Google Keyword Tool [External vs Beta] – What’s the Difference?

On the 24th September 2009, Google announced a revision of their Keyword Tool, the imaginatively titled “Keyword Tool (Beta)”.

As Barry reported that morning at Search Engine Roundtable,

Google has a beta version of a new keyword tool available in the AdWords console. To get to it, login to, go to a campaign, click on opportunities (if you have that tab), then on the left bar, click on keyword tool. A “beta” link should be available for you to click on in the top paragraph.

SEO’s all agree, the data from Google’s Keyword Tools and other sources should be taken with a pinch of salt, and I definitely agree with that too. But, the data is really important for decent keyword research. Particularly in the US market, the Local, Global and Trend data sets just don’t feel right on certain keywords.

Has Google improved the situation in their new tool? We’ll let Google tell you about their fancy new interface and get right on with what’s important. The data.

Evaluating Google Keyword Tool Beta

From the start, let me tell you that this post does not conclude with a “this tool is right” kind of an answer. What it does do is compare new with old, and it’ll tell you where the differences are. With an understanding of those differences, you can make your own decision about which source makes more sense. I’ll give you my personal opinion on this, but, I’ve only reviewed one sector in the UK market, so the conclusion could be different in different geo locations.

For the record, I looked at local search data in the UK market, ignoring the global figures. All values relate to August 2009 comparing the data exported from the Beta tool. Variances are expressed as the percentage difference of the beta tool compared to the old tool.


1) The largest volume generating keyword in the dataset had a variance between the data sources of -242% – equating to a difference of more than 14 million searches per month. Beta significantly under reported at the head of the data, compared to the original tool.

Head of KW data set shows switch in volume reporting

2) With the largest volume generating term removed, Google beta continued to under report by as much as -230%, but did not over report until the 28th keyword, with a search volume of approximately 76,000 searches per month.

3) After the 28th keyword, beta begins to demonstrate a smaller negative and eventually frequently occurring positive variance further down the data set. An anomaly is visible at keyword 36, where beta strongly disagrees with the old keyword tool. From this point the variance favours the beta keyword tool, with more volume data available in the beta keyword set for long tail search queries.

4) Much further along the tail (a selection of 40 keywords with a volume between 140 and 1700 searches per month), the beta tool under reported compared to the original keyword tool data set, with the average variance around -35%:

tail difference

5) More data (results with a volume figure) was acquired using the Beta Keyword tool in the same keyword list, making the Beta tool a better tool for long tail keyword data. Beta keyword tool has improved data exports with more rows of data and actual numbers for monthly trends, instead of those dreaded ratios.

6) Keyword Tool (External) and Keyword Tool (Current, signed in to adwords) are exactly the same.


It’s very difficult to draw a conclusion by simply comparing the two data sources. There are obvious differences, and my personal opinion is that the beta tool is a step up from what we have now. The data exported (as a CSV) contains more usable values from the outset, and there are powerful categorisation features available in the user interface.

Keyword data evaluation is not easy. My recommendation would be try this for yourself, pulling actual rankings and Google referral data from your analytics tool to benchmark the numbers. My theory is that you’ll see some consistency between organic CTR% on a more accurate dataset, by keyword category / group.

That’s a different blog post though.

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11 thoughts on “Google Keyword Tool [External vs Beta] – What’s the Difference?

  1. Steve Morgan says:

    Look forward to that "different blog post" you mentioned! Whilst I understand that keyword tool data is flawed from a prediction point of view the disparity between Google's own tools just highlights the FUD that is deliberately propagated.

  2. SocialMan says:

    Well, if you think that the previous Keyword tool was over-reporting it all makes sense.

  3. David says:

    Nice work Richard.

    It's really difficult to tell what the exact defintion of some of the measures as Google provides no or unclear guidance. My hunch is that some of the differences you are seeing are due to slightly differing measurements. I believe (but can't verify) that the beta tool;
    – Splits out mobile queries
    – Shows monthly average volumes for the last 12 months for local queries

    Where as the old tool;
    – Lumps together mobile queries with web-based searches
    – Shows volumes from the latest month for local queries

  4. Fair point and I tend to agree David. I'm really glad they're splitting Mobile and Web based queries!

  5. No problem Steve, I'll drop you a line when it's done.

  6. Zac Zheng says:

    Nice comparison of keywords volumes. However, you forgot to mention the other key features:

    1) Categories – now able to select keywords within certain categories
    2) Exact / Phrase / Broad in the same list, rather than having to choose between them with the old tool
    3) Filter keywords box at the bottom left – able to display keywords containing certain words. This is a killer feature! Very useful for filtering out irrelevant keywords

    I’m enjoying your blog!

  7. Hi Zac! Thanks for the kind comments. Indeed – I decided to leave out a review of the functionality as I mentioned, Google have done that quite ably over on their blog. That said, I also think they’ve done a nice job of the (new) tool.

  8. hey dude
    Great stuff! i got a lot of inspiration from this post
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  9. Thanks for the kind words! Good luck with your project…

  10. Great information, I have always found the google adword figures to be in some cases hugely incorrect with the numbers of searches.

    This I have since found can be really skewed by people just checking their own rankings.

    To date I really a lot more now on my own analytics.

  11. Mark Mollson says:

    I dont rely on the google keyword tool anymore i have had too many hit nad miss situations with it – I now use wordtracker which is better, although know keyword tool is totally accurate. I think as social media takes over that this will result in better information that will be more accurate.

    I have literally done eact searches for keywords with the google keyword tool and been given totally differant results. One key word search stated that 1.5 million people were looking for a keyword with no competition – Bingo!

    However that same keyword only had a few hundred visitors according to google six month later – what had happened.

    This was on an exact keyword search both times – logicaly the second set of results seemed to fit in with the keyword – so where did the miliions come from??

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