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Google Keyword Planner: How to Use Google’s Keyword Planning Tool?

Published on 4 October 2022 - Updated on 24 July 2023

By Andréa Bensaïd

Founder of Eskimoz. I support companies of all sizes in their digital acquisition strategy.

Are you hoping to generate more traffic from Google? Then the first thing you need to do is identify the terms Internet users are likely to type into the search bar when looking for information about your activity, your products/services, or your brand. These terms will allow you to enrich and optimize your PPC (Pay Per Click) campaigns as well as your search engine optimization (SEO) strategies. The good news is that Google provides an effective and convenient tool for webmasters and marketing professionals, specifically designed to help you find keywords and analyze the ones you’re already using for your campaigns: Google Keyword Planner. What is Google Planner? How does it work? And how can you use it to plan out all the keywords for your content? Here’s everything you need to know!

What Is Google Keyword Planner?

Google Keyword Planner is the free keyword planning tool associated with Google Ads advertising. The reason it exists is to allow website managers, SEO and SEA experts, or anyone else who might need it, to know what Internet users type into the search bar when they go looking for specific information on Google. For example, you could learn whether they search for “vehicle insurance”, or rather “car insurance”, or even “cheapest car insurance” when they wish to strengthen their understanding of this particular topic.

The keyword planning tool that is Google Keyword Planner has two main frames of action:

  • Google Ads marketing campaigns, where it can help you target the keywords best suited to your audiences and maximum budget, thus improving the efficiency and profitability of Pay Per Click or Pay Per Impression campaigns.
  • Search Engine Optimization, where it helps optimize your content by selecting the most relevant search terms to emphasize in order to achieve better rankings in Google’s search result page from a pre-established list, or using the suggestions provided by the tool.

All in all, the information contained in Google Keyword Planner is there to help you identify the best expressions to use when looking to build a new visibility strategy on Google, or to update an existing one. This can be done either by taking the planner tool’s keyword suggestions as a starting point, or by analyzing the terms that you are already using (in SEO or in SEA) to assess their relevance and effectiveness.

Of course, Google Keyword Planner is far from being the only tool that will provide you with this type of information. It does, in fact, come with a few limitations that make it less relevant than other platforms from the perspective of SEO experts. For instance, Google doesn’t reveal exact keyword search volumes to users without an ongoing Google Ads campaign (expressing the metric in the form of a range instead, which remains very vague). With that said, its benefits far outweigh its downsides and make it an absolute staple:

  • Ease of use, which makes Google Keyword Planner the ideal marketing lever for beginners.
  • Reliability, since the data emanates from real-life searches carried out by Internet users and is regularly updated.
  • Functionalities, with the ability to explore new keywords, to obtain information regarding keywords you’re already using, or to take a look at what your competitors are doing as you perform benchmarks.
  • Effectiveness, as Google Keyword Planner offers keyword ideas you won’t find anywhere else.

Now, all you need to know about Google Keyword Planner is how to use it to its full potential.

Google Keyword Planner: How to Sign In?

First of all, there’s an initial hurdle to overcome, which is managing to connect to Google’s keyword planning tool. The task isn’t as straightforward as it sounds, given that Google Keyword Planner is integrated within the Google Ads interface and that you need to have created a Google Ads account in order to be able to access it. On the plus side, you don’t have to launch paid campaigns to start using the tool. This means that if you’re working on an SEO-only strategy, you can still use Keyword Planner for free.

But here’s the thing: If you try to sign in before you have set up a first campaign, there’s a good chance Google will force you to configure an ad and indicate your objectives, keywords, budget, etc. With that said, there is a way to circumvent this obligation. For that, you need to select the option “Create an Account Without a Campaign” on the set-up screen (or “Activate Expert Mode” first if the button doesn’t show up), and then click “Explore Your Account” to access the Google Ads interface.

Once on the interface, go to “Tools and Settings”, and then click “Keyword Planner” from the drop-down menu entitled “Planning”. There you go!

Note that the procedure is different if you wish to launch a first ad campaign. In that case, you’ll need to follow the instructions that will help you configure a first ad or ad group. You will be automatically redirected to the Google Ads interface, from which you can access Google Keyword Planner as explained above.

Google Keyword Planner: How to Use Google’s Keyword Planning Tool?

Now that you have accessed the tool you were interested in, Google Keyword Planner gives you two different options to choose from. You can either:

  • Discover New Keywords (which will give you suggestions),
  • Or Get Search Volume and Forecasts (as well as other metrics related to the search terms you are already working on).

Finding New Keywords

This section of the keyword planning tool allows you to find new search terms by comparing figures. That way, you can identify which expressions your target audiences type into the search bar when looking up the topics that relate to you. You should favour this option if you are starting an SEA or SEO campaign and you only have an imprecise idea of which keywords should be used when creating your content or what expressions should be worked into your ads. In other words, you can either begin with keyword research, or by exploring a given website (yours or a competitor’s) to extract the terms that correspond to the content.

Google Keyword Planner is rather intuitive to use since all you have to do is type in one (or several) query for the tool to suggest a list of relevant terms. Let’s try this with the query “soup delivery” (in the US).

The tool draws a distinction between the information related to a keyword as it was typed in, and what corresponds to the suggested expressions. For every query, you can view the number of monthly searches, how it changed over three months (meaning how the search term is trending), and over the last consecutive year (“YoY”), the competition and, finally, the low range and high range of the “Top of Page Bid”. (The impression rate of the ads only shows up if you have previously launched a campaign.) Keyword suggestions are displayed by order of relevance.

From this table, you can draw some information that will be very valuable for your SEO or SEA strategy. In our example, we notice that the expression “soup” all by itself totals a much greater number of monthly searches than “soup delivery”, and yet the competition is much lower, and the top of page bid as well. This means you would do well to use “soup” instead of “soup delivery”, or that you should at least include it in your keyword plan.

As explained above, Google Keyword Planner still has one major limitation when it comes to the needs of SEO experts: The “Average Monthly Searches” indicator is purposely vague whenever the user hasn’t launched a PPC campaign. In other words, you’ll have to pay if you wish to access clear data on this point. For the term “soup delivery”, for example, we can see that the number of monthly searches is somewhere between 1,000 and 10,000 monthly searches, which makes a huge difference.

If we ask another keyword planning tool (here, Ubersuggest), we can see that the monthly search volume for “soup delivery” is slightly closer to 10,000 than 1,000 (6,600, to be exact). The average CPC is about the same in both cases ($6.91, which is the average between the low range and the high range top of page bid on Google Keyword Planner).

This limitation is an issue for SEO experts who are already well into a process and need precise data to optimize their strategy. These figures, however, can be sufficient if you’re starting from scratch and just wish to see how several keywords compare in terms of popularity and competition, so you can prepare a list of expressions to work on. Note that it is possible to type in as many as 10 keywords simultaneously. And, of course, the limitation is lifted as soon as you launch an SEA campaign, which gives you access to more insightful data.

Getting Search Volume and Forecasts

The other section of Google Keyword Planner is useful if you already have a keyword list to explore and assess. All you need to do is copy and paste your list of keywords or import it into the tool and then click the “Get Started” button to get the figures regarding these terms – without the suggestions, this time.

This section is mainly aimed at PPC campaign managers, since the tool indicates the number of clicks and impressions one can expect by publishing ads that contain these specific keywords, over a period of 30 days. This information is added to the average monthly searches, trend changes, competition, and low range and high range top page bids. This allows you to define highly precise plans for the keywords to be used in your Google Ads for the upcoming weeks by accessing multiple functionalities (such as keyword location).

Google Keyword Planner is a tool with two distinct sides. Powerful when it comes to PPC campaigns, it also has limitations that mean SEO experts can’t use it much past the starting point of a search engine optimization strategy (unless they choose another option altogether). With that said, the Google platform should not be underestimated. It is great at identifying opportunities for new queries to incorporate into your campaigns, helps you anticipate the impact that your ads and ad groups will have on audiences, and provides figures on traffic-generating terms (including your competitors’). Besides, the main advantage of this tool is the fact that it draws its data straight from Google, making it especially reliable and interesting. All that makes Google Keyword Planner a powerful lever for SEA, as well as an excellent introduction to understanding how your choice or keywords affects SEO.

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