AdWords Keyword Planner Explained: How to Use Keyword Planner


Are you familar with Keyword Planner? The AdWords Keyword Planner is an incredibly useful and powerful keyword research tool, built into the AdWords interface, that combines two of the most popular former AdWords tools, the Google Keyword Tool and the AdWords Traffic Estimator, and adds to it a wizard-like integrated workflow to guide users through the process of finding keywords for creating new Ad Groups and/or Campaigns.

Keyword Planner

You'll find the AdWords Keyword Planner under "Tools and Analysis"

In this article, you'll get a complete rundown of all the features available in Keyword Planner plus tips on how to use Keyword Planner for your own keyword research for SEO, PPC and other marketing campaigns. Let's go!

Getting Started With AdWords Keyword Planner

The AdWords Keyword Planner supports three key use cases:

  • Search for keyword and ad group ideas
  • Enter or upload keywords to get estimates
  • Multiply keyword lists to get estimates

The functionality is exposed via a wizard-like interface, as shown here:

Google AdWords Keyword Planner Tool

AdWords Keyword Planner functionality

Searching for Keyword and Ad Group Ideas Using Keyword Planner

Adding keywords to your account based on Google suggested keywords is the primary use case. The Keyword Planner (illustrated below), provides a robust keyword workbench for researching and picking keywords to add to your AdWords account.

Using the AdWords Keyword Planner to Research Keywords

AdWords Keyword Planner User Interface

Using the Keyword Planner Tool you can:

  • Look for keyword and ad group ideas: Brainstorm keyword ideas based on individual keyword ideas, or based on your landing page, a product category, or any combination of the above.
  • View keyword statistics and performance estimates:  Specify targeting options that you select such as country, language and search network to inform your keyword estimates.
  • Filter keywords: You can narrow your keyword list based on various criteria, such as average CPC and average monthly search volume. You can also include or exclude keywords containing specific terms, and exclude keywords that are already in your AdWords account.

Please note that AdWord's Keyword Planner returns exact match search traffic. For phrase and broad match search traffic, try these Google Keyword Planner tips.

List View vs. Grouped View and “Your Keyword Plan”

Keywords in the Keyword Planner appear either in list view or in grouped view, which is sort of analogous to the concept of keyword niches and keyword lists that we’ve long supported in WordStream’s own keyword tools.

Additionally, you can add individual keywords or keyword groupings to “Your Plan,” which is sort of a temporary storage area for saving interesting-looking keywords and keyword groupings for later.

The Keyword Planner maintains state for the duration of your session – keywords that you add are saved while you’re in the process of looking for keywords.

Finally, when you’re done finding keywords, click on the “Get Estimates and Review Plan” button.

Getting Estimates and Reviewing Your Keyword Plan

The next step of the Keyword Plan process involves setting a keyword bid and daily budget for your portfolio of keywords and keyword groupings. 

Since keyword volume and CPC bid estimates vary wildly based on your budget, bid, location, and other factors, it’s important that you provide Google with some information to customize your estimates.

For example, you could enter in a bid of $40 and a daily budget of $1,000.00 and based on those settings, the Keyword Planner will generate detailed daily estimates for clicks, impressions, average ad position, and costs, as shown here.

Keyword Planner - Get Estimates and Review Plan

AdWords Keyword Planner's generated daily estimates

Enter or Upload Your Own Keyword List in Keyword Planner

Sometimes in search marketing, you’re lucky to have your own analytics data, for example, a list of top keywords that generate conversions for your website. If you’re this fortunate, it would definitely make sense to use those battle-proven keywords rather than the generic keyword suggestions you get from the Google Keyword Suggestion Tool.  Here’s what that looks like:

Upload Keywords to Keyword Planner

Google Keyword Suggestion Tool

When you press the Get Estimates button, you’ll be brought to the same keyword workbench area; the only difference is that you’ll be looking at your own keyword list, rather than the generic keywords suggested via the Google Keyword Tool.

Multiplying Keyword Lists Using Keyword Planner

A completely new feature in Keyword Planner which isn’t available in either the existing Google Keyword Tool or AdWords Traffic Estimator tools is the ability to mash up and multiply keyword lists. For example, you might want to multiply a bunch of names of cities and towns with different action words to come up with all the different keyword permutations, as shown here:

Multiply Keyword Lists Using Keyword Planner

Multiplying Keyword Lists Using Keyword Planner

You can add up to 3 lists to mash up, and clicking on the Get Estimates button brings you to the same keyword workbench area.

5 Top Keyword Planner Tips

The Keyword Planner is an amazingly powerful tool for marketers, but as with any tool, it takes skill and experience to use effectively. Whether you’re just getting started with keyword research or you’re a seasoned PPC marketer, the following Keyword Planner tips will help you get the most out of this versatile tool.

1. Compare Keyword Volume Changes Over Time

Seasonality is a major factor in PPC and paid social advertising. Trending topics, newsworthy events and discussions, and seasonal keywords can all vary widely in volume depending on the time of year, and the Keyword Planner allows you to compare keyword search volume across two time periods, such as seasonal keywords from the previous two holiday seasons.

Select date range AdWords Keyword Planner 

Compare keyword sets across time periods with Keyword Planner

This information can be invaluable when launching seasonal or time-sensitive campaigns, so be sure to evaluate whether last year’s hottest keywords are similarly popular before you bid.

2. Use Competitive Intelligence to Identify Keyword Themes

Sometimes, the most valuable keyword research data comes from our competitors. You can use the Keyword Planner to identify potential keyword topics by entering the website of your competitors and searching for keywords by theme.

Simply enter the URL of the site you wish to evaluate, then look at the results:

 Keyword Planner research tips

Using Keyword Planner for competitive research

In this example, “Social Strategy” is a strong keyword topic that Buffer is targeting to great effect, as we can see in the figure below:

 Keyword Planner research tips new ad group ideas

Identify themes with Keyword Planner

If you were in a similar business as Buffer, this would be a great place to start when identifying new areas to focus on in your PPC and paid social campaigns, or when searching for potential new ad groups.

3. Use Wikipedia as a Starting Point for Keyword Research

Nobody knows your business better than you – with the possible exception of Wikipedia.

When conducting keyword research for a new campaign, leverage the power of the Keyword Planner and the wealth of information offered by Wikipedia to find new keyword ideas.

Let’s say you’re in the logistics management business. You want to identify potential new keywords to bid on in AdWords, and you feel like you’ve found, and subsequently bid on, all the terms that are relevant to your business. To check to see if you’ve missed any potentially valuable keywords, enter the relevant Wikipedia page into the Landing Page section of the Keyword Planner:

 Keyword Planner research tips use Wikipedia to identify topic ideas

Wikipedia is a great resource for keyword research

You’ll then be presented with a list of potential keyword ideas based on the content of the page. Given how accurate the Google spiders are, this list is incredibly valuable, especially if you’re operating in a highly niche vertical or deal with unusually specific products or services:

 Keyword Planner research tips Wikipedia keyword results

Keyword ideas within AdWords' Keyword Planner

This technique can also yield valuable insight into the intent behind some of the keywords that are relevant to your business. For example, you could offer educational content that explains “what is supply chain management”, or write a blog post that explains the responsibilities of a “supply chain manager”.

However you choose to use it, this tip can be extraordinarily useful to marketers of all disciplines.

4. Visualize Mobile Traffic Trends

Device segmentation is crucial in today’s multi-device, always-on world. However, merely knowing how much of your total traffic comes from mobile isn’t enough – you have to know which keywords are proving popular with mobile searchers so you can bid appropriately.

Take the example below, for the keyword “24 hour locksmith”:

 AdWords mobile trend data

Visualizing traffic across months and devices using Keyword Planner

As you can see, mobile volume for this keyword is almost double the desktop search volume for this term. This strongly signifies the intent behind this search, as the vastly larger mobile search volume suggests that people are searching for 24-hour locksmiths from their mobile devices as they may have been locked out of their home. As such, you’d want to structure your bidding strategy accordingly to account for the disparity between mobile and desktop search volume.

5. Go Beyond Competition Data by Exporting Keyword Planner CSV Files

When evaluating the competitiveness of keywords, the Keyword Planner helpfully offers some guidance on how competitive – and, therefore, potentially expensive – certain keywords are. However, this isn’t as helpful as it sounds, as there are only three levels of competitiveness offered within the Keyword Planner: Low, Medium, or High. This is great if you only need a cursory glance at how competitive a keyword is, but if you need more accurate data, you’ve got to get creative.

To see exactly how competitive a keyword is, export the search data from Keyword Planner as a CSV file that can be opened in a spreadsheet application. Once you’ve done this, you’ll notice that the Low, Medium, and High competitiveness data has become a numerical value between 0 and 1, as shown below:

 AdWords CSV export

Calculate keyword return by exporting data as a CSV file

Based on this number, we can calculate which keywords offer the greatest potential return by using a simple calculation.

In the example above, you’ll see that the keyword “using social media for business” has a competitiveness score of 0.9 – very high in comparison to some of the other terms in this report. We can also see that the average monthly search volume is 390, and that the recommended bid is $26.85. With these figures, we can apply the following formula:

390 x 26.85 / 0.9 = 11,635

Using this calculation, the higher the end figure, the greater the potential return offered by that keyword. This can be remarkably useful if you’re bidding on similar terms, or need to know with more accuracy how competitive keywords might truly perform.

Summary: The AdWords Keyword Planner

The Keyword Planner tool supports various workflows for building ad groups and ad campaigns either starting from scratch, or based on your existing lists, and provides a more cohesive user experience than previous AdWords keyword tools by integrating the keyword selection, keyword grouping, keyword analysis and filtering aspects of the keyword selection workflow. I'm a big fan!

Find out how you're REALLY doing in AdWords!

Watch the video below on our Free AdWords Grader:

Visit the AdWords Grader.


Apr 25, 2013

This is an excellent tool from Google AdWords team - A good explanation by Kim on how to use the tool

Apr 26, 2013

Nice tool and will be very helpful to all of us

Vance Woodward
Apr 26, 2013

This seems like an amazingly powerful solution for people trying to constantly optimize their campaigns. I'm glad to see Google remaining active and responsive in regards to their users needs, and I can't wait to see where they go from here.

Apr 28, 2013

But I do not have such menu option. Maybe that is not yet given to everyone to access?

Elisa Gabbert
Apr 29, 2013

It's currently in a limited beta, so if you don't have access yet, check back later.

Graeme Benge
Apr 30, 2013

Great post Larry - actually used this last week to build a campaign and was impressed how intuitive it was. I'd certainly recommend everyone test it.

Tom Dearing
May 01, 2013

Brilliant tool, it will definetly come in really handy for most people. Even though Google is such a huge company, they are still constantly trying to improve. It amazes me, it really does, well done this is a great post!!

Code Blue Media
May 03, 2013

Now that's just so great. Google adwords tool just got better! More sophisticated and organize. Been trying the latest updates recently and your post has kept me on right track. This post deserves a share! brilliant.

May 03, 2013

Google has added  powerful feature to enhance its best keyword  research tool. this will provide not only a well targeted and enhanced features which let users not only choose right keywords with more accuracy related to their offerings but also let them estimate the inbound traffic and to some extend projected conversion of their potential leads.  

R Lawrence
May 04, 2013

In the UK I have the Display Planner, which is very similar but intended for use with the Display network. There isnothing called Keyword Planner. Is Display Planner the same thing renamed, a different tool I never before noticed, another beta tool offered in UK,or what…--anybody know? 

Larry Kim
May 08, 2013

it's being rolled out slowly to accounts. it's available in 5% of adwords accounts today.keep checking or check other adwords accounts!

Hao Ngo
May 04, 2013

A great tool, I need to have a try !

May 05, 2013

Can't wait to give it a try. Hope they'll roll it out soon for all accounts.

May 06, 2013

Thankx for your great explanation, it helps a lot. This one sounds interesting, i can´t wait to find it in my own accounts.Looks like a great tool.

May 07, 2013

The keyword multiplier is a fantastic idea. Extremely helpful when campaigns/adgroups target specific areas/locations. 

May 08, 2013

Doing keyword research was not that easy and not that fun now with this one out, doing keyword research will be more interesting and fun...

May 22, 2013

Great new tool! I hope it will be launched in Germany soon!

Jun 01, 2013

finally.. this gonna make my keyword research more easier and faster..great tool

Jul 11, 2013

Half the day I have the old Keyword Tool and the other half I get the new Keyword Planner. I was only using it for keyword rankings for blogging. Now this new tools is not as advantageous as Keyword Tool. I have searched for keyword; then search a different one; go back and enter the first keyword back in and provides different results. I'm so confused!

Jul 17, 2013

I have been using the original keyword tool and have tried using this new tool... but i sincerly think its way complicated to understand whats happening in this new Keyword Planner! The original tool was so simple and we got what we wanted quickly... this tool merging with estimator is not coming by easily to understand what stats we are getting?I know its google's tool but m just wondering why has google made it so complicated? from what it originally was so simple and easy.

Anonymous (not verified) Said
Aug 29, 2013

I too believe from what I've read so far, the tool is much more complicated than the Google Keyword Tool and that it appears that the point of doing this is to combine Adwords which involve PPC's.  Is the bottom line money??

Sep 01, 2013

Quite unhappy with this planner!

Nov 20, 2013

So how exactly do we get to the Adwords Keyword Planner? All the links you posted on this page lead to other Wordstream pages. It's almost as if you don't want any links leading out of your site. You guys suck. You'd rather artificially lower your bounce rate rather than actually help your readers.

Elisa Gabbert
Nov 20, 2013

There's a screenshot at the very top of the post showing you where to find this tool! We can't link to a tool inside your AdWords account....

Jan 15, 2014

I am not satisfy this tool............. un happy........

Jan 31, 2014

To confirm about accessing the tool/links to it, I've just found this tool by searching Google for "adwords keyword" and it was the top link. As Elisa says above though, to get into it you have to access your AdWords account - which I didn't have, but I did already have a Google Analytics account so I used those log in details and was quick/easy then. I've never usedthe old Keyword tool so don't know if this is more complicated,certainlyseems useful to me.

How to do keyword research
Dec 06, 2014

I liked the old "Keyword tool" a lot more than the keyword planner honestly. I guess it isn't that bad once you figure out how to use it- took me weeks to figure it out. Thanks for the tips

Jan 28, 2015

still new on this keyword tools

Jewel Rahman
Oct 06, 2015

It's actually a great and useful piece of info.I’m happy that you just shared this useful info with us. Please stay us informed like this. Thank you for sharing.

May 08, 2016

I have no website and started on Adwords yet Google Adwords does not give me any option to look at keyword planner - Am I dumb or should I enter a webpage and then it will allow this amazing feature?

May 25, 2016

It is like very useful post. But I am getting a trouble with it. I am unable to fin d the keyword planner tool. Whenever I

login to the adword account, it ask me to create a advertise campaingn. But I want to search first keyword analysis. so can

you plz share the link for the same.

Google keywords analysis tool link.

Kindly do share.

Muhammad Nadim
Jun 11, 2016

I want to select unique keyword.

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