I don’t do many “news” style posts. But as a keyword research junkie, I was really upset to discover “Google Sets” (the Wonderwheel-like data you could access in Google sheets) has been retired from the new Google Sheets (along with other things like Spell Check and Web Clipboard). You can still access Google Sets temporality until it’s retired for good. More on that below.

What Was Google Sets?

For those who don’t know what Google Sets was, remember the wonder wheel?

screenshot of the old google wonderwheel

Google sets was kind of like the Wonder Wheel but in a spreadsheet. It gave you visual topic associations based upon a starting keyword. Anyone doing keyword research or content ideation drools over this sort of thing.

The actual Google Sets looked like this. The actual interface was shut down in September 2011

google-sets-aug2011

Google Sets was basically the same concept, but within Google Sheets. You’d enter a seed word, hold control (option for Mac) and drag down;

screenshot of google sets

More info in this post from 2011, originally claiming Google Sets would be shut down. The article also links to a patent, claiming to give some insight into part of Google’s ranking algo, in addition to how Google Sets functioned.

Google Sets Was A Keyword & Topic Ideation Goldmine

I based an entire section of my presentation at SMX East last year on this feature (starts at slide 63). You could do some really cool things with it like creating this “topic matrix” in about 30 seconds;

a "topic matrix" in google sets

I showed how you can then get some pretty tangent keyword and content ideas based off of what you find;

google sets for topic ideas

We started with “windshield wipers” and with a few clicks we are now thinking about topics such as “car racing” “exhaust tips” other sports and things that someone shopping for wiper blades might be interested in. It reminded me a lot of Mark Johnstone’s phenomenal presentation at SearchLove Boston – How To Produce Better Content Ideas - where he shows us how to think laterally about topics.

Temporarily Available

You can still open up any old spreadsheet created before March (as it may still be on the old Google Sheets) to access Google Sets. But the Google Docs documentation says;

Spreadsheets created in the old version of Sheets will eventually be converted to the new Sheets, which won’t require any action on your part. More details coming soon.”

This means there’s only an uncertain amount of time to access the data before it goes away entirely. So go to Google Drive, and hit the little down arrow on the search box, click “spreadsheets” and scroll until you find one prior to March;

search google drive for spreadsheets

Options For Sending Google Feedback

If you want to tell Google to include Google Sets again, you can leave a comment in the Google Docs Forum. According to this old blog post from 2009, it looks like they used to have a place specifically for feedback, but the link now just redirects to the main Google Support page. If anyone knows of a better way to give the Docs team feedback I’m all ears.

Other Resources For Topic Ideation & Keyword Research

Personally, I LOVE tools that help get me thinking laterally and creatively. For some other resources check out;

  • My slides from SMX East – Unusual Uses Of 17 Free Tools For Keyword Discovery (someone also created a post out of my presentation with some more detail) – this mentions a lot of other tools you can use like Prismatic and even HARO for topic ideas.
  • Make sure not to miss Mark’s slides on Content Ideas.
  • Check out my post on Advanced Web Ranking for some creative ways to use the AdWords Keyword Planner.
About Dan Shure

I'm Dan (Google Plus Profile). I've been helping businesses improve their websites since 2007. Improving your bottom line is my number one goal. My obsessive nature and love for SEO as a true craft doesn't hurt either.

1 Comments

  • August 7, 2014 Reply

    Tony Griego

    Hey Dan,

    I discovered “Sets” sometime last year. Hadn’t used it in a while and am bummed to find out today about this! It was definitely useful.

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