How Google’s Handling of Keywords Affects Your SEO

Any digital marketer will tell you that Google influences everything they do. When Google makes a change to their algorithm, their software, or their programs, that means digital marketers across the world shift their strategies to best accommodate the new changes. That also means that digital marketers need to always be on top of the changes to how Google handles keywords and keyphrases.

google-keyword-plannerOne of Google’s newest changes comes with a shift in how the Keyword Planner runs. As one of the largest tools for determining SEO keywords, the Keyword Planner plays a major role in determining our SEO strategies and how we implement them.

But what exactly about the Keyword Planner has changed? What do these changes mean and how should should our shift look like to accommodate those changes?

What has Google Changed About Keyword Planner?

If you’ve ever done keyword research for an SEO strategy, you probably know a thing or two about Google’s Keyword Planner. One of the great things about using Keyword Planner is that it allowed you to see how each keyword stacked up against its competition. No matter how slight the difference was, you could see which combination of words made for the best keyword to target.

volume-of-keywordsHowever, Google has decided to change the way keywords are presented. Instead of showing you the individual volume for each specific keyword, Keyword Planner will now show you groups of keywords and their volumes. Rather than displaying the slight differences in keywords and what their unique volumes are, Keyword Planner will now group together keywords that have the same meaning or purpose.

Google’s decision to do this raises more than a few questions for digital marketers and SEO strategists. We find ourselves wondering if Google views these groups of keywords as the same, does this also mean that they will be treated the same during a Google search? Is it worth targeting one specific keyword or are all keywords in a group treated with the same amount of weight?

Does Google Treat Grouped Keywords the Same?

One way to determine if Google treated all keywords within a group with the same weight was to look at the SERPs, or the search engine results pages for those specific keywords. If Google did in fact look at each keyword with the same weight, the the SERPs for each of those keywords would show up with the exact same list of results.

Different variations that were used to test how Google treated grouped keywords included things like abbreviations, plurals, verb stems, punctuation, and typos. Through searching various keywords and their different variations, a few interesting things were found.

First, it appears that Google does not take plurals into consideration most of the time. This means that if you are looking to sell a coffee maker, you can usually use the keywords “coffee maker” and “coffee makers” interchangeably, plural-keywordsbut also means that you will be competing for the top spot of the SERP for both keywords.

However, Google does not seem to include typos when grouping similar keywords. While plurals rated high in similarity for keywords, typos rated pretty low. This could potentially be because Google does not recognize these kinds of typos as adequate searches. Instead, they try to push you to re-search using the correct words or language and will then show you the results for the correctly spelled keyword.

What is the Conclusion?

It appears that Google doesn’t group keywords when conducting a search. While they may be grouped together in the Keyword Planner, this does not necessarily translate into a grouping through searches – at least not yet.

This can cause some problems for SEO strategists and digital marketers because they want to target a keyword that is high in volume yet low in competition. Before this new change to the Keyword Planner, volumes could be seen easily and without need for additional software.

Now, with keywords grouped together, you’re only getting a summation of all the volumes for similar keywords. In that group, there could be one or two powerhouses holding the volume high while other keywords in that group are not being used frequently. If we want to see which of those keywords have a high volume and which do not, we may need to turn to new keyword software.

This is not to say that things may be in the process of changing. Because we saw that the SERPs for plural keywords were more or less the same, it could be a sign that other grouped keywords are making a transition into having the same SERP but the research was done before it could really take effect.

seo-strategyWhat Should Digital Marketers and SEO Strategists Do?

As always, digital marketers and SEO strategists will want to stay up-to-date and well informed on this topic. While it may be strange for Google to begin grouping keywords together in the Keyword Planner tool, it usually means that there is a reason behind it. If that reason is not yet prevalent, it will probably show its face sometime in the near future.

For now, SEO strategists should continue focusing their keyword strategies at just a few specific keywords, not an entire group. As it appears that Google is still displaying unique SERPs for each keyword in a group, maintaining unique keywords is still recommended at this point in time. By staying up to date on the topic, you will know if that strategy will need to change.

It is always important to understand what Google is doing and how it reflects on your job. As digital marketers, it is just as important to do your own research to truly understand how new systems or implementations are working and what they mean for you and the digital marketing efforts of your business.

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