Google Keyword Tool Begins Search Term Aggregation
The Google Keywords Tool has long been an essential in the toolkits of SEO’s and PPC Managers. The data has produced has always been rounded up and in some ways quite vague. The tool has now begun using search term aggregation. This has made the data less valuable than previously, particularly for discovering SEO keywords and devising exact match PPC campaigns.
What is Happening with Search Term Aggregation?
Aggregation means that, for example, the acronym SEO, the US spelling, “Search Engine Optimization” and the UK English variation “Search Engine Optimisation” now return the same number of average monthly searches.
A similar effect has been noted with plurals of a word. There also seems to be some grouping of close variants. As you can see in the example below of “Dentist vs Dental”
It has been suggested that there is also an issue with keywords that are missing spaces being grouped together. The source may well be correct, but we have not been able to reproduce this effect during our testing in the UK. We will have to wait and see if this effect develops here.
Search Console and Other Data Sources
It would appear that the data in search console is still relatively accurate, so you should be able to get some guidance on the accuracy of keyword tool data in your sector by comparing and contrasting the search console data against information that you have gathered from the keyword planner for words you are already ranking for.
With this new issue arising, it would suggest that Google are deliberately making changes to data in an attempt to make content creators and SEO’s be driven by creating highly relevant pages rather than simply relying on hitting the search keywords.
Another possible reason for the grouping is the development of conversational search. Without an official explanation, we can only really speculate as to the reasoning behind the move, but there is some logic in combining terms together that people are more likely to use casually (and often interchangeably) in the course of a conversation.
So far, it appears that only Google is acting in this manner. The beta keyword research tool in Bing is still operating in the traditional manner. For popular terms, it is likely to be a good guide to the search volumes registered for the terms in Google. However, its much smaller user base is likely to mean that it could be a poor guide to minority terms.
It should also be remembered that cross-referencing your data with Google Trends could also give your PPC Managers an overview of which terms are growing or declining.