Google Keyword Tool: Research and Application Tips

There are many free and paid keyword research tools out there, but using Google’s Keyword Research Tool is your best bet to make decisions based on Google-only data.

The following are tips on how you can tailor Google Keyword Tool’s data to your needs (much like you would with Google Analytics), and how you can apply this research beyond your SEO and PPC campaign to other marketing activities. We’ll also cover the limitations of this (and all) keyword research tool(s).

Google Keyword Research Tool Tips

1. Select Your Countries

Google will share search volume based on country (not sure if it’s calculated from, etc only or if they include searches performed outside of the US). So you can change the default US database to your territory. But if you sell to multiple countries from one website, or you target multiple countries from one AdWords campaign, you can select more than one country by doing a “Control + Click” or “Command + Click” – depending if you’re Mac or PC.

You can also simply select All Countries if you sell globally, anyway. Of course, there’s also multiple language selection – but I’m not sure why you’d want to select multiple languages at once.

2. Generate Keywords

There are a couple options for generating keywords – you can enter your own keywords, or use an existing URL. In the second option, Google will extract keywords off the page and generate related keywords.

Option 1: Keywords

Type in a few off the top of your head, or import an existing list from an AdGroup, for example.

In this case, if you’re a retailer selling “learning toys” – you could type in the obvious “learning toys,” “educational toys,” “baby toys,” “toddler toys,” “children’s toys.”

Choose to use synonyms or not. I’d use synonyms the first time, and if the results are irrelevant, go back and uncheck the box, and redo the search.

You can also apply negative keywords, for example you sell parachutes, you should exclude “coldplay” and “what color is your.”

Then, click “Get keyword ideas.”

Option 2: URL

Here’s a trick – don’t use your own URL. If you sell “learning toys” – choose the top search result for “learning toys” in Google and let Google extract related keywords off that page.

You can also toggle between your 2 options without losing your keyword list or URL input, just click “Get keyword ideas” again to re-run the search. When you’re doing heavy-duty keyword research, sometimes you need to look beyond what you have brainstormed – so leverage your competitors. Just be sure to ignore keywords that are not relevant to your site.

3. Set your match type to “Exact.”

When looking at data, if you choose broad or phrase match, you’ll end up with inflated keyword counts because it will include longer queries that include your keywords. For example, “learning toys” would include searches for “learning to make wooden toys” with broad match, or “used learning toys” with phrase match. Exact match will show you the true keyword count.

Unless you’re using the tool to work on your AdWords campaign (building AdGroups or looking at advertiser competition or estimated bid prices for broad and phrase match), then you don’t need to see broad and phrase match stats.

4. Add or Remove Columns

By default, you can’t all the data available. Simply click “Show All” to see everything, and remove the columns you don’t need, like Average Position or CPC if you’re not doing AdWords. (Some AdWords advertisers don’t trust the estimates anyway).

Removing columns not only simplifies what you’re looking at, but helps you export only the data you need to text, .CSV or with the Table Tools Firefox plug-in.

5. Jump to Data

If you used the URL option, Google will “chunk” out your keywords into smaller groups, but you can navigate them through links:

6. Sort Data

Don’t forget that the Keyword Tool, Google AdWords and Google Analytics tabular data is sortable just like an Excel spreadsheet.

7. Download ALL Keywords, Don’t Build a List

You can click “Add {match type}” to build a list of the keywords you want, but this won’t keep your search volume data. So make sure you’re looking at the data you want to keep (the columns that are relevant), then click download {option} (text, .CSV):

Then delete the keywords you don’t want from there. For this reason, I suggest keeping your keyword lists tightly focused so they’re easier to work with and make decisions from, rather than every single keyword that might apply to your site (choose a category or a line of products). You could paste the data into one big spreadsheet if you want (a worksheet for every group of keywords). If you know of a more efficient way, please leave us a comment.

Applying Keyword Research

Now we’re ready to apply this data to various marketing activities. These are just examples, not exhaustive applications for each activity.


If you’re researching for PPC and you sort by advertiser competition (click twice to get low-high), you may spot a decent volume keyword that’s relatively cheap, like “learning express toys.” If you don’t carry that product (and you don’t because it’s a competing toy store), you’ll want to make sure you add “express” to your negative keyword list (if you use broad match).

Come back tomorrow, we’ll cover negative keyword research in more depth.

SEO and Site Usability

Sometimes there are two ways to describe the same thing. What are customers more likely to think of – “educational toys” or “learning toys”? “Educational games” or “learning games”?

You could take a wild guess, but keyword research will give you better insight. If you sort by “Approx. Average Search Volume” (not last month’s searches but average monthly search), you can compare synonyms:

  • Applying keyword research to categorization and navigation labels

In this case, a toy retailer would do well to use “Learning Toys” and “Educational Games” as text links in navigation menus. Not only does it give an SEO boost to those category pages, but also has a better chance of being spotted by a customer who’s scanning the page looking for that keyword she typed in the search engine to get to the site.

If you discover highly searched keywords, you may even create categories or prioritize which links appear in your menus (to keep menus manageable, some retailers will “chunk” menus into 7-9 links, with a “view all” or “more” link to see all categories).

  • Applying keyword research to merchandizing zones

Different types of products may spike in different months, so featuring them on your home page at different times of the year makes sense. You also provide the category or product page links a bit of an SEO boost by linking directly from the home page (makes it look more important in search engine’s eyes).

From content on’s home page

Melissa and Doug and V Smile seem to be in-demand brands – why not feature them on the home page, or in the Educational Toys or Learning Toys category? Even if your sales data shows your sales for these brands are low, it may be because you’ve buried them in your site and you’re not attracting SEO or PPC traffic for these terms.

  • Applying keyword research to site search

You can also manually tweak your site search to make the hottest brands appear on top (as long as your site search tool allows you).

You should also pay attention to synonyms that you may not have optimized internal site search for. Perhaps you lost 50 sales last month simply because you delivered “0 results found” for “educational games” because your category is called “Learning Games.”

If you use keyword tagging for products (which may create keyword optimized pages in search engines, depending on how you implement), you can tag with synonyms.

  • Other Applications

Boost your SEO by creating new content (or blog content), adding keywords to your title tags, or using keywords in “anchor text” for your internal linking and in external link building campaigns. Or use keywords and hot products in your email marketing headlines and offers. If you’re really daring, register keyword domains and redirect to your site (to capture type-in-traffic) or build out niche microsites.


Despite how uber-excellent this tool is, it’s not perfect. Do keep in mind:

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77 Responses to “Google Keyword Tool: Research and Application Tips”

  1. This is great news for SEOs and Webmasters who want more reliable data with regard to keyword research. Trellian and Wordtracker are both useful, but when you can get the data straight from the horses mouth, it’s obviously the best deal. Good summary man.

  2. Carlo says:

    What a great, detailed guide for keyword research! This is a lot better than many paid products on market research. Will be linking to this in the future.

  3. WebTarget says:

    Great tutorial! Couldn’t be more relevant with Google owning 60% of the Search space, these tools will help you invest your marketing dollars in the most efficient keywords. Cheers!

  4. This is a great article with good concrete steps. It’s hard to find information like this without paying for it (or paying someone who knows it but is unwilling to share).

  5. Dekor says:

    Have been using this for a project, it’s great since overture has been down for a while and others just didn’t have that accurate results … at all.

  6. Hi Linda – Terrific post. I really like the way you broke this down and included the caveats. Our next brief on PPC ads will definitely link to this as a helpful resource. Looking forward to your follow-up on negative keywords.

  7. Added. Nice work on this one. Btw, my blog is dofollow, stop by and grab a link. Walter

  8. Thanks for all the comments! Looks like people like this type of post format – tutorial-slash-series?

    If you like the post and use Sphinn, you can vote here:

  9. Great summary Linda, first good article I’ve read that not only just mentions the fact that it’s available, but practical steps on how to use it.

  10. [...] The New Google Keyword Tool: How To Apply Keyword Research to Your … There are many free and paid keyword research tools out there, but until this announcement, none were able to provide Google-only data. But like Avinash Kaushik said last week in his Analytics webinar, “The goal is not to collect more … [...]

  11. [...] meer: Alle tips van Linda Bustos + nog meer SEO voorbeelden Sla op bij favorieten of deel dit [...]

  12. This is the first time that I read this kind of article and for me it is very informative tutorial. I already bookmark your article Linda.

  13. shila says:

    yes this Google keyword tool is more then effective.

  14. [...] last post covered tips on using Google’s free Keyword Tool and how to apply your keyword discoveries to various aspects of marketing: SEO, PPC, site usability [...]

  15. [...] This tool is amazing! Simply type in your keyword and you can see a long list of related keywords with approximate search volumes for those keywords as well! You can even customize the results with this tool: everything from the location (country) of your keyword results to finding out which month had the highest search volumes. For more information on how to use this keyword research tool check out this great article. [...]

  16. [...] The New Google Keyword Tool: How To Apply Keyword Research to Your Site | Get Elastic Tips on how you can tailor Google Keyword Tool’s data to your needs (much like you would with Google Analytics), and how you can apply this research beyond your SEO and PPC campaign to other marketing activities. (tags: seo google ppc adwords keyword research) [...]

  17. beverlyz says:

    This info. is great and looking forward to utilizing what has been given for free. Definitely bookmarking this article.

  18. Jeremy says:

    Hi Linda,

    Great write up on the keyword tool and it’s various uses. This is my first trip (but not my last) to your blog. Keep up the great work.


  19. Linda, I love that Google Keyword has the count now – thanks for the update – I never noticed that! Great blog you have too.

    Your insights on applying keyword research to site search is so valid and I personally found that it can be a hidden pot of gold.

    I’ve also bumped into many websites that I shop on, where I was searching for products, knew the site offered it and no results were rendered. Some large online retailers (won’t name them) can benefit a dedicated person constantly looking at their internal search results and revising the descriptions or tags.

    You can also reverse the knowledge by looking at your internal search keywords reports (if you have that report available – depends what your platform is or third party search tool you are plugged into) and using that data to feed back into Google keyword tool, digging for more and bidding on them.

  20. @ shannon,

    You bet. Actually I was going to do Thursday’s post on using keywords for internal site search but realized we’ve covered this before in different posts:

    The keyword mutation tool from MSN AdCenter is great for misspelling research:

    As does Google Site Search:
    Or the site search tool of your choice.

    We’ll have something else exciting and PPC related on Thursday, promise.

  21. This is a really good roundup. So much for Wordtracker. Thanks!

  22. [...] The New Google Keyword Tool: How To Apply Keyword Research to Your Site | Get Elastic (tags: Google, keyword, SEO) [...]

  23. If I had Wordtracker I’d test the tool against Google’s for depth – more keyword suggestions than Google offers would be beneficial for negative keywords. But yeah, I wouldn’t use it for keyword popularity any more.

  24. Michael says:

    The tip about using the #1 ranking site in your industry/niche was excellent (missed that one).

    I find people tend to focus on keyword links in their text and overlook navigational links so I’m glad you mentioned that.


  25. idris says:

    This is really an extensive keyword research article…Many Thanks to Linda. :-)

    I was using wordtracker for keyword research i stopped it the day when google started giving the search figures…

  26. Alex says:

    Nice post, but it is rumored that the estimates Google provides are the reflection of AdWords program searches (even Content Network impressions counted). If this is true then what the value for SEO this data provides? Next to nothing, I assume

  27. [...] The New Google Keyword Tool: How To Apply Keyword Research to Your Site | Get Elastic [...]

  28. [...] The New Google Keyword Tool: How To Apply Keyword Research to Your Site [...]

  29. Jeremy says:

    “even Content Network impressions counted”

    Content is not counted. It’s search + search network…and in relation to AdWords I’ve seen 95% accuracy.

    For seo purposes I would use it to get a relative estimation of potential volume, nothing more.

  30. milano says:

    hmmmm… for free is very well

  31. bLaze says:

    thanks for this comprehensive info. i’m using google keyword tool for keyword research but i havent have a chance to really get into the details of using and applying it properly. thank you, thank you!

  32. yahrah says:

    thants very informative…thanks for sharing it.

  33. seonotes says:

    Hi Linda,

    I’ve found helpful tips from your post. Finding the highly searched keywords also gives you some clues when you want to decide upon which anchor text to use in link building.


  34. After reading this article I started using the Google keyword tool like word tracker’s tool. To research highly clicked on keywords….

    I am using the exact sort for my keyword string search. The results are a lot larger than word tracker, so I have better and richer results for keyword strings that are not searched on so heavy.

    Did anyone else think about this the same way?

  35. Liked the follwoing points:

    Here’s a trick – don’t use your own URL. If you sell “learning toys” – choose the top search result for “learning toys” in Google and let Google extract related keywords off that page

    Applying keyword research to categorization and navigation labels

  36. I’m pretty excited to get using the new keyword tool! I have only heard about it but now I really want to get my a closer look! Thanks Linda

  37. [...] extremely cheap (free) and fast market research? As lovely as Google Trends, Google Insights and Google’s Keyword Tool are – they are not as valuable as Amazon for commercial keyword research. They can’t tell you [...]

  38. Jerry says:

    Thanks for this great post. This may sound like a dumb question, but are all the word counts shown on the keyword tool mutually exclusive? For example, if the list shows the keyword “car” with “x” searches, and “car parts” with “y” searches, are the “y” searches also contained in the larger “x” count?

  39. This is a great post. You gave a lot of great information to pick and chose the relevant keyword search terms for a site with great description. This will help me on my way to better optimize my website. Thank you.

  40. charles says:


    It was awesome to know that some bloggers use the same tool like mine. I haven’t tried trellian but i will try to go their site and hope it improves my site.

  41. I will use this technique for our website to see if it improves our chance of getting displayed. We specialize in giving cash back to buyers whenever they buy anything online through our website.
    Thank you for much.

  42. Neat to see our site used in your analysis! Feel free to offer any other feedback you want. :)

  43. Ted says:

    Linda you’re so right about the effectiveness of Google’s keyword tool. If you focus your seo strategy in Google why not using its own tool?

  44. [...] use the Buzzillions reviews site which employs customer tagging, Amazon tags, a thesaurus or the Google Keyword Research Tool to look for [...]

  45. Terrific list of tips and pointers for the Google kwds tool. They’ve needed the count estimates for a long time IMO. We’ve found may of the top tools to be limited in fuctionality or features. Even many of the long standing, larger tool providers have not kept up with technology or times. We often use Wordtracker, Google, Wordze or KW Discovery, however recently we developed our own keyword research tool, which is now offered for free on our website. Thought your readers may be interested in checking it out. We encourage feedback or suggestions, so be sure and let us know where you feel improvements can be made…

  46. Nice to know that Google’s tools are available without creating an adwords account so that you can check out the features.

  47. The Google keyword tool is an absolute must for anyone with a blog or website who uses keywords. It is not the be all and end all but it is an excellent starting point to expand from.
    I use it for my website and I recommend it 100%.

  48. [...] how to use keywords and keyword phrases without sounding forced. Learn how to research commonly searched keywords and phrases and pepper your writing with them appropriately. Don’t stuff them, don’t use keywords [...]

  49. I’ve been enjoying the use of Google Keyword Suggest for some time and find it quite helpful for creating blog titles & content. Thanks for this comprehensive look at how to use the interface, I’ve learned quite a bit I didn’t know before!

  50. [...] week Google introduced a new twist on its Google Keyword Tool, the Google Search-Based Keyword [...]

  51. I have been using the Google Keyword tool for a while in website design and internet technology support business. Your description is the first one I have seen that doesn’t require me to be an SEO expert and yet it’s clear, succinct and to the point. Thanks really great description of Google keyword tool.

  52. Thank you, Greg :)

    Google also has made it easy for webmasters, not just consultants, SEO’s etc to use their tools – not just keyword tools but Google Webmaster Central. Kudos to search engines.

  53. [...] keyword tool: “Wow!” van Reinout Wolfert. Hij verwijst op zijn beurt naar het artikel The New Google Keyword Tool: How To Apply Keyword Research to Your Site door Linda Bustos van het Ecommerce-blog [...]

  54. Well this looks promising. But is this tool accessible only with Adwords campaigns. I have heard about this tool for the first time.

  55. Roligan says:

    I have a real problem. I have just realised that the volume on Google’s Keyword Tool also includes search volume on the Content Network. Now I don’t use or like the Content Network so I need to know how much of the volume ig Google and how much is Content Network.

    How is that done?

  56. @Roligan,

    Do you mean the search network? If you are advertising in Adwords and you opt out of the content network, it doesn’t mean you are not advertising in the search network which may include other search engines like AOL and Ask but not content sites like New York Times.

    You may have been confused with opting out of the content network, or appearing in adsense ads.

    I wouldn’t worry about it because as long as the same data is used for every keyword, you can compare relative popularity. Keyword tools are never PERFECT, and also, they are based on historical data which cannot perfectly predict the future. So long as you compare search terms against each other using the same data set, rather than one tool vs. another like Google vs. Wordtracker data, then you should be ok.

  57. Brendon says:

    Cool Posting and you have clearly shown how the tool can be used beyond SEO and PPC purposes and how effectively can be used by others.

  58. Mark says:

    I would tell that Google is stepping ahead to provide you a single bit of tool for every purpose. But the google keyword tool is somewhat like piting up on it. I have used this in past with another tool from serp analytics but found some broad results from google. So i throw it off and now only using only tool from serp analytics and it can be found here

  59. Hi Linda.

    Great Google Keyword Tool tutorial. I have been using this tool for years, but it is nice to see how someone else uses the tool. Here are some other good free keyword tools:

    Wordpot looks promising but I haven’t used it much.

  60. Good overview for using the tool (loved the screenshots!) with helpful strategic application of the data. Thanks for mentioning the limitations of the historical data and the importance of being mindful of the broader context of keyword conversion.

  61. Great post! I wish Google’s online help was this helpful… and adwords was user-friendly!

    Keep up the good work!

  62. Abby says:

    I had stopped using Google’s old keyword tool when we got Keyword Tracker. Wow. I’m back to Google now!

  63. jlbraaten says:

    Hey thanks for taking the time to put all this info together and post it. Nice walkthrough.

  64. harvey says:

    I have been doing SEO for my own site and your post is a great help for newbie like me. Thanks a lot and looking forward for more helpful tips.

  65. victoria says:

    i always wondering how to use this tool, but know i can manage this after reading this nice walkthrough.

  66. Linda – until now I was using wordtracker and was so much dependent on it for KWR (Keyword Research). And, many time I had hard time. Don’t want to mention it what kind. But, after reading through this article I think I will find better and straight forward KWR path.

    Thanks for this article.

  67. ilovebags says:

    This is awesome!!! Our company is about to launch an e-Commerce site and this is just so helpful.

  68. [...] SEO Google Keyword Tool: Research and Application Tips [...]

  69. In my opinion (for SME and a less competitive online market), PPC is should be only used for short term marketing strategy, improve the quality of the content and enhance the user ability are the key factors for bring in more traffic on the web. Before the search engine optimization is fully implemented or launching a new website, marketing people can use PPC for branding, but it should be only for few months.

    • Hi McGarrell, I have to disagree about PPC should only be used for a few months. For online retailers, this can be the highest ROI traffic driving source (proper management of the campaign and landing page optimization is key) and certainly is important on an ongoing basis. Also, for all the time it takes to create a campaign, using it for only 3 months doesn’t give you very long to take advantage of it. A bit like building a house to live in for a year and then moving out.

      • Hi Linda

        I think you took me wrong, I think once your produces and services are good enough for your customers, they will come to you without or using less any further marketing techiques. It’s about your website content. e.g.
        – KPMG Ireland
        – E&Y Ireland
        Both websites are using PPC only if they are looking for new staffs, and this is not last more than 8 weeks.

        Another key factor is Search Engine Optimization, if you have a good structured, well optimized site, you will not need any PPC for backup, because all the keywords you were optimized are going to be ranked well on SE (however, you need to monitor your competitors as well as update the website content), backlinks are also extremely important, if you are a web design company, you probably put your website link on the footer area, this will increase your website popularity and number of quality back links. for those reasons, you dont have to and dont need to run any PPC campaign.

        Maybe, we are seeing from different angles, but I only suggest using PPC for short term.

        • Hi McGarrell, we are 100% concerned on Get Elastic with online retailers selling products year round, competitively. I believe for ecommerce you can’t wait for people to come to you, products and service will never be good enough to warrant a stop in marketing. Ecommerce has bred a new generation of comparison shoppers who compare prices and are not loyal to one website. Search engines are so important for locating products, unless you enjoy a spot on the top 3 for every keyword that matches the products you carry, PPC is what is going to get you in front of customers. Perhaps for non-retail sites like a local business that wants to hire new employees, PPC can be a short term campaign. But ecommerce should be perpetually search marketing.

          • Hi Linda
            I 120% agree with you regarding to ‘ecommerce should be perpetually search marketing’. My point is PPC is not ‘really’ effective compares to quality drived content based website, as we all know the CTR of PPC is only around 2-3%, a 5% CTR is considered as very successful campaign. Again, convert those 5% users to purchaser is not easy thing. It is also depend on what kind of business are you in. For a e-retailer this is fine maybe, but how about a home builder or car dealer? Even you have a high CTR, how many visitors you can convert them into purchasers? 20%? LMAO.

            Here is another real example, in the last 6 months, my website ( generated over 10,000 visits, the average time on site is around 160 sec, but we only sold 6 new houses during this period, and none of them are sold via ‘contact us’ form. Most of visitors just look around the gallery pages and the news section.

            Say if we are using PPC, and it brings us additional 2,000 visits, 500 visits came from the keyword ‘house for buy’, the average keyword cpc for ‘house for buy’ would cost us €4.23 per click on google, so the cost for this keyword alone in the last 6 months would cost us over €2000.

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