Google Keyword Tool vs. Traffic Estimator: How Do They Differ?

When creating a PPC campaign from scratch and estimating performance for projections, Google Keyword Tool and Google Traffic Estimator are two great tools for research. However, these tools provide very different data and there is not too much consistency. This can be very frustrating!

Google Keyword Tool is a great tool to find monthly search volumes, average cost-per-click (CPC), analyze the competitive nature of a specific query, find additional keywords, a quick snapshot of seasonality, and more!


google-keyword-toolGoogle traffic estimator is also a valuable tool to help find data for specific keywords, such as average CPC, daily impressions, daily costs, and average position.

For traffic estimator, you must enter a max CPC your willing to pay in order to receive estimates.


If you look at both of the screenshots above and compare the data, they are far from similar, let alone comparable. Below is a list of certain features that one or both contain and how they differ.


The Google Keyword Tool is definitely best used for keyword ideas, keyword expansion, and campaign build outs. Google Traffic Estimator could be argued to be best used for providing specific performance metrics for local campaigns that need to be geo-targeted. However; the fact that the data doesn’t match between tools is quite concerning as it makes it very difficult to accurately project clicks, impressions, spend which many advertisers want to know before launching a campaign.

Questions I have specific to each tool:

1. Search volume: What’s the difference between “local search volume” and “daily impressions”? Other than search volume being a monthly average over the past 12 months rather than a daily average, how do they differ?

2. Network targeting: Does Google Keyword Tool estimates include search partners data?

3. Click-thru rate in traffic estimator: How does Google determine the click-thru rate for keyword? This doesn’t seem like it would be accurate, especially for branded keywords if it’s your brand you’re bidding on!

4. Location targeting: When choosing a specific city or DMA to look at projections with Google traffic estimator, the impressions, clicks, and costs seem very low. How does Google estimate this data and how accurate is it?

5. In general: How do other PPCer’s come up with impressions, clicks, click-thru rate, and spend projections for geo-targeted campaigns?

Google, why make this so confusing?

So Google AdWords, why must there be two tools that do essentially the same thing? Google used to have both Google Insights and Google Trends that told very similar data; they then migrated into one tool which made everyone’s lives much easier. I believe this should be done with Google Keyword Tool and Google Keyword Traffic Estimator to ensure consistency!

What’s Google’s ideal keyword tool consist of?

  • Give the ability to provide keyword suggestions or just provide data for the keywords you input
  • Monthly average data per keyword
  • Include or exclude search partners
  • Provide estimates down to the city level
  • Provide BOTH search volume and estimated impressions
  • Provide click data and click-through estimates


Obviously, I realize these tools aren’t to provide exact estimates. However, the fact that the tools provide data with different statistics makes it nearly impossible to provide relatively accurate projections for advertisers. Consider migrating the tools into one or keeping the same format for each and doing a better job of explaining when to use each, and for what!

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  • IMCyclopedia | Google Keyword Tool vs.Traffic Estimator: How Do They Differ? says:

    […] Google Keyword Tool is a great tool to find monthly search volumes, average cost-per-click (CPC), analyze the competitive nature of a specific query, find additional keywords, a quick snapshot of seasonality, and more!… Read the rest […]

  • Aaron says:

    My understanding is that the keyword tool is search-based and is for query volume, while the traffic estimator is AdWords-based (read: designed for advertisers) and is designed to show projected ad volume. The reason they don’t match is because they’re delivering/pulling two very different datasets.

    Now, as far as why we can’t get keyword suggestions and traffic estimates at the same time … your guess is as good as mine!

    • Joe Castro says:

      Hi Aaron, thanks so much for the response. So the “competition” for Google’s keyword tool relates to SEO/organic competition or PPC? Again, I still think Google’s keyword tool provides PPC-only related data (i.e. average CPC, etc) which makes it even more confusing to know which tool to use, and when.
      Thanks again!

  • You’re in luck Joe, Google’s announced a new “keyword planner” tool that is a combination of traffic estimator and keyword research tool

    Details are hazy – what it says in that link is literally all I’ve seen/heard, but sounds like exactly what you want 🙂

  • pam says:

    ok, so I tried the new tool “keyword planner” and while it looks cool, again, its pretty useless.

  • […] lead might cost you using Per Per Click.  Use Google’s Traffic Estimator or their Keyword Tool (compared here) or ask Pivot to help.  Based on what you’re selling and the keywords that make sense for that […]

  • gearxshop says:

    Thanks a lot for this article! I wasn’t even aware that Google had such a useful tool!

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