IndustryGoogle AdWords Keyword Planner vs. Keyword Tool: SEO & PPC Feature Comparison

Google AdWords Keyword Planner vs. Keyword Tool: SEO & PPC Feature Comparison

With the approaching consolidation of the Keyword Tool and the Traffic Estimator into the Keyword Planner, SEO and PPC professionals should become familiar with this new product. Here's a comparison of the Keyword Tool and Keyword Planner.

Google’s AdWords Keyword Tool enables online marketers to quickly retrieve an overview of the relevancy of single search terms as well as whole product categories and brands, making it an important everyday tool.

However, Google will soon combine the Keyword Tool and Traffic Estimator into just one new product: the Keyword Planner. Google will also add a new keyword merger function that allows for wrapping and combining keywords.

The Keyword Planner offers both basic functions of Keyword Tool and Traffic Estimator in two different types. There will be no program-related barrier as is presently the case with the two tools and it will also be easy to transfer keywords from ideas to estimated traffic and integrate them into the account in a structured way.

With the approaching consolidation of the Keyword Tool and the Traffic Estimator into the Keyword Planner, SEO and PPC professionals should become familiar with this new product. What does this change means for keyword research? Here’s a comparison of the Keyword Tool and Keyword Planner.

Short Facts (Cheat Sheet)

There are three function types. These differ in terms of the number of available keywords and in terms of whether they actually display keyword ideas.

Google generally describes all keyword displays with keyword ideas and ad group ideas, regardless of whether new recommendations are actually provided. The filters are only partly at your disposal after the first query.

1. Ideas for Looking for Keywords and Ad Groups

It is possible to enter up to 50 keywords, as well as one target site or one product category within the interface to retrieve keywords and keyword ideas. These are then displayed with information regarding search volume, competition, and the average CPC.

2. Enter or Upload Keywords to Learn About Their Performance

In order to retrieve search volume data one can either enter up to 1,000 keywords into the interface or upload up to 10,000 via a CSV. Once this has been done, you then need to choose the option “Get search volume.” New keyword suggestions can’t be generated here. Search volumes of keywords can only be retrieved through exporting the data.

3. Multiply Keyword Lists

It’s possible to enter several lists of keywords as long as the combined total of terms doesn’t exceed 1,000.

Some of the functions have changed:

  • The local search volume is only displayed for exact queries.
  • The local search volume is specifically retrievable for towns and regions, several places and countries can be chosen at the same time.
  • The language setting eliminates terms that don’t match the chosen language. It serves as a word filter instead of a targeting filter (Google just eliminates the words instead of adjusting their search volumes).
  • Keyword lists can be uploaded as CSV files to research the search volume. Separation of end device is dispensed with (fitting to the enhanced campaigns).

According to Google, future ideas as well as estimations will be more tailored to the specific account. This makes more sense for PPC, but for SEO this form of modification seems to be rather disadvantageous.

The 3 Function Types of the Keyword Planner in Detail

Type 1: Search Keywords and Ad Group Ideas

This function allows the user to enter up to 50 keywords, and one target site or one product category to generate keyword ideas. Language and “Google”/”Google and search partners” can be chosen accordingly.

Unfortunately the option “Only show ideas closely related to my search terms” is omitted. Consequently the results can only be thematically modified via included or excluded keywords.

Depending on the research, the planner sometimes lists many irrelevant terms. As usual the planner displays the results in the ad group ideas as well as in the keyword ideas. In terms of metrics however only search volume, competition, and CPC are displayed.


Type 2: Enter or Upload Keywords to See How They Perform

Keywords can be checked on their search volume and potential account performance. Here up to 1,000 keywords can be manually entered or a CSV file with up to 10,000 keywords can be uploaded. Also, position and “Google”/”Google and search partners” can be selected.

Language can’t be selected in the upload, but is available as a filter after the first output of results. New keyword suggestions aren’t displayed by this type; in order to get such results you need to choose type 1.

This type distinguishes between “Get estimates” and “Get search volumes”. If “Get search volume” is chosen, search volume, competition and CPC are displayed. If “Get estimates” is chosen, the planner displays estimations concerning possible clicks, impressions, positions, costs, CTR, and CPC of the keywords after the insertion of offer and daily budget.


Type 3: Multiply Keyword Lists

This type represents a wrapper. It is possible to combine two or three keyword lists but the combination is strictly one-directional (A and B = AB, not: AB and BA).

Once combined, the combined list should consist of no more than 1,000 terms; other neither search volume nor estimations can be retrieved. Location and “Google”/”Google and search network” can be chosen, however language cannot be selected in the pre-setting. However it can be adjusted later on. This type generates no new ideas.


Keyword Tool vs. Keyword Planner Functions

To provide an overview, here’s a comparison of the functions of the Keyword Tool and Keyword Planner, evaluated from an SEO and a PPC perspective.


Function Keyword Tool Keyword Planner SEO PPC
Limitation according to country Selection of a country Selection of several countries at the same time / /
Limitation according to language Search volume filtered depending on the language queries (number of search volume gets smaller): Language targeting Take into account only words of this language, foreign terms (partly also Anglicisms) completely fall out of the research: Language word filter frownie-face frownie-face
Limitation according to region/city New smiley-face smiley-face
End devices Separation of end devices possible Separation of end devices are dropped frownie-face frownie-face
Matchtype in search volume Retrieval of search volume possible for widely, exact and word group Retrieval of search volume only possible for exact frownie-face frownie-face
Matchtype in estimations Retrieval of estimations possible for widely, exact and word group Retrieval of search volume possible for widely, exact and word group / /
Insertion Insertion of keywords, website and/or category possible Insertion of keywords, website and/or category possible in type 1; in the other types only insertion of keywords possible / /
Include/exclude terms Stays Stays / /
Research of new keyword ideas Possible Possible in type 1 / /
Improvement of keyword ideas according to conceptual vicinity Option “Only display ideas very similar to my search terms” Not possible anymore frownie-face frownie-face
Research of new ad groups ideas Possible Possible in type 1 / /
Search volume for display groups ideas Not mentioned Summed-up search volume of the keywords central to ad groups (cluster) / smiley-face
Display ideas for adults Possible Possible / /
Filtering of ideas Possible according to:
Search queries (local and global)
Ad share
Possible according to:
Search queries
/ /
Intermediate storage of keywords Keyword ideas, ad group ideas Adding to the plan only in the suggested or given ad groups / smiley-face
Export of keyword ideas One’s own keyword ideas, all search results, one’s own ad group ideas, bulk download Download keyword statistics or plan for all individually chosen ad groups (Type 1), additionally segmented after month, for Excel or AdWords Editor / /
Adaption of columns Possible Omitted / /
Information – Competition
– Global search queries
– Local search queries
– Ad ratio
– Google search network
– Ratio in search queries
– Approximate CPC
– Local search trends
– Average search queries (locally consistent with site selection)
– Competition
– Average CPC
– Local Search trends
– Selection by Google / Google and search network possible
/ /
Local search trends Exemplified as column and through export Only through export frownie-face frownie-face
Download of results Possible (only statistics for search volume) Download of statistics and traffic estimations possible in one data / smiley-face
Retrieval of traffic estimations New / smiley-face
Creation of a plan with ad groups and keywords New / smiley-face
Fading out keywords already in the account New / smiley-face
Upload of keywords in a CSV file New, maximum of 10,000 keywords smiley-face smiley-face
Upload of keywords in ad groups (cluster) Not possible Possible in type 2 smiley-face smiley-face
Manual insertion of keywords for one’s own ideas 200+ keywords 50 keywords frownie-face
Manual insertion of keywords for search volume 200+ keywords 1,000 keywords smiley-face
Rate time of data Only current status Intermediate saving as “plan” smiley-face smiley-face
Wrapper New smiley-face smiley-face



The table shows some of the advantages and in the following paragraph the most interesting ones for SEO and PPC are listed. Local targeting in particular can bring significant improvements.

Not only can different countries be selected as areas but also various regions (e.g., Shreveport, LA) or cities (e.g., New York). This is a vast improvement, particularly for local SEO professionals or locally referring ads. This is very helpful if you want to bundle countries on the basis of language.

The upload of CSV files enables querying of performance data for up to 10,000 keywords (e.g. from pre-combined lists from one’s own tools). Also raising the keyword limit to 1,000 in type 2 makes work easier.

By bundling the keywords in ad groups (that is, also in every other possible cluster) you can easily retrieve the search volumes for the respective category, ad group, landing page etc. The integrated wrapper helps in requesting the search volume. Though in this function the Google Keyword Planner replaces single external tools and spares routine pieces of copy and paste work, it doesn’t generate any additional ideas (not even with just a few terms).


For the one part there exists a forfeit concerning functions in the field filter and settings. Statistical data for search volume can only be retrieved for the match type “exact” and not for “phrase” and “broad”. Google stated that those had been too inaccurate.

One could possibly solve this problem by retrieving the estimated values for e.g. “expected impressions” that are issued. However, these values strongly depend on the chosen daily budget and the extent of the maximum CPC bid. Like this, only the total number of impressions estimated by Google (depending on the estimated impression share) is displayed.

Global and local search trends, like the results of Google search and the Google search network, can only be retrieved in multiple steps. Furthermore the search volumes for mobile phones and desktop PCs are no longer displayed separately. The data therefore just refers to all devices.

If German is selected in the language settings, English keywords are automatically sorted out and disappear from the list. This means differentiation and the chance for more detailed analysis is lost.

From a usability standpoint, the limiting of keywords to 50 when using type 1 must be stressed. If you want to retrieve 51 keywords you need to start a new query. However, experience of the Keyword Tool has shown that the idea’s diversity and quality suffered if too many keywords were entered.

If you want to retrieve more than 50 keywords you should choose type 2 with 1,000 keywords or CSV upload. There mustn’t be any special characters in the CSV data since these lead to error messages.

Furthermore, getting used to the tool takes some time and can be a little arduous, since it appears a bit cumbersome. However, if you take your time and deal with the various types and opportunities for keyword research, test various things and try out this and that, you will learn quickly.


Initial Takeaways

When beginning keyword research, working with type 1 is recommended. Good ideas can be easily generated even if they are a little excessive.

In the case of your own combinations or predetermined keywords type 2 and type 3 are especially relevant – also dependent on whether and to which extent you work with combination lists. Type 2 also enables users to retrieve performance data for many keywords via CSV upload.

The Keyword Planner leads directly from keyword research to ad groups and subsequently to the creation of campaigns, offering advantages due to an integrated process – particularly in the field of PPC, the main area of application.

The Keyword Planner is an improvement for beginners and inexperienced users due to the minimized data possibilities. For professionals with more differentiated requirements, hopefully the planner will continue to be refined separately from the regional filters.


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