When Google launched its keyword planner tool, the whole online marketing world crumbled… I read some great posts about what the new tool does and what it no longer does. I also saw some good comparison tables for both PPC and SEO which are really useful.
At the same time that everybody was berating and bemoaning the change, I was wondering why Google was so excited about that new tool. What are the real differences? Does it really change anything?
Actually, yes it does.
I have taken a deeper look at the tool and investigated its potential for international search marketers in several scenarios.
Scenario 1: Region/language settings
The first thing I wanted to check with the new tool is the region / language facilities and how reliable they are. With the old keyword tool, it was a bit difficult to get keywords ideas and relevant data for a country, such as Canada, where various languages are used.
Take for example the key phrase “restaurant quebec”. This might be used by either French or English speakers, so how do which know which language the users are speaking? We tried some different scenarios to compare the results.
Case A – Settings: Canada, all languages
We can see that the keywords ideas resulting from this term are classified according to relevance and are mainly in English, with the occasional French phrases. Not really helpful, especially if you have a Canadian website displaying two language.
Case B – Settings: Canada, English
All of the keyword ideas are exactly the same as the “all languages” setting. Does it mean that the all languages and the English settings are the same? Again, not very helpful.
Case C – Settings: Canada, French
The search volume for “restaurant quebec” is exactly the same as the two other settings. However, the keywords ideas are now only French results. Still not ideal…
Case D – Settings: Quebec, French
The search volume for “restaurant quebec” is now different. Keywords ideas are classified according to relevance and are the same as case C…
At last we have some relevant data for French Canadian speakers… This is actually a real change and something which can be really useful for targeting campaigns and budgets at the most relevant and profitable regions, within a target market.
Scenario 2: Keywords in the same language
Another thing I came across is the difference between terms in English across different countries. I wanted to have a look at the use of “winter tyres” by comparing the data between the UK, Ireland, the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and India. Here is what I came across:
Most of you, if not all of you, will say that the old keyword tool could do the same. This is very true. That is why I wanted to push the research a bit further. Why not have a look at the data within the UK, within the US and within Canada?
Comparison within the UK
Even if there are some differences within the UK in terms of vocabulary, it seems that winter tyres related keywords remain more or less the same within the country. Specific regional targeting here would not have any value, as people across the UK would generally all search for winter tyres.
Comparison within the US
The US is definitely a very interesting case. I gathered the data for 48 states (I excluded Alaska and Hawaii) in order to draw different maps. The first one below represents the search volume density (proportionally to the population of each state) for the keywords related to “winter tyres” regardless of the spelling (US vs. UK), and the preferred term “snow” or “winter”.
I wanted to see if we could really trust those results and the first idea that came to mind was to actually have a look at a snowfall map in the US for last winter. It might be slightly different but really, why would people search for winter tires when they tend to have a very mild winter?
I found map showing the snowfalls in the USA in winter 2012-2013.
So far it really does make sense. The snowfall map matches the results I gathered with the keyword planner:
According to the maps above, the data makes sense and the more snowfall you have, the more searches of winter tyres related keywords you get. That is a relief!
But let’s have a look at the popularity between winter tires, winter tyres, snow tires and snow tyres. When you search for those terms applying the “United States of America – English” setting, you get that “snow tires” is the keyword you need to use or rank for if you want US internet users to find your range of tires.
However, if you look deeper, you see that is not the case for the whole country.
For the States in orange, the term “snow tires” is more popular. In pink, the terms are more or less equally popular. Finally, in purple, the term “winter tires” is more popular than “snow tires”.
69% of 48 states in the USA (Alaska and Hawaii have not been represented on this map) prefer to use the term “snow tires”. 29% do not really have a preference in terms of key phrase usage and will use both winter tires and snow tires, while 2% actually prefer to use the popular Canadian term “winter tires”.
What does that change? Well, if you are an online shop targeting Vermont, you might want to reconsider your keyword for this State, given that “winter tires” is more popular than “snow tires”. And given also that Vermont has one of the highest snowfalls in the USA, this is a region you want to be visible in!
Comparison within Canada
When I gathered the data for the USA, I thought it would be good to do the same for Canada as it will allow us to see whether a physical border might be slightly different to a linguistic one.
The results show that Ontario and British Columbia tend to use “winter tires” but the American-preferred term “snow tires” is also used. In other regions of Canada, it is “winter tires” that wins, yet users in Quebec tend to favour the term “pneus d’hiver” which literally means “winter tyres”. Incidentally, this is different to the French term used in France which is “pneus neige” (snow tyres).
From this, we can draw a map of both Canada and the USA and see what the preferred terms are across the whole region:
In orange are the areas where the term “snow tires” is preferred, whereas purple is shows the areas where “winter tires” is more popular. In pink are the regions where both terms are used. Finally, in yellow the region where the French equivalent “pneus d’hiver” is used.
These examples show how important it is to conduct keyword research for local terms and understand that keywords are not only country-related but also region related. With the new Keyword Planner, it seems easier to target the right regions and ensure you are targeting the most valuable and profitable keywords for that region.
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