Guide to Google Keyword Planner for SEO

ultimate guide to google adwords keyword planner for organic search / seo

What is the Google Keyword Planner?

The Keyword Planner is a part of the Google Adwords advertising platform. It allows users to research and analyze lists of keywords for use in pay-per-click campaigns.

The keyword planner is designed as a paid search tool but its data is nonetheless extremely useful for SEOs.

Using the Google Keyword Planner you can research:

  • Keyword ideas based on a phrase, landing page or product category
  • Average monthly search volume for a specific period
  • Search volume trends for a single keyword or group of keywords over time

This guide outlines the features and functionality of the Keyword Planner, discussing how you should approach the tool as well as some caveats you should keep in mind when using its data.

The Keyword Planner is a powerful tool, but it’s also part of an advertising platform and heavily oriented towards paid search.

Because of this the Keyword Planner should never be the only tool you use for keyword research or your only source of keyword data.

Setting Up Your Account

Many SEOs will already have an Adwords account, but if you don’t: stop and read this section first.

If you go to www.google.com/adwords to sign up for an account, you will be taken through a sign up process that will require you to create your first campaign and enter billing information in order to create your account.

This can be frustrating when you only want to use the Keyword Planner tool without a campaign.

We can get around this requirement by creating a Adwords MCC or My Client Center account. This is a type of Adwords account that is used by agencies and consultants to manage many different advertising accounts.

MCC accounts don’t necessarily need to handle the billing of an advertising account (e.g. if the client handles billing), so there is no requirement to add a payment method or set up a campaign to get started.

Setting up an MCC account will also make it easier to collaborate with other Adwords accounts in the future. Google restricts each Google account to a single Adwords account. Many have run into the frustrating situation of having to set up a new Google account to access a client’s Adwords campaign because their primary Google account is already connected with Adwords

It is possible to unlink a Google Account from an Adwords account, but it’s complex and frustrating.

Setting up an Adwords MCC Account

Go to www.google.com/adwords/manager-accounts/ and click “Sign Up”

creating an adwords manager (MCC) accountEnter your email (which will be autofilled if you’re logged in), and the name of your account. The name will be what other account owners will see if you use your MCC account to manage other advertising accounts.

For the question How will you primarily use this AdWords manager account?, select To manage other people’s accounts. This means you won’t be asked to enter billing information.

creating an adwords MCC account - select timezone, country and currency

Adjust the country, time zone and currency settings and check the box to accept the Rules of Use.

Click “Save and continue”.

Note: If the email address you have used is not a Google account, you will be prompted to create one here. Enter your information, click “Next Step” and then accept the Privacy and Terms (you will need to scroll to the bottom of the terms in order to click agree – but let’s be honest, no one reads these!).

Check your email and click on the confirmation link.

 

The MCC Dashboard

Adwords MCC Account Dashboard

 

The MCC Dashboard is where you can create and manage multiple Adwords accounts, as well as access reports and perform bulk operations across many accounts.

Using MCC is mostly outside the scope of this article. All we’re interested in is creating a single advertiser account so we can use the Keyword Planner!

Click on the account button and click New Adwords accountcreate a new account in adwords MCC dashboard

Enter a name for the account – I have an account called “Research” that I reserve exclusively for keyword research and never run any active campaigns from. If you plan to ever use this Adwords account to run ads, make sure you select the correct currency and time zone as this cannot be changed after account creation.

Creating a adwords research account in MCC (my client center)

Click Create account and then you will see a confirmation message with your account information:

confirm adwords account settings in MCC account

Click on the linked name of your account and you will be taking to the Adwords account dashboard.

You can now access the Keyword Planner directly from the Tools menu:

Screen Shot 2016-07-18 at 2.36.15 PM

You can skip setting up a campaign, although it can be useful even when you’re not running ads to have an account for saving ad groups and keyword lists.


 

Using the Keyword Planner

Once you have your Adwords or MCC account, access the keyword planner here: adwords.google.com/KeywordPlanner

When we open up the keyword planner we’re presented with a few different options:

adwords keyword planner start screen/form

 

Search for new keywords using a phrase, website or category

This tool generates lists of keywords from an initial seed keyword (or list of keywords), a landing page URL or a product category from Google’s product taxonomy.

The generated list will includes search volume and trend data.

Get search volume data and trends

This tool lets you upload an existing list of keywords to get volume and trend data directly. Useful for adding volume data to a keyword list from other tools.

Multiply keyword lists to get new keywords

The keyword multiplier tool can be used to create large lists of keywords by generating all possible combinations of terms from 2-3 lists of phrases.

Get click and cost performance forecasts

The forecast tool lets you upload a list of keywords and get forecasted clicks and impressions based on a specific budget and targeting criteria. This is primarily for advertisers, but it can also be useful for estimating future search volume (see Keyword Planner Forecasting).

Search for keyword and ad group ideas

Screen Shot 2016-07-18 at 1.32.21 PM

At the top of the form, there are three search fields that you can use to search for keyword ideas. You can generate a list of keywords from either:

  • One or more keywords or phrases, called “seed keywords”
  • A URL to a web page
  • A category from Google’s product taxonomy

Seed Keywords

Seed keywords are the initial keywords you use to find related terms and expand your keyword list. What are first keywords that come to mind when you try to describe your product, service or topic? That’s a good place to start.

Although it’s not a requirement, it’s usually good to start with at least 3-5 keywords. This will help the tool get a range of different keywords related to your topic and not focus too specifically on a single phrase.

Landing Page URL

Keyword Planner can take a URL and grab the content from the page to generate keyword suggestions.

The quality of the suggestions will be somewhat dependent on the quality of the content on the page, but remember, the landing page doesn’t have to be your own. See the Pro Tips section on some creative ways to use this feature.

Product Category

keyword planner: find keywords by Google product category

Google maintains an extensive taxonomy of product and service categories. This can be particularly useful for getting top-level topic keywords for a particular industry. This list can be a little unwieldy to navigate on its own so try typing to search for your specific category.

Targeting Options

Targeting options are used in Adwords to specify who will see your ads. If you are a company that only serves the Los Angeles area, there’s no real point in showing ads to people living in New York City.

When we do organic keyword research, targeting options let us specify where we want to get monthly search and trend data from.

Location

Let’s select the United States so we will only see search volume and trends for searches in the US.

setting geographic targeting in Google keyword planner to adjust search volume estimates and trends

You can select a range of locations down to the city level. Remember though that the smaller the geographic location, the more likely you will see keywords with zero average monthly searches. This doesn’t mean that those searches are never searched in this location, but that you’re targeting too small a sample.

I start at the country or state level and then use more specific targeting for estimates once I’ve built out my keyword list.

google keyword planner select language

Language

This guide focused on English, but if you are searching for keyword ideas in non-English languages, change the language targeting here.

Note: your seed keywords should be in the language you are targeting. Adwords won’t automatically translate your query to find keyword ideas in languages different than what you use in your search.

Search Engine

By default you will only be getting search volume and trend data from searches directly on Google. You can expand this to include “search partners” which includes hundreds of non-Google sites as well as YouTube.com. I usually keep this set to just Google for organic keyword research.

google keyword planner select search engine (Google or Google and search partners). This includes YouTube search

Date Range

select date range for keyword idea search. optionally compare date range to an earlier time.

Specify the date range that you want to get average monthly search volume data for. Optionally you can compare monthly search volume to a previous period to see trends.

If you experience a lot of seasonality in your industry, you should be aware of what date range you are looking at so your average monthly search volume isn’t bought down by the low season. Most users will be fine with the default one year period.

Search Filters

Search filters let you refine your keyword suggestions based on certain criteria.

The keyword planner will only return 600-700 suggestions for a search, even though there are far more related keywords. This is called the “hidden data problem” (jump to Keyword Planner Data for more information). Filters help us get around the restriction through multiple specific queries each with around ~700 results.

Negative Keywords

filter out keywords from your search in Google keyword planner

Negative keywords are terms that, if present in a user’s query, will prevent an ad from being shown. In organic keyword research they can help us limit the scope of a keyword search.

For instance, in our search for “seo software”, we might choose to remove any keywords related to “analytics”, allowing us to focus on non-analytics searches.

Keyword Filters


filter keywords by average monthly searches, suggested bid, ad impression share and level of advertising (adwords) competition in keyword planner

Keyword filters let you refine your search based on monthly search volume, suggested bid (the estimated CPC you would need to bid to be competitive for that term), the ad impression share (only relevant if you’re actually running ads) and competition level, which relates to how many people are bidding on a particular term.

Remember that competition in Adwords is not the same as ranking difficulty. High competition for a keyword doesn’t necessarily mean that keyword will be hard to rank for (or that low competition is easy to rank for). The level of Adwords competition simply means that more advertisers are bidding on that keyword. See the Pro Tips section to learn how SEOs can use this to map keywords to their position in the purchase funnel.

Keyword Options

keyword search options in the google keyword tool

In the Keyword options box, Show keywords in my account is usually only relevant if you have keywords stored in existing campaigns. By default keywords you’re already targeting are filtered out.

Likewise Show keywords in my plan displays keywords that you have already saved in your plan.

Only show ideas closely related to my search terms will make the search stricter, only returning keywords that contain all of the words in at least one of your seed keywords.

Show adult ideas is exactly what it sounds like. By default Keyword Planner filters out searches for pornographic content. This turns that filter off.

Keywords to Include

filter google keyword tool search to only include specific words or phrases

Keywords to include works somewhat in the opposite way as Negative keywords. Your search will only return keywords that have the words you list in them.

  • Enter multiple words to see ideas that include all of those words regardless of order
  • To see all words that contain a phrase of multiple words, encase your words in quotes. E.g. “seo software”
  • To see keywords that contain one term or another, separate multiple phrases by commas or line breaks

Get search volume data and trends

You can also use the Keyword Planner to get search volume and trend data for an existing list of keywords:

Screen Shot 2016-07-18 at 2.01.52 PM

Either paste a list of keywords or upload a CSV (comma-separated values), TSV (tab-separated values), or plain text list of terms.

Targeting and date range criteria work the same way as the Search for keyword and ad group ideas form.

Keyword Multiplier

You can use the keyword multiplier to expand a list of keywords by creating every possible combination of two or three different lists.

A good example of how you might want to use this tool is combining service and location keywords.

keyword planner keyword multiplier

Click Get search volume to get historical data like average monthly search volume or forecasts in the exact same way as you would with keywords generated from the keyword search tool.

Get forecasts will take you to the Keyword Planner Forecasting Tool for your multiplied list (see Keyword Planner Forecasting).


 

Keyword Search Results

When we run our search, we will be taken over to the results screen:

Screen Shot 2016-07-18 at 2.33.35 PM

In this interface we can review keyword and ad group suggestions, add items we want to a keyword plan and adjust our search parameters.

The first thing you should notice is the two tabs under the search volume graph labeled Ad group ideas and Keyword ideas.

Keyword ideas gives a raw list of suggestions with their associated volume and bid data, while Ad group ideas groups these terms by common phrasing and gives aggregated metrics for the entire group.

google keyword planner search results screen - ad group ideas and keyword ideas

Both lists are useful. I typically start with the Ad group ideas as they help you build out the core groups of your keyword list and help you focus on overall volume and ignore small keyword variations at the beginning.

 

The Ad group ideas and Keyword ideas tables have columns for Avg. monthly searches, Competition and Suggested bid and allow you to re-order the table by clicking on the column header.

To see the monthly trend chart for either an ad group or individual keyword, mouse over the chart icon in the Avg. monthly searches column of your target row and then mouse over a specific month to see the exact number for that month.

see monthly trends for ad group or keyword ideas in google keyword planner tool

 

Keyword Trend Visualization

select keyword planner chart - search volume trends, mobile trends, breakdown by device, breakdown by location, account/plan coverage, compared to competitor domains and compared to market leader domainsThe chart at the top of the page visualizes different breakdowns in data for your entire keyword suggestion list.

The default chart plots average monthly searches for your list over the last 12 months (or whatever date range you specified) across all devices.

To break out mobile trends from desktop, select the Mobile trends chart:

keyword planner - compare mobile trends to overall search volume chart

 

The purple series gives the mobile volume relative to the total query volume.

Breakdown by device gives the overall distribution in search volume between mobile, desktop and tablet devices:google keyword planner breakdown by device: computers (desktop), mobile, tablet

 

The Breakdown by location chart gives volume broken down by location within your selected target area – so if you search in the US, you will break down volume by State, County, Municipality, City, Congressional district or Nielsen DMA region.

google keyword planner breakdown by location chart (not normalized for population)

 

This chart is of limited use as it doesn’t appear to be normalized for population. In the US, California, New York and Texas are typically at the top.

The charts for account/plan coverage, competitor domains and market leader domains are only useful if you are running ads.

 

Building your Keyword List

The keyword planner lets you build a list of keywords from multiple searches and save the results.

On each row is an “Add to plan” button. Click this to add either the ad group or the specific keyword to your plan.

google keyword planner - search results, "add to plan" button

Your plan is organized by ad group, this means if you add an entire ad group from the search results, only the name of the group will appear in the list, although all of the terms were added.

If you add terms from the keyword ideas table, you will need to create or select an ad group you wish to add the keyword to. If there is no ad group yet created and you do not create one before selecting, a new group will be created with the same name as the keyword you add.

adding keywords to an ad group in google keyword planner

 

Understanding Ad Groups

In Adwords, ad groups are a lists of keywords that pertain to one or more specific ads. Ad groups are tightly focused around variations in a single phrase, not just a common topic.

For instance in our example we have to ad groups “Best Seo” and “Top Seo”:

how keywords are grouped together into ad groups in google keyword planner

In Adwords, the most effective campaigns use ad groups that are very tightly focused on a few combinations of words and phrases.

When using the Keyword Planner for organic research, we can group keywords by a specific topic or keyword intent (depending on what kind of keyword research you are doing).

Remember that the rules for PCC campaigns around whether ads show up for specific keywords in specific campaigns need to be very strict so that advertisers can closely control their spending. From the user’s perspective, several keywords may share a common topic and intent even if they don’t use the exact same words. As Google is doing an increasingly better job of interpreting these different queries, when grouping your keywords, focus on topic and intent, not just exact phrasing or words.

 

Building a keyword list from multiple searches

When you save ad groups or keywords to your plan, these changes are saved so that you can come back to them. It also means you can run a different search and build up a large list from multiple queries.

multiple-keyword-searches-combined-keyword-planner

Editing your Keyword Plan

Edit each ad group by clicking on its name. Add or remove keywords from the group, rename the group or grab the entire list of terms either by downloading a copy as a CSV or copying the list to your clip board.

edit ad group in keyword planner plan

 

Exporting your keyword plan

At any time you can export your entire plan, either by clicking on the Copy to clipboard icon:

copy entire keyword plan to clipboard

 

Or export it as a CSV that will include the monthly search volume, competition and other data.

adwords keyword plan export plan as adwords or excel csv

When downloading the CSV of your plan, you will be presented with a few options:

Historical Statistics

By default your CSV will include average monthly searches, competition, suggested bid, etc. If you wish you can get that data broken down by month instead of just the overall average.

Traffic forecasts

Forecasts are only available once you set up a bid – see Keyword Planner Forecasting

File Format

You have two options for download format. The default is the Adwords Editor CSV. This file will have some additional columns that allow it to be imported into another Adwords account. This is primarily of use to advertisers, so typically you will just select Excel CSV.

Save to Google Drive

Optionally, instead of downloading the file to your computer you can save it directly to your Google Drive account. Useful if you’re collaborating with someone on your keyword research.


 

A Note on Keyword Planner Data

Google Keyword Planner provides an array of extremely useful data. However, it is a common misconception that because the Keyword Planner is a Google tool that the data it provides must be 100% accurate. This is false. 

Here’s a few things you should keep in mind when using Keyword Planner data in your keyword research.

Average Monthly Search Volume

Average monthly search volume, probably the most used metric provided by the Keyword Planner is not a precise number. Rather, the tool groups keywords into “buckets” with similar volumes and gives an average volume number representing the entire bucket.

A keyword is placed in the closest “bucket”. For instance, a keyword with a true average monthly search volume of 187,000 searches a month may be placed in the higher 201,000 searches bucket because it is closer than the next lowest bucket of 165,000.

The range these buckets represent varies dramatically. For long tail keywords, buckets may only span 10-20 searches a month. But for high-volume head terms, buckets may encompass a range of tens of thousands of searches a month!

This also means that a keyword may rise or fall dramatically month to month and still be within the same “bucket”, so it will not report a change in search volume.

Hidden Keywords

When a search reveals hundreds or even thousands of terms, it is easy to think that the list of suggestions you are reviewing is comprehensive. In fact the Keyword Planner may not be showing all of the keywords it has in its database.

The Keyword Planner limits the maximum number of suggestions it returns while attempting to provide a diverse cross section of terms related to your search. This could mean you miss out on important related terms.

To overcome the hidden data problem, make your search more specific. The more specific your search gets, the more data may be uncovered.

  • Use a larger seed list of short-tail terms in your keyword searches
  • Set volume and CPC limits
  • Import suggestions from other keyword tools into Keyword Planner to get volume data and additional suggestions

Spelling Variations

Google does an incredible job of understanding our most mistyped, misspelled search queries, often returning results for the auto-corrected, spell-checked query automatically.

This presents a problem for search volume data. Is the misspelled query count towards its own distinct volume count, or is it grouped together with the corrected query?

The answer appears to be “both”.

Google may some times choose to map keywords together and give them identical search volumes. For instance:

Screen Shot 2016-07-11 at 11.47.13 AM

Each of these searches are treated the same way by Google in terms of search results and are all auto-corrected for “facebook.com”

Screen Shot 2016-07-11 at 11.49.56 AM

It would seem unlikely that facebook.com, facebook com, and face book com are all searched exactly the same number of times per month. A more likely explanation is that these terms are combined both for the search results and for the search volume metric.

In other cases, terms that are not autocorrected together for the searcher are still grouped together for search volume.

Screen Shot 2016-07-11 at 11.55.26 AM

“att”, “at&t” and “a t t” are all grouped together with ~7.5 million monthly searches, even though there is no autocorrection when these variations are searched. The true volume of all of these queries combined is not 3 x 7.5 million.

This is where the Keyword Planner’s focus on advertising comes into play again.

Each of these keywords, if bid on, could get ~7.5 million impressions. Adwords only ever triggers an ad on a single keyword though, so even if you bid on all three (likely in the same ad group), your impressions wouldn’t be much greater than just bidding on one version.

To get a more accurate picture of overall volume for a group of terms, use the forecasting tool (see Keyword Planner Forecasting below).

When we forecast monthly volume for the three versions that get 7.5 million searches a month, we get an aggregate number of around 8.3 million – likely higher because Google is also grouping in other small variations that we don’t have listed, but not anywhere near 22 million!

aggregate search volume of similar terms forecasting

Don’t get too fixated on the exact search volume of a single close variant. The days of targeting landing pages at common misspellings are long over. Always focus on intent first.


 

Keyword Planner Forecasting

Keyword Planner also allows you to forecast search volume into the future in addition to being able to research historical average search volume and trends.

Again, this feature is focused on creating Adwords campaigns. But by tweaking the settings a little bit, SEO’s can use the tool to get future search volume estimates.

use keyword planner forecast for organic seo by setting high CPC

Click Review plan to use the forecasting tool.

Forecasting Organic Search Volume

The forecasting tool predicts impressions and clicks for a list of keywords based on certain CPC bids and daily budgets.

We want to use this tool to estimate the total amount of searches, which will be represented here as impressions, as the tool is estimating how many times a hypothetical ad would be seen.

In the case of an Adwords campaign, a budget is set either to the financial limitations of the advertiser, or to the point where a higher budget or CPC bid doesn’t significantly increase impressions or estimated clicks (this is called diminishing returns and is where the curve begins to flatten out).

We’re not actually going to be running ads, so for our purposes, we don’t need to worry about our budget or diminishing returns.

In the two fields at the top of the page: Enter a bid and Enter daily budget, we can enter extremely high numbers. I usually use $100 for CPC and leave daily budget blank.

If you’re estimating traffic for a lot of very competitive keywords you will want to raise this even higher. Your goal is to see the vertical slider on the graph at the right-most position it can be.

Now the data we see is an estimate of all search traffic for the selected date period.

Forecast Date Range

adjust forecast date range and scale keyword planner

The default date period is the next 7 days with daily estimates. You can adjust this to any time period and select to see search volume by week, month, quarter or for the entire time period you have selected.

Search Volume and Match Types

When working with data from Keyword Planner, it is very important to understand what match type a keyword or list of keywords is using.

In an Adwords campaign, the keyword match type dictates under what circumstances a particular keyword might trigger an ad. You can think of this as how strictly a user’s query will have to match a particular keyword in order for an ad to be shown. There are three levels of keyword match (green means match, red means no match):

Broad Match

Keywords will match a search query that contains different spelling, synonyms, closely related keywords or common relevant variations.

broad match - google adwords keyword planner

Broad Match with Modifier

Keywords will match search queries that contain terms preceded by a “+” in any order, matching close variations of words but not synonyms

broad modifier match - google adwords keyword planner

Phrase Match

Keywords will match queries that contain a phrase, but that may contain other words before or after the phrase or for small variations of words within the phrase. Phrase match is denoted by encasing the phrase in quotes

phrase match - google adwords keyword planner

Exact Match

Keywords will only match queries that are exact keyword or close variation (misspelling, tense, etc) of the keyword. Exact match is denoted by encasing the keyword in [brackets].

exact match - google adwords keyword planner

Although we are not using the Keyword Planner to build an ad campaign, we need to care about match types because of how they influence search volume estimates. The looser the match type, the higher the estimated search volume, as more variations and synonyms are being included in the estimate.

Traditionally, SEOs will only care about exact match, as it gives the most precise estimates of search volume for a particular keyword we might want to target. By default, the estimates that you will see next to your keyword search results are exact match estimates.

It is a mistake to completely disregard the other match type estimates as they can provide insight into the broader interest into a particular topic.

In particular, they may be helpful for estimating potential opportunity for long-tail traffic from keywords closely related but not exactly matching your chosen keywords. As Google search results become increasingly oriented towards searcher intent and less sensitive to the exact words or phrasing the searcher uses, content is more likely to rank for a diverse range of keyword variations even if it only technically “optimized” for one.

Search Volume by Keyword Match Type

keyword-planner-match-type-forecast-compressor

The first forecast of impressions is based on a broad keyword match type. To get more precise estimates, you will want to change the match type of the ad groups or keywords by selecting all rows and choosing the desired type from the Match type dropdown menu.

While exact match will give you a more precise estimate of the number of projected searches for exactly the terms in your list, phrase or broad match can be a great way to estimate interest in a particular topic.

When using broad match, I recommend keeping with estimates by ad group or possibly the entire list, depending on how different the keywords are between each ad group. This is because two broad match keywords could conceivably be triggered by the same keyword. But when we look at the aggregate impression estimate, either by ad group or over the entire plan, this is taken into account and we have get a forecast of over-all interest in a particular topic.

The value of this estimate may different between industries and verticals. Adwords’ broad matching may match to keywords that are too far outside of your vertical or desired intent to be useful, and without running Adwords campaigns you’re unlikely to know exactly what keywords are being included in this estimate.

Different match type estimates are still another useful data point to compare relative interest between subjects.


 

Pro Tips

Don’t ignore the Ad Groups tab

Many people will jump straight to the Keywords tab and ignore the suggesting groupings of terms.

Ad groups are useful for creating structure to your keyword research and let you count similar terms  together rather than as separate keywords to target.

Screen Shot 2016-07-14 at 4.51.18 PM

In the ad group “ranking software” we see several keywords that are close enough variations that they would not justify their own pages or content in order to target. The searcher who types “rank tracking software” is probably looking for the same thing as someone who types “seo ranking software” or “keyword rank tracking software”.

Keep this group of keywords, using the total estimated monthly searches as an estimate of the total possible search volume and then create content that incorporates several of the term variations from this list.

Where practical, use the highest volume variations in the on-page elements that we know have the strongest influence in rankings – e.g. page title, H1 header and URL.

Get creative! The page title “SEO Rank Tracking Software” makes as much sense if not more than “Rank Tracking Software”, and it will be fully targeted at the “rank tracking software” term as well closely matching “seo ranking software”.

Use Negative keywords before using the Keywords to include filter.

If a particular subject has four key sub-topics, enter negative keywords for three of them to explore the remaining sub-topic in depth. This will help you get around Keyword Planner’s results limit and surface more suggestions.

Keyword Planner does a pretty good job finding related keywords, but it can sometimes come up with suggestions that may be technically related to your search, but don’t really make sense. A search for “baseball glove” might return “boxing glove”.

Use negative terms to remove these irrelevant suggestions rather than just excluding them from your final list. They may be pushing a more relevant suggestion out of the list.

Differentiate top-of-funnel and bottom-of-funnel keywords

Competition level in Adwords doesn’t give a good sense of how hard a keyword will be to rank for. But it can serve as a proxy for another important factor – commercial intent.

The higher the competition of a keyword, the generally more commercial it is and the lower down the funnel (closer to purchase) the keyword is probably occurring.

Filter your keyword list progressively using HighMedium, and Low competition to see keywords that are more likely to occur at the bottom, middle and top of the funnel respectively. For large industries where even long-tail keywords may have a lot of bidders, try using this in combination with a Suggested bid filter. Higher bid keywords are usually the closest to purchase.

Note: use search filters rather than just organizing your list by competition. This will allow you to get more keywords by getting around Keyword Planners results limit.

Seed search by landing page

It’s easy to jump straight into entering you starter keywords and not take advantage of the ability to find keywords using a seed URL.

Using existing landing pages on your site is a good start, but there are far more creative ways to use this feature.

Try some of these seed URL ideas:

  • Competitor’s landing pages
  • Google some of your broadest industry terms and try searching for keywords using top ranking results
  • Wikipedia pages for industry topics and terms
  • Industry forums
  • Relevant subs on Reddit.com
  • Pinterest search results
  • Popular blog posts or articles in your industry

Screen Shot 2016-07-15 at 8.18.53 AM

Use search volume and competition filters to surface long-tail terms

Initial searches in Keyword Planner usually surface high volume head terms. But filters can help you uncover long-tail suggestions.

Try adjusting your search for keywords with fewer than 500 searches a month and low competition. These will likely be longer, less commercial phrases.

Create keyword seed lists in other tools

Use other keyword tools and sources to develop your seed lists.

For larger lists, use the Get search volume data and trends tool to upload a plain text or CSV file or keywords to get historical search volume data.

You can also take advantage of the Keyword Planners grouping functionality. When you upload a list of terms, Keyword Planner will automatically organize your terms into Ad Groups.

Use filters and the other features we discussed to pick out the highest value terms and add them to your keyword plan.

Google Suggest

Google’s autocomplete suggestion functionality is a great way to find new keyword ideas.

use google auto suggest to mine for keyword suggestions

Enter a base keyword, for instance “seo software” and then hit space to see common phrases that start with those two words. Try entering each letter of the alphabet one at a time to see a range of suggestions.

You can also use a tool like UberSuggest to do this automatically.

Google Search Console

Google Search Console shows you keywords that your site is already ranking for. Try sorting the results by average position and searching for batches of first page, second page, etc to see different types of suggestions that are already conceptually relevant to your site.

Search Console can also be a great way to audit search volume estimates from Keyword Planner. The impression count for Keywords that you consistently rank on the first page for (< #10) are a good measure of search volume for that query.

Other Keyword Tools

Some other great keyword tools to try:

SERPs Keyword Research Tool

WordStream

SpyFu

Tighten your search focus by adding relevant suggested terms into the search query

Add keywords from your keyword results back into the search field to focus your search on a particular sub-topic:

use keyword planner suggestions to reseed the keyword search and focus on a sub topic

Run Google searches for the suggested terms

The most underutilized SEO tool is also the most obvious: Google search.

Not sure of the intent for a particular keyword? Google it!

Google does a better job of interpreting intent from a short phrase than any SEO or SEM tool. You can glean a lot about how Google is interpreting a query based on the results it shows.

Our ultimate goal is to try and rank in the SERPs, so doing spot checks for different keywords is a great way to figure out if they are relevant.

Do you see your competitors? Are there video, image or map results? Think how this might this could influence the type of content you produce to target that query.

Use Include keyword filter to focus on specific intents

Filtering results to only those that include common modifier phrases can narrow the intent of your keyword suggestions.

Filtering for “where”, “why”, “when”, and “how” will help you find question keywords that may be good targets for Q&A content or allow you to optimize for Google featured snippets.

Filtering for “buy”, “purchase”, “price” and “order” will give you purchase oriented keywords.

Other Resources

 


Help us make this guide better! If you have other tips, tactics or resources that we can include, let us know in the comments or using the contact form.

4 responses to “Guide to Google Keyword Planner for SEO

  1. I did everything you said to sign up for an adwords manager account but cannot seem to find the keyword planner tool. My toolbar or whatever you call it at the top only has three options: Accounts, Campaigns, and Reports. I looked everywhere for the tool drop down menu but I cannot find it or the keyword planner tool. If you could help clarify where to find the tool that would be greatly appreciated.

    1. Hi Ellie,

      You need to create an Adwords account first. Go through the instructions in the MCC Dashboard section – first you create an MCC account and then you have to create an Adwords account. Once you have created an Adwords account and clicked through to the account home screen you can access the keyword planner.

  2. hello, this day I try to do keyword research with this method, but google no longer shows the exact number of monthly searches, only (1M – 10K), now that we have? single payment tools? Excuse my grammar, I do not speak English.

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