Chapter 2: How to Get The Most Out of the Google Keyword Planner
There’s no way around it: without objective data, keyword research is a shot in the dark.
Fortunately, the SEO Gods have given us an awesome (free) tool that tells us almost everything we need to make informed decisions…
…decisions about which keywords are best for our business.
It’s called the Google Keyword Planner (formerly known as the Google Keyword Tool).
Keep in mind that the tool is designed with Adwords advertisers in mind. So there are a lot of features in the tool (like keyword bidding features) that won’t be useful for you.
In this guide I’ll show you how to get the most SEO value out of the Google Keyword Planner.
Here’s how to use it.
STEP #1: ACCESS THE GOOGLE KEYWORD PLANNER
In order to use the Google Keyword Planner, you’ll need to have a Google Adwords account. If you don’t have an Adwords account already, you can set one up in a few minutes here:
(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 GKP. But you’ll need to fully set up an Adwords account).
Next, login to your Google Adwords account. Click on the wrench icon in the toolbar at the top of the page.
Then, choose “Keyword Planner”:
You’ll be presented with two different tools within the Google Keyword Planner: “Find New Keywords” and “Get metrics and forecasts for your keywords”.
Fortunately, for SEO-focused keyword research, these two tools are enough to generate thousands of potential keywords.
Now it’s time for me to show you how to find keywords using each of the tools built into the Google Keyword Planner.
STEP #2: CHOOSE YOUR TOOL
Here I’ll show you how to use the two main tools within the Google Keyword Planner that will land you a fantastic list of keywords for your SEO campaigns.
Find new keywords
As 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”.
Quick Note: The value you get from the planner is largely based on the information that you enter here. So you want to be strategic about what you type 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. You can sometimes find keywords here that you might have missed using the other two options.
“Phrases”: This is where you enter “seed keywords” and get a list of closely-related terms. I recommend entering 1-3 keywords here, each in a slightly different Niche Market. For example, if you ran a cookie ecommerce site, you’d want to enter terms like “gluten free desserts” and “low carb cookies” here.
“A URL related to your business”: This is primarily for Adwords users. But you can sometimes find a few solid keywords here using your site’s homepage or an article from your site.
Once you’ve entered your information into one – or all three – of the options, click “Get Started”.
Next, you’ll see the Keywords Results Page. I’ll show you how to use that part of the Google Keyword Planner later in the guide.
For now, let’s dive into the second tool in the GKP: metrics and forecasts.
Get metrics and forecasts for your keywords
This is a feature that’s 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.
Simply copy and paste a list of keywords into the search field, and hit “Get Started”.
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:
With that, let’s dive into the Keywords Results Page.
Step #3: Using the Keywords Results Page
Both the tools I just described will take you to the “Keywords Results Page”, which looks like this:
Here’s a breakdown of the page:
At the top of the page, you’ll notice three targeting options: Locations, Language and Search networks.
Here’s what these three things mean:
This is the country (or countries) that you’re marketing to. Simple.
This is the language of the keywords you want to advertise on.
“Locations” and “Language” are automatically set to target English-speaking people in the US searching in Google. If that’s your target audience (in most cases it will be), you can leave these options as they are.
But let’s say you’re based in Germany. You’d want to change the Location to “Germany” and choose “German” as the language.
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 part of the Keywords Results Page is “Add Filter”:
As you can see, you get a decent amount of filtering options. So let me quickly break down each of the options for you.
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 your keyword suggestions.
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 super popular keywords (that tend to be competitive). You may also want to filter out keywords that don’t get enough searches.
For example, let’s say that you’re not interested in any keywords with an average monthly search volume below 2,000.
Just click on avg. monthly searches…
…and enter 2000 into the field:
You can have the Google Keyword Tool only show you keywords with “Low”, “Medium” or “High” competition.
This score only applies to Adwords competition (not how competitive the keyword is to rank for). So I recommend leaving this blank.
Ad Impression Share
This 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.
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”.
I recommend using the “low range” as this is just a way to filter out keywords without any commercial intent.
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. You’ll also need to connect to the GSC for this to work.
So that’s it for filtering.
Now that you’ve filtered your results, let’s break down the actual keyword ideas section:
Here’s what each of the terms in this area 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).
Also, certain seasonal keywords (like “Halloween costumes”) may get 50,000 searches in October and 100 searches in May. So the average monthly searches can be somewhat misleading in some cases.
Competition: This reflects the number of advertisers bidding on that keyword (you can read more about how to determine commercial intent in Chapter 4: How to Determine a Keyword’s Commercial Intent).
Top of Page Bid: Yet another rock-solid way to size up a keyword’s monetization potential. The higher bid here, the more lucrative the traffic.
STEP #4: HOW TO CHOOSE KEYWORDS
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.
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 an example.
(For this example I’m going to be using the Find new keywords tool because this is the best tool within the Google Keyword Planner for finding new keywords).
First, come up with a keyword that’s somewhat broad…but also describes your product, service or content idea somewhat specifically.
(If you developed a list of Niche Topics from Chapter 1, those will come in handy here)
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). A keyword like “organic coffee” would work well.
Enter that keyword into the field and click “Get Started”
And take a look at the keywords that come up:
How do you know which keywords to choose?
There are dozens of different factors to consider, but I prefer to evaluate keywords based on 3 main criteria:
Search Volume: Very straightforward. The higher the average search volume, the better the keyword probably is.
Commercial Intent: Determining the monetization potential of a keyword is more of an art than a science. That’s why I’ve created an entire chapter in Keyword Research: The Definitive Guide — (Chapter 4) – for commercial intent.. In general, the higher the competition and suggested bid, the easier it will be to convert that traffic into paying customers.
Organic SEO Competition: Like commercial intent, evaluating a keyword’s competition in Google’s organic search results takes some more digging. You need to check out the websites that are ranking… and see how hard it will be to outrank them. Chapter 5: Keyword Competition Analysis covers everything you need to know about sizing up your competition.
STEP #5: (OPTIONAL): GET EXACT KEYWORD SEARCH VOLUME DATA
As I mentioned earlier, the GKP will show you exact search volume data ONLY if you’re running an active Adwords campaign. Otherwise, you see a range, like this:
To be honest, the range is actually somewhat-helpful. Keyword volume fluctuates anyway, so the “exact” average monthly search volume that you see is a rough average anyway.
In other words, there’s nothing wrong with using these GKP ranges to help you choose your keywords.
But there’s a nifty trick you can use to get exact search volume out of the GKP…without needing an active Adwords account.
First, find a keyword in the list of suggestions that you want to target:
Then click “add to plan”:
Next, in the right-hand sidebar of the page, click “Plan overview”:
Look at the number of “impressions” you’d get:
That number is how many people search for that keyword every month.
(In this case, 120k)
And just like that, you now have accurate search volume data for your keyword. Nice!
BONUS STEP: “THE GKP HACK”
As you saw, the Google Keyword Planner is pretty cool.
That said, the Google Keyword Planner 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:
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”.
Flaw #2: You get the same set of keywords everyone else does.
Which means: the keywords the GKP gives you tend to be super competitive.
Fortunately, there’s a simple way around both of those frustrating issues: The GKP Hack.
Here’s how to do it.
First, head over to the Find New Keywords area of the GKP:
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 pop in PetSmart’s dog food category page.
You get a laundry list of keywords that most of your competitors will NEVER see.
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.
That’s all there is to it. By now you should have a hefty list of potential keywords. Nice work!
Next I’m going to show you some ninja strategies for finding long tail keywords. So head over to Chapter 3 right now.