keyword research

Using Keyword Planner for Organic Keyword Research?

Most search marketers rely on Google AdWords data.

Either in Keyword Planner or by using a keyword research tool that uses Keyword Planner data.

Is it really the best source we’ve got?

What many do not realize is that Keyword Planner is not intended to be used for organic keyword research

The search volume numbers and suggested queries in keyword planner do not match up with what is actually happening in Google search results.

Let me provide you with an example that you can test, as well. 

An international website ranks in the top 2 – 5 results for keywords supporting the phrase “international school shanghai.” 

Here’s a screenshot of some of those rankings:

Screenshot of an example search engine result page.

First, let’s go to Google’s Keyword Planner and type in “international school shanghai” to find the average search volume. 

Screenshot of Keyword Planner Tool

Google determined “international school shanghai” and “shanghai international school” to be close match variants.

By rolling your cursor over the keyword ideas displayed in the keyword planner table, you will see the section, “search volume includes.”

These are the queries Google determines to be close match variants.

Next, download the keyword data and arrange in an easy to read table.

Be sure to pull the keyword volume by month AND the average search volume total.

Screenshot of data from keyword planner tool.

The final step uses Google’s Search Console. This is a free tool by Google that helps you monitor, maintain, and troubleshoot your site’s presence in Google Search results.

“View Google Search traffic data for your site: how often your site appears in Google Search, which search queries show your site, how often searchers click through for those queries, and more.”

“About Search Console.” Search Console Help. Accessed 10 January, 2020.

Be sure to set the country and device category to match what you pulled from keyword planner.

Toggle month by month, grabbing actual search impression data for each of close match variant keywords.

In this example: “international school shanghai,” and “shanghai international school” on desktop.

Let’s see how keyword planner average search volume matches up with actual search impressions recorded in Google search console.

Search Console Data compared to Keyword Planner Average Search Volume.

Actual search impressions are 33% less than what is predicted in keyword planner.

For those on desktop, here is the entire spreadsheet together:

Spreadsheet comparing keyword planner predicted search volume and actual search console recorded organic impressions.

This is fairly substantive and could lead to some serious organic marketing miscalculations.


Stop building search marketing campaigns using AdWords Keyword Planner, this is inaccurate data for organic research.

Uncover more than generic data dumps from keyword research tools, by digging into your data.

Chances are, there is an unpolished gem waiting to be uncovered.