Over the past week, Google’s Keyword Planner tool has been restricting users from getting keyword data on terms related to marijuana, including medical marijuana, MMJ, dispensary, cannabis, and weed. At our agency, we do a lot of marketing for medical marijuana companies, so it’s kinda a pain.
There’s no benefit for Google to provide SEOs and webmasters with this data, seeing how marijuana is a restricted topic in AdWords campaigns. So I guess the move makes sense.
Alternatives to Keyword Planner
As an SEO, it sucks not being able to conduct keyword research using Keyword Planner for specific clients. Fortunately, there are a ton of alternatives out there for those of you who are a bit stuck like me.
LSI stands for latent semantic indexing and it’s a powerful tool for understanding user search patterns and behaviors. Just about everyone in the internet marketing field agrees that using semantic keywords in page copy and blog posts is advantageous; seeing favorable Google rankings when done properly. This is a very basic tool, but it provides powerful information. We strongly suggest you school yourself on the benefits of using semantic keywords in your work.
Here’s a great article from SEO Professor: LSI Keywords and Keyword Density
If you’ve ever used Ahrefs, you already know that this is one of the most powerful tools in an SEO’s arsenal. You can do just about anything you would ever need to do with this powerful suite of tools. Features include Rank Tracker (self explanatory), Site Explorer (backlinks, internal backlinks, new and lost backlinks, and indexed pages), Content Explorer (find popular content for inspiration), and, of course, Keywords Explorer. Plans start at $99.
SEMRush is another fan favorite for those in my industry. Like Ahrefs, this is a multi-functional set of tools that lets users research all sorts of metrics – domains, competitors, gap analysis, and lead generation. When it comes to keyword research, you can look at phrase matches, related keywords, and who’s currently ranking for those terms. Plans for this tool also start at $99.
Moz is another paid option but like Ahrefs and SEMRush, it comes equipped with a lot of useful tools. The Keyword Explorer has an Overview tab that shows suggestions, SERP analysis, and brand mentions. The Suggestions tab that lets you organize results in seven different ways with “mix of sources” as the default. Keyword volume is shown in monthly estimates and is considered 95% accurate (at least by Moz). Expect to pay $99 for the standard plan.
This is a tool I haven’t used much, especially since they greatly reduced the amount of info they give you for free. Their pricing page reminds me of a 15-year-old squeeze page and if you scroll far enough you’ll see pricing starts at $88. One feature that sets this tool apart from the other four is that you can look at keyword volume for YouTube, Bing, Amazon, eBay, App Store, and Google by simply choosing its tab from the top of the page. You can also use negative keywords, similarly to Keyword Planner, to exclude phrases and words that don’t match your intent. Unfortunately, I don’t have a paid account for this tool, so I can’t get as much data as Moz, Ahrefs, and SEMRush.
We have no idea if Google will change its mind and once again show users keyword volume for marijuana terms. I hope so. But if they don’t, there are at least five alternative options that will give you the insights you want. If you’ve used one or more of the tools listed above, please share your experiences (good or bad) with our readers. If you know of another Keyword Planner alternative, please share it with us too – be sure to include pricing, features, and limitations.