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Can You Trust The AdWords Keyword Tool?

Jul 31, 2008
A couple of weeks ago, the Internet marketing world had been hit by what seemed to be wonderful news: Google AdWords Keyword Tool started showing actual numbers instead of vague graphs for search volume.

Emails were sent to all the marketing and advertising mailing lists, giving their subscribers the good news. One of these emails predicted that "it probably spells the end for services like Wordtracker." A well-known guru expressed his excitement: "Holy cow! Talk about shaking up the planet!"

Jim Morris, a keyword research authority, posted the following on his nichbot.com blog: "All of a sudden - there is no longer any confusion about how many times people are searching for a certain keyword phrase on Google.com."

Jim Morris also published a screenshot of the 8 first results he got when he searched for keywords suggestions for "blogging" on AdWords Keyword Tool. The keywords are: blogging, blogs, blog, blogging software, radio blog, pink is the new blog, blog search, bad girls blog; then it shows 3 columns: Advertiser Competition, Approx Search Volume for last month, and Approx Average Search Volume.

Prior to July 2008, these 3 columns showed a shaded green bar, which somehow represented the volumes, i.e. if the bar was fully shaded it must have indicated very high volume; an empty bar indicated no competition etc. Now, the columns of search volume include actual numbers, while the Advertiser Competition column still shows shaded bars.

One of the keyword suggestions Jim Morris got was "radio blog." The Competition bar next to this keyword is 3/4 green, representing what looks like quite a lot of competition, right? I strongly suggest you search google.com for "radio blog." You'll be surprised to discover there is not even one ad! (Well, perhaps by now there are a couple). Neither when you use broad search nor when you use phrase; neither in the United States nor in Canada or the UK.

The next keyword phrase I checked was "bad girls blog." The mysterious bar is 50% green, representing more than light competition (Or does it? Nobody knows what it actually represents. The question is, why is it a secret? Why doesn't Google tell its customers the exact volume of competition?) Anyway, in the case of "bad girls blog," again, there is not even one ad in the English speaking countries.

It wouldn't be so bad if Google were just a search engine. But Google charges millions of people billions of dollars for AdWords, and a smart advertiser has to rely on the data that Google gives them to make intelligent decisions regarding his/her advertising campaign. If these data are extremely inaccurate, there is a good chance that most advertisers who use AdWords are pouring a fortune into Google's pockets to no avail.
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