This post is part three in a 4-part series on keyword research called Keyword Research 101: The Ultimate Guide to Finding Buyers.
Unless you’re completely new to internet marketing, you’ve probably noticed that Google came out with a new version of its hugely popular free keyword tool a few months ago.
There’s been quite a bit of complaining around the blogosphere about the new tool, and I’m one of the many people who wish they’d bring the old one back! (But maybe that’s because I’m in an adjustment period, and just need to change with the times…)
Here’s what’s new about the keyword tool, straight from the Inside Adwords blog:
- Flexible search options: Search by any combination of keyword, website/URL, and category (where available) and receive a single set of results.
- Easy keyword refinement: Filter results by word or keyword match type.
- Negative keywords: Easily add keyword ideas as negatives right from your keyword list. Just click on a keyword and use the drop-down menu to select and save your negative keyword.
- Advanced options: View statistics for mobile search and use data filters based on local searches, search and ad share, and more.
Most importantly for internet marketers, Google also changed how they calculate Global Monthly Searches and Local Monthly Searches. Statistics in these columns are now based on Google.com search traffic only, whereas in the old keyword tool, they also included traffic from what Google calls “search partners” (e.g. AOL.com).
There are a couple of changes in the new tool that I’ve noticed that aren’t mentioned by Google: the new tool returns far fewer keywords that include the search term that the user entered; and the default setting of the new tool is to return a list of “related terms”, many of which aren’t related to the keyword you type in.
Despite the changes, however, I still believe Google’s tool is an essential weapon in every internet marketer’s arsenal, because it provides keyword data straight from the largest search engine on the web.
So let’s jump right into the tool.
How to Use the New Google Keyword Tool
In this section, I’m going to take you step-by-step through the new keyword tool. I’ll show you the standard features, then I’ll point out some little-known features of the tool that even some seasoned IMers don’t know about.
The first thing you’ll notice about the new keyword tool is that it offers the same two options to search for keywords: either by “Word or phrase”, or by “Website”.
In the first option, you simply enter a keyword of your own, and Google will return a list of keywords. I’ll continue the example I used in the previous Keyword Research 101 article (“yoga teacher training”):
Here are the steps to follow to do a search based on “Word or phrase”:
- Go to the (new and improved!) Google Keyword Tool.Enter a keyword in the box that is right beneath the words “Word or phrase”. (For this example, I’ve entered the key phrase “yoga teacher training”.)
- To find keywords that only contain the same keyword you entered, check the box next to “Only show ideas closely related to my search terms”. (Despite what that says, the tool doesn’t return “closely related” terms – it returns terms that only contain the exact keyword you typed in.)
- Make sure the “Locations” and “Languages” settings match your target geography and language.
- Enter the “captcha” letters (i.e. the letters “bast” in the screenshot above. “Captchas” are used on websites to make sure that a human is performing the search, not a spam bot).
By doing that basic search, here are some of the results I received:
As you can see by looking at the “Keyword” column, all of the keyword results contain the term I typed into the “Word or phrase” box: yoga teaching training.
Allow me to explain the remaining columns in that screenshot:
- The column with the little magnifying glass allows you to see the results of Google Insights for Search. When you click on the magnifying glass, another browser window opens up, and the Insights for Search result for that specific keyword is displayed.
Here’s what I saw when I clicked the magnifying glass next to the keyword “yoga teacher training”:
I’ve covered Google Insights for Search in my post on brainstorming a “seed” list of keywords, so I won’t describe it further here.
- The Competition column shows a little bar that looks like a barometer. That bar represents the number of advertisers bidding in Adwords on that particular keyword relative to ALL keywords on Google. So, if the bar is full, the competition for that particular keyword is probably pretty stiff (and the cost-per-click would be high).
You can see from my keyword tool screenshot that competition levels vary significantly for variations of the “yoga teacher training” keyword: there seems to be a lot of advertisers bidding on “hatha yoga teacher training” and “yoga teacher training los angeles”, but there’s not nearly as much competition for “kripalu yoga teacher training” and “bikram yoga teacher training”.
The Competitioncolumn is closely related to the average cost-per-click, which we’ll take a close look at in a minute.
- Global Monthly Searches and Local Monthly Searches are pretty self-explanatory, but I want to point out a couple of important things:
First, both the Global and Local searches are the 12-month average number of searches. So what? Well, averages sometimes mask large monthly fluctuations. For example, we all know that November/December are huge months for online shopping. These two months can skew the averages upward significantly. So if you’re planning to launch a new product in June, don’t expect the Global Monthly volume to accurately predict search volume in that month.
Second, Google says that Global monthly searches contain numbers for Google.com alone (I assume this means that searches on domains like Google.co.uk are not included).
- Local Search Trends shows 12 green bars, representing the fluctuation in traffic for a particular keyword over the past 12 months. The bars are organized chronologically, so the bar to the far right is the most recent month for which data are available. (For example: I’m writing this post in November 2010, and in the keyword tool screenshot above the bar to the far right is for October 2010).
The Local Search Trends feature is a great complement to Local Monthly Searches, because it lets you see the changes in search volume over the past twelve months. If you’re running (or planning to run) a pay-per-click advertising campaign, this can help you predict which months you’ll be spending more on your advertising.
So that’s the “quick-and-dirty” way of using the new Google keyword tool. Let’s dive in to see how we can use more advanced features of the tool to gain more insight into our market.
Advanced Features of the New Google Keyword Tool
There are quite a few “advanced” features of the Google Keyword Tool that marketers don’t use. In this section I’m going to show you all of the ones I use.
One feature I skipped over when doing my basic search for “yoga teacher training” is the “Advanced Options” features. Here’s what it looks like:
The “Advanced Options” feature of the Google keyword tool allows you to:
- Specify the locations that you would like to search for keywords. What this means is this: if you choose “Canada”, the keyword tool will return keywords that have been searched on Google.ca over the past month. And it will only show you search volume for keywords that were searched on Google.ca.
(Note: in my experience, if you select a country with a small population – like Canada – the tool will return far fewer keywords than if you keep the default “United States” on. If your website doesn’t focus on a local product or service, I recommend you stick with the default.)
- Specify the languages that you would like to search for keywords in. I haven’t used this feature much, but I’m sure non-English keywords are a massively under-used component of the keyword tool (just like the non English-speaking world has been massively ignored by many IMers. Watch for huge growth in information product sales in international markets in the next few years).
- Include “adult ideas” in the results. Personally, I think this is hilarious terminology (if I was Google, I would have gone with “Grown-up concepts”, instead of “Adult ideas” 😉
Thankfully, when I checked this option for “yoga teacher training”, it didn’t change the results. This is a G-rated blog 😉
- Show results that are specific to mobile. I think mobile is another major area of growth to look out for in the next couple of years – so it’s no surprise that Google has integrated this into its keyword tool.
- Filter keywords. This feature of Advanced Options allows you to filter the keywords that you see from your search. It includes some of the options we’ve already covered (Local and Global Monthly Searches, and Competition), as well as these new ones:
– Ad share is a tool that came out of Google’s now-defunct search-based keyword tool. In Google’s words it “describes the percentage of time that your ad is triggered for the exact match query. This statistic is specific to Google.com performance only for your targeted country or territory”.
In plain English: let’s say you’re advertising on Adwords, and one of the keywords you’re advertising on is “yoga teacher training”. The Ad share tool will show you how many times your ad was shown out of the total number of times people searched the term “yoga teacher training”.
So how can Google show you this information without you signing into Adwords first? They can’t! Which is why the Ad share feature is so confusing (and useless for most people). And to top it off, this feature rarely works! If anyone can explain this, please let me know.
– Estimated Avg. CPC is pretty straightforward: it’s Google’s estimate for how much you would have to pay to advertise on a particular keyword.
When looking at average cost-per-click (CPC) numbers, there are a couple of important things that you should keep in mind:
First, Google is assuming that you’ll want your advertisement to show up in positions 1-3 in the paid search results. And, of course, they’re HOPING that you’ll bid to get in the top positions – because you’ll pay them a higher CPC! But in many cases, you won’t want your ad to show up in top positions – because when you’re in top positions, you tend to get a lot of “curiosity clicks”, i.e. people who aren’t serious about your offer, but just click your ad out of curiosity.
Second, Google’s average CPC numbers are notoriously WRONG. And by “wrong”, I mean much higher than what you will actually pay. In the health niche I work in, Google estimates that the average cost-per-click will be $2.74. In reality, I have never paid more than $0.35 per click.
– Search share is another feature of the Keyword Tool’s “Advanced Options” that sounds great in theory: it’s supposed to let you see the percentage of time that your website appeared on the first page of organic results for a particular keyword. But, as with the Ad share function, it appears that you have to sign into your Adwords account to get those stats, and even then I haven’t found anyone able to get it to work.
The new Google Keyword Tool also has some cool features that you can see along the left-side of the screen:
Let’s take a look at each of those:
- The Traffic Estimator is a cool tool that lets you see how much traffic you could get from Adwords for a certain keyword. It also allows you to play around with cost-per-click and budget numbers to see how changing those numbers affects the amount of traffic you could get.
Here’s a screenshot for the keyword “yoga teacher training”:
Notice the information that Google brings up:
Estimated Avg. CPC: As I’ve already mentioned, this is Google’s estimate for how much it would cost you to advertise in positions 1-3. In the case of “yoga teacher training” Google is saying that it would cost $2.13 per click to advertise on Google.com.
But you might not necessarily want your ad to be as high as positions 1-3, and you can play with the tool to get see what your CPC (and traffic) would be at a lower position (more on that in a second)
Estimated Ad Position: this is pretty straightforward. Google estimates that with a bid of $2.13 per click, your ad will be displayed either in positions 1 or 2 (but will probably be displayed more in position 1, for an average position of “1.3”).
Estimated Daily Clicks shows the average number of clicks you’ll get at $2.13 per click.
Summary box: on the left side of the screen, Google provides a nice summary of how much you might pay per click, the total clicks you’d get each day at that CPC, and the total cost for each day.
Now, let’s assume that you DON’T want your ad to be in positions 1-3, or that you don’t want to bid Google’s asking price ($2.13 for “yoga teacher training”). What you can do with the Traffic Estimator is play around with different costs-per-click to see how it would affect your average position and cost-per-click.
For example, let’s say you like the round figure of 50 cents (because that’s what your parents gave you as a weekly allowance when you were ten years old). Plug that into the “Max CPC $” in the Traffic Estimator, and here’s what you get:
Now Google estimates that you would pay between 33 and 50 cents per click, would alternate between positions 4 and 5, and would get 6 clicks per day.
Now I know what you’re thinking: “Six clicks per day. That’s puny!” And I agree that it is – but if you’re doing effective keyword research, you should be compiling a good list of highly-targeted keywords to advertise on, and/or to optimize for the search engines.
- Next stop in the new Google Keyword Tool is the “Starred” feature. When you’re scanning the keyword results, you can select the ones that you would like to save by “starring” them (i.e. clicking the little star that is to the left side of the keyword. This turns the star from white to yellow).
All of the keywords that you’ve starred can be seen in the “Starred” box in the left sidebar:
When you’re finished selecting your keywords, you can then click on the “Download” button right above the Keyword column, and download your starred list as a CSV file (or TSV, or XML).
If you’ve used the old Google keyword tool, you probably remember the “Add” feature, where the word “Add” appeared next to each keyword. Clicking that word added the keyword to the Keyword Tool’s clipboard. The “Starred” feature in the new tool performs that function.
- Next up are Include terms and Exclude terms. These two filters allow you to include (or exclude) words in your keyword list. As Google says it: “Type keywords in the box and click the + button if you’d like your search results to include only keyword ideas that contain at least one of the terms you added”. (Same thing applies to the Exclude terms feature.)
- The Categories feature of the new Google keyword tool does something pretty nifty: it shows you the categories that it thinks your keyword is related to.
Let me explain what this means by first showing you the screen BEFORE I typed in my keyword. Notice that Google shows all of its categories:
But AFTER I type in my keyword (“yoga teacher training”), Google shows the categories (and sub-categories) it associates with that keyword:
What I find interesting about this result is that Google seems to have separated out the word `training` from my search, and is associating that word with the categories Finance and Media & Events. That’s not very useful information in this particular case, but could be a great tool for brainstorming keywords when you’re using researching other root keywords.
- The last feature of the new Google Keyword Tool that I’d like to show you is Match Types.
This inconspicuous box in the left sidebar is hugely important when doing keyword research, because the settings will affect the search volumes that the Keyword Tool shows you for a particular keyword.
In a nutshell, the Match Type setting tells the Keyword Tool how wide it should cast its net when searching for your keyword in its database. The easiest way to explain this is probably to define each match type, first:
When you select the Broad match setting, it means that you would like the Keyword Tool to search for keywords that contain your root term in any order. It also means that the Tool will search for keywords that contain terms other than your root term (as long as your root term is also in that longer phrase).
So, theoretically, if my root term is “yoga teacher training”, the Keyword Tool could return results such as:
– training yoga teacher
– yoga training teacher
– yoga teacher training new york
– los angeles yoga teacher training
– sydney training yoga teacher
Broad match is the default setting in the Keyword Tool. I think that’s unfortunate, because when you’re doing keyword research, you want a realistic view of the amount of visitors you can get to your site. Because broad match includes all sorts of variations of keywords in its results, it often shows a higher search volume than your site will actually get.
Here’s an example from one of my sites. A few months ago, I launched a new site that deals with a particular type of surgery. Here is the broad match search volume for the top keywords in that market:
The Keyword Tool says that the highest-volume keyword gets 14,800 global searches per month. At the time I was researching this market, the Tool also said that the average cost per click for this keyword was around $2.50. So, I figured that if I could get in the number one spot on Google.com for this keyword, I would make $503.20 per month in Adsense from this one site.
****** Temporary digression while I show the calculations for this *******
If my website was in the top (organic) position in Google, I could expect a clickthrough rate of around 40%, which would mean 5,920 visits (14,800 monthly searches on Google X 40% clickthrough rate).
Multiply 5,920 visits by 5% (the clickthrough rate I expect on my Adsense ads), and you get 296. (In other words, I expect five percent of the 5,920 people who land on my site to click an ad.)
Multiply 296 by $1.70 (my payout from Google would be 68% of the $2.50 cost-per-click) and you get $503.20
************************ End of digression **************************
Well, several months later, my site is now in the number one position in the organic results. But am I making $503.20 per month? No! Because even though I’m in the top position on Google, I’m not getting 5,920 visits per month. And the reason is that my target keyword doesn’t actually get that many EXACT searches per month.
The EXACT number of searches my target keyword gets is 6,600. Which brings me to the next match type.
An Exact match search in Google’s Keyword Tool will show you the search volume only for precise matches of your keyword.
Here’s what the Keyword Tool showed me when I selected Exact match in the Match Types box:
As I mentioned, my target keyword actually gets 6,600 exact searches per month (not the 14,800 that the Keyword Tool showed me when I left the default Broad match on).
And how does this compare with the actual traffic my site is getting? Pretty close. I’m averaging about 100 visits per day, or 3,000 visits monthly. That’s a clickthrough rate of 45%, which is a typical organic clickthrough rate that has been demonstrated in a number of studies.
Now, you might be thinking, “But that’s only one keyword!” And you’re right. Over time, my site will start to rank for more and more long-tail keywords– and with more traffic from those tail keywords, I’ll generate more Adsense revenue, and more sales of affiliate products.
Finally, you can also select Phrase match in the Match Type box. Phrase match will return keywords that contain only your root term, but in any order (as opposed to Exact match, which contains only your root term in exactly the order you typed it). Here are some examples of Phrase match results that could be returned for “yoga teacher training”:
– “yoga training teacher”
– “teacher yoga training”
– “training yoga teacher”
In this post I’ve tried to give an in-depth tutorial on the features of the new Google Keyword Tool, to help you do effective keyword research – whether it be for pay-per-click or search engine optimization.
Keyword research is such a fundamental component of internet marketing that I see it as a core skill that every internet marketer should have. It’s fine to outsource keyword research, eventually – but you should have a good grasp of the basics before handing over such a crucial component of your business to someone else.
The new Google Keyword Tool has some drawbacks, but it’s still the gold standard in terms of keyword data. And it comes straight from the source!