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.


Aug 27, 2012

this is such a hot fame now a days to find high cpc kewords, if somebody update recent cpc high paying keywords its help all for us

Harman Singh
Oct 06, 2012

Thanx for this well i have a site on bodybuilding and it give very low CPC like in cents is there any way i can improve it?

Oct 12, 2012

hi...i just came across this link through my recent study on keywords.... its really good to know these.... but this is last years ... anyone know about this years?

Oct 21, 2012

Hi,   Im still kind of new when it comes to niches and high paying keywords. I own a site soley on Interior architecture and wondered which keywords pays best, based on interior architecture.I was hoping someone would respond to my question just to gain more insite on this topic. 

Nov 26, 2012

My website is at alexa 200k but i do not know why my keywords are not paying good , i am very sad any idea.?

Nov 26, 2012

Google Adwords is the king of PPC advertising networks on the whole internet, but now its going to get some tough challenge as other networks are providing good exposure to their advertisers with a very less money compared to Google Adwords. I hope Google team must be already busy in tackling this :) 

Dec 03, 2012

hi, i just came across this link through my recent study on keywords, its really good to know these but this is last years did anyone know about this years?

Travis Mullins
Dec 15, 2012

You have to make well up in the seven figures to afford the most expensive keywords

Jan 29, 2013

Very nice article. I was making the posts without focusing the CPC of Keywords. Now i observed that my CPC is very low and i am notsatisfied. I am going to see the magic of these tools which you told in this article. lets see what happen. I will give you my feedback after using these toosl.Keyword Density and Keyword CPC is very important even there is high competions for expensive keyword but this is better then low CPC.

Jan 29, 2013

This is a fascinating article! I wonder what happens on average CPC bids on election times. For example, in Greece, where the top keywords are around 4-5 euros per click, on election time, the average cpc rises up to 8-10 euros per click on keywords relevant to the issues of a campaign or an election. I wonder if there is a significant alteration in the results of the top keywords on those periods. Kindly, if you have any relevant data, please share them with us! 

Mar 02, 2013

Which keyword in health category is good to target?

Mar 02, 2013

the competetion is much higher for the high paying keywords !!

Michael Belk
Mar 22, 2013

This is an very informative report.  I suspected the top four, but I had no idea about the rest.  I can use this information to write my articles around these keywords.  Thanks again

Apr 25, 2013

Excellent piece of Information! your webpage gives the best and the most interesting information. This is just the kind of information that i had been looking for,  and i would regularly watch out for the new posts,Thanx a million once again.

May 20, 2013

This is a great resource, thanks for the share!Negative keywords have always been a focal part for my campaigns, helping weed out bad keywords. I usually start with broad keyword bidding and narrow it down to phrase or exact only after a few days of testing.

Jun 06, 2013

Great article for almost everyone, can you chalk out keywords list for fashion related websites.
Thanks in advance.
was fun to read the article.

Jul 18, 2013

Great and very informative article.Is there any update to this report? I am curious to learn if there has been an increase in insurance from 2011 when the article was originally written and now, with the Affordable Care Act coming into effect in October.

Sep 21, 2013

his is still a great resource for affiliate marketers, I wonder the influence of the economy on some of these terms moving up and down, but I refer to thisquite often.Thanks

Μανώλης Κυπριανίδης
Sep 30, 2013

Sorry but as we know it's prefered to target on the long tail keywords... This tactic is too expensive for us!

Sep 30, 2013

Thanks for sharing this, I wasn't knowing about all these... Helped me a lot.

Oct 28, 2013

Hello,I noticed that you have not mentioned any adult related keywords such as porn, casino ETC."online casino" was over 100 euro a click last time i was running a campaign for one of them....scary stuff 

Dec 26, 2013

his is still a great resource for affiliate marketers,Negative keywords have always been a focal part for my campaigns, helping weed out bad keywords.thanks 

Mar 04, 2014

I loved the infographic. How did you generated the results? From Google Adwords suggestions?

Apr 01, 2014

Thats why i dont use adwords. With such prices i cant have a possitive ROI.I (and i think all the webmasters) have to use more longtail keywords or go for SEO techniques.

Nov 15, 2014

Thanks for posting,Very nice article you have wrriten, But still i have a problem with adword, i am beginner and want to use ppc for my service, can you please share your thoughts about adword campaign. Like what would be the budget, cost, etc.  

Bodybuilding clothing
Nov 20, 2014

Very nice post, i really enjoyed by reading, most of them are technical , i dident see any health one, that's nice , thanks for sharing!

Dr Basim Elhabashy
Dec 18, 2014

Great Post, I love to read articles that are informative and actually have good content. Thank you for sharing your experiences and I look forward to reading more. 

James Miller
Jan 10, 2015

Could you guys update this list now for 2015? It would be interesting to see how the market has changed.

Md. Shekelur Islam
Apr 16, 2015

Its really a informative article. Thanks for sharing

Rishabh Sonker
Jul 10, 2015

Hey! This article is amazing!
I have re-posted a part of this article on my blog by giving you the credits :)

Jul 15, 2015

Thanks for sharing good post !!

Aug 19, 2015

Cord blood is really weird. But OK. I don't advert much, but I've been there, and from the inside, you realize how huge is Google,... ..almost was terrified! It's a machinery :)

Country Mun Dogwear
Aug 21, 2015

Thanks - an interesting piece. I would love to see something on search v display advertising on google.
A couple of our products are very popular (with people who know about them) but most don't know they exist so obviously don't search for them. We are thinking that display might be the way to go.

thanks again

Oct 02, 2015

An impressive share! I have just forwarded this onto a co-worker
who has been conducting a little research on this.
And he actually bought me breakfast simply because
I discovered it for him... lol. So allow me to reword this....
Thanks for the meal!! But yeah, thanx for spending the time to discuss this topic
here on your web site.

Mister Brazil
Mar 23, 2016

I do not see travel keywords in this post, I'm glad, Evan though still expensive for me. But, makes me feel better, that it could be worse for the travel companies.
Great info! Thanks