How to use Keyword Planner for SEO-An Ultimate Guide

How to use Keyword Planner


First of all, before you learn How to use keyword planner, let’s see how google defines its tool.

“Google defines Keyword Planner as a free AdWords tool for new or experienced advertisers that’s like a workshop for building new Search Network campaigns or expanding existing ones. You can search for keyword and ad group ideas, see how a list of keywords might perform, and even create a new keyword list by multiplying several lists of keywords together. Keyword Planner can also help you choose competitive bids and budgets to use with your campaigns”

You can use this tool to research keywords, to get historical statistics, traffic forecasts and conduct effective ad campaigns. You may use it as a traffic estimator and cost per click cost (CPC) indicator.

Probably because google is an advertisement company, its definition is oriented more towards ad campaigns. Otherwise, digital marketers use this tool frequently to conduct keyword research for SEO and for generating content ideas.

How to use Keyword Planner for Keyword Research

You may also learn how to use keyword planner watching this video

This tutorial shows how to use keyword planner step by step to conduct keyword research and to find relevant keywords.

Generally, people use keywords or key phrases in search engines to search for a solution to a problem they face.

Wikipedia defines “Keyword research is a practice search engine optimization (SEO) professionals use to find and research actual search terms that people enter into search engines”.

SEO professionals research keywords and they use them in their clients’ websites to achieve better rankings in search engines.

They use Google Keyword Planner to conduct Keyword Research to perform their SEO task of optimizing websites with relevant keywords and for content writing.


Three Main Functions of Google Keyword Planner

The picture shown below is the home screen for Google Keyword planner

How to use keyword planner-3 Main functions

The picture shows three main functions of google keyword planner.

SEOs use this tool for 3 most noteworthy functions. They are

  1. Search for new keywords using a phrase, website or category.
  2. Get search volume data and trends by entering or uploading keywords.
  3. Multiply keyword lists to get new keywords.

The forecasting tool, which is the fourth function of the tool, is especially relevant for advertisers and hence not within the scope of this guide on how to use keyword planner for keyword research.

Function One

How to use keyword planner-First function

This function finds new keywords along with search volume based on seed keywords or landing page or product category entered.

Search options within the first function

The image above is a snapshot of the first and probably the most important function of google keyword planner. It helps to search for new keywords using a phrase, website or category.

To search a keyword, you are suggested to type in 2-3 words relevant to the business you are in.  These words are called seed keywords. The purpose of entering 2 or 3 closely related or synonym keywords from the same industry is basically to help google to clarify better about our industry so that it provides better suggestions.

All searches will be exact match searches only. This means, only searches with the key phrase used as such with no gaps or variations.

As an alternative to the above, you may enter a landing page of your website or your competitor’s website in the designated box. The tool will use the content within the website to generate relevant keywords. Consequently, the quality of keywords generated here is dependent on the quality of the website you enter.

The other alternative is you may select from one of many predefined keyword categories available within the tool. It may probably be a bit tedious to find your category from the long list of categories given by the tool.

Filters within the first function

There are certain filters available for you to eliminate keywords that are not within your criteria.

Locations filter
How to use keyword planner-Location

Select all locations or countries or cities.

For example, as shown in the picture above, you may select the geographical areas like “all locations” or specified countries or cities. The results will be specific to the searches within the region and culture.

Language filter
How to use keyword planner-– Languages

Select single or multiple languages

You may choose single or multiple languages as shown in the picture above. For example, if you choose “Arabic” as the language, results will be in Arabic language.

Negative keywords filter
How to use keyword planner- Negative Keywords

Choose one or more words to eliminate from the results

Negative keywords, as shown in the picture above, are words you don’t want to see in search results. Therefore, you may enter them, separating each of them with a comma, in the box to eliminate from the results.

It’s noteworthy to mention that you may use negative words effectively to focus the research in a specific area.

Date Range for search filter
How to use keyword planner- Average monthly searches

Average monthly searches

The picture above shows default date range for 12 months. You may adjust this to suit your requirements. Also, there are options to compare monthly searches with the previous period or custom defined period.

Volume and CPC Bid filter
How to use keyword planner- Keyword filters

Filters to target specific search requirements

You may use keyword filters option shown in the picture above to fix minimum volume and suggested bid or competition type targeted. For example, by fixing average monthly searches to be less than say 200, you can generate long tail keywords. By fixing suggested bid above a certain amount or high ad competition, you can target commercial keywords. Ad impression share is relevant only when you are running ads. Please remember this competition simply indicates advertiser competition for the keywords. Therefore this is different from keyword difficulty or keyword competition metric that we use to choose a keyword for ranking.

Keyword options filter
How to use keyword planner- Keyword Options

Keyword options to further target results to your requirements.

In the Keyword options category, “Show keywords in my account”  and “Show keywords in my plan” are relevant if you are running ads.

“Only show ideas closely related to my search terms” will help better to make exact word searches that show closely related words.

“Show adult ideas” is to switch off or on the adult content.

“Keywords to include” seems to work just in the opposite way to negative keywords. It helps to show only those keywords that have the word entered in by you.

As a result of all these filters, the tool helps to shows only customized results based on your selection.

Function Two

This image below is a snapshot of the second function of google keyword planner. It fetches search volume data and trends for the keyword list uploaded by the user.

How to use keyword planner-Second function

Get search volume data and trends for the keyword list uploaded by the user

This function is helpful to see the volume, CPC bid and ad competition of your own list of keywords if you already have one.

You can either copy and paste the list of keywords in the designated box or upload a file that contains a list of keywords.

For example, if you already have generated a list of keywords from other keyword suggestion tools and want to see the volume and suggested bid metrics for them, you can use the second function.

Many of the filters available under 1st function like choosing locations, negative keywords are available in this function too. Use them to target the search in a specific direction.

Function Three

This image below is a snapshot of the third function of google keyword planner. It multiplies keyword lists to get new keywords.

How to use keyword planner-Third function

Used to multiply keyword lists


The third function mashes up and shows various combinations of keywords entered along with their traffic estimates, suggested CPC bids and advertiser competition. So this function is probably more useful for eCommerce companies.

For example, in the first box, please enter 3 different car brands like GM, ford, Toyota. In the second box, enter 2 different models, SUV and Sedan. Now if you click on the “X” symbol next to the second box, the third box will open.

Enter 3 different colors in it like red, blue and green. Now press “Get Search Volume” button. The tool will give volume, CPC and competition data for each of the combinations of words entered like GM SUV red, GM, Sedan red etc.

If you press “Get forecasts” button, you’ll be taken to Keyword planner forecasting tool for the keyword combinations generated.

Forecasting tool

Advertisers use the forecasting tool frequently. However, please note that broad match, phrase match and exact-match keyword forecasts are possible using this tool.

Being an advertiser tool, it is out of the scope of this guide on how to use google keyword planner.

How to read the Results Page?

How to use keyword planner- Search Results page

Search Results page

Targeting options and search field

In the above picture, on the left side of the page, you can see the targeting options. You can modify them as you continue with your keyword research.

Search field shows the seed keywords you enter to generate relevant keywords. You may want to tweak these seed words as you move forward based on results you see and your requirements.

Search Volume Trend

Search volume trends show the graph for average monthly search volume for the keywords you enter. This will help to see if seed words entered show uptrend, downtrend, stable trend or seasonal fluctuations if any.

The dropdown option here shows more options to see the trends.

How to use keyword planner- Mobile vs Total

Mobile searches vs Total Searches

The above picture shows the comparison of mobile searches vs total searches for the keywords and the period chosen.

How to use keyword planner- Breakdown by Device

Search volume breakdown by device

The above picture shows the comparison of searches on various devices like computers, mobile phones, and tablets.

How to use keyword planner- Breakdown by location

Searches by location

The above picture shows the comparison of searches in various locations / countries.

Keyword Results

Search Results show Ad group Ideas and Keyword Ideas. Ad group Ideas, as the name suggests, combine related keywords and show them as a group under a common keyword, ignoring minor variations in the individual keywords within that group. This is how advertisers target groups for spending. For example, “Best Shoes” and “Top Shoes” will be categorized under the same group. Average monthly searches or volume shall be the cumulative value of Individual keywords.

Keyword Ideas show each and every Individual keyword even if there are minor variations in them.

You may see the trend for each of the ad group ideas and keyword ideas by hovering over the chart symbol. The dropdown will show more options that can provide a wealth of information about the search.

Monthly Search Volume

Average monthly searches are exact match searches for the keywords you search for. The numbers are only estimates and not accurate searches. In fact, google rounds off the volume result to the nearest traffic bucket. For example, 165,000 searches and 201,000 searches are two buckets fixed by google. If the actual search volume lies in between these two numbers, google shows the estimated volume as the closest of the two to the actual search volume.

The head keyword terms have a bigger gap in terms of absolute values compared to long tail words, in which case google has fixed the bucket values with smaller gaps like 10 and 20 searches. Also, misspellings and variations greatly affect search volume. Research conducted shows that google hides some of the top volume keyword results in the search results. Therefore, always take the results shown by the tool with a pinch of salt.

Recent Update: Google has started showing only the volume ranges for those who do not have an ad campaign running.

For Example, 10K – 100K, 100K – 1M etc.

It shows the following message on the results page.

“This page shows ranges for search volumes. For a more detailed view, set up and run a campaign”

Competition and Suggested Bid

Competition and Suggested Cost per Click (CPC) Bid columns are Indicators of commercial nature of keywords. Usually, highly competitive keywords would have higher suggested bid. This indicates they are commercial keywords and converts at a higher rate. On the other hand, informational keywords are used for research purposes and hence advertisers don’t bid on them. So they are low competition keywords with lower CPC bids.

You may sort Average monthly searches, Competition and suggested bid columns by ascending or descending order for analysis purposes.

Add to plan button can be used to save the search results for ad campaigns or future reference for SEO and content creation.

Using the download button, you may download the keywords in CSV excel file or save them to google drive.

Pro Tips on how to use keyword planner

  1. Suggested to enter 2-3 seed keywords to search for relevant Industry Keywords.
  2. Use negative words filter to target the research in a particular area.
  3. Select location and language for targeting the unique cultural aspects of an area.
  4. Watch out for seasonal variations and trends of keywords for decision making.
  5. Don’t ignore keywords under ad group ideas.
  6. Target keywords with high ad competition and high suggested bid for highly converting commercial keywords.
  7. Take the results with a pinch of salt. Use other tools in combination with keyword planner to generate more keywords.


Hopefully, you learned a lot from this post on how to use keyword planner. As a result of being such a sophisticated tool, Google Keyword Planner is more like a Swiss Army knife of different keyword research tools. Most of the time, other keyword tools pick up the key metrics like volume and CPC suggested bid data only from keyword planner before producing reports. Of course, there are criticisms like hidden keywords and several inconsistencies in keyword recommendations. Despite all that, it’s the best tool we have right now to get search volume data and commercial intent of keywords. The effective use of available functions within this tool can help to find new keywords and ad group ideas. Please know this is where the money is. So start playing around with this tool to dig out some gems that your competitors are missing.

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