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Jul 21, 2008 | 8 minute read

Google Keyword Tool: Research and Application Tips

written by Linda Bustos

There are many free and paid keyword research tools out there, but using Google's Keyword Research Tool is your best bet to make decisions based on Google-only data.

The following are tips on how you can tailor Google Keyword Tool's data to your needs (much like you would with Google Analytics), and how you can apply this research beyond your SEO and PPC campaign to other marketing activities. We'll also cover the limitations of this (and all) keyword research tool(s).

Google Keyword Research Tool Tips

1. Select Your Countries

Google will share search volume based on country (not sure if it's calculated from, etc only or if they include searches performed outside of the US). So you can change the default US database to your territory. But if you sell to multiple countries from one website, or you target multiple countries from one AdWords campaign, you can select more than one country by doing a "Control + Click" or "Command + Click" - depending if you're Mac or PC.

You can also simply select All Countries if you sell globally, anyway. Of course, there's also multiple language selection - but I'm not sure why you'd want to select multiple languages at once.

2. Generate Keywords

There are a couple options for generating keywords - you can enter your own keywords, or use an existing URL. In the second option, Google will extract keywords off the page and generate related keywords.

Option 1: Keywords

Type in a few off the top of your head, or import an existing list from an AdGroup, for example.

In this case, if you're a retailer selling "learning toys" - you could type in the obvious "learning toys," "educational toys," "baby toys," "toddler toys," "children's toys."

Choose to use synonyms or not. I'd use synonyms the first time, and if the results are irrelevant, go back and uncheck the box, and redo the search.

You can also apply negative keywords, for example you sell parachutes, you should exclude "coldplay" and "what color is your."

Then, click "Get keyword ideas."

Option 2: URL

Here's a trick - don't use your own URL. If you sell "learning toys" - choose the top search result for "learning toys" in Google and let Google extract related keywords off that page.

You can also toggle between your 2 options without losing your keyword list or URL input, just click "Get keyword ideas" again to re-run the search. When you're doing heavy-duty keyword research, sometimes you need to look beyond what you have brainstormed - so leverage your competitors. Just be sure to ignore keywords that are not relevant to your site.

3. Set your match type to "Exact."

When looking at data, if you choose broad or phrase match, you'll end up with inflated keyword counts because it will include longer queries that include your keywords. For example, "learning toys" would include searches for "learning to make wooden toys" with broad match, or "used learning toys" with phrase match. Exact match will show you the true keyword count.

Unless you're using the tool to work on your AdWords campaign (building AdGroups or looking at advertiser competition or estimated bid prices for broad and phrase match), then you don't need to see broad and phrase match stats.

4. Add or Remove Columns

By default, you can't all the data available. Simply click "Show All" to see everything, and remove the columns you don't need, like Average Position or CPC if you're not doing AdWords. (Some AdWords advertisers don't trust the estimates anyway).

Removing columns not only simplifies what you're looking at, but helps you export only the data you need to text, .CSV or with the Table Tools Firefox plug-in.

5. Jump to Data

If you used the URL option, Google will "chunk" out your keywords into smaller groups, but you can navigate them through links:

6. Sort Data

Don't forget that the Keyword Tool, Google AdWords and Google Analytics tabular data is sortable just like an Excel spreadsheet.

7. Download ALL Keywords, Don't Build a List

You can click "Add {match type}" to build a list of the keywords you want, but this won't keep your search volume data. So make sure you're looking at the data you want to keep (the columns that are relevant), then click download {option} (text, .CSV):

Then delete the keywords you don't want from there. For this reason, I suggest keeping your keyword lists tightly focused so they're easier to work with and make decisions from, rather than every single keyword that might apply to your site (choose a category or a line of products). You could paste the data into one big spreadsheet if you want (a worksheet for every group of keywords). If you know of a more efficient way, please leave us a comment.

Applying Keyword Research

Now we're ready to apply this data to various marketing activities. These are just examples, not exhaustive applications for each activity.


If you're researching for PPC and you sort by advertiser competition (click twice to get low-high), you may spot a decent volume keyword that's relatively cheap, like "learning express toys." If you don't carry that product (and you don't because it's a competing toy store), you'll want to make sure you add "express" to your negative keyword list (if you use broad match).

Come back tomorrow, we'll cover negative keyword research in more depth.

SEO and Site Usability

Sometimes there are two ways to describe the same thing. What are customers more likely to think of - "educational toys" or "learning toys"? "Educational games" or "learning games"?

You could take a wild guess, but keyword research will give you better insight. If you sort by "Approx. Average Search Volume" (not last month's searches but average monthly search), you can compare synonyms:

  • Applying keyword research to categorization and navigation labels

In this case, a toy retailer would do well to use "Learning Toys" and "Educational Games" as text links in navigation menus. Not only does it give an SEO boost to those category pages, but also has a better chance of being spotted by a customer who's scanning the page looking for that keyword she typed in the search engine to get to the site.

If you discover highly searched keywords, you may even create categories or prioritize which links appear in your menus (to keep menus manageable, some retailers will "chunk" menus into 7-9 links, with a "view all" or "more" link to see all categories).

  • Applying keyword research to merchandizing zones

Different types of products may spike in different months, so featuring them on your home page at different times of the year makes sense. You also provide the category or product page links a bit of an SEO boost by linking directly from the home page (makes it look more important in search engine's eyes).

From content on's home page

Melissa and Doug and V Smile seem to be in-demand brands - why not feature them on the home page, or in the Educational Toys or Learning Toys category? Even if your sales data shows your sales for these brands are low, it may be because you've buried them in your site and you're not attracting SEO or PPC traffic for these terms.

  • Applying keyword research to site search

You can also manually tweak your site search to make the hottest brands appear on top (as long as your site search tool allows you).

You should also pay attention to synonyms that you may not have optimized internal site search for. Perhaps you lost 50 sales last month simply because you delivered "0 results found" for "educational games" because your category is called "Learning Games."

If you use keyword tagging for products (which may create keyword optimized pages in search engines, depending on how you implement), you can tag with synonyms.

  • Other Applications

Boost your SEO by creating new content (or blog content), adding keywords to your title tags, or using keywords in "anchor text" for your internal linking and in external link building campaigns. Or use keywords and hot products in your email marketing headlines and offers. If you're really daring, register keyword domains and redirect to your site (to capture type-in-traffic) or build out niche microsites.


Despite how uber-excellent this tool is, it's not perfect. Do keep in mind: