How to use the Google Keyword Planner for SEO

As we discussed in our recent blog, How to do keyword research, the Google Keyword Planner is a fantastic free tool to help you analyse which keywords would perform best on your website.

To help you further, we’ve put together a basic guide to using the Google Keyword Planner for keyword research.

Step 1:

Sign up to Google AdWords – you don’t have to use paid ads to access the tool but you will need an AdWords account.

Once your account is set up, choose ‘Keyword Planner’ under the ‘Tools’ option on the main navigation menu at the top of the page. This will take you into the Google Keyword Planner tool’s main screen where you’ll see four different options.

Google Keyword Planner - Options
Google Keyword Planner – four options.

Step 2:

At this stage, we’re going to focus on just two of the options in the Google Keyword Planner. You can either look for data on the keywords you’ve identified from your competitors’ research, Google Analytics, Google Webmaster Tools and customer research or you can use the Google Keyword Planner to give you some new keyword ideas.

Step 3:

If you are looking for new keyword ideas, simply choose the ‘Search for new keyword and ad group ideas’ option. You’ll need to type in your ‘seed’ keyword, i.e. the product, service, industry or even word that best describes your brand; your web address (if you have an existing website); and/or apply a product category to help turn up the most relevant results.

Simply click on the blue ‘Get ideas’ button and see what the Google Keyword Planner suggests. Click the keyword ideas tab to reveal the relevant keyword suggestions.

You can sort the resulting data to look at the potential monthly search volumes for each suggested word or phrase, as well as seeing how competitive the keyword is (i.e. the likelihood of other companies using the same keywords on their websites). Some of the keywords might be relevant to your main web pages but you may also see some great ideas that are related to your products or services and would work well as a blog topic.

If you hover your mouse over the pale blue graph icon next to the Average Monthly Searches column, you can get a quick overview of how the keyword has performed over the past 12 months in terms of search volume, which will give you an idea about whether it is consistently searched for, trending or on the wane in terms of popularity.

Keyword performance overview
Keyword performance overview

Ideally, you are looking for words and phrases with medium to high search volumes and low competition from other companies.

Customise your Google Keyword Planner search

There are various ways you can customise your Google Keyword Planner search.

If your business is dependent on local custom and website traffic, then you might want to narrow down the data provided by the Google Keyword Planner to search volumes in your region. You can do this by specifying a location under the ‘Targeting’ option on the left-hand side of the screen.

You can also filter the results by language, Google/Google and search partners, and ‘negative’ keywords; i.e. keywords that you don’t want associated with your website.

Under the ‘Customise your search’ tools on the left-hand side of the screen, you can also ask the Google Keyword Planner to narrow its data to, for example, low competition keywords or keywords with more than 250 searches per month. You can ask it to include ‘adult’ keywords, exclude certain words, or only show you words that are closely related to your search terms.

It’s worth playing around with the customisation tools to see what data your search delivers within these different parameters.

Step 4:

If you already have a list of potential keywords that you want to evaluate, then you can use the ‘Get search volume for a list of keywords or group them into ad groups’ option in the Google Keyword Planner.

You can list your keywords either one per line or by separating each word or phrase with a comma. Click on ‘Get search volume’ and the Google Keyword Planner will return information about monthly search volumes, competition and trends over the past 12 months. This data can help you make an informed decision about whether to incorporate a specific keyword into your website.

You have the same customisation options within this part of the tool as you do for the Ideas search described in Step 3 above.

You may sometimes need to use a high competition keyword or phrase because it’s the most relevant to your business, but it’s important to be aware that it will be harder to rank highly for this.

A note about the ‘Multiply keyword lists’ option in the Google Keyword Planner

This handy tool gives you a fast way to search for multiple keyword combinations. If, for example, you’re interested in location-focused keywords, you might want to add a list of local towns in list one and the products or services people might search for to find your business in list two. The Google Keyword Planner will then provide search volumes for every possible combination of the keywords on these two lists.

The keyword planner tool for keyword lists is found on the bottom of the page (see Step 1) – the last of the four options in Keyword planner.

‘Multiply keyword lists’ option
The ‘Multiply keyword lists’ option

Step 5:

Having completed these steps using the Google Keyword Planner, you will hopefully have a list of strong keywords with medium to high search volumes and low to medium competition.

As the Google Keyword Planner focuses on data gathered from paid ads, you might want to check its findings using other keyword research tools. Our favourite free tools include:

  • Keyword Eye – this brilliant tool provides a visual breakdown of the best keywords
  • SEO Book – explore more keywords with this handy little tool 
  • Keyword Spy – sign up for a lifetime free trial for basic information about the keywords your competitors are targeting in ads and organic searches
  • SEMRush – A great place to begin your competitors’ research

Of course, we can also carry out comprehensive keyword research on your behalf at SEO+, which could save you valuable time to focus on other areas of your business.

Have you used the Google Keyword Planner tool? How easy did you find it to use? Did you felt like you understood the data? I’d love to know what you think so, please leave your comments and questions below. And if you’ve found this blog useful, please share on your social circles – thank you.

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