Getting Detailed Keyword Planner Data via My Client Centre (MCC)

Keyword Planner (Prismafied) imageThis is probably really obvious, but it fooled me, so I thought it was worth blogging about.

TL;DR – To get detailed data using the AdWords Keyword Planner when managing multiple accounts via MCC (My Client Centre), make sure that you click on the ‘Jump to account’ drop-down at the top of the screen, select a ‘big spender’ client, and then do your keyword research as normal. The priviso is that you have to have at least one client in your MCC that’s a ‘big spender,’ otherwise you may not get the detailed data. If you leave it as the default – probably your own/agency account – you may not get the data, especially if you don’t use AdWords yourself, which is what fooled me originally.

Google’s changes

Back in June, Google started combining data for very closely-related keywords in its Google AdWords Keyword Planner tool. For example, the keywords "personal injury claim" and "personal injuries claims" suddenly had exactly the same search volume and suggested AdWords bid data, despite the latter being grammatically unfriendly and therefore less searched-on:

It was either a mighty big coincidence (unlikely), or their data was being lumped together (likely).

At first there was talk that it was a bug (even DMs that I had back-and-forth with the @adwords team showed that they didn’t really have a clue internally what the heck was going on), but eventually – weeks later – it was revealed that it was a permanent change. They also started to show data in ranges: e.g. “100 – 1K” instead of, say, “390”.

Ugh.

Initial confusion

It was also revealed that you had to be an active user – i.e. spending moolah on actual AdWords clicks – in order to get the detailed data, and also potentially have an account that’s been running for at least a couple of months. However, as it stands, no one’s currently sure how much you have to spend in order to see detailed data vs. the generalised ranges.

My question was this: what about people who have access to other AdWords accounts via My Client Centre (MCC)? How does that factor into it?

Well, from a recent post about it on the SEM Post:

“So needing to have active campaigns running for at least 3-4 months, with an unknown spend requirement, will mean many SEOs will have a hard time getting the detailed data unless they are able to MCC an active AdWords account that is seeing the data.”

This confused me, as I had a MCC account with at least 3 or 4 active AdWords campaigns in it (i.e. client campaigns), but whenever I tried to use the Keyword Planner, I was still getting the rough data ranges instead of the detailed data.

…And then I realised what I was doing wrong.

How to get detailed data

Whenever you access the Google AdWords Keyword Planner normally, e.g. if you visit it via Google Search or have the direct link to it bookmarked, you are taken to your AdWords account. In my case, it was Morgan Online Marketing’s AdWords account:

Keyword planner data ranges screenshot
Now I only have an AdWords account for My Client Centre purposes, so that I can manage other clients’ AdWords accounts. I don’t run AdWords ads on the MOM site itself.

And that’s why I wasn’t getting the data: MOM isn’t an active advertiser.

I started doing SEO keyword research for a new client and thought that I’d have to pass on a keyword research report using the data ranges rather than detailed data – which sucked. Then I thought I’d try something.

I clicked on the ‘Jump to account’ drop-down at the top…

Keyword Planner account change 1 of 2 screenshot
…selected my biggest AdWords-spending client…

Keyword Planner account change 2 of 2 screenshot
…Clicked on Tools > Keyword Planner at the top to take me back to it, entered the keywords into the Keyword Planner again, and much to my joy, I started to see the detailed data again:

Keyword Planner detailed data screenshot
So that’s the trick: conduct your keyword research while using the Keyword Planner associated with a client of yours that’s actively spending on AdWords. It’s a simple as that.

Like I said right at the beginning of the post, it seems really obvious – but it wasn’t obvious to me, initially.

The above example is a good one actually: a keyword that was in the “1K – 10K” range was actually 1,000 searches, while the two “10 – 100” were actually 10 each – both the lower end. Imagine if the client or I (or both of us) thought that they were actually 10,000, 100 and 100, respectively? We’d be really disappointed if we pursued them as keywords expecting that type of volume, only for them not to deliver.

So there you have it. I’m getting detailed data even though I’m not technically an AdWords spender. Mwahaha. Screw you, Google.*

* Famous last words.

Also, if you do this, be sure that you don’t save anything to the account, e.g. saving keywords to plans. If you have a client that offers commercial flooring and they suddenly see plans around cloud-based software in their AdWords account, they’re likely to be confused AF. And annoyed.

It’s not perfect though…

The SEO keyword research that I’m conducting at the moment is for a SaaS client, so for some areas, the words “tool” and “tools” factor into it – e.g. "[awesome] tool" and "[awesome] tools". In the past, these used to be treated completely separately, with their own separate data, but what’s weird is that Google now only shows one (seemingly the plural version) while ignoring the other:

Keyword Planner still hiding data screenshot
This most likely ties into the ‘combining of data’ issue that I mentioned right at the beginning of the post – only being displayed in a different way.

So while we can still get “detailed” data, we’re still not getting the whole picture. Boooo, etc.

An interesting observation – an indication of the cut-off point…?

I decided to check my active AdWords clients to see if I could figure out the threshold of how much you need to spend (and potentially for how long) in order to get the detailed data. In order of ‘biggest spenders’ to lowest:

  • Spent c. £2,800 in Aug 2016, years-old account = detailed data
  • Spent c. £280 in Aug 2016, years-old account = detailed data
  • Spent c. £120 in Aug 2016, months-old account (less than 1 year) = detailed data
  • Spent c. £45 in Aug 2016, years-old account = detailed data
  • Spent c. £22 in Aug 2016, years-old account = detailed data
  • Spent c. £11 in Aug 2016, years-old account = detailed data
  • No activity whatsoever in Aug 2016 (or at any point) = data ranges

So it looks as though you can get detailed data even if you’re only spending a small amount. After all, £11 in the last 30 days is nothing in the grand scheme of things when it comes to AdWords. However for that particular account, they did spend a lot more in previous months, however for the £22 per month one, it’s consistently been at around that amount for many months now.

So it doesn’t necessarily look like you have to be spending £x in order to get the detailed data – unless the x is £10-20 per month. But at least it’s not £100s or £1,000s per month.

Admittedly, my sample is very small… I’d love for a big PPC agency to dig into their tens or dozens of AdWords clients and see if they can hone in on the threshold even further.

Smart move, Google…

Well, if there’s one thing I’ve learnt from this, you can’t be a pure SEO consultant if you want to offer keyword research services to clients. Ideally you need to have an AdWords client spending a fair bit of money with them in order to get a hold of that data (or at least get access to an account that does – that could be a nice workaround if you don’t want to do AdWords for a client, or haven’t been hired by them to do it: just ask for access anyway, maybe for research purposes, complementing the SEO efforts).

This pushes us to do more AdWords work with clients. This means that more people use AdWords. This means that Google earns more money.

Well played, Google. Well played. You cheeky monkey you.

There are alternative keyword research tools of course, but they aren’t perfect, either – e.g. I’m a massive fan of Moz, but my experience with the Keyword Explorer is that 9 out of 10 searches that I’ve done have ‘no data,’ especially if they’re a niche, low search data keyword (e.g. something that would be less than 100 in the Keyword Planner)…

Moz Explorer no data screenshot
It also only offers a range, not an exact amount. And I don’t think you can do global or multiple countries/cities, only one country at a time. And there’s limits on how many keywords you can check.

Moz’s @randfish has been pushing this hard as a ‘Keyword Planner killer’ recently, and as much as I adore Rand, I worry that it may not be the perfect alternative to the Keyword Planner after all (not in its current state anyway – but to be fair, it’s still early days for the tool)…

So… The Keyword Planner is dead. Long live the Keyword Planner.

If you’ve spotted anything interesting / unusual / different then feel free to drop a comment below or tweet me.

4 Comments

  • Ahmed Khalifa

    September 19, 2016 at 12:43 pm Reply

    After getting frustrated with Google, their Keyword Planner and their (clever) ploy, I just got frustrated. It didn’t encourage me to pursue Adwords opportunities with existing or future clients. Instead, I looked around for other options. While I’m familiar with Moz’s own tool, like you said Steve, I’m still not 100% convinced.

    So right now, I’m using Kwfinder at http://www.kwfinder.com. Seems to be very good, simple and slick interface, provides keywords difficult, CPC cost, etc as well as a SERP checker. Really good value for money too for those who are not keen to invest at the moment.

    In the meantime, Google has made it too difficult for me to go around the data problem. At least it will give other SaaS companies a chance to capture that market.

    • Steve

      September 19, 2016 at 7:56 pm Reply

      Ooo cool, a new toy… 🙂 Thanks for passing it on, buddy!

      I really, genuinely don’t understand why they’re doing this. Why are they making things harder/worse for AdWords users? I understand that they wanna give SEOs a hard time (hah!), but the people who pay good money to use their platform? They’re being foolish here, if you ask me.

    • Hopeton

      October 4, 2016 at 8:51 pm Reply

      Thanks for your recommended tool Ahmed. Google has really become a pain in the butt!

  • Nathan Tarrant

    September 20, 2016 at 2:16 pm Reply

    First off, great article Steve, I’ve been banging my head over these changes to the keyword planner, and the info you have shared will certainly help. Secondly because of my frustration I went out looking for other products and I second what Ahmed says about kwfinder.com, great tool.

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