Using Google Keyword Planner for SEO Research

Written by: Jason Bayless | January 05, 2015

Google Keyword Planner is a part of Google AdWords designed to give advertisers a precise understanding of the monetary value of certain keywords. While it’s meant for planning ad campaigns, it works just as well for doing SEO research because content providers are simply working on the opposite side of the equation when it comes to cost per click. In other words, advertisers are paying the going rate for targeted ads, and content providers are selling ad space on their websites.

Both groups of people need to know exactly how much a click on an ad is worth so they can plan their blog content or advertising strategies, and Google bases this information on the popularity of keywords and the competition between advertisers. SEO researchers benefit from this data by knowing exactly what content to publish on their blogs, how-to websites and other informational pages. The way it works is pretty straightforward, but because there are a lot of options, it can take a little time to get oriented.

Logging Into Google AdWords and Choosing a Plan

Keyword Planner used to be called Google Keyword Tool, and at the time, you could access it without an AdWords account and view a simplified list of results. The new tool is more sophisticated and designed for AdWords campaigns, so you must create a Google account and sign in to AdWords to access the tool. When you do, you’ll be presented with four options that each give you different information.

The first option lets you research keywords by entering basic terms in a search box and letting Google tell you what people are searching for within a broad category. For example, if you enter “Computer Memory” in the search box, the search results will list keywords like “Buy Computer Memory,” “Best Computer Memory,” “Laptop Computer Memory” and so on. You will be able to see the popularity and competition of the keywords so that you can get an idea of the content you want to publish.

However, bear in mind that the competition for keywords refers to the competition between advertisers, not between content providers. In other words, a high level of competition means that a lot of people are spending money on products related to your keyword and, therefore, that advertisers are buying ads to sell these products. The cost per click for a keyword, multiplied by the number of impressions, can give you an idea of how much advertisers are willing to spend on marketing within a niche.

Interpreting Keyword Planner Results

One of the most important bits of information for SEO researchers is the trend of a keyword over the last 12 months. When you hover over the competition value, it displays a graphical chart with competition numbers for the past year. You should only target a niche that is on an upward trend or staying level; niches trending downward aren’t worth an investment in time because they won’t be making money by the time your content draws traffic to your website.

The search volume and traffic estimates options give you basically the same information: how many people are likely to be searching for a particular keyword. Not only do you get results for the exact keywords you enter, but you can see results for approximate matches, related words, misspellings, matches throughout an entire category and so on.

If your site publishes general content, you should pay attention to the broad search results, and if you target a specific niche, you should look at exact matches. However, don’t limit your results too much by searching only for exact matches within a narrow scope. You could be missing out on valuable traffic that you hadn’t thought of.

With a little practice, the Keyword Planner can tell you exactly what you need to know for publishing targeted content. If you know how to interpret the results, it can also tell you just about how much you’re likely to earn from your content.