Lee Odden

RIP Google Reader, External Keyword Tool is Next

Google Reader RIP

Click to open full infographic – Wordstream

Today Google has retired Google Reader joining a long list of other Google products that have been discontinued. See a full list by clicking the Wordstream infographic to the right.

The reason offered by Google: “usage of Google Reader has declined, and as a company we’re pouring all of our energy into fewer products.”

I suppose it’s to be expected when you have an organizational culture where 20% of your time can be spent experimenting on new projects. Of those that make it to market as betas, many will not become viable as contributions to the business.  Luckily, in the case of Google Reader there are plenty of alternatives like Feedly.

Of the many services and tools listed in the “Google Graveyard” image, I can’t say I miss any of them. But I will miss the familiar External Keyword Tool which is next on the Google chopping block.

Like many other sources of useful information for webmasters, such as the referring organic keywords in analytics, Google is removing a public service but continuing to make it available for advertisers.

The message from Google: “In the coming months, the external Keyword Tool will no longer be available. To get keyword ideas, sign in to your AdWords account and try Keyword Planner.”  directs users to the Keyword Planner page which says, “Now you can research keywords even easier with Keyword Planner, a new tool that combines Keyword Tool and Traffic Estimator”.

Google External Keyword Tool

External Keyword Tool

Google’s Keyword Tool users will need to create a Google AdWords account, which is more of a momentary inconvenience if not a proxy to becoming a Google advertiser. At the moment, you don’t need to be spending money with Google advertising in order to have a Google AdWords account. Getting keyword ideas for free is still available – for now.

AdWords Keyword Planner

Keyword Planner

The tools don’t work the same, but website owners will still be able to conduct keyword research in order to anticipate demand for topics related to their products and services. Additionally, Keyword Planner offers the promise of researching keyword ideas and the ability to estimate traffic.

Beyond supplying a PPC advertising campaign with keyword targets, such keyword insight is valuable for optimizing existing website, blog and social content as well as inspiring new content topics to better meet the needs of customers looking for solutions. There are other free keyword research tools available including Wordstream and Wordtracker (both free tools are very limited) and Bing (which like Google, also requires a login).

One keyword research tool in particular that’s handy without any barriers to access is Ubersuggest. This tool provides lists of the suggested words Google offers as you type in virtually any language and for searches on the web, images, news, shopping and video.

It might be argued that Google has the right to “gate” (require login, exclusion) a free tool like the External Keyword Tool for use by its paying customers. Of course they do.

At the same time, it’s worth noting that virtually ALL of the content Google hosts is copied from other companies like yours and mine. Google copies our content, organizes it and runs ads next to our content.  This is a useful service for which Google has made billions.  And yet, tools that webmasters find useful for optimizing that content are being changed so direct access is only available for those with an advertising connection.

For companies that have enjoyed visibility on Google in the organic listings without paying Google for advertising, the options for useful information directly from Google seem to be diminishing. Sure, Google Webmaster Tools provide many useful data points for optimization, but many of the more useful tools like organic referring keywords that drive clicks to your website and the ability to easily research keyword ideas have become less accessible or “not provided”, pun intended.

Besides the External Keyword Tool, which Google service do you think will be discontinued next? Feedburner? Blogger?

PoorSo SoOKGoodAwesome (4 votes, average: 4.75 out of 5)

Lee Odden About Lee Odden

@LeeOdden is the CEO of TopRank Marketing and editor of Online Marketing Blog. Cited for his expertise by The Economist, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, he's the author of the book Optimize and presents internationally on B2B marketing topics including content, search, social media and influencer marketing. When not at conferences, consulting, or working with his talented team, he's likely running, traveling or cooking up something new.


  1. I have been a religious user of Google Reader. I’m the editor of our oneline Health & Wellness newsletter, blog, etc. so I find this a great way to have a wide variety of sources come into one place without advertising. So, I appreciate the Feedly information. Good news is that Feedly makes it super easy to drop in my subscriptions from Google Reader. And, as of 4:00PST Google Reader is still working, so if you need to drop them in, do it now!

  2. I also loved Google Reader, but I accepted the change and have moved to Feedly. Every time Google retires a product/service it only makes me realise how much I use (and like) Google. I think it also makes sense to “gate” the Google Keyword Tool…whether it is for data capture or enticing users to become an Advertiser… I don’t think Blogger will be retired….It has one of the largest blogging communities in the world.. The Blogger profile page feature may be discontinued in favor of using the Google+ profile feature on a blog….but I don’t see Blogger being discontinued.

    • I think you’re right about the Blogger profile page Julia. On the keyword tool, I just wish they kept the same functions. Keyword Planner is definitely more of a advertising tool than general keyword ideas useful for organic optimization.

      But maybe this will get marketers to focus more on topics relevant to their customers vs. just focusing on what’s high in demand 🙂

  3. My first experience with Google’s discontinued product was Google Wave. The preview astonished me, so yeah, Google let me down for that one.

    Later, the Google Apps service, which once was a free service, turned into a paid service.

    And then Google Reader.. I guess it’s up to Google to decide which of their product is next to be shut-down. But if you ask me, I say the next thing that will be discontinued is: I don’t have a clue.

    • Good guess Nicholas 🙂

    • Avatar David Waters says

      many of these “products” of experimentation are poorly promoted. Take some eg. wave i think it was you couldnt even find it in the list of google products. No wonder the takeup was not good! .. Orkut is another example, wheres the integration there? Who knew about the googles ask an expert site? (that died i think).. hidden..

      this tool will be the biggest impact as i take a lot of ideas from it .. and so do a lot of other software tools and services.

      • You’re right, for that “poorly promoted” point, I give you that. But then again, I don’t really know exactly what are the factors that Google took in their calculation to determine which experimental product should boost their way. And I don’t think they ever laid it out.

  4. Avatar Akhilesh Nawni says

    I did love this tool a lot, However moving to a new one would be awesome and will help us in lot many things

  5. The dropping of google reader has caused me some problems on wordpress plugins that share pages – the authors have not yet caught on that google has dropped it. Some plugins will probably never get updated as they were written some time ago.

    On the keyword tool I haven’t seen any communication on this. Maybe its because I’m UK based.

  6. We have used the external Keyword Tool for years with great luck… Sad to hear it will not be available anymore.. We used this with our clients and was an easy way for them to research data. It looks like it may be much harder for them to look up keywords and traffic.. Sometimes change is bad for everyone!

  7. Hi , Did u use this tool? Could u tell me how to do exact search . In google keyword tool whn i used to go from broad to exact the search volume and the keywords used to change automatically but in this one nothing happens . So how do i know that i m getting broad , exact or phrase keywords .

  8. Keyword tool was better than the new keyword planner………

  9. The Google Keyword Planer is still out there and there are lots of other tools around. My favourite at the moment despite the Google Keyword Planer is SEMrush. At first a bit complicated but if you get to know it really helpful.

  10. Avatar Spook SEO says

    There’s something really wrong with keyword planner, often times I cannot login to use it, I asked my friends and some of them experience the same thing