Google Ads Keyword Planner: An In-depth Guide

Google Ads Keyword Planner: An In-depth Guide

Google Ads Keyword Planner is an essential tool for anyone involved in Search Engine Marketing. Whether you’re a seasoned PPC professional or a business owner looking to dip your toes into the world of online advertising, understanding how to use this tool can give you a significant edge. The Keyword Planner helps users find relevant keywords for their campaigns and provides insights into keyword trends, search volume, and competition. Simply put, it’s a keyword research tool that allows you to plan your Google Ads campaigns more effectively.

The tool is integrated within the Google Ads platform, which means you’ll need a Google Ads account to access it. Even if you’re not currently running any ads, you can still use the Keyword Planner for research purposes. Google provides this tool free of charge, though some data and features are limited if you’re not actively spending money on Google Ads.

One of the main functionalities of the Keyword Planner is to provide keyword ideas based on terms that are relevant to your product, service, or website. These keyword ideas are crucial for building effective PPC campaigns and can also be used to inform your SEO strategy.

The Keyword Planner also offers valuable data about the keywords you’re interested in, such as their average monthly search volume, the level of competition, and average cost-per-click (CPC). This data can help you make more informed decisions when planning your campaigns.

Why Keyword Research Matters in PPC

Keyword research is the cornerstone of any successful PPC campaign. Choosing the right keywords is crucial because these are the terms your potential customers use when searching for products or services like yours. The more accurately you can target these terms, the higher your chances of reaching a relevant audience.

But keyword research isn’t just about finding the most searched terms. It’s also about understanding your audience’s intent. Different keywords can indicate different stages of the customer journey. For example, someone searching for “how to fix a leaky faucet” is likely looking for information, not necessarily a plumbing service, while someone searching for “emergency plumber near me” is probably ready to hire.

Keyword research also impacts your budget. More competitive keywords typically require higher bids, so understanding the landscape of your targeted keywords can help you allocate your budget more effectively. The Keyword Planner can give you an idea of how competitive a keyword is and what you might expect to pay for clicks on ads targeting that keyword.

Finally, effective keyword research can also inform other areas of your online marketing strategy, such as SEO, content creation, and social media advertising. The more you understand about what your potential customers are searching for, the better you can tailor your entire online presence to meet those needs.

Navigating the Keyword Planner Interface

Once you’ve accessed the Google Ads platform and navigated to the Keyword Planner tool, you’ll find a simple interface with a couple of main options: “Discover new keywords” and “Get search volume and forecasts.” The former is generally where you’ll start when doing keyword research for a new campaign.

“Discover new keywords” allows you to enter words, phrases, or a URL related to your business to generate keyword ideas. The tool will then provide a list of related keywords, along with various metrics that we’ll explore in the next sections. This is the go-to feature for finding new keyword opportunities.

“Get search volume and forecasts” is more geared towards analyzing keywords you already have in mind. You can paste in your list of keywords, and the tool will provide you with projected metrics like estimated clicks, impressions, average CPC, and more. This is particularly useful for gauging the potential effectiveness of keywords you’re already targeting or considering.

The interface also allows you to filter results in various ways—by location, language, search network, and date range, among other options. This makes it easier to segment your research to align with specific target audiences or geographic regions.

How to Start Your Keyword Research

Starting your keyword research in the Google Ads Keyword Planner is straightforward. First, log in to your Google Ads account and navigate to the Keyword Planner tool. Then, select the “Discover new keywords” option to begin generating keyword ideas.

You can start by entering a broad keyword related to your industry, or even paste in a competitor’s URL to get keyword ideas. Be sure to utilize the filter options to hone in on specific geographies, languages, or other variables that are relevant to your business.

After you’ve entered your initial keyword or URL, click “Get Results” to see a list of suggested keywords. Alongside each keyword suggestion, you’ll find valuable data like average monthly searches, competition level, and average CPC. This data should guide your selection process.

One pro tip is to start broad and then narrow down. Initial results can give you a better sense of the keyword landscape for your industry, after which you can delve deeper into more specific, long-tail keywords that are relevant to your products or services.

Utilizing Broad and Exact Match Keywords

When using the Keyword Planner, you’ll encounter different “match types” for keywords. These include broad match, phrase match, and exact match. Understanding these match types is crucial for creating a targeted PPC campaign.

A “broad match” keyword means that your ads may show for searches that include any word in your keyword, in any order. This type provides the widest audience, but may not be as targeted. On the other hand, an “exact match” keyword means your ads will only appear for searches that are an exact match to your keyword.

Phrase match lies somewhere in between, allowing your ads to show for searches that include the exact phrase of your keyword, potentially along with other words. Each of these match types has its pros and cons in terms of reach and relevance, and you’ll often end up using a mix of all three in a well-optimized PPC campaign.

The Keyword Planner tool will default to giving you broad match data, but you can use this as a starting point to explore other match types. Be sure to experiment with different match types and monitor the results over time to find the most effective combination for your goals.

Analyzing Keyword Data: Metrics Explained

Once you have a list of potential keywords, the next step is to understand the metrics that the Keyword Planner provides. These metrics include Average Monthly Searches, Competition, and Top of Page Bid (Low Range and High Range).

“Average Monthly Searches” provides an estimate of how often a keyword is searched for in Google, averaged over a 12-month period. This metric gives you a good idea of a keyword’s popularity, but it’s essential to consider seasonality and current trends as well.

“Competition” is a qualitative measure of how many advertisers are bidding on each keyword. It’s categorized as Low, Medium, or High. While high competition keywords are often more expensive to bid on, they are also likely to have higher search volumes and potential returns.

“Top of Page Bid” gives you an estimate of what advertisers have historically paid for a keyword’s top-of-page bid, on average. It’s broken down into “Low Range” and “High Range,” providing a spectrum that you can expect to pay for a top-of-page position. This metric is especially useful for budget planning.

Incorporating Negative Keywords: Best Practices

Negative keywords are another essential component of effective PPC campaigns. These are keywords for which you do not want your ads to appear. Incorporating negative keywords can help you focus on the most relevant traffic and improve your ROI.

The Keyword Planner doesn’t directly provide a list of negative keywords, but you can easily identify potential candidates. For example, if you’re an online retailer specializing in high-end furniture, you might add “cheap” or “used” as negative keywords to avoid showing your ads to people looking for budget or second-hand options.

When adding negative keywords, consider the match types just as you would with your target keywords. You can add negative broad match, phrase match, or exact match keywords depending on how broad or specific you want to be in excluding irrelevant traffic.

Regularly updating your negative keyword list is also a good practice. Over time, as you analyze the performance of your campaigns, you’ll identify new negative keywords that can help you refine your ad targeting further.

Understanding Keyword Competition and Bid Estimates

The “Competition” and “Top of Page Bid” metrics in the Keyword Planner offer valuable insights into the competitive landscape of your chosen keywords. Understanding these metrics is crucial for budget planning and strategy.

High competition keywords often require higher bids, but they also usually offer a higher return on investment (ROI). If you have a limited budget, focusing on medium or low competition keywords with decent search volume can also be a viable strategy.

Bid estimates can also inform your bidding strategy. It’s often beneficial to start with the low end of the top of page bid estimate and adjust upwards based on performance. This allows you to test the waters without committing a large portion of your budget upfront.

Keep in mind that these are just estimates. Actual CPC can vary based on a variety of factors including ad relevance, landing page experience, and current competition for the keyword.

Creating and Exporting Keyword Lists

After conducting thorough keyword research, the next step is to create and export your keyword lists for implementation. The Google Ads Keyword Planner allows you to easily select keywords and export them into a CSV file.

This exported file will include all the metrics discussed earlier, providing a comprehensive overview of your keyword strategy. You can then import this file directly into a new or existing Google Ads campaign.

Having a well-organized keyword list can significantly speed up the campaign creation process. It also provides a reference point for future campaigns or for sharing insights with team members.

If your online marketing strategy includes SEO in addition to PPC, this keyword list can serve dual purposes. Many of the same keywords you’re targeting in paid ads will also be valuable for organic search optimization.

Tracking Performance Over Time

Once your campaign is live, tracking performance is crucial for ongoing optimization. The Keyword Planner offers forecasting features that can help you project future performance, but real-world data is the most reliable way to gauge success.

You’ll want to regularly check metrics like clicks, impressions, CTR (Click-Through Rate), average CPC, and conversion rate. These KPIs will provide a comprehensive view of how your keywords are performing.

Over time, you may find that some keywords are not performing as well as you’d hoped, while others are exceeding expectations. Regularly revisiting your keyword list and performance data allows you to make data-driven adjustments to your campaign.

Monitoring the performance of your keywords over time will also help you identify seasonal trends or shifts in user behavior, enabling you to adapt your strategy accordingly.


Google Ads Keyword Planner is an indispensable tool for anyone looking to succeed in online advertising. From keyword discovery and data analysis to list creation and performance tracking, this tool provides a plethora of features to guide your PPC campaigns toward success. By mastering the various functionalities of the Keyword Planner, you can set your campaigns up for optimal performance and ROI.

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