How to use Google Ads Keyword Planner

how to use Google Keyword Planner

The Google Ads Keyword Planner is a fantastic tool for doing keyword research.

Below we will provide you with an overview of the data and how you can use it for insights into your PPC and SEO keyword research.

Table of Contents

Getting started: Signing up and getting familiar with Keyword Planner

If you don’t already have a Google Ads account, you’ll need to set one up. This is a simple process and is free.

Head over to Google Ads and hit the “Get started” button.

Getting started with Google Ads Keyword Planner

You’ll then need to sign in with your Google account or create one if you don’t have one.

Once you’ve logged in, you’ll be taken to your campaign management screen.

If you’ve not set up any Google Ads campaigns before, this won’t have any data on it.

Google ads account start

 

To get to the Keyword Planner, you need to click “Tools & Settings” from the menu at the top of the screen and choose “Keyword Planner” from the “Planning” section of the drop-down menu.

Google Ads Keyword planner

If you’re new to the tool, you’ll see this splash screen with some information about what you can do with Keyword Planner.

You can click the arrow to read through this information, or just click the blue “Get Started” button.

Google Ads Keyword Planner

 

Once you get into the tool, you’ll see it’s split into two parts: “Discover new keywords” and “Get search volume and metrics.”

Google Ads Keyword Planner

The first option will help you to generate keyword ideas, and the second will give you detailed information to help you evaluate your keywords.

Discover new keywords

Once you click the “Discover new keywords” link, you’ll be faced with another couple of options.

You can either start with keywords or start with a website.

starting example from google ad keyword planner

Start with keywords

Starting with keywords will help you to generate new keywords ideas from a single starter keyword.

Google suggests here that you might like to “enter products or services closely related to your business” with the examples of “meal delivery” or “leather boots.”

You’re not restricted to a single keyword here: You can enter several by separating them with a comma (up to 10).

The trick here is to try not to be too broad as the tool will just come back with a lot of keywords that may not be relevant.

But you don’t want to put in very specific long tail keywords either as this will return you a very short list of related keywords.

For example, the suggested keyword of “leather boots” generates over 2,400 keywords, and “leather boots for babies” generates only 14 related keywords.

But there’s no need to worry about putting in the “wrong” keyword to start off with as you can adjust this as you go.

Just hit the “Get Results” button and the tool will return a list of keywords.

start with keywords keyword planner

Want to adjust your search?

Click on the grey search box at the top and you can add more keywords, as well as remove your original keyword if you wish.

More on everything else on this screen in a moment, but let’s just go back to the moment of entering your starter keywords as there are a few other settings there to consider.

Directly below the keyword search field, you’ll see a toggle button labeled “Include brand name in results.” This is on by default.

brand names on or off in keyword planner

If you don’t want to include any brand name keywords on your list, you should turn this option off.

Targeting branded keywords needs to be done with caution.  If your targeting a branded keyword to try and effectively redirect traffic from a competitor or a brand then you will likely need very deep pockets as  Google’s adrank system will make it harder together with their trademark management system. 

We would in most cases recommend staying away from branded keywords unless you sell that brand and have received permission from the brand to use the brand name in ads.

Learn more about Adrank in our article here on bidding strategies.

However, if you sell the branded product (i.e. you sell HP printers of Apple iPhones)  then you will likely have a targeted product page so it would make sense to use the branded keyword.

Here you can also change the language of the keywords you’re targeting, and the target location.

The tool is set to your country (location) but you can change this if you wish. 

Currency on the other hand cannot be changed and is determined by the currency used in the Google Ads account (i.e. very frustrating that you can’t change the currency – Google please fix!). 

However, if you’re looking to target more specific groups, either with SEO or paid ads, you’ll need to change the location to what you think you want to target as you will get different results for locations (countries, states, shires, counties, zip codes, postcodes etc).

You can also enter a domain to use as a filter, which can be helpful in a similar way to excluding keywords containing brand names.

For example, excluding “ghd.com” from a search for “hair straighteners” will remove any products sold by that brand from your keyword list.

Just be cautious if you’re using this option as it could exclude keywords unnecessarily.

Start with a website

While starting with a few “seed keywords” can help you to generate thousands of more keywords, it’s not the only way to use this tool.

You can also enter a website and let Keyword Planner scrape it for relevant keywords.

start with a website keyword planner

This part of the tool can be particularly useful for PPC users as it will show you traffic figures and other data for your branded keywords, as well as the keywords that Google thinks are relevant to your page or site.

For SEO, if your site already has a lot of content on it, starting with a website can help you to find a lot more keywords to create more content.

As a test just because it sparked our interest, we did a comparison of the keywords generated with the keyword planner vs those in our Google Search Console account.  

So what we did is we put the page – https://www.omologist.com/best-seo-companies/ into Google Keyword Planner and that generated 835 keywords based on the url for the page (not the entire site).

We then went to our Google Search Console account and looked at the queries that had been generated and created an impression in a Google Search for the world and the USA (two lists).  

If you want some help on how to do this see our article on how to use Google Search Console.

The results for the world generated 1000 keywords and the results for the USA generated 573 keywords.

Next we wanted to see how many matched and the result, despite the sizes of each list was smaller than we thought.  

Of the keywords typed into Google around the world that generated an impression in Google search on 86 words matched or 9%.

Of the keywords typed into Google search in the USA that resulted in that URL appearing in a SERP the number was a little higher at 12% or 71 keywords.

Match keyword planner to google search console

Hopefully that generates some thoughts about the data being presented. 

There are lots of ideas in your GSC account that you can use for PPC that even the keyword planner might not be identifying. 

Food for thought.

Finding your competitors’ keywords

However, where this part of Keyword Planner can really come in useful is for finding keywords from other websites.

This can be a great way to come up with new keywords for SEO if you’ve exhausted the seed keyword method.

This method works best with individual web pages rather than root domains.

If a competitor is ranking well for search terms you’re targeting, try entering their URL and see if you can find some other keywords to go after.

Exploring the keywords results page

OK, so let’s go back to the results page and explore the features here in greater detail.

There’s some really useful information on this page, apart from the list of keywords itself, so it’s worth taking some time to really understand how to sort, filter, and refine the list.

exploring the keywords results page

Adjusting search parameters

Right at the top of the page, you’ll see the settings you chose when entering your seed keywords, including location and language, as well as some additional settings for “search networks” and time period.

By adjusting these, you can see in real time how it affects the list of generated keywords, and experiment to come up with the most useful keywords for you.

Location

We’ve already talked about location, but you can get a better idea of how it affects your keyword list by making changes to it on this screen.

The default is set to your country, and if you click on it, it will come up with a map that allows you to choose areas right down to specific cities.

keyword planner location

There’s also useful information on this screen in the form of “keyword reach.”

This shows you an estimation of the Google users in each area, or how many people you could potentially target.

Location is particularly important for local SEO.

For example, if you’re finding keywords for a plumber in Seattle, there’s no point in generating keywords for the whole of the USA.

This is also very important when you’re bidding on keywords for Google Ads.

And, in some cases, you may be able to bid much lower and be up against less competition if you target a keyword in a certain area.

Try experimenting with changing to different areas and see how it affects the keyword data.

Search networks

By default, this parameter is set to “Google,” but you can change it to “Google and search partners.”

While using “Google” alone will only give you data from Google search, Maps, Shopping, and other Google sites, the other option will also give you data from sources including YouTube, Amazon, The New York Times, The Guardian, W3Schools, and sites using Google custom search engine.

So which option should you use?

The answer isn’t definitive.

But including search partners will certainly give you more keywords and search data.

It’s worth experimenting by switching between the two to get a feel for how it affects your keyword list.

If you’re running Google Ads, it’s possible that using keywords from partners may lower your conversion rate, depending on your particular market.

So, make sure to take note of the results and keep a close eye on your campaigns.

Date Range

Finally, you can adjust the date range of the keyword data returned.

By default, this is set to the last 12 months, but if you’re targeting keywords for a new product or trending topic, you’ll probably want to reduce this date range.

Google Ads Keyword planner date range

If you’re not sure of what time period to set, you can analyze this data on a keyword level in the “get search volume and forecasts” half of the tool. More on this later.

Suggested additional keywords

The first thing you’ll see under the search field is some additional keywords that Google suggests for you to “broaden your search.”

This can help to expand your keyword list.

For example, I could add “fashion boots” from the list and run the search again.

Adding filters

Adding filters will do the opposite to broadening your search.

It will cut down your keyword list.

This can be particularly helpful if you’re faced with thousands of keywords and you don’t want to renew them all one by one.

Adding a filter can help to eliminate non-useful keywords from your list.

The available filters are as follows:

Exclude adult ideas

This is pretty self-explanatory and is on by default.

However, if you’re working in an industry that requires NSFW keywords, you’ll want to turn this filter off.

Keyword text

This enables you to exclude particular keywords from your list or, alternatively, choose to only include keywords with that keyword to create a very specific list.

For example, if you’re generating keywords for a site that sells only women’s footwear, you might want to exclude “men” from your keyword list.

Alternatively, you could opt to include the keyword “lace up” to get a shorter and more specific keyword list.

This can be helpful when you’re finding keywords for a particular page on your site.

example from google ad keyword planner

Competition

With the competition filter, you can choose to see keywords based on their level of advertiser competition.

If you’re creating a Google Ads campaign on a limited budget, you’ll probably want to set this to “low.”

Alternatively, if you’re creating a content site to generate money from advertising and using the tool for SEO, setting this to “high” can help you to generate keywords that will trigger a lot of relevant display ads.

Ad impression share

There’s no need to use this option if you’re finding keywords because there won’t be any data to filter.

If you’re using the Keyword Planner for your own Google Ad campaigns, this will help you to find and sort your keywords based on your ad impression share (the percentage of times your ad is shown for this particular keyword).

Top of page bid (low range & high range)

Again, these filters are designed for users running PPC campaigns.

This is the bid that you’ll need to set to have a decent chance of your ad being shown at the top of the first page of the search results.

This is based on historical data of what advertisers have actually paid for these keywords, so there’ll be more of a difference in the “low range” and “high range” for seasonal keywords.

example from google ad keyword planner

For example, the keyword “outdoor Christmas lights” has a low range top of page bid of $0.41 and a high range of $1.99, showing you the difference in successful keyword bid prices as demand changes throughout the year.

Don’t let this terminology confuse you with low value or high value.  Google use the specific term “high range” and “low range”, (not value).

The high and low range show what others have bid for as a range.  Learn more here.

Exclude keywords in my account/plan

These filters are purely for Google Ads users and will enable you to filter out keywords that you’re already using in a particular campaign or in any of your campaigns.

Competition (indexed value)

Competition can provide valuable insights. 

We consider it more of a conversion indicator as it has high competition because advertisers have already determined it “works” or converts.

Why would a PPC expert waste money on a keyword that does not convert, even if it has low competition?

In the list of keywords, you’ll see that each of them is assigned a competition level of “low,” “high,” or “medium.”

However, you can be more specific about finding keywords of a particular level of competition by filtering out keywords either below or above a number between 0 and 100 (with 100 being the highest level of competition).

If a keyword has a high competition score then it will usually mean that it is a core keyword at generating converting traffic while a low competition keyword, while an opportunity, may tell you that it may not convert as well based on the intent of the searcher.

So when considering keyword and competition, consider what you conversion rate is and if at the cost of the keyword can you make a profit based on your conversion rate.  

If you’re doing SEO then this score can provide a lot of value as it can flag a keyword to target for quality traffic.  Yes it will be harder to rank for that keyword but its quality conversions you after in PPC and SEO.

Conversions from Google Ads

Let’s look at an example as we have seen some people get confused with profitability of a keyword when it is just a function of your conversion rate, not the level of competition for the click on a keyword. 

Above we have taken the keyword “mens lace up boots” which had a low rate of $0.59 and a high rate of $1.82 and the competition index is 100. 

In the table above we created a theoretical product which costs $50 to buy wholesale and sells for $100.

So the variables in this example that change are ONLY the conversion rate. Competition index is 100 and does not change.

From the example, we would only lose money if the conversion rate is 1%, while at every other can make money but it depends on the rate we pay and our conversion rate.

The competition index only helps us to understand the relative competition on a keyword and does not impact the level of profitability.

Use the competition index to find keywords that will bring higher volume “conversion opportunities”.  If competition is high then it means others have already worked out that they convert well.

Organic impression share & Organic average position

This filter helps you to find keywords that your site is already ranking for (or not ranking for) based on how often your site appears in the organic search results (impression share) and the average position of your site in the SERPs.

You’ll need to link your Google Search Console account to your Google Ads account to access this data.

Organizing your keyword data

Once you’ve gone through all the filters, you’ll see that several of the available options correspond to columns in the table of keywords.

organizing your keyword data with keyword planner

You can click on any of these columns to sort the data in ascending or descending order, drag the column dividers to make them wider or narrower, and you can also change which columns are displayed by clicking the “Columns” icon on the far right.

For example, you might want to remove the “Ad impression share” column if you’re using the data for SEO only, and you might want to add a column for “organic average position.”

On this page, you can also drag and drop the columns to reorder them and save your setup for use with future keyword searches.

columns for keyword planner

One thing to note is the “Average monthly searches” are displayed as a general range rather than a specific figure.

Google used to display an actual figure for estimated monthly searches, but they have since restricted this to only users running Google Ads campaigns.

average monthly searches keyword planner

There’s some debate over how useful or accurate the specific figures for monthly searches actually are, but if you do want this information, there are a couple of little tricks to getting it without having to pay for an ad campaign.

You can see the search volume for your keywords by uploading them to the “forecasts” part of the tool.

You will then be able to see the “impressions” as part of your keyword data, and you can get a decent idea of search volume from this as explained in section 3 below.

Make sure that your keywords are set to “exact match” to get accurate data when you do this.

impressions example from google ad keyword planner

Grouping keywords

By default, your keywords will be shown as one big list, but you can also opt to automatically sort them into groups of related keywords.

This can be very useful if you’re planning content for a large group of keywords, as it can help you to split your keywords into specific pages or to structure a single article into different sections.

You’ll find this option in the menu on the left.

grouped ideas example from google ad keyword planner

For example, you can see here that the “leather boots” keywords have been grouped into several sections, such as “lace up women’s boots,” “brown Chelsea boots,” and “flat ankle boots.”

group keywords keyword planner

If you click on any of these groups, you can expand the list to see all the keywords.

example from google ad keyword planner

Exporting and saving your keywords

Once you’ve filtered and sorted your keywords to your liking, you can save your keyword list and export it to your computer for further processing.

To do this, click the checkbox of the keywords or the keyword groups you want to include in your list.

You can also batch-select all the keywords by clicking the checkbox next to the keyword column header.

When you do this, a blue bar with some more options will appear at the top of your keyword list.

keyword planner

From here, you can choose to add the keywords to your plan or a specific Google Ad campaign, select or create an ad group to add the keywords to, and select “broad match,” “phrase match,” or “exact match.”

This last option is important for PPC users because it will affect how your ad is triggered for searches:

  • Broad match will show your ad for any queries that contain your search term words in any order. For example, “patent leather black boots” but not “plastic boots.”
  • Phrase match will show your ad for queries containing your keywords only when the words are in the exact order. For example, “pink leather boots” but not “boots made of leather.”
  • Exact match will show your ad only for the exact match keyword. For example, “leather boots” but not “cheap leather boots.”

Remember, if you want to export your keywords to use in the “Search volume and forecasts” section of the tool for SEO purposes, you’ll need to use “exact match” to get accurate search volume estimations.

You can then click “Add keywords” to add these keywords to your plan, copy the keywords to your clipboard to paste into a text document on your computer.

If you click “More,” you can also opt to add them to your plan as “Negative keywords” as either broad, phrase, or exact match.

This means that your ads should not be shown for any searches containing these terms.

See our guide to managing a negative keyword list for more information about this.

If you don’t plan to run a Google Ads campaign and just want to save your keyword list, click the “Download Keyword Ideas” button at the top right.

download keyword ideas

This will download not only your keywords but also all the relevant search data in .csv format.

Get search volume and forecasts

You now know how to use the Keyword Planner to generate keywords and get some useful data about these keywords.

But there’s even more information in the other half of the tool.

If you already have a list of keywords, you can click right on “Get search volume and forecasts” when you go into Keyword Planner or you can use the list of keywords you just saved.

You can also upload keyword lists from other keyword tools.

Just paste the keywords into the box comma-separated, or with one keyword per line, or you can upload the .csv file of keywords that you saved from your initial keyword research.

get search volume and forecasts

Once you’ve pasted in or uploaded your keywords, hit the “Get Started” button.

From here, you’ll be taken to the “Plan overview” page, where Google will predict how much you can expect to pay for a Google Ads campaign using these keywords, how many clicks and impressions it will cost, and other useful information, including changes in traffic over time and the location and devices of users searching for these terms.

keyword planner analysis

If you click on “Keywords” in the menu, this will bring up a table of keyword data similar to what you saw when you were finding new keywords.

example from google ad planner

Just as before, you can sort and adjust these columns to meet your needs.

Most of this information is useful for only users running Google Ads campaigns.

However, with a little tweaking, you can adjust the “impressions” column so it gives you a reasonable estimate of the total search volume for each keyword.

Click the drop-down above the forecast information and set the CPC as high as possible by clicking on the right side of the graph.

This will ensure the monthly “impressions” are almost the same as the monthly search volume.

keyword planner analysis

Getting detailed information about single keywords

The Keyword Planner “plan overview” can give you some really useful information about specific keywords.

For starters, Google used to display a graph showing search volume trends over time for each keyword in the table.

They don’t do that anymore, but you can see it for a single keyword by adding it to a new plan or entering it in the search volume and forecasts tool.

This graph shows you not only how traffic (impressions) changes over time but also clicks, cost, CTR, and average CPC.

single keyword analysis keyword planner

You can also see the top countries and areas that are searching for the keyword. In this example of “bento delivery,” people in Singapore make up 96% of the searchers.

So unless you’re setting up a website in Singapore, this is probably not a great keyword to target, even if its numbers look good.

keyword planner locations

Collaborating with others

If you’re looking for keywords for SEO on your own project, then you already know all you need to about Keyword Planner.

However, if you’re working with others, Google offers the opportunity to share your keyword plan with other members of your team.

When you’ve opened a keyword plan, navigate to the menu on the top right.

From here, you can download the forecast and historical metrics data as a .csv, or share your plan via a link.

To do this, just click “Edit sharing” and turn sharing to “on.”

You’ll then get a link to share with others so they can view all the keyword data right in Keyword Planner without giving them access to your account.

Conclusion

The keyword planner provides some great insights and ata that can be used both for PPC and SEO.

But what do you think?  How do you use the keyword planner?

It would be great to see your ideas and thoughts.  

Please leave a comment below in the comment section.