It’s Official: Google Wonder Wheel is Back, and It’s Called the Contextual Targeting Tool [Tutorial]

Glenn Gabe

adwords, google, seo, tools

Contextual Targeting Tools in Google AdWords

Keyword research is a critical component to a solid and rounded SEO strategy.  When you break it down, you need to know what people are searching for in order to target the right terms.  Keyword research fuels your content generation strategy.  I use a wide range of tools when conducting keyword research and each has its own purpose.  In the past, one of my favorite free tools was Google’s Wonder Wheel.  You’ll notice the word “was” in the last sentence.  That’s because Google shut down the tool last year, while many search engine marketers screamed a collective “NO!!” while it was happening.

Many people in the industry used Wonder Wheel to visually find related keywords, which often helped expand your keyword research (down the right path based on data).  Wonder Wheel’s related terms were based on Google data (same session searches), so you knew the terms being displayed made sense.  Also, the visual nature of wonder wheel made it very interactive and easy to use, while returning a smart path for search engine marketers performing keyword research.

As you clicked a word, related terms appeared around that term. As you clicked related terms, it became the anchor word, with more terms appearing around it.  So on and so forth.  It was a phenomenal way to find related keywords in an interactive and visual way.  Needless to say, we all missed the Wonder Wheel.

An example of using Google Wonder Wheel to find related searches:
An Example of Using Google Wonder Wheel
Image from Tech Source

Alternatives, and Confirmation at the Google Agency Summit
I had the opportunity to attend the Google Agency Summit last week in New York City at Google Headquarters.  It was a great day packed with presentations covering the latest in Mobile, Video, Analytics, Social, etc.  One of the first presentations was by Jordan Rost covering some of the free research tools that Google provides for marketers.  As Jordan was covering Google Correlate, I asked if it could be used in a similar way to the old Google Wonder Wheel.  He shot me a quick look and said, “Not exactly, but I’m getting to the Wonder Wheel soon.”  Needless to say, I was excited to learn more!

The Contextual Targeting Tool
I do a lot of paid search work, so I’m extremely familiar with the Contextual Targeting Tool (CTT).  But it seems the CTT contains a surprise that many search marketers don’t know about.  Sure, it was often listed as an alternative to Wonder Wheel, but was it a solid replacement?  Does it provide the same great same session data we were getting from Wonder Wheel?

Well, Jordan explained that the Contextual Targeting Tool is run by the same engine that fueled Wonder Wheel.  Note, I’m not referring to a similar type of engine.  It’s the exact engine that ran the Wonder Wheel!  That’s awesome news, and it was great to receive confirmation of this.

Sure, it’s not as visual as Wonder Wheel, but it can still yield the same results.  So, I’m going to walk you through a quick example of finding related terms by using the Contextual Targeting Tool below.  Again, the purpose of Wonder Wheel was to find related terms, based on actual Google data.  Let’s dig in.

An example of using the Contextual Targeting Tool in place of Wonder Wheel:
Let’s say you focused on computer security and you were just beginning keyword research.  You know several keywords and categories you want to target, but want to find related terms, based on Google’s wealth of data.  That’s a smart move, since you don’t want to leave keywords (and targeted traffic) on the table.

Let’s head over to the Contextual Targeting Tool to do some research.

1. Log into AdWords, click the Tools and Analysis tab, and then select Contextual Targeting Tool.  Note, the primary purpose of the tool is to help search engine marketers build tight themes of keywords for Display Network campaigns.  But, we’re going to use it as a replacement for the Wonder Wheel in this example.

Find the Contextual Targeting Tool in AdWords

2. In the text field at the top of the page, enter “computer security” without quotes.

Entering keywords in the Contextual Targeting Tool

The CTT will display several rows of data containing related keywords, based on the initial keyword you entered.  You will see the anchor keyword on the left and then five related keywords in each row.  This is where you can start to gain great ideas for related terms.  Again, these keyword grouping are being driven by the Wonder Wheel engine.

2. In our example, I see “internet security”.  Maybe I didn’t know people were searching for that keyword, in addition to “computer security”, and I want to use that term as our keyword anchor (to find more related searches).  When I enter that term in the text field, I now get more rows of data, based on that new keyword.

Finding related searches using the Contextual Targeting Tools

3. I now see “internet security software” in the list, and decide to use that as my anchor.  I enter that word in the text field and I now see more terms related to this specific keyword, including “security rating”.  Interesting… I wasn’t going to focus on that while building out content.  Let’s go down that path now…

Expanding related searches with the Contextual Targeting Tool

4. You can also click the plus sign (+) to expand a certain category, which will reveal additional rows with related keywords.

Exapnding ad groups in the Contextual Targeting Tool

Valuable and Addictive
You can see how this can become both valuable and addictive.  :)  Sure, this isn’t as visual as Wonder Wheel, and it takes a few extra steps, but the data is the same.  To me, running through this exercise is an essential component to performing thorough keyword research.

Let’s face it, you won’t know every keyword that people are searching for.  Actually, many people are too close to their own industries, products, and services to know how the average person is searching.  Using Wonder Wheel, I mean the Contextual Targeting Tool, you can find some gems that you might never uncover normally.  That’s why I love this functionality.

Summary – Long Live Wonder Wheel!
Again, this is the same engine that fueled Wonder Wheel, and that’s confirmed by Google.  So, if you are performing keyword research, I highly recommend you check out the Contextual Targeting Tool for uncovering related searches.  Like I said earlier, don’t leave keywords and targeted traffic on the table.  Now, if Google would only bring back the slick visual UI of Wonder Wheel!  OK, I’m getting greedy now. :)