November 25, 2013

Where have all the keywords gone?


4 analytics alternatives to the late, great Google Keyword Tool

Target audience: Marketing professionals, SEO specialists, PR pros, analytics managers, brand managers, businesses, nonprofits, educators, Web publishers, journalists.

Guest post by Megan Totka

MeganTotkaGoogle has done it again. No, they haven’t come out with a new feature, tool, or platform designed to enrich our digital lives — they’ve killed another useful and beloved feature that millions depended on daily. First it was the Google Reader … and now it’s the Google Keyword Tool.

This move feels like Google has casually flushed years of SEO work down the drain and sent experienced, confident Internet marketers to scramble around in the dark.

Why Google nixed the keyword tool

Back in 2011, the search engine giant rolled out SSL encryption for all searches performed on Google through a signed-in user account. This prevented everyone, including marketers, from obtaining search data through the free keyword tool for those secured searches.

At first, Google claimed the encryption would impact less than 10 percent of all searches conducted on Google. Data from Hubspot found that by November 2011, more than 11 percent of organic searches were being affected — and by January 2013, that number had risen to 55 percent.

Now, Google is adding SSL encryption permanently to its search engine (you’ll notice that when you visit the main Google page, the address now begins with https — and if you try to remove the s, you’re redirected to the secure page). This effectively renders the free Google Keyword Tool useless, because it only reported data for non-secure searches.

Google stated that the changes were made to provide additional protection for searchers. However, marketers are still welcome to pay for keyword data through Google AdWords and Keyword Planner, since ad clicks are still non-encrypted. (The operative word here is “pay.”)

What can small business marketers do now?

With the Google Keyword Tool suffering an untimely death, where can your small business turn to find the best keywords that are relevant to your business?

You can, of course, use Google AdWords. There are a few drawbacks to this strategy, including the inability to get data on organic searches and the fact that it costs money. However, AdWords can be an effective strategy for small business.

There are also other free keyword tools available. They may not be as effective or far-reaching as the Google Keyword Tool was, but you can still get a good overall idea of which keywords to optimize for maximum effect. Four that we like are:

1Bing Webmaster Toolbox: You might have forgotten about the “other” search engine, but second place isn’t bad. Microsoft’s Bing holds a respectable 17.9% of search engine market share — and the search trends are basically the same, just on a smaller scale.

2Ubersuggest: Calling itself “suggestions on steroids,” this handy tool will generate hundreds of suggested keywords based on your relevant search terms.

3Wordpot: This free keyword finder offers some pretty powerful keyword analysis, including daily search volumes.

4SEO Book Keyword Tool: Powered by the paid Wordtracker service, this tool delivers rough daily search volumes, links to keyword research, vertical database references, and more. There’s also a free PPC competitive research tool available through the site.

Above all, focusing on writing great content, using relevant and authoritative links, and building your community will still help your small business website rise through the search engine ranks—even without the Google Keyword Tool.

How will you adjust your SEO marketing strategies in light of the most recent changes at Google?

Image courtesy of Michael Reuter

Megan Totka is the chief editor for She specializes on the topic of small business tips and resources. helps small businesses grow their business on the Web and facilitates connectivity between local businesses and more than 7,000 Chambers of Commerce worldwide.
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