Google Trends’s Advantages Over AdWords Keyword Planner

Google Trends vs Keyord Planner - Mudd Avertising Blog

Move over, Keyword Planner; when it comes to SEO, Google Trends offers a superior timeline, targeting options, and related keyword data. It happened in the blink of an eye, but when it comes to SEO keyword research, Google Trends is now the better option.

Google Trends launched in 2006 – with the goal of giving users the capability to see the search volume of a particular words and phrases. In 2013, Insights for Search (a different Google product) merged with trends to improve visual representation and targeting capabilities. That same year, Google AdWords launched Keyword Planner, a tool developed for PPC marketers.

Popular demand has warranted continuous improvement to both interfaces ever since their inception. In last couple weeks, Google Trends released updates.

Despite being an older tool, Google Trends is often overlooked by SEOs in favor of Keyword Planner and other independent industry tools when doing keyword research. But as Moz and others have pointed out recently, Keyword Planner data can be unreliable at times.

I would like to point out some Keyword Planner flaws and show why you should consider using Google Trends instead.

1. Popularity / Average Monthly Searches

Keyword Planner’s search volume range is broad, and at times, its numbers don’t match other tools (including Google Trends).

Google Trends doesn’t rely on specific numbers at all. Instead, searches are ranked based on interest. They are given a number value of 0-100, with 100 being the most popular over the region and time range you’ve set.

The example below shows a search for “Chevy dealership”, across the United States over the past year.

Google Trends Timeline


Trends, unlike Keyword Planner, offers a line graph timeline of search popularity. This timeline gives you a better sense of when keywords peak and decline, instead of just displaying average search volume ranges for each month.

2. Targeting

You can target down to the city level with both tools, but Google Trends offers this data in a different way.

Google Trends - "Chevy dealership" Interest by Subregion

Just below the standard timeline after a search is search data by sub-region. From the same example, with United States targeted, here we see where this search is most popular within that region. From here, we can get even more specific – from state down to metro area or city level.

There is no question this is helpful in targeting communities around your place of business. Instead of having to choose areas manually like with Keyword Planner, Google Trends does the work for you by telling you where your search is most popular.

Google Trends - "Chevy dealership" Interest by Metro

3. Comparing

When comparing, “Chevy dealership” to “Chevrolet dealer” in Keyword Planner, the timeline combines their average monthly searches. Average monthly searches are listed below, but there is currently no way to compare them across a timeline during a period of time.

Keyword Planner Search Terms

Google Trends puts each search its own timeline, giving you a true comparison between keywords.

Google Trends Comparison Timeline

4. Relevance / Related

When trying to find related keywords for new ideas and opportunities, Keyword Planner lists are again based off average monthly searches. In this case, it is important to remember that Keyword Planner is built for making ads, so highly-related keywords may not be shown if Google believes there is no commercial appeal.

Keyword Planner Related Keywords

Google Trends breaks related searches down into Topics and Queries. This gives you the opportunity to find related topics and specific keywords that users also searched for, not just keywords for which Google believes there is commercial appeal.

You can filter each of these by Top (highest interest) or Rising. Rising is defined by Google Trends as, “Related topics with the biggest increase in search frequency since the last time period. Results marked “Breakout” had a tremendous increase, probably because these topics are new and had few (if any) prior searches.”

Google Trends Related Topics and Queries


Aside from subscription-based tools and Google Search Console, I find myself using Google Trends more and more. When doing keyword research for SEO, Google Trends has an advantage over Keyword Planner in almost every area, including: volume, targeting, comparing, and relation.

Of course Google Trend is not an end-all-be-all research tool. It’s important to take all available data into account, including that from various tools. But for ease of use and unique SEO insights, Google Trends has become one of the best.

What’s your experience with Google Trends and Keyword Planner? What combination of keyword research tools do you use? Do you disagree with any of my examples? Let me know, by leaving a comment below.


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