In this post and video, I share tips on how to do PPC keyword research using Google’s Keyword Planner tool and understanding how to navigate its many filters and features. If you’re keen to the old AdWords Keyword Planner, you’ll be glad to know that the new platform has been updated with similar functionality, notably the ability to show only “Closely related ideas” as the primary filter.
Without getting too deep into the weeds on how to use the Keyword Planner, I encourage you to check out the video below. This “how-to” video is part of my free Google Ads course if you’re interested in furthering your knowledge with Google Ads. For a summary of the video, you can also see the Google Keyword Planner tips outlined below.
10 PPC Keyword Research Tips using the Google Keyword Planner Tool
To read a quick digest of the video above, here’s a distilled breakdown of my top ten tips on how to do PPC keyword research use the Google Keyword Planner.
1. Use an Active Account for Keyword Research
An inactive account that does NOT have billing information implemented will not be able to access exact search volume data. When using the Keyword Planner, you’ll want to make sure you’re using an active account that has billing info established. Your campaigns can still be paused, but essentially you need to display that your spending money with Google to get accurate, useful numbers under the “Avg. monthly searches” column.
2. “Find new keywords” vs “Get search volume and forecasts”
Opting to “Get search volume and forecasts” is typically best when you already know which keywords you’re interested in targeting with Google Ads. Here you can calculate future performance based on your keywords, anticipated Max. CPC, and projected CTR. Although these numbers are purely forecasts, this data does offer great insight into what you can expect with your bids set a specific Max. CPCs. This feature also makes is possible to build new ad groups and migrate your data to a new Google Ads campaign.
Conversely, the option to “Find new keywords” will likely be your primary go-to for PPC keyword research. Here you can discover new keywords, scope-out search trends and seasonality, and pinpoint relevant queries worth bidding on. While getting “search volume and forecasts” can fulfill curiosity or special requests to pull forecast data, 90% of the time you’ll probably be using the option on the left to “find new keywords” when using the Keyword Planner.
3. Forecast Impression Share + Future Performance
By using the option on the right to “Get search volume and forecasts,” you see the potential impression share of the keywords you’re interested in targeting. You can adjust these forecasts based on your anticipated Max. CPC as well as based on using specific match types, such as exact match versus broad match.
Again, this option is useful if you already have a clear idea of the keywords you’re going to target. I find this feature of the Google Keyword Planner to be useful in estimating a sufficient daily and monthly budget for each campaign.
4. Try Using URLs When Finding New Keywords
One under-utilized feature when using the Keyword Planner is exploring data by URL. In addition to Google Ads keyword research, this feature is particularly useful when doing keyword research for SEO.
By selecting to see a URL’s keyword data based on “This page only,” you can explore various search terms in which a page is relevant for. Based on the example in the video, we discover that the page above (primarily relevant for “gravel bike”) is also relevant for “cyclocross bike” – a highly related keyword that we’ll definitely want to consider bidding on with Google Ads (and maybe even target with organic SEO). We can also use the URL of said competitor with a related keyword “gravel bike” to further distill the results (as shown in the figure above).
5. Organize + Submit Keywords with High Semantic Relevance
One of the best tips I can give on how to do PPC keyword research with the Keyword Planner Tool is to submit keywords that have high semantic relevance. In other words, determine a core theme when implementing search terms into the tool (i.e. “gravel bike”) but include a number of relevant long-tails (i.e. “titanium gravel bike” or “650b gravel bike”). This way, you can see more precise findings and data (i.e. 100-200 keyword ideas) as opposed to 1k+ keyword ideas of several generic terms that don’t quite align.
When doing keyword research and using the Keyword Planner, think in terms of each individual ad group. For SEO, this could mean each individual page and what potential terms you might be optimizing for that given page. The more precise and relevant your keyword groupings, the greater the likelihood that you’ll pinpoint optimal keyword targets all while using the Keyword Planner more efficiently.
6. Leverage the “Closely related ideas” Filter More Times Often Than Not
One of the most powerful features to leverage when using the Google Keyword Planner is the filter to show only “Closely related ideas” related to your search terms.
Dovetailing on the previous tip, let’s say your core keyword theme for a given submission is “gravel bike,” in addition to several long-tails that also contain the words “gravel” and “bike.” By selecting this filter, you will only be shown keyword ideas that reflect your core keyword theme, or contain those two words. In essence, the combination of tip 5 (above) and 6 here within will enable you to use the Keyword Planner in an effective manner. This does of course require you to have some degree of understanding as to which keywords you’re aiming to target.
7. Filter Data by “Keyword text”
Another filtering option that’s effective in distilling your search data down to the most relevant keywords is the “Keyword text” filter. While there are a number of filters that you can use with the Keyword Planner, “Keyword text” will ensure that the keyword ideas shown contain (or do not contain) specific words you wish to filter.
In the example above and in the video, we come across several unwanted keyword ideas that contain “bags,” “gear” and related accessories associated with “bikepacking.” We can distill our findings by adding a keyword text filter to not contain these words.
8. Organize Data into Ad Groups + “Add to plan”
Once you’ve distilled down your keyword data into manageable findings (i.e. 50-200 keyword ideas) and you’ve gone through the process of selecting your target search terms, you can then add these keywords into a new ad group.
When doing this, be mindful of the match type you have selected. I recommend choosing Phrase or Exact match when adding keywords to an ad group. (You can later modify this to include other match types.) Lastly, be sure to click “Add to plan” when you’ve named your new ad group so that your data is saved and you can continue your keyword research efforts.
9. Take Notes on Negative Keywords
In addition to finding new keywords worth bidding on, one unconventional tip on doing PPC keyword research is to also pinpoint negative keywords or unwanted queries. In the video (and related to the previous tip about “Keyword text” filters), when research keywords around “bikepacking (bikes),” I come across a lot of unwanted search terms like “bikepacking bags,” “bikepacking gear,” “bikepacking tents,” etc.
While the Google Keyword Planner does enable you to add keywords as negatives, this feature is limited to adding the entire phrase (in either Exact or Phrase match form) as a negative. This works, but I’ve found my process to be more efficient. That is, jotting notes as which variations I will later add manually to the corresponding ad group as a negatives.
For instance, I’ll make list on the side and add unwanted variations like “bags, tents, gear,” etc. instead of the full phrase “bikepacking bags” or “bikepacking tent.” This way, when I do add these keywords as negatives, any and all queries that contain “bags” (i.e. “best bikepacking touring bags for wet weather”) will not cause my ads to trigger. This wouldn’t always be the case if I added “bikepacking bags” as a Phrase match negative.
10. Download Your Data or Create a New Campaign
After you’ve created a sufficient number of ad groups, or exhausted your keyword research efforts, now it’s time to put your data to use. In the left column, use the options to see “Plan overview” or “Ad groups” (as shown in the figure below) to download your data into a spreadsheet or create a new campaign.
If you’re like me and you prefer to use a combination of match types in your ad groups, then it might make sense to download your data into a spreadsheet (as opposed to creating a new campaign from the Google Keyword Planner tool.) Going this route will require you to build your campaigns and ad groups manually, but it will give you greater control over the entire process and how you want to set up your keyword bids and match type combinations.
If you like this post on how to do PPC keyword research, check out these Google Ads tips and tricks for continued education. Or for more information, hit us up for PPC training or freelance consulting.