This is the fifth post in a series that focuses on using the various tools located within the Google AdWords tools and analysis tab . Previous posts have focused on:
- The change history tool 
- The AdWords conversion tab 
- Google Analytics Reporting within the AdWords Interface 
- Google Website Optimizer 
In this post we’ll walk through how to get the most out of the Google Keyword Tool within your AdWords campaigns.
What Is the Google Keyword Tool?
Google’s keyword tool  is designed to give advertisers information about which keywords they can add to their campaigns. The Google Keyword Tool has some important advantages and disadvantages to understand before acting on the data.
- It Leverages Google’s Own Data – One of the big advantages to using Google’s keyword tool is you have access to Google’s massive data set. This is an advantage for the Google tool because no single source has access to the amount of search query information that Google does. However, this advantage is mitigated somewhat because Google makes its keyword tool data available via an API, so keyword tools like WordStream’s which aren’t Google property can actually leverage a combination of Google’s own data and additional, third-party sources to create a more comprehensive keyword database.
- It’s Google-Specific – If you’re optimizing for multiple campaigns or looking to leverage AdWords keyword  data in your SEO efforts this can be a disadvantage, but as we’re covering AdWords tools specifically this can be useful – you’re getting data specific to AdWords.
- Integration within AdWords – The Google Keyword Tool allows you to quickly add keywords to your AdWords account because it is integrated within your Google account.
- Google Suggestions Often Benefit Google – As is the case with many default settings , specific services for small businesses , and optimization suggestions , Google’s tools often make recommendations that favor Google more than they favor your business. Google’s keyword tool doesn’t always show you every possible variation people are searching for  – often the data skews towards more commercial and higher competition terms and fails to show you better, more specific opportunities you could add to your account that would actually be more profitable for your business. Third-party keyword tools such as WordStream’s Keyword Research Suite  are designed specifically to bridge this gap and get advertisers this actionable information, as their concern is just building tools for advertisers (not maximizing Google’s revenue and profits).
- Estimations are Very Rough & Often Inaccurate – As is the case with any keyword tool, the numbers you see in AdWords are just rough approximations of the traffic available for a specific search term. It doesn’t show you how different positions get traffic for the term, and obviously the tool can’t tell you how a keyword will actually convert for your business, which is why using and reacting to your own data is extremely important.
While the tool is obviously far from perfect, there are still insights to be gained by leveraging it for your AdWords accounts.
How to Use the AdWords Keyword Tool in Your PPC Campaigns
When you turn to the AdWords keyword tool for keyword ideas within your campaigns, you have a few options, which are represented by the input fields below:
You can look for keywords based on:
- A Word or Phrase – This allows you to input a specific keyword into the keyword tool and get a list of suggestions based on a seed keyword (such as “pet supplies” above).
- A Website – Here we could give Google our own site’s content and get keyword ideas based on that information – alternatively we could input a competitor’s URL and get information on the terms Google deems relevant for that site.
- A Category – Google has a number of pre-set categories that we can drill down into to get topical keyword suggestions.
Typically your best results will be from inputting a keyword or keywords to get results back – categories will frequently give you suggestions that are far too broad to be really actionable (though if you’re completely at a loss for how to structure your campaigns, this might be an OK starting point for different broad-level campaign ideas).
Within keyword selections as you can see we can further filter results based on:
- Ideas Closely Related to Search Terms – This will give you highly related terms rather than a broader array of different ideas: if you’re looking to create a tightly related ad group around a specific term, this filter is very useful, but it will exclude some variations that you might find useful if you’re looking to get a wider array of ideas for keywords to target.
- Advanced Filters – You can also filter based on the areas and devices you plan to target; country, language, desktop vs. mobile, etc. as well as filtering out terms that don’t meet a certain threshold of search volume.
Once you’ve settled on an actual term to get information about, you’ll be presented with a number of possible keywords to add to your campaign – you can add the keywords directly or export them to develop your keyword lists outside of AdWords before adding them to the appropriate campaigns later:
As you can see you have several options for what to do with these suggestions across the top row of options, as well as some metrics to help you evaluate the keywords:
- Competition – This is a rough metric showing you how many advertisers there are on a given term and how aggressively they bid for the term.
- Global Monthly Searches – The global monthly average based on the last 12 months of data for each term you’re looking at.
- Local Monthly Searches – This shows you the local monthly average for each search term based on countries you selected (so in our case, this would be the data for US only searches).
In addition to the standard keyword tool, AdWords now also offers a beta version of an ad group ideas tool to help make suggestions for clusters of keywords you might want to group into specific ad groups:
From here you could incorporate these lists into already existing ad groups, or use them as a starting point for creating a new ad group.
Ultimately these keyword suggestions can be a nice starting point and directionally indicative of which keywords may be a fit for your campaigns, but it’s important to take the recommendations with a grain of salt and constantly be monitoring your campaigns, pausing keywords , adding keywords , and adjusting your bids  at the keyword level over time.
About the Author
Tom Demers  is co-founder and managing partner at Measured SEM , a boutique Boston SEO  and PPC agency offering search marketing consulting services including pay-per-click account management, comprehensive SEO audits , content marketing strategies , SEO reputation management  and link building services  for a variety of specific niches such as B2B SEO .