Keyword Research: Using Google Adwords

This article is contributed by Mariana Ashley

In any search engine optimization (SEO) guide, they will tell you to do keyword research, using Google Adwords. Most guides won’t give you any more detail than that. “Just type in your keywords and Adwords will give you keywords,” or something to that extent, is the general gist. In actuality, keyword research is much more complicated and requires a complete understanding of the function of your site as well as your potential readership. There are a variety of steps that go into keyword research.

Before Using Adwords

Before going to Google Adwords, before even considering any aspect of SEO, take these three factors under close, careful consideration:

  1. What does your site offer – There is no limit to how many correct answers you can have to this question. Try to be as general for some and as specific for other answers as possible. Cover everything.
  2. What ideal audience is your site for – Does your site provide more basic knowledge for beginners to your topic or does it go in-depth for the knowledgeable gurus? Essentially, you want to refine your ideas from the previous step to get a general picture of who your readers mostly are.
  3. What is your potential audience – Look beyond your target audience in this step, and think about how you can make your content more valuable and accessible for those who don’t know exactly what they’re looking for (in other words, those who are just Googling the type of content you provide). Look beyond your industry jargon, and think of general (usually uninformed) keywords that would attract guppy readers.

After taking the above factors into consideration, you should have a good list of keywords for your site. Your list should include a variety of word combinations and keyword lengths (long-tail and short-tail keywords).

Using Adwords

Now, you can finally go to the Google Keyword Tool. Using your list, start typing some of your keyword phrases into the “Word or phrase” query. Don’t worry about filling in the “Website” query, and check the box that says “Only show ideas closely related to my search terms.” Also, be sure to check the “[Exact]” option under “Match Types.” If you leave these boxes unchecked, you would get results of what Google thinks is related to the input terms, which can help brainstorming. But at this point, we want to determine the value of our specific keyword list.

Now, you should be confronted with a huge list of data. The numbers under “Global Monthly Searches” are the amount of searches all over the Earth averaged over 12 months while the numbers under “Local Monthly Searches” are referring to the location specified (default as United States…if only you could specify states and cities). The “competition” indicator is price per click (PPC) competition only.

Now that you have all of this information associated with your list of keywords, I recommend using a spreadsheet to see each word’s (or word combination’s) search volume and competition rate. I would highlight the terms that relate the most to the subject and theme of your site. Delete any words that your site won’t have sufficient content to support. Of course, try to keep a good mix of broad and targeted keywords.

In general, when looking at your results, you want to consider:

  • Looking for the keywords with high local monthly searches but lower competition.
  • Evaluate which of the keywords fitting the above criteria have the higher Estimated Average CPC value.

Keywords chosen through this criteria will give you the largest return when it comes to Adsense revenue. Again, terms with high search volume and low competition are key.

Implementing Keywords

After your list is narrowed to 10-20 focused keywords, your keyword research is done! Now you have to implement these keywords into your site (many of them are probably already on there). You may need to create new pages or add content to existing ones. Try to focus on using three to five keywords per page. Too many different keywords will probably dilute the page and lower its rank in search engines. Don’t ever mindlessly spam keywords as Google will slam your rank for this.

Remember also to include your keywords into HTML elements of your site such as:

  • Headings
  • Alt text
  • Title tag
  • Meta description tags
  • Navigational links
  • Anchor text


Mariana Ashley is a freelance writer who particularly enjoys writing about online colleges. She loves receiving reader feedback, which can be directed to mariana.ashley031

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4 thoughts on “Keyword Research: Using Google Adwords”

  1. Thanks for taking the time to run through an example of this. It is frustrating to see it remarked numerous times in article, webpages, etc., without anyone really showing WHAT needs to be done to properly research keywords.

  2. Hi, good post. I think you’re right. Many online courses say you just go to google keyword tool and than type a broad keyword. Than select Phrase or sometimes Exact and find something that has more than 3 000 searchers a month and less than 15 000 competing sites in ” “. However, as you write, to do a proper research you need to do much more. And that’s what many don’t realize. Thanks… Jacob

  3. thanks for the post.
    i also use “allintitle” to determine how many competitors out there are also attacking the same target keywords.
    essentially, the higher the search volume divided by allintitle, the better.

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