Google to Show Search Volume – Another Blow to Agencies

In a LOOOOONG overdue move that provides some much-needed transparency to the PPC business, Google has added search volume data to their keyword research tool

This means that when you use Google to research potential search terms for your clients’ pay-per-click campaign, Google will actually give you an idea of how many people actually search for that term each month. Useful data when you determine that only 2 people per month search for “heirloom cucumbers kansas” so perhaps that phrase shouldn’t be the cornerstone of your search marketing efforts.

If you’re not involved with PPC on a daily basis, you may be thinking “well of course they would tell you how many people search for each phrase, how else could you even figure out which phrases to bid on?” Welcome to Planet Google, where information is doled out in maddeningly small and disconnected doses like plot points on Lost.

It is of course ridiculous that this data was not provided historically, especially since GoTo/Overture/Yahoo showed search volume from the beginning, and they pioneered PPC, not Google. But, Google’s moxy to hide a critical piece of marketing information has been a boon for search agencies and consultants, who use third party tools like WordTracker (a nice little company that is probably stocking smelling salts in the cafeteria after this announcement) to find this data for clients. 

While this announcement may seem out of left field, I see it as another move in a series designed to disintermediate agencies and move small and medium sized advertisers into the hands of Google directly. Google Analytics makes having a Web analytics consultant less necessary for some. Google’s Ad Planner makes an online media consultant less necessary for some. Google’s TV Ads and Radio Ads services make a traditional media consultant less necessary for some. 

Trouble for Agencies, but an Opportunity

Ultimately, it appears Google’s desired end game is for all small and medium sized advertisers to conduct all marketing transactions directly with Google, leaving agencies to deal with the big clients. For advertising agencies, this is both troubling, and an opportunity. If Google makes the marketing and advertising business as transparent as travel planning and stock purchases, the only agencies that will be able to survive are those that can add real value in messaging, creative, and integrating data into actionable tactics.

The transactional components of the advertising agency model like media placement, and the other services like Web analytics that are based on access to data will evaporate. Agencies must commit to being thinkers, rather than doers to succeed in this environment. Setting up a PPC campaign won’t cut it much longer. Managing a PPC campaign with rigorous testing that incorporates insights from offline tactics will be the level of expertise required for an agency to charge for search marketing – and that day will be here quickly.


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