Way, way back in 2011, when the world was young and fidget spinners weren’t yet a thing, there was lore floating around in the search marketing world that “mesothelioma” was the most expensive keyword to bid on in Google Ads (at the time, known as Google AdWords), costing upwards of $100 per click. But was it true?
I had a little idea: What if we used data from our Free Keyword Tool to determine which keywords had the highest costs per click (or CPC’s) in Google AdWords, driving up online advertising costs?
The infographic we created based on that data is still one of our most popular and most linked to pages ever, but people often ask us for updated data.
Those people, and curious people everywhere, are in luck! We’ve completed a new, comprehensive analysis of keyword data for five different currencies in English-speaking countries (check out for the data for GBP, CAD, AUS, and ZAR too!).
This time around, we determined the top 25 most expensive keywords (meaning these niche markets are super-competitive) along with their average CPC – and six years later, the results are substantially different!
Ready to see what the most expensive keywords are in 2017? Here we go:
Here’s how we got the list: We pulled all the data collected from anonymous Google Ads Performance Grader reports across all industries between June 1, 2016 and June 12, 2017, then looked at the top 1000 most expensive keywords seen during that time period and categorized them by core intent.
For example, we lumped the keywords “bail bonds” and “bail bonds los angeles” into a single category since the core intent is the same. Likewise, keywords involving different types of lawyers (such as “malpractice lawyer” and “injury lawyer”) or insurance were grouped together. We used a similar methodology last time so as to avoid featuring too many specific long-tail or local keywords that wouldn’t have broad applicability to a large number of businesses. We separated distinct services (pest control vs. termites) as much as possible.
We also filtered out keywords with less than 100 clicks from our data set. We only looked at advertisers bidding in USD, GBP, AUD, CAD, and ZAR, and analyzed different currencies separately. We also eliminated non-English ads and duplicates (where both the keyword and the CPC were exactly the same) from that set. The results you’re reading about in this article are in USD.
Shout out to everyone who helped compile, analyze, and illustrate the data: our data analyst Josh Brackett, our web team leader Meg Lister, and our designer Kate Lindsay.
The top 25 most expensive keywords in Google are as follows:
Top 25 Most Expensive Keywords
|Cash Services & Payday Loans||$48.18|
|Cleanup & Restoration Services||$47.61|
|Medical Coding Services||$46.84|
Generally, AdWords keyword costs get driven up in particular niches for one of the following reasons:
When people are desperate for help, they’re willing to spend more on services or products to get that problem solved. That means the companies doing the advertising can charge more for those services, and they can often achieve strong ROI on their ad spend even with high costs per click.
These spaces are also highly competitive, because people don’t necessarily spend a long time deciding where they’re going to shop – they want help NOW! For example, one of the top keywords in the “medical services” category is “emergency room near me.” If the advertiser is in the right place at the right time, they can profit big. (Not that I think private companies should be profiting off people who need emergency care…)
Examples of keywords related to urgent problems include:
Last time around, insurance-related keywords were at the very top of the list. According to our data, insurance is no longer king of the hill. That’s good news for marketers trying to drive leads in the insurance industry, right? (Sort of – they’re still almost $50 per click on average. And there are outliers, like “malpractice insurance,” that can cost over $300 per click!)
Now, the most expensive keywords are in the category “business services” – business keywords includes stuff like “data room” and “network security monitoring” – most likely because these services tend to be costly. Companies offering business services are willing to bid more per keyword because there’s so much to gain when a prospect does convert, whether it’s a single big purchase or a service with a high customer lifetime value.
Our last infographic showed that finance-related keywords (like loans keywords and mortgage keywords) are some of the most costly. You can see similar trends this year – see “asset management” at #5 ($49.86 per click) and “banking” at #23.
Law keywords are still way up there, and on average keywords related to legal services are even more expensive ($54.86 per click compared to $42.51 in 2011). This is part of why marketing for law firms can be a challenge.
If you’re in one of these expensive niches, consider expanding onto the display network. When leveraged in conjunction with engaging creative (like the kind you can make with our free Smart Ads Creator), the display network is a great place to get affordable clicks and balance out your budget.
People will pay a lot to have their dreams come true. For some, those dreams are about getting an education. Y’all love learning and “degree” remains a very expensive keyword (too bad for those of you marketing in the higher education industry).
Once you get a degree, you can get a higher-paying job, and then reward yourself with a big vacation. Travel-related keywords like “Hilton timeshare reviews” make an appearance this year at #13 on the list.
But people clicking on ads haven’t kicked all their bad habits – “casino” is way up there at #3 ($55.48 per click) and “online gambling” makes an appearance too, at #22. Who needs a Vegas vacation when the fun’s right there in your laptop?
You’re also talking to psychics and getting hair transplants. #questionablechoices
We weren’t expecting this one.
Sometimes people google “google,” and sometimes people bid on “google adwords” in Google AdWords. (OK, we admit it. You’re looking at some of those people right now.)
We can help with that!
Our newly revamped Free Keyword Tool (currently in beta release) has a cool feature that lets you filter your results by industry.
For example, let’s say you want to find keywords related to cars, but you’re in the finance industry and you’re only interested in terms that are relevant to your business. Type in “cars” and select “Finance & Banking” as your industry, and you’ll see results like this:
Your results include terms like “new car lease” and “new car incentives.” However, if you chose “Arts & Entertainment” as your industry, you’d see results like “cars film” and “pixar cars”:
This can really help you to zero in on only the keywords that are going to help you build out your search marketing campaigns, filtering out irrelevant terms so you don’t have to weed through them yourself. You can filter your results by 24 different industries.
What about those top 25 keywords – were you surprised?
Elisa Gabbert is WordStream’s Director of Content and SEO. Likes include wine, karaoke, poker, ping-pong, perfume, and poetry.
See other posts by Elisa Gabbert
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