Google’s Keyword Planner Died: Time to Get Creative with Keywords

I’m in the midst of recovering from a severe reaction to some gluten-free tortillas, so I thought I’d use how I’m still feeling today by going into the keyword planner to see what it would dish me up for the phrase: brain fog.

At first, it made me re-sign in. Chrome didn’t automatically do it for me this time. Since Chrome does that occasionally, I didn’t think anything of it. I simply hit the sign in button and was rerouted to the proper page.

There, I typed the head keyword phrase into the search form and clicked get ideas.

And that’s when I knew . . .

Google’s Keyword Planner had finally died for me.

Is Google’s Keyword Planner Dead for You Too?

I don’t know if it’s a time issue, as I signed up for an Adwords account a few years ago and never paid for a campaign, or if this is going to be the new norm for newbies to online writing as well.

Either way, it’s time to get creative with your keywords because spending time looking at a search volume that ranges from 1,000 unique searches a month to 100,000 searches, or more, is useless.

While the Cost Per Click (CPC) information is still there for the keywords Google wants to show you, and the keywords presented can spark new article ideas, unless you’re a paying Adwords customer with a legitimate ad campaign, you can no longer see the popularity of a keyword or keyword phrase.

That’s dead now.

I’m sure there is probably a number of creative ways to continue to use the planner without paying for ads to encourage people to visit your blog or website, but that wasn’t my focus this morning. I had no interest in learning about the benefits that were still there.

Today, I wanted to write an article on brain fog and how disabling it can be.

Most people have no clue what brain fog is, even though it’s a common symptom for a variety of health conditions. In my case, it seriously affects my writing ability, but it also hampers other areas of my life.

What I was looking for was how popular that term was and what other popular terms were associated with it. Since I couldn’t do that today, I had two choices:

1. I could dump the brain fog idea for now and write a post that was a rant about how unfair Google was being by removing the stats I needed instead.

2. I could accept what was going on in my life at that moment and think of something else to do instead.

There was a time in my life when I would have chosen the first option.

While most adults don’t see themselves as habitual complainers, that’s only because they’ve either figured out more sophisticated ways to complain, or they just don’t see themselves in the same light as others do.

Human nature also tends to rename things, so often, people call complaining a rant, instead.

Today, I Chose Option Two

Ranting about what Google Adwords is up to in a post for my writing blog won’t make Adwords change what they’re doing, and it won’t get me the information I want.

In this case, complaining really doesn’t have any value. It would only paralyze my ability to take responsibility for my writing and do what needs to be done:

Find more creative ways to get those keywords.

Brainstorming Session: How to Get Keywords Without Using Google’s Keyword Planner

When it comes to keywords, popularity is the name of the game. You need to figure out how to get inside of your readers’ heads. Keywords are the words that your reader uses every day, or almost every day.

These phrases are so common to them that they are also the words readers automatically type into a search engine if they are looking for the information you intend to give them in your article.

Keywords also help search engines understand what your article is about, but they are much more than that. They are literally the way your reader perceives the world around them and tries to communicate that vision with others.

For example, when I was the Feature Writer for the Autism Section at Suite 101, back before Google’s Panda algorithm took a huge chunk out of their backside, I decided to use a phrase in my articles on Sensory Processing Disorder that wasn’t in Google’s keyword search tool at that time.

The phrase was something parents of autistic children used consistently in a variety of forums. It wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. It was just sensory issues, but when I started scattering that new keyword phrase throughout my appropriate articles, I noticed a significant upswing in traffic.

From that time on, I started hanging out in a lot of forums because I realized that forums were where my audience was hanging out. This was back before social media was popular, so forums were the place to be.

However, since many social media outlets are dominated by businesses, rather than individuals, forums have not lost their appeal with your audience. Many readers continue to hang out on forums and other group-oriented sites today.

So with that in mind, here are 3 places you can go to get a few fresh keywords:

1. Reddit Subforums

I have over a hundred Reddit subforums bookmarked in a Reddit folder. It’s one of the most popular forums on the web because you can find a subforum for almost any topic or niche market you can come up with.

For example, there isn’t just a Keto forum for that particular low-carb diet where people can ask questions or get support and attention. There’s also a forum for:

  • Keto recipes
  • Keto science enthusiasts
  • a 100-day Keto challenge

Plus, lots more. And this is in almost every category. Searching for what you need could be a nightmare if there isn’t a category for what you want to write about, however, so if you need something specific like brain fog, you can use their search function at the top of every subforum.

I’ve done that occasionally, but most of the time I like to use a regular search engine instead.

To use a standard search engine:

Simply type “Reddit [keyword/topic]” without the quotes into the search bar, and you’ll get a list of various Reddit threads that deal with your keyword of choice.

There is no subforum for brain fog itself, but Google search did give me: “How to get rid of brain fog” as its number one choice because that’s what Google thought I wanted to do.

Search results also showed me threads that discuss inflammatory damage, fasting, cures, anxiety, and meditation across all Reddit subforums.

When I clicked through to the top result, I learned how the person asking to get rid of brain fog defined brain fog itself. This was important information. Since I suffer with brain fog myself, reading down through the list of brain fog symptoms the person mentioned told me that this person really did have the condition.

They also revealed their intent: “Any help is gladly appreciated.”

Fulfilling the reader’s intent behind a question or search is important to address in your articles and blog posts because that’s what search results uses to rank an article on how relative it is to the search query. The more relative your article is to what the reader wants to know, the better your article will do.

2. Quora and Other Q&A Sites

Quora, Yahoo Answers, and other Q&A sites can be a gold mine when it comes to finding new keyword ideas. People ask questions on all types of things. While the questions themselves make great topics for articles and blog posts, pay attention to the phrasing people use.

By using the same search method described above, search results told me that there is a Brain Fog Quora section where nothing but brain fog questions and answers are posted.

When I clicked through to the site, questions ranged from, “What is Happening When My Brain Feels Fuzzy?” to “Will Brain Fog Ever Go Away?”

Other topics included anxiety, sinus infection, depression, sluggishness, and side effects from taking supplements.

The teasing lines beneath the question that Quora shows are taken from the most popular answer. People answering the question are not your audience, so if you want to know how your audience thinks and speaks, you’ll have to click on the question title to see the question in full.

Look at the important phases used in the question. For, “What supplements can help with cognitive function,” I found:

  • diagnosed with epilepsy
  • bout of seizures
  • major impact
  • mental clarity
  • school and work performance
  • hard time with lethargy and brain fog

The list includes fresh and unusual keywords, such as bout of seizures, along with phrases that are pretty common. Common phrases are fine to use, since that’s what this reader would use in search queries, but try to give your article a new perspective.

The question title when coupled with the above information also revealed what the reader’s intent was:

I am interested in anything that can improve my situation.”

This reader isn’t looking for a cure, so brain fog cure wouldn’t be a useful keyword. He’s looking for something that can help ease the brain fog he lives with on a consistent basis, so that’s the slant you’d want to take in your article.

3. Google Trends

Google trends will show you if your head keyword or topic is rising in popularity or if it’s losing traction. In this case, brain fog is the head keyword because it’s a super-short phrase. Longer phrases are called long-tail keywords.

If the interest for the broad short phrase keyword is rising, as it is with brain fog, you can scroll down the page to look at a few of the related terms to see if there is anything you can use in your article.

Once I limited the trendy search to health by clicking on the category drop-down listing at the top of the page, I was given a few keyword ideas:

  • brain fog fix
  • brain fog meaning
  • brain freeze
  • foggy brain
  • constant brain fog
  • brain fog test
  • anxiety brain fog
  • brain fog depression
  • brain fog supplements

These are all terms that have been gaining in popularity, with the two keywords at the top of the list having jumped 900 to 1100 percent since the last period, Google Trends said.

You can also rearrange the list to show the top searches, rather than what’s gaining in popularity. In top searches, brain fog symptoms was the most searched for term, but that phrase is not necessarily the best one to use because the keyword is very general in nature and will have a lot of competition.

Plus, it came from Google and not the reader’s own words.

However, the Google Trends Top Keyword List is still quite valuable because it can reveal things you might not know, such as the fact that Google associates the following conditions with brain fog:

  • gluten sensitivity
  • lupus
  • candida
  • fibromyalgia
  • thyroid issues
  • anxiety
  • fatigue
  • dizziness

All of these conditions are related to celiac disease and gluten intolerance, so brain fog would be a good choice for one of my gluten-free blogs.

If you don’t have a specific keyword in mind, you can click the Explore tab at the very top of the Google Trends page. That will show you a slideshow of the most popular topics being searched right now.

Why Keyword Research is So Important

Ranking for the right keywords in search results is at the heart of a website’s success or failure. If your articles don’t do well in search results, the only other way to survive in today’s online writing climate is to have a huge social following.

Both methods are optimal, of course.

But a lot of bloggers get so caught up in the benefits of creating a social following that they neglect the sustaining power of their blog or website.

What makes a blog or website sustainable isn’t social media. Social media is good for an initial spike in page views and comments, but then traffic tapers off once something else has caught your audience’s attention.

What makes a website sustainable is having an ever-increasing flow of traffic to your evergreen articles coming into the website from search results.

Without search results to back you up, you’ll find your self having to create a never-ending stream of new and fresh content just to stay alive because that’s what it takes to catch and hold your reader’s attention. Once that initial read or social sharing spikes, it’s all downhill from there until you create another share-worthy article.

Using the keywords that your audience uses every day in combination with topics that are as relevant tomorrow as they are today, is what makes a site sustainable and relevant. And that takes keyword research and effort as well as common sense.


Hang out with your friends and get great keyword ideas!

Forums continue to be a great place to get relevant keyword ideas. (Photo from ddouk – Pixabay)


(Feature Photo: Public Domain Pictures – Pixabay)



  1. Kyla Matton Osborne

    I really have to look into the Reddit forums. I used to have a Reddit account many years before some of today’s social networks were a thing. It seems to be useful again.

    BTW, Google’s keyword tool works for me. I’ll PM you a link 😀

    1. Vickie Ewell Post author

      I had heard this change was coming from other writers, but it was the first time I saw it. A link that works would be great.

  2. Bill Kasman

    I have never signed up for Adwords but the previously free keyword tool I used to use is no longer free and a couple of others I have checked out are the same. This is most annoying but there are still some free keyword tools available if you look hard enough. How effective they are compared to paid-for versions I don’t know.

  3. Vickie Ewell Post author

    I’ll have to do a search for free keyword tools and see what I can find. I know of Ubersuggest and a couple of others, but never looked too hard since the planner kept working for me. I guess, now’s the time to look elsewhere. Thanks.

  4. Tania K Cowling

    Oh my, it’s just me, but I don’t use a tool for keywords. I just try to use words or phrases that I would use to find a topic. I’ve done this so much when I write lesson plans online that it becomes a habit. Yes, I would love the link to a keyword search — it’s time I get started with a tool. By the way, Vicki, I remember you from Suite101 — a site of the past!

    1. Vickie Ewell Post author

      You have a talent for using keywords. For some people, it just comes naturally.

  5. Gil Camporazo

    It will go to the extent of keywords would of no use for they have been not necessarily abused, but they are manipulated eventhough the posts or articles don’t have quality or the integrity of an article.

    1. Vickie Ewell Post author

      You definitely need to create quality articles along with using keywords. Keywords by themselves won’t do it.

    1. Vickie Ewell Post author

      You do? It’s the pits. Especially when I’m trying to say something and my mind either goes completely blank or the wrong words come out. I used to get really frustrated, but I’ve learned to laugh at myself now.

  6. Donna Thacker

    I am like Tania and don’t particularly use key word searches. I may look at Google Trends but also just use words that I would type into a search engine if I was looking for something. Very interesting article!

    1. Vickie Ewell Post author

      Thanks. That’s definitely an easier way to do it. It’s been really difficult trying to get into the heads of my low carb and gluten free readers. I’m kind of live on the fringe of both those niches.

  7. N Sri Naga Jyothi

    I wrote many blog posts for bloggers but never i struggled for planning for keywords I use the word whatever the topic is for several times in the blog that’s it and i will write on my own, hehehe though my English is very poor.
    after reading your post now i am planning to go with keyword planning

    1. Vickie Ewell Post author

      I wrote that same way for a lot of years, but I have found it more difficult to rank well in search results just using general topics. Writing about what your readers are interested in matters too. Everything isn’t just about the keywords.

  8. Ceci

    Agree with your points, we need to use the language that the readers can understand and have “feel” with it.

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