How to get keyword research data from the Google Ads Keyword Planner

The best way to get data about keywords is from the Google Ads Keyword Planner- if you have access to it.

Why should you get keyword data from the Keyword Planner?

I think one of the most important parts of keyword research is collecting data for keywords. This helps you know what phrases other people are actually searching for vs. what you think they might search for.

Of all the ways to collect data (from free to third-party paid tools) my favorite is the Keyword Planner because:

  • The data is straight from Google. Since Google has such a dominant market share, we should pay attention to what its users are searching for.
  • There is more than one piece of data to use. Sure, you can get data straight from Google using Google Trends, but that’ only gives you one number. I like seeing multiple pieces of data from Google and comparing them to help me pick the best keywords. The data in the Keyword Planner also hints at what keywords are likely to convert- and not just send more traffic to my site. What good is traffic, after all, if those visitors don’t become customers?
  • The Keyword Planner allows me to search for many words at once, making this process faster and easier.

Unfortunately, if you do not have an active Google Ads campaign you might not have access to this tool. Instead, you might need to use the Google Trends tool for collecting keyword data.

What should you expect from the Keyword Planner data?

After using the Keyword Planner to get data for each keyword, you’ll know what phrases you should focus on. From this information you can choose the phrases for which you’ll optimize each page. This allows each page to have a common topical focus that not only helps your SEO- but is clear for users of your site.

That being said, there are some limitations with this data:

  1. These are estimates, not exact.
  2. These figures are best used in comparison with other terms rather than predicting results. That’s how we’re going to use them.

Get Keyword Research Data from the Google Ads Keyword Planner

Before you start to gather data, you need to start the basic keyword research process by creating a clarified brainstorm list of keywords. After that, you should use the Keyword Planner to find out which phrase people actually use when searching for companies like yours.

  1. Data Collection. Once you have a long list of possible keywords, you need to understand which of these phrases your potential customers might use. To do that you’ll need to login to AdWords and use their Keyword Planner. Click on “Get search volume and forecasts” and enter your list of brainstormed keywords into the provided field and press the “Get Started” button. Note: if your list is very long, you can also upload a file. You are taken to a table of data. Click the download icon (to the right of “Create Campaign”). Choose “Plan historical metrics (.csv)”. You might be tempted to use “forecasts” here- but I don’t recommend it.
  2. Parse the data. Open your new spreadsheet up and see all the data! The data we’re interested in is:
    1. Avg. monthly searches. This is a very rough estimate of the number of people searching Google LAST MONTH for this phrase. Better number, calculate the average search volumes over the last year (provided to your right). Even if you are #1 for this phrase for every search, you’ll probably never get this many visits- because this is searches not visits and not everyone who searches for this phrase is interested in what you have to offer.
    2. Competition (indexed value). This is an estimate, between 0 and 100, of how many other people are competing for that traffic. You might think of this as a percentage of people who think that these searches are relevant to their business. For purposes of calculations (see “Opportunity” below) I divide this number by 100.
    3. Top of page bid (high range). This is what Google suggests you might have to pay for a click that rests at the top of the paid search results. Obviously Google is interested in inflating this, so they can make more money, but it is another way to gage how valuable people think a visit from this phrase might be- so valuable that they might be willing to spend $X per click.
    4. If you multiply these three numbers together, you’ll get a new number. Let’s call this “Opportunity” for each keyword phrase. This can show us phrases that get a lot of searches, but people don’t think are valuable. It can also help us see phrases that might appear to be less valuable that are actually more. You can calculate your opportunity for each phrase using this excel formula:


      But pay attention to the following when you copy/paste this into your spreadsheet:
      1. This assumes you’ve gotten the “Plan historical metrics” from Google Ads.
      2. This assumes certain locations on the spreadsheet. Make sure you’ve deleted several rows and columns from the sheet Google gave you including:
        1. Rows 4 and 5 because these are just summary rows.
        2. Columns B and C because this isn’t relevant.
      3. Paste this in the column with a header of “Ad Impression Share”, immediately below that field. Copy down as far as you have data. I recommend you rename the “Ad Impression Share” field to “Opportunity”.
      4. Google might change the format of the report (without notice). If this has changed, tell me by making a comment below and I’ll update this formula.
  3. Sort these phrases by “Opportunity” to find phrases for which you should probably optimize your pages. There are a couple caveats to this:
    1. Some phrases might have searches and competition but no top of page suggestion- you might consider these phrases, too, but not to the extent of phrases that have bid suggestions
    2. Sometimes modifying a keyword with a geography will return a phrase with zero opportunity. That doesn’t mean there’s no opportunity with that phrase. It might be too small to register. If you find this to be the case, remove geographies from your keywords and run the data again. You can assume that data for each keyword without geography will help you identify which are most popular within that geography. You can also use “near me” to do this.

Now you know which phrases you should focus upon for a particular topic. You’re not guessing. You’re using the data to tell you what phrases people are more likely to search for.

An Example

As you compare the Opportunity values you learn:

KeywordAvg. Monthly Searches (calculated)CompetitionTop of page bidOpportunity
blue fish2710010 (/100=.1)0.832,249.3
red fish2220020 (/100=.2)0.632,797.2
two fish100010 (/100=.1)00
one fish88090 (/100=.9)1.06839.52
  1. More people search for “blue fish” than “red fish”, and are even more willing to pay more for each click, but since slightly more people are competing for the phrase “red fish”, it turns out that “red fish” is a better opportunity than “blue fish”.
  2. More people are searching for “two fish” than “one fish” but no one is willing to pay for a click from “two fish”. That’s why “one fish” is a better opportunity than “two fish.”

This is a silly (one might say Seussical) example. Your keywords will have better data. The point is: just because a lot of people are searching for a phrase, doesn’t make it a good opportunity. Also- sometimes the opportunities exist from phrases for which less people are searching.

Have a question about this process? Ask it here:

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