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Doing keyword research the right way using google keyword planner

Countless people have seen their spends on SEO or Google Adwords go up in smoke because they didn’t know how to get to the right keywords using Google keyword planner. If you’re one of them or if you intend to avoid their mistakes then you’re in the right place!

What are keywords?

Keywords are the search terms that people use when searching on Google or any other search engine. E.g. If you’re searching for a brand of shoes called Spikey shoes (Not a parody of a popular brand!) then terms like ‘Buy Spikey shoes online’, ‘Spikey shoes online’ or ‘Shop for Spikey shoes’ become keywords. You may have noticed as you start typing on Google that it gives you certain suggestions. Typically people pick from one of these suggestions. This helps search engines group the searches under different keywords. Otherwise there would be as many keywords as there are no of searches! That would make it very difficult for search engines to catalogue them and for marketers to target people looking for specific things.

Why keyword research is important?

  1. It all starts with keywords

    The starting point of any SEO activity or AdWords campaign is keywords. In case of SEO, you need to rank for certain keywords and hence need to structure your content around them. In case of AdWords, you need the right set of keywords to run an effective ad campaign that delivers good return on investment.

  2. You don’t want to be wrong at the start

    You don’t want to start off with the wrong set of keywords for either SEO or AdWords, especially in case of the former. SEO as you may know it is a long term game. A lot of effort goes into making and sharing content and the results are only visible over a period of 6 to 8 months. So imagine if you were to select the wrong keywords, only to realise half a year down the line that those were the wrong ones! You’d feel like kicking yourself! In the case of AdWords, every click costs you money. So bidding on the wrong keywords wastes you money. When you’re trying to maximise ROI, that can hurt a lot!

  3. Keywords define your long term strategy

    Whatever business you’re in, the basic keywords (aka seed keywords) for your line are not going to change. Sure you may discover new variations of keywords as you go along. Some keywords may not work out for you and you may decide to drop them. But provided you’ve selected the right keywords to start with they won’t change drastically over long periods of time. These keywords become key to generating revenues for your business in the long term and hence it’s important to get them right the first time.

How does one access keywords? Through Google keyword planner!

Signing up for a free Adwords account

For the sake of this article, let’s only consider Google. The search queries which are generated on Google are accessible through Google keyword planner. You need to have a free google Adwords account. So sign up for one by going to http://adwords.google.com. Once you do that, look under tools >> keyword planner to bring it up.

Once you sign up for an AdWords account, there are two ways of getting keywords. You can either hunt for new keyword ideas or get volume for a bunch of keywords you have in mind. Let’s look at both of them.

Getting new keyword ideas

This where you start off if you’re totally new to keyword research and don’t have a clue about what kind of keywords are relevant to your business. Here’s how you go about getting new keyword ideas.


Entering the right search parameters

Entering the search terms

Once you’ve fired up the keyword planner, look under “Search for new keywords and ad group ideas”. The text you enter into the “Your product or service” box are basically your keywords. At this stage you have no idea what the relevant keywords for your product are going to be. So you need Google to suggest to you the right ones. Start off by entering what you think are the keywords for your product. E.g. If you’re selling Spikey shoes, enter ‘Nike shoes’.

It’s important to note here that keyword planner isn’t as intuitive as it should be and you’ll have to try different permutations and combinations of search terms to cover all possible bases. E.g. You may have to try ‘Spikey shoes’,’Buy Spikey shoes online’,’Latest Spikey shoes’ etc for keyword planner to provide you with all the relevant keywords for your business.

Importance of entering a landing page URL

To help Google suggest keywords to you as accurately as possible, put in the url of your website. Or better still, put in the url of one of your competitors who turn up naturally when you search for their products. This will help Google scrape their site for relevant keywords and present it to you.

Importance of selecting a region

Suppose you’re selling your product only in Mumbai, India. It won’t make sense to see the traffic from the entire world or even from the whole of India. If you do run a campaign targeting people outside of Mumbai then people will visit your site but won’t be able to purchase from it. That will be counter-productive. The keyword planner tool gives you the option to select your region down to the city level. So make sure you select only the regions that are relevant for you.

Negative keywords – keep these at the back of your mind

These are keywords which you need to keep out of your campaign. E.g. free, jobs, review etc. Imagine if someone were searching for ‘free Spikey shoes online’. Or even ‘Spikey shoes reviews’. Would you like them to click your ads & waste your ad budget knowing that they aren’t really interesting in buying anything? Of course not! So you need to keep people like these away from your ad campaigns.

Lists of negative keywords for various industries are freely available on the internet. Just Google them up for your industry and add them to your campaign. Of course, you don’t need to do this right now as you’re just doing keyword research, not running an actual campaign. Just keep this thing about negative keywords at the back of your mind.

Other options

When you’re searching for new keyword ideas, you can specify whether you want to be shown keywords closely or broadly related to your search term. To turn this on, go to keyword options and toggle the “only show ideas closely related” switch. Ideally you won’t want to toggle this switch as it throws up a very narrow set of ideas & defeats the purpose of doing keyword research. There’s a much more elaborate way of doing this when you’re searching for a volume for a particular group of keywords. We’ll come to this later.


You can optionally enter the parameters for the other boxes. E.g. Language. Default is English so if you’re looking for a language other than that then do go ahead and change it. Otherwise just let it be. Similarly you don’t need to touch any of the other options like ‘Date Range’ or ‘Include/Exclude’.

Once you’ve keyed in all the parameters, just hit on ‘Get Ideas’ to get your keyword ideas.

Selecting from the keyword ideas

Once the keyword ideas show up, they’ll be grouped under 2 tabs – Ad group ideas and keyword ideas. Click on the keyword ideas tab.

Under this tab, sort by average monthly searches, from highest to lowest. Add the keywords to your list by clicking on the >> arrows, as per the following criteria:

  1. Decent search volume

    Try to select keywords with at least 500 search volume. Certain niches have very low traffic to start with hence here you can’t avoid selecting keywords with say 10 or 20 monthly searches. But for niches with plentiful volume, try to remain above the 500 volume criteria.

  2. Low or medium competition

    As much as possible, select keywords with low or medium competition. Unless there are keywords you HAVE TO go for with high competition or your niche has high competition keywords in general.

  3. 3 or more word keywords

    These are called long tail keywords and the reason to prefer them is they clarify the intent of the person searching. E.g. If someone types in ‘Buy Spikey shoes online’, their intentions are very clear. They’re looking to buy Spikey shoes online! On the other hand, someone just typing in ‘Spikey shoes’ may just be doing research or window shopping. Another reason to prefer long tail keywords is that the main keywords are very difficult to rank for if you’re doing SEO. There are millions of people already ranking for or trying to rank for them, including wikipedia. It would be suicidal trying to go up against them!

  4. Cost effective

    Look for keywords that aren’t too expensive, especially if you’re doing keyword research for using in an AdWords campaign. In fact here’s when you should take some time to do a quick calculation on return on investment. Let’s say you find keywords that cost between ? 50 and 250 a click. Let’s assume that you’re going to have a 5% conversion rate (for every 100 clicks there will be 5 purchases). So for every purchase you’ll need 20 clicks. If you’re buying them at ? 50, you’ll end up spending ? 1000 per purchase and at the other extreme, at ? 250 a click, it’ll cost you ? 5000.

    Now suppose your items have an average ticket price of ? 3000, you can’t afford to bid for the ? 250 a click keywords. You’ll have to settle for somewhere between ? 50 and ? 150, depending on how much margin can be made after deducing the advertising cost from the sales proceeds.

Getting search volume for a group of keywords

Once you have done some keyword research and have an understanding of the keywords relevant to your business, you can come to this section and enter keywords directly in the box to get the search volume for them. But before you do that, you need to get an understanding of keyword matching options.

Keyword matching options

Keyword matching options determine whether search terms related to your keyword are shown to you and can be used to show ads to your potential customers. Let’s understand with and example. There are five types of keyword matching options.

  1. Broad match

    If you have this selected when you enter ‘Spikey shoes’, you’ll get all sorts of recommendations, both closely and remotely related to it. E.g. ‘Spikey shoes’,’Buy Spikey shoes’ or even ‘Mens shoes’ or ‘Buy Mens shoes’. When doing keyword research its recommended to have this option on as you need to take a look at everything that keyword planner throws at you before zeroing in on your final list of keywords.

  2. Modified broad match

    This is indicated by adding a + sign in front if the keywords & shows only close variations. E.g. If you enter +Spikey +Shoes, you’ll also be shown keywords like ‘shoes by Spikey’

  3. Phrase match

    In this mode, you’re only shown keywords containing the exact phrase that you’ve entered. This mode is indicated by entering the concerned phrase in “double quotes”. E.g. If you’ve entered “Spikey shoes” then you’ll be shown ‘buy Spikey shoes’ or ‘Spikey shoes online’. But not ‘shoes by spikey’. In phrase match the order of keywords inside the double quotes is not changed.

  4. Exact match

    This is indicated by using [square brackets]. Earlier if you entered [Spikey shoes], it used to mean only ‘Spikey shoes’. However, with recent changes in Google’s algorithm, [Spikey shoes] can also mean ‘shoes by Spikey’.

  5. Negative match

    Negative match is indicated by a -negative sign. E.g. If you say ‘Spikey shoes -online’, you’ll get all the variations where the word ‘online’ isn’t present.

Where do people go wrong in using Google keyword planner?

  1. Not selecting the right match types

    Broad match is the best option to choose when doing keyword research. Not selecting it may deprive you of good ideas for your AdWords or SEO campaign.

  2. Not setting the right region

    You need to pick a region, unless you’re in a niche like blogging for which you need global traffic. Google keyword planner gives you estimates for cost, traffic and competition based on the region you select. These estimates may vary widely based on the region you select. So select regions with as much granularity as possible, down to city level if required.

  3. Picking keywords with not enough volume

    The whole point of an SEO exercise or AdWords campaign is to increase the traffic to your website. This goal would be defeated at the very beginning if you select keywords with too little volume. Chances are that many people would be fighting over those keywords and even if you corner a lion’s share of their traffic, it’ll still prove to be too less to justify your effort.

  4. Picking short tail keywords

    If you’re about to embark on a SEO campaign, be warned that it is notoriously difficult to rank for keywords with length below 3 words. Also, it is quite difficult to gauge the intent of a potential customer for the sake of either SEO or AdWords. Hence one must be careful to steer clear of these keywords while doing keyword research with Google keyword planner.

  5. Ignoring the competition

    Low competition keywords are easier to rank for than high or medium ones in case of SEO. Also they’re generally less expensive if you’re looking to run an AdWords campaign. Hence you should always be mindful of competition while doing keyword research with Google keyword planner.

Now that you’ve seen the fundamentals of using google keyword planner, stay tuned for our case study on Cottage rentals in Canada. Also, we’d love to help you with your keyword research, so get in touch with us over here!