers a visual approach to research. You can trial the basic service for 10 days for free, then subscribe to the Pro service starting at £9.99 per month.

The basic package allows up to 100 suggestions to be presented in a search, which can be displayed in a number of ways. In this example, ‘cat toys’, I have chosen to have the keywords ordered by search volume descending in the word cloud.

KeyWord Eye Review KeyWord Eye Review 2 KeyWord Eye Review 3


WordStream have three main tools on their Home page; the keyword tool, niche finder, and negative keyword tool, making the page well worth a handy bookmark for later visits.

WordStream Review

Again using the ‘cat toys’ example, WordStream came up with 2,014 keywords and showed me the top 100, but with volume and competition greyed out, which you must sign up to see. It’s also worthy of note that you have 3 free searches available to you.

WordStream Review 2

You also get three demonstrations of the niche finder, which is quite a handy little tool for narrowing down with:

WordStream Review 4

The negative keyword tool could also save a lot of time and money. In the instance below, Bad Cat Toys make military model aeroplanes and the like.

By selecting ‘bad cat toys’ as not relevant, the word ‘no’ is moved over to the second column where match type can be selected. Negative keywords can also be manually entered into the list, and if you are a paying member, this can all be uploaded to AdWords right away.

WordStream Review 5

WordStream subscriptions start at £349 per month for small businesses estimated to be spending up to $10,000 on PPC.

All of these tools have impressive testimonials and features, it’s just a question of finding which works best for you either as an alternative to Google Keyword Planner, or to compliment it. Other tools are available.


  1. Steve avatar

    Hey Laura. I saw you link to this from a comment in Ruth Burr’s Moz post. I also left a comment asking if anyone knew if things like WordTracker, etc. offer the “Only show ideas…” option which used to be in the KW Tool but is absent from the KW Planner. Do you happen to know? It’s driving me insane, haha!

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