Those darn bots!

The search community has been abuzz about a recent controversy surrounding the Google AdWords Keyword Planner tool. After a brief moment where it looked like new access restrictions were a bug, the AdWords team announced that keyword data is now restricted for users without active advertising campaigns.

This of course caused backlash from the search community, mostly because SEOs and other marketing professionals use Keyword Planner to get an idea of keyword popularity when creating keyword strategies. They don’t need active AdWords campaigns, and bristled at being told they would essentially need to pay for accurate data. The AdWords team then explained that the change was made to prevent abuse by bots and other online entities, and noted that the available data is still basically accurate, just not as precise.

While the AdWords Keyword Planner is a useful tool for keyword research, it shouldn’t be the only tool used when planning keywords—there are other tools available for determining keyword popularity. If a digital marketer needs more nuanced data, Google Trends can be useful when comparing different keyword variations. Plugging a keyword into Google itself and observing the results can also help determine how popular (or similar) a keyword is. On top of these free offerings, paid services such as SEMRush have popular keyword research tools in their arsenals. In other words, the change to Keyword Planner access is annoying, but it’s not the end of the world.

Why does this matter? Losing access to data from Google is always a negative experience, but there are ways around this one. Using a variety of tools is integral to keyword research, and makes the loss of precise Keyword Planner data less critical.

Google Trends gets new features

Speaking of Google Trends, it has received a minor facelift with new features. In addition to new filters and the ability to view historical data by day, data can now be exported to Excel. That might be the most interesting addition, as it allows users to store information from the other features in a familiar, easy way.

Why does this matter? If Trends is utilized in keyword research, these new features will be helpful. Even if it’s used simply to analyze seasonality for topics, the ability to store the data in a .csv file can be very valuable for later comparison.

Creating a branded domain name: easy as pasta

Choosing a new domain name can be fraught with indecision and confusion. Should keywords be inserted for better SEO? What kind of branding is best? Do domain names even matter when it comes to search marketing?

Rand Fishkin of Moz has answers to these questions and more in a recent Whiteboard Friday. Using a helpful analogy about a pasta website, he covers everything from the kind of branding that works best for clients to how to avoid possible legal pitfalls. Watch, learn, and soon branding a new domain shouldn’t seem hard at all.

Why does this matter? Choosing the right kind of domain name is crucial not only for marketing, but for making sure searchers click through to webpages when they appear in search engine results. Something easy to remember and connected to the brand can make all the difference between standing out among competitors and fading into the obscurity of search engine noise.

Big rise in “not provided” count for some sites

“Not provided,” the message that Google Analytics gives for keywords that have encrypted user data for privacy reasons, has been an issue since its debut in late 2011. Since then, many SEOs have bemoaned the loss of keyword data in Google Analytics, while some now utilize the data that Search Console provides. Others simply used the slowly dwindling list of keywords that were available under the Keywords heading in the Acquisition section of Google Analytics.

Unfortunately, that last tactic is no longer valid. Since Google switched over to providing only an HTTPS version of the search engine, the “not provided” count for some sites has increased sharply. For some accounts, “not provided” keywords have now soared to over 90 percent of total keywords.

Why does this matter? Setting up and syncing Search Console with Google Analytics is more important than ever—while the keyword data was limited before in Google Analytics, now it’s practically nonexistent. The only way to get keyword data for organic traffic for Google is to use Search Console.

Not sure how to set up Google Search Console? Never fear, Google has a guide on how to create a Search Console account.