How to Use Google Keyword Planner in 2019

Google Keyword Planner Guide

This is the ultimate guide to using Google Keyword Planner in 2019.

In fact, I’ve used the Google Keyword Planner (formerly known as Google Keyword Tool) to help grow my site’s organic traffic to 176,091 visits per month.

Analytics traffic

And in this guide I’ll show you how to get the most SEO value out of this awesome tool.

Step #1: Access Google Keyword Planner

Yes, Keyword Planner is a free tool.

But there’s a catch:

In order to use the Google Keyword Planner, you NEED to have a Google Ads account.

If you don’t have an Adwords account already, you can set one up in a few minutes:

AdWords – Register

(Just follow the prompts, enter some information about you and your business, and you’re in. Note: You don’t have to run an active campaign to use the Keyword Planner. But do need to at least set up a Google Adwords campaign).

Next, login to your Google Adwords account. Click on the wrench icon in the toolbar at the top of the page.

AdWords – Toolbar

Then, choose “Keyword Planner”:

AdWords – Menu

You’ll be see with two different tools within Keyword Planner: “Find New Keywords” and “Get metrics and forecasts for your keywords”.

Keyword Planner – Search

When it comes to SEO-focused keyword research, these two tools are enough to generate thousands of potential keywords.

To be clear:

This tool is designed with PPC advertisers in mind. So there are a lot of features in the tool (like keyword bidding features) that won’t be useful if you’re using this tool to find keywords for SEO.

With that, it’s time for me to show you how to find SEO keywords using each of the tools built into the Google Keyword Planner.

Step #2: Choose Your Tool

There are two main tools inside of the GKP.

And now I’m going to show you how to use these two tools to help you create a massive list of keywords for your SEO campaigns.

1. Find New Keywords

Like the name suggests, this tool is ideal for finding new keywords.

As you can see, the field for this tool says: “Enter words, phrases, or a URL related to your business”.

Keyword Planner – Search focus

Quick Note: The value you get from the Keyword Planner is largely based on the information that you enter here. So you want to be VERY strategic about what you enter into this field.

So to help you get the most out of this tool, I’ll break down each of the 3 options.

“Enter Words”: These are single words that describe your business (for example, “weight loss” or “coffee”). This allows you to access Google’s internal database of keywords for different industries.

“Phrases”: This is where you enter “seed keywords” and get a list of closely-related terms. I recommend entering AT LEAST 2 keywords. For example, if you run an ecommerce site that sells cookies, you’d want to enter terms like “gluten free desserts” and “low carb cookies” here.

“A URL related to your business”: This is designed for Adwords users. But you can sometimes find a few solid keywords here using your site’s homepage… or an article from your site.

(More on that later)

Once you’ve entered your information into one (or all three) of the fields, click “Get Started”.

Keyword Planner – Get started

Next, you’ll see the Keywords Results Page. I’ll show you how to use that part of the Keyword Planner later in the guide.

For now, let’s dive into the second tool in the GKP: metrics and forecasts.

2. Get metrics and forecasts for your keywords

This is feature is only really useful if you already have a long list of keywords… and just want to check their search volume. In other words, this tool won’t help you generate new keyword ideas.

To use it, copy and paste a list of keywords into the search field, and hit “Get Started”.

Keyword Planner – Metrics search

You’ll also see the same Keywords Results Page you see when you use the “Find new keywords” tool.

The only difference is that a) you only get data on the keywords you entered and b) Google will predict how many clicks and impressions you’ll get from the keywords you entered:

Keyword Planner – Keywords forecasts

No matter which tool you ultimately used, you end up in the same place: The Keywords Result page.

And now it’s time for me to do a deep dive into how that page works… and how to get the most out of it.

Step #3: Filter and Sort the Results

Now it’s time to filter the list of keywords down to a smaller list of terms that are best for you.

Both the tools I just described will take you to the “Keywords Results Page”, which looks like this:

Keyword Planner – Basketball hoops

Here’s a breakdown of the page:

At the top of the page, you’ll notice three targeting options: Locations, Language and Search networks.

Keyword Planner – Targeting options

Here’s what these three things mean:

“Locations”

This is the country (or countries) that you’re marketing to. Simple.

“Language”

This is the language of the keywords you want to see information on.

“Locations” and “Language” are automatically set to target English-speaking people in the United States. If that’s your target audience (in most cases it will be), you can leave these options as-is.

But let’s say you’re based in Germany. You’d want to change the Location to “Germany” and choose “German” as the language.

“Search networks”

This is whether or not you want to advertise only on Google… or Google and their “search partners”. Search partner sites include other search engines and Google properties (like YouTube).

I recommend leaving this set to just “Google”.

The next important feature of the Keywords Results Page is called “Add Filter”:

Keyword Planner – Add filter

This features gives you a decent amount of filtering options. So let me quickly break down each of the options for you.

Keyword Text

Here’s where you can have the tool ONLY show you keywords that contain a certain word of phrase.

Why would you want to include certain keywords?

Let’s say that you just launched a new line of blue t-shirts. In that case you’d want to make sure the keyword “blue t-shirt” appears in all of the keywords that the Keyword Planner suggests to you.

Keyword Planner – Filter text

Exclude Keywords in My Account

This excludes keywords that you’re already bidding on in Adwords.

Exclude Adult Ideas

Self-explanatory (I hope).

Avg. Monthly Searches

This is helpful for filtering out keywords with lots of search volume (after all, these terms tend to be really competitive). You may also want to filter out keywords that don’t get that many searches.

For example, let’s say that you get a big list of keyword ideas:

Keyword Planner – Keyword list

You can click on “Avg. Monthly Searches” to sort the results.

Keyword Planner – Keyword list, average

That way, you ONLY see keywords with lots of search volume.

You can also do the opposite. Click “Avg. Monthly Searches” again and you’ll get a list of low-volume terms:

Keyword Planner – Keyword list, average low

Competition

You can have the Google Keyword Planner only show you keywords with “Low”, “Medium” or “High” competition.

Keyword Planner – Filter – Competition

This feature trips a lot of people up.

Remember: the Google Keyword Planner is designed 100% for Google Ads… not SEO.

So the “Competition” score here ONLY refers to Adwords competition (not how competitive the keyword is to rank for in Google’s organic search results). So I recommend leaving this blank.

Ad Impression Share

Again, this setting only applies to Adwords. So for the sake of SEO, we can ignore this filter.

Top of Page Bid

This is how much you’d expect to pay for your ad to appear at the top of the page for that keyword.

(This used to be called “Cost Per Click” or “CPC”)

Top of Page Bid is a proxy indicator of commercial intent. So if you only want to target keywords that potential buyers search for, you can set this to a certain dollar amount.

As you can see, there are two options “high range” and “low range”.

Keyword Planner – Filter – Top

I personally set the “low range” to a few dollars. That way, I can filter out keywords without any commercial intent.

Keyword Planner – Filter – Top low

Organic Impression Share

This is how often your site appears in the organic results for each keyword. (Note: to use this feature you’ll need to connect your Google Search Console Account to Google Adwords).

Organic Average Position

Where you rank (on average) for each keyword in Google organic. Again, you’ll need to connect to the GSC for this to work.

So that’s it for filtering.

Step #4: Analyze the Keyword Ideas Section

Now that you’ve filtered the results down to keywords that are ideal for your business, let’s break down the terms that are left.

Specifically, I’m going to show you how to analyze the terms that show up in the “Keyword Ideas” section of the Keyword Planner.

Keyword Planner – Ideas

Here’s what each of the terms in this section mean:

Keyword (by relevance): This is the list of keywords that Google considers most relevant to the keyword or URL you typed into it.

Avg. monthly searches: Pretty self-explanatory. However, keep in mind that this is range…and not a super-accurate indicator of search volume.

(I’ll show you how to get more accurate search volume data in a minute).

Pro Tip: Watch out for seasonal keywords. That’s because seasonal keywords (like “Halloween costumes”) may get 50,000 searches in October and 100 searches in May. But the GKP will say that the term gets “10,000 searches per month”, which is kind of misleading.

Competition: Like I mentioned earlier, “Competition” in the Google Keyword Planner has nothing to do with SEO. Instead, “Competition” is simply the number of advertisers that are bidding on that keyword. But it IS useful to see if a keyword has any commercial intent (after all, the more people bid on a keyword, the more potential there is for them to become a lead or customer).

Top of Page Bid: This is another great way to size keyword’s monetization potential. The higher bid here, the more lucrative the traffic tends to be.

Step #5: Choose a Keyword

Now that you know how to use all of the tools, features and options within the Google Keyword Planner, it’s time for the last step: finding awesome keywords that you can optimize your site’s content around.

This is tricky.

Why? There are LOTS of factors that go into choosing a keyword. And it’s more art than science.

That said, I learn best from examples. So I’m going help you choose a keyword from your list by walking you through a quick example.

(For this example I’m going to be using the “Find new keywords” tool because this is the best way to uncover new keywords in the Google Keyword Planner).

Keyword Planner – Search new keywords

First, you want to think of keyword that’s somewhat broad…but also describes your product, service or content idea.

For example, let’s say that you run an ecommerce site that sells organic food.

If you wanted to write a blog post about the health benefits of organic coffee, you wouldn’t want to use the keyword “coffee” (too broad) or “health benefits of organic coffee” (too narrow).

But keyword like “organic coffee” would work GREAT.

So pop that keyword into the field and click “Get Started”.

Keyword Planner – Organic coffee

And take a look at the keywords that come up:

Keyword Planner – Organic coffee results

So: how do you know which keywords to choose?

There are dozens of different factors to look at. But, in general, I like to choose keywords based on 3 main criteria:

Search Volume: Very straightforward. The higher the average search volume, the more traffic that keyword can send you.

Commercial Intent: In general, the higher the competition and suggested bid, the easier it will be to convert that traffic into paying customers when they land on your website.

Organic SEO Competition: Like commercial intent, evaluating a keyword’s competition in Google’s organic search results takes some more digging. You need to look at the websites that are ranking on the first page… and figure out how hard it’ll be to outrank them. This guide to SEO keyword competition covers everything you need to know.

Bonus Step #1: Get Exact Keyword Search Volume Data

The Google Keyword Planner will only show you exact search volume data if you’re running an active Adwords campaign. Otherwise, you see a range, like this:

Keyword Planner – Range

To be honest, the range is actually fine by me. Keyword volume tends to fluctuate anyway. So even the “exact” average monthly search volume that you used to see in the GKP was a rough estimate anyway.

In other words, there’s nothing wrong choosing keywords based on search volume ranges.

That said, there’s a nifty trick you can use to get exact search volume out of the GKP… without needing to run ads in a Google Adwords account.

Here’s how to do it…

First, find a keyword in the list of suggestions that you want to target:

Keyword Planner – Target keyword

Then click “add to plan”:

Keyword Planner – Add to plan

Next, in the right-hand sidebar of the page, click “Plan overview”:

Keyword Planner – Plan overview

And look at the number of “impressions” you’d get if you bid on that term:

Keyword Planner – Impressions

That number is how many people search for that keyword every month.

(In this case, 2.1k searches per month)

And just like that, you now have accurate search volume data for your keyword. Nice!

Bonus Step #2: The GKP Hack

As you saw, the Google Keyword Planner is pretty cool.

That said, the Google keyword tool has two major flaws…

Flaw #1: It only gives you keywords ideas that are VERY closely related to what you type in.

For example, let’s say your business sells organic food for pets.

So you type “organic dog food” into the tool. Here’s what you get:

Keyword Planner – Organic dog food

As you can see, these are VERY close variations of “organic dog food”, like:

  • “natural dog food”
  • “dog food brands”
  • “dog food”

I don’t know about you, but I don’t need a fancy tool to come up with a keyword like “dog food”.

And it’s the same story for most keywords. The GKP is good at coming up with long tail versions of your keyword. But it’s not great at generating outside the box keyword ideas.

Flaw #2: You get the same set of keywords everyone else does.

Needless to say, the Google Keyword Planner is an insanely popular keyword tool.

Which means: the keywords that you find in the GKP tend to be SUPER competitive.

Fortunately, there’s a simple way around both of those frustrating issues: The GKP Hack.

Here’s how it works:

First, head over to the Find New Keywords area of the GKP:

Keyword Planner – Search

But instead of entering a keyword, you enter a URL from another website in your niche.

For example, instead of entering “organic dog food” into the field, let’s use PetSmart’s dog food category page.

Keyword Planner – PetSmart search

Boom!

You get a laundry list of keywords that most of your competitors will NEVER see.

Keyword Planner – PetSmart results

It gets better…

There are LOTS of other pages that you can use for the GKP Hack, including:

  • Blog posts
  • Press releases
  • Conference agendas
  • Bio pages of influencers in your industry
  • News stories
  • Podcast transcripts

Basically: any page that has text on it is fair game for this technique.

Conclusion

I hope you enjoyed my guide to the Google Keyword Planner.

Now I’d like to hear from you:

Do you use the Keyword Planner to help you come up with keyword ideas?

Or do you mostly stick to other keyword research tools (like SEMRush)?

Let me know by leaving a comment below right now.

26 Comments

  1. Although this says it was last updated a few weeks ago, I find that it is actually outdated. I’m unable to access the keyword planner without creating an ad. The screen captures in the article are no longer the same as what Google Ads is showing a new user. The icons on the top right are no longer there and the only options is to finish your first ad.

    1. OK so I did look into this. And like I mentioned in the post, you need to setup a Google Ads account (including cc info). But you don’t need to actually run a campaign.

    2. Hey Brian,

      Great article!

      I’m having the same problem as June though.

      I’ll bet someone at Google has spotted your article and decided to change it, so that people aren’t using the tool for free 🙁

      I was really excited about this too, it was a great read!

  2. April 2019 – unfortunately I am also unable to get past the ‘Create an ad’ stage. It’s requesting I put in payment information for an ad I don’t want, and there are no other routes out of this page. Anyone know of any similar keyword planners that I could use please?

    1. Hi Lozzy, you need to setup a Google Ads account (which includes payment info) to get access. But you don’t need to actually run the ad.

  3. Earlier GKP had option of choosing exact match and broad match keywords; couldn’t find any such option now. Could you help on this?

  4. Hi, Brian – I’m writing this comment on April 6, 2019 (in case this is relevant to answering my question). Per your post, I created a Google Ads account and also a Google AdWords campaign (and entered my CC info). Now, I don’t intend to run any campaign – just want to use the Google Keyword Planner tool. So what I did is that right after I finished creating the AdWords campaign, I immediately went to the dropdown that says “Enabled” (green color) and clicked “Paused” (tan color) instead. So, my question really is: Is that all I need to do to make sure this ad campaign (which I created only because I had to to use Keyword Planner tool) NEVER runs? In other words, will Google at some point “enable” the AdWords campaign without asking me? Thanks in advance! And thanks for creating this G. Keyword Planner guide (this is my first time using this tool).

    1. Thanks Kevin. Yup, you should be good to go. But you may want to reach out to Google Ads support to double check.

  5. Hi Brian! and thanks for your post. I couldn’t come up with the same results as you in the Bonus Tip #1, basically my filter doesn’t take into account the item I selected and also I didn’t get why do say 120K impressions when it shows only 2.1K
    Anyway, hope you can answer, and thanks again man!
    Flo

  6. Question, so if I start this Google journey, will doing all this adding words, etc cost? Does everything cost to add words?

    1. Hi Alex, You don’t have to run an active campaign to use the Keyword Planner. But do need to at least set up a Google Adwords campaign.

      1. I don’t want to create an ad for now. It requires my bank card anyway. Is this necessary? How can I use the keyword tool withthout all that?

  7. Hi Brian,
    My question is as per the “old” GKP, you could add a word to your keywords and it would link the 2 together. Example: spa, facials, massage, then we would be able to add in maternity and it would only search for Maternity massage, maternity spa etc. Is this feature gone in the new version? Just makes our keywords easier to manage if w have more than one word to add (maternity was one but pregnancy with the same keywords as above.) any advice?

    1. Hi Erika, you can still enter multiple keywords (separated by commas). But I don’t think you can do what you outlined above anymore.

    2. Hey Erika, I think I know what you mean. You would want to use broad modified and phrase matches to have google fill in your desired blanks. E.g. +maternity +massage or “maternity massage”

      There is also another method when setting up your ads, you would add in a piece of code in one of the 3 headlines. Type: Keyword, and it will give you one of three options. Select keyword and enter your keyword, such as massage, and when somebody searches X massage, google will fill in their keyword before you keyword “massage”.

      Hope this helps

  8. Hi Brian,

    Thanks for your guidance. But I couldn’t start any ad campaign without filling out the payment method. Once I give my credit card number to Google, I suppose it’ll incur ad costs? How can I get around this problem? Thanks.

    Vincent

  9. Hi Brian,

    Thank you for sharing your knowledge on the Keyword research for SEO The Definitive Guide it really helpful. But I can search with URL to get the list of keywords my competition ain’t seeing, Error: Invalid characters such as \][`/, Is there a hack to that? Thanks in advance.

  10. Hello Brian,

    This an awesome guide for the GKT, and I am so happy with the results I got when I followed all your instructions on this guide.
    TBH, your blog is the best blog ever I’ve read and applied it easily without any difficulties.
    There’s a new update on GKT I expect you noticed when you enter your phrases and your words on the “add new keywords” box there will appear another section below called: “Other keywords to try” includes keywords related to the searches results
    I think we can try these keywords in this section in our keyword research, what do you think?

    Thanks again for creating this guide for us!
    Best of luck!

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26 Comments