How Does Google Make Money? The Most Expensive Keywords in AdWords


How does Google make its money? On the heels of Google's blow-out Q2 2011 earnings announcement last week, we wanted to find out the most expensive keywords - what keywords demand the highest costs per click and are most competitive in terms of high search volume.

Since the vast majority of Google's profits come from AdWords advertising, these high CPC keyword categories are responsible for a large part of Google's profits. The results of our research are illustrated in an infographic of the most expensive keywords. (Click the image to enlarge the google adwords keywords infographic.)

Most Expensive Keywords

The 20 most expensive keywords categories with the highest search volume (i.e. the most used keywords) and highest costs per click, thereby netting Google the most money, are:

  1. Insurance (example keywords in this category include "buy car insurance online" and "auto insurance price quotes")
  2. Loans (example keywords include "consolidate graduate student loans" and "cheapest homeowner loans")
  3. Mortgage (example keywords include “refinanced second mortgages” and “remortgage with bad credit”)
  4. Attorney (example keywords include “personal injury attorney” and “dui defense attorney”)
  5. Credit (example keywords include “home equity line of credit” and “bad credit home buyer”)
  6. Lawyer ("personal  injury lawyer," "criminal defense lawyer)
  7. Donate ("car donation centers," "donating a used car")
  8. Degree ("criminal justice degrees online," "psychology bachelors degree online")
  9. Hosting ("hosting ms exchange," "managed web hosting solution")
  10. Claim ("personal injury claim," "accident claims no win no fee")
  11. Conference Call ("best conference call service," "conference calls toll free")
  12. Trading ("cheap online trading," "stock trades online")
  13. Software ("crm software programs," "help desk software cheap")
  14. Recovery ("raid server data recovery," "hard drive recovery laptop")
  15. Transfer ("zero apr balance transfer," "credit card balance transfer zero interest")
  16. Gas/Electricity ("business electricity price comparison," "switch gas and electricity suppliers")
  17. Classes ("criminal justice online classes," "online classes business administration")
  18. Rehab ("alcohol rehab centers," "crack rehab centers")
  19. Treatment ("mesothelioma treatment options," "drug treatment centers")
  20. Cord Blood ("cordblood bank," "store umbilical cord blood")

We found that that 97% of Google's revenue comes from advertising on Google sites. In the last four quarters alone (Q3 2010-Q2 2011), Google brought in $32.2 billion in total advertising revenue.

Google CPC: Google's Highest Cost Per Click Keywords

Google AdWords is a dynamic, auction-based marketplace where advertisers bid on keywords to compete for top ad placement. The minimum bid per keyword is 5 cents, but this research shows that in highly competitive categories, Google can make up to $50 per click from PPC keyword bids. Despite a diversified product portfolio, advertising on Google sites accounts for the vast majority of its billions in annual revenue.

The keyword categories with the highest volumes and costs represent businesses with very high lifetime customer value – in other words, these industries can afford to pay a lot to acquire a new customer. These most expensive keywords comprise businesses such as lawsuits, mortgage applications, and server hosting. Some high-volume keyword categories have lower CPCs because advertisers have slimmer margins to expend on PPC advertising.

You can find CPC estimates for keywords using a keyword tool like Keyword Planner or our own Free Keyword Tool.

The Most Expensive Keywords: Survey Methodology

We compiled data from our own trillion-keyword database and the Google Keyword Tool to determine the top 10,000 most expensive English-language keywords over a 90-day period. This keyword list was then organized into categories by theme, such as "Insurance." The largest keyword categories were determined by weighting the number of keywords within each category, as well as the estimated monthly search volume and average cost per click for each keyword.

Tips for Bidding in a Super-Competitive, Expensive Google Adword Key word Niche

If you or your client are struggling to compete in a high-volume, high-CPC keyword category such as the most expensive keywords identified in this study, the PPC best practices are the same as always, except of course, the stakes are 1000x higher if you’re paying on average $50 per click vs. $0.05 per click. Here are a few tips to consider:

  • Quality Score: High Quality Scores can help lower your average Google CPC. Tools like the Keyword Niche Finder and Keyword Grouper to break up larger keyword lists into smaller, more targeted lists which will enable you to write more targeted ad text and landing pages which should help improve relevancy and Quality Score.
  • Be Specific: Target specific, 3-5 word keywords. Use a keyword tool to generate specific keyword ideas, and use keyword match types to ensure you’re only paying for keywords that are very specific to your business.
  • Use Negative Keywords: Use a negative keyword tool to help figure out what kinds of words you’re likely to be matched against and weed out keywords that aren’t relevant to your business.
  • Be Relevant
  • Landing Page Optimization: The average conversion rate for just about anything on AdWords is around 2%. But we often see landing pages converting at the 20% or even 30% range. The key to landing page optimization is to keep trying out different types of offers and testing how people respond to them.
  • Grade Your AdWords Account For Free: Use the AdWords Grader to get a free, instant audit of your AdWords Account to see how your AdWords account stacks up to the competition.

Google CPC

More AdWords PPC Keyword Bid Info

Visit the "Where's Google Making Its Money?" infographic for the full list of the top 20 most expensive Google CPC keyword categories and to embed the graphic on your own site.

Update (July 22, 2011): Check out the follow-up article to this study: Where's Mesothelioma, What Is Cord Blood & Other FAQs About Our Most Expensive Keywords Study.

Update (July 27, 2011): Click here to download a PDF version of this infographic.

Find out how you're REALLY doing in AdWords!

Watch the video below on our Free AdWords Grader:

Visit the AdWords Grader.


Nov 18, 2011

I would like to address the pie chart listing Insurance at 24% when it clearly looks like it is visually closer to 31%? Is it the numbers or the chart that is off, and what are you trying to get us to perceive here?If it is 24%, 12% and 9% for the top three categories, then the last time I checked those three combined should cover less than half of the shiny colorful circle thing.

Elisa Gabbert
Nov 18, 2011

Hi,This question was address earlier in the comments. You can also find an explanation here:

How to Start a Business
Nov 20, 2011

Wow, I knew insurance was big, but not that much bigger than the rest of the field.  Very interesting list of keywords, time to put the thinking hat on and come up with some good niches for websites and blogs! :)

Nov 20, 2011

Great list for all of us SEO, IM, etc. guys!  A lot of money to be made in the insurance niche for sure.

estate agents scotland
Dec 02, 2011

Would someone actually pay $50 a click??  Surely now.  We pay a max of $2

Dec 03, 2011

As ever great information & list, thanks. Number 20 surprised me I must admit, but was not shocked by numbers 1,2 and 3. 

Coolest Quotes
Dec 06, 2011

It is really an aweseom list and helped me a great deal in reaching a decision for starting a couple of new blogs, purely from the perspective of Adsense Earning.I am sure that these keywords will go a long way in helping people/ bloggers to earn more from Adsense.Thanks a lot for thismagnificent list and above all, the tips to get the maximum from Adsense.I will surely follow them!Regards

SEO Works
Dec 08, 2011

And what about 'flowers'? I thought it was one of the most bid upon keyword phrases in the PPC market?

Dec 28, 2011

Google paid search are getting too expensive for my keywords i.e. wholesale fashion, online fashion, online clothing etc...I am turning to SEO and content building for my marketing now. It's a lot more work but definitely it's cheaper..

Jan 01, 2012

Thanks for these awesome stats. Actually, i never thought that insurance will be the highest paid keyword in online world.

Jan 15, 2012

Interesting article, shame the infographics didn't load.  Trying to do research on the most competitive kw's in order to dissect their seo tactics and copy them.  At the moment using majestic seo, after trialling semozfor their free trial. seomoz definitely a lot more user friends vs majestic, although majestic seems to index quicker and be more up to date. Is this article just for US traffic (my niche is ex-US).

MOMU PilMagic
Jan 18, 2012

 The representation regarding the 3 Most expensive keywords in Google Adwords advertising. The Insurance fields with surely the must too spend in an industry without spending limit's got the top spot as the 800 pound Gorillia in the room a lot of people are dealing mostly about the insurance business. Loans and Mortgage the crashing industry are second and third respectively. The infographics colorful and interesting. Nice article..but the keywords listed are almost impossible to rank will take 1 or 2 or even 3 years of hard work and great expense to reach those spot's.. But still a great resource for affiliate marketers,the influence of the economy on some of these keyword moving up and down is of course very large, but ..........Thanks! Great resource!                           MOMU PilMagic 

Holiday Advisor
Jan 20, 2012

Thanks God there isn't any holiday related term in there. Not a big surprise there, great info graphic by the way.

Reviews inn
Feb 09, 2012

Nice share buddy but i was looking for keywords to target for adsence and i think i can't with these keywords. Any ways thanks dud

bi analytics
Feb 12, 2012

I liked the chart, it gives a broad idea niche which attract a highest bid. I would appreciate if you give some ideas on how to select a niche for adsense related blogging.

Feb 13, 2012

Thank you for this information, If I use this high paying keywords, for a different niche blog will it works, before I try this tips, but do not see much change of CPC.

Jonathan Singer
Feb 14, 2012

Great information, thank you. Although, I manage PPC for clients in these categories, and the highest I've ever had to pay to be No. 1 was about $11. I think whoever created this original information ironically may have been bad at AdWords management!

Feb 29, 2012

did not these expensive keywords before not until i came upon your blog. thanks for sharing this info, keep it up!

Stopping Fraud
Mar 05, 2012

Google says it has three million customers that are used to generate a turnover of about $37bn and I cannot argue with how much revenue Google may get from Amazon or Ebay but I have to take  exception when it comes to the number of customers as being as high as three millions.Currently I am working on a project that monitors a few hundred thousand parked domain / Cyber squatters that all use Google for adverts on these parked domains and some of these domains are giving out viruses that click the PPC/CPC links that lead back to Google-Lead-Services and Google's Double-Click and I record the Url of each target site of from Google advert in a database and to be honest I was expecting to see a couple of million records but I am struggling to find even 100k individual Urls and domain names and I have been using IP-Address based everywhere from India to the USA since Google's results are location specific.Bottom line is Google is not sharing all the adverts from these 3m customers across the board so I need to go more direct or something very strange is going on and I cannot put my finger on it so maybe someone here can advise me as to where I maybe going wrong with my calculations.

Apr 10, 2012

Stopping Fraud: I would like to talk to you about your project.

Apr 29, 2012

I have some questions:1) I keep redaing to chose keywords with high search volume and low competition. Why??? that competition is not how many pages are outthere taking about the same thing, but advertizers that comeete for that word. Wouldn't it be better to point out one with high advertizer competition? I don't get it.2) Do I have to make the title of my condition Work from home California or can I make it something more logical like work from home in California

vinitha cijo
Mar 07, 2012

Use google trends, where you can find the keywords search score

Business Insurance
Mar 16, 2012

i'm using google trends myself more and more to find better keywords.

Mar 19, 2012

I am surprise that attorneys are in the 4th category.

Mar 19, 2012

Not only attorneys are in the top 10, also lawyers...

Mar 21, 2012

Today Google has released the most searched keywords for the entire year  2011 based on their search query database. Since Google is so widely used, we could use this data to understand the pulse of the Internet.

Mar 27, 2012

As i have personally checked the lawyers keywords are also very expenssive in terms of family law tree and mestholiam lawyers.

Mar 30, 2012

This isn't right cause I found keywords worth $103 cpc lol

Apr 03, 2012

11$ also unbelievable expensive for me. 100$ its just 9 clicks!!

Apr 04, 2012

very interesting findings. the facts is this is good, the difficult part is how to manipulate all those keywordsand keep profit from adsense.any success story by using all those keywords? thanks.

Apr 04, 2012

I am advertising in google adwords with greek keyword "insurance", i must admit that its expensive!

Apr 13, 2012

If it's about money, it is expensive.

Apr 24, 2012

Is all about money after all!

May 10, 2012

can you kinldy tell me any tool from which i can check how many keywords are indexed in google of my site ???

Jun 16, 2012

Sam you can chek your keywords in your webmaster tool 

Jun 18, 2012

i cheked in webmastertool but i want to know about links in goolge

Aug 23, 2012

just make some back links from high pr site, google automaticly make your backlinks

bonus maniac
May 14, 2012

Best Cpc for April is california car donate . 114$

Info sehat
May 26, 2012

Hi Larry thankyou for the info, how do I know about the most wanted or expensive locally or country it self..? Tks

Jun 24, 2012

Hay Larry,Nice post once again, although I would of thought "credit" would of been higher...?All the best.

Jul 02, 2012

What are the cheapest words to bid? It means that there is almost no competition for those words that could be used to sell products via inexpensive ads.

Jul 12, 2012

Good post, so found a better niche 'degrees' to work on as they pay high..thanks....

Velli, Md.
Jul 14, 2012

hi larry... how this HPK in 2012?

md k ahmed
Jul 20, 2012


Jul 22, 2012

Larry, do you maintain a list of the top 20-50 words? thanks!

Jason Dwyer
Jul 22, 2012

I'm not surprised with the top 5 or so but I think that there are some really untapped gems towards the bottom of your list.While I think you've provided some invaluable tips for people looking to bid for these gold-plated type keywords, I'd recommend they take a look at the power of getting a top organic listing via a wordpress blog (hint: buy the domain containing the exact match domain you're targetting). It's a lot faster and easier than most will have you think.Thanks for this Larry.

Jul 23, 2012

I honestly wouldnt have picked that list at all..maybe a few

Aug 17, 2012

Hi Larry, worth mentioning that in the UK the minium bid is £0.01 (one pence). We have actually found that there is some traffic that can be bought for such a small amount. Thanks

Aug 23, 2012

Larry, this is why the website build around these expensive keywords do require lot of authority to get a good ranking in SERP. Thanks for posting on this.

Aug 26, 2012

dude can you update high CPC keyword for 2012 and those keyword which is on fire.