How to Use Google Adwords Keyword Tool for SEO

While the Adwords tool is meant for PPC, it’s also a vital tool when performing keyword research for SEO. Google Adwords identifies the number of searches for specific words or key phrases. However, many people leave with false information because there are several different filters with different numbers.

If you go to the keyword tool and search for “online schools,” “online degrees” and “online education,” you’ll get information about those keywords as well as many other related terms.

Underneath the search field is a checkbox as shown below:

Make sure this is checked; otherwise you will get a huge list of keywords that may not actually apply to your business.

Google automatically presets your location and language to serve you the most relevant results. It sets my location as “United States” and my language as “English.”

You can change this if it doesn’t happen to apply to you by expanding the Advances Search section.

The next step is to simply click search. This is where the tool can get confusing.

If you’re like many, it would appear as though there are 246,000 searches for “online schools” all over the globe. Likewise, somebody would think that there are 201,000 searches for the same keyword in your local area.

This is not true and I’ve had many people regret their decision to pursue these keywords because they just didn’t understand the data.

Over on the left there is a column with “Match Types.” Check the box associated with [Exact]. This will change the keyword numbers to reflect more realistic search volume.

“Why wouldn’t the keyword tool show me exact search volume from the beginning?”

The default match type of “Broad” is referring to the number of searches that involve the phrase. For example, it’s giving you search volume numbers for the keyword “online schools” as well as search volume for all the other keywords that mention that phrase such as “best online schools,” “online schools degrees,” “online high schools” and others.

The other match type, “Phrase,” shows you keywords where the exact phrase of your keyword is used. This includes keywords where the term is used with other words within the phrase. For example, using the Phrase match type while searching “online schools” would give you search volume for other keywords like “best online schools” or “online schools degrees” but not “online high schools” or “online accredited schools” because the original phrase is being broken up.

If you’re looking for how many people search a specific keyword, stay with [Exact].

Now that the data has been changed to realistic numbers, you’ll notice the number of searchers go down drastically.

Because there are some terms that are searched worldwide, Google differentiates the two searches columns to Global and Local. The numbers underneath Global are the amount of searches all around the globe averaged out over 12 months. Searches in the Local column are referring to the location that you specified in the beginning. In our case, they’re showing the number of searches in the Unites States averaged out over 12 months.

That’s basically the gist of the Google Adwords Keyword Tool. There are some other things you can do with this tool to improve your keyword research and discover additional relevant keywords. This is by no means advanced or the end to your keyword research, you still need to analyze your online competition, research the searcher’s intent and decide what’s worth going after given your time and budget.

If you have tips or advice you’d like to add, comment below.

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  1. James Martinson says

    There has got to be a way that we can dive down into a city/state level to determine the searches for those specific areas, right?

  2. Saif says

    When I am going to use start adwords it need to pay me something. Is there any way to get this free of cost?

  3. Simon says

    I currently use this method to conduct keyword research and have found it a better and more precise method than some of the other programs available. Adwords is an extremely powerful tools when used correctly.

  4. Carlos O says

    I love this tool, my only gripe is that you can only choose countries as target markets, It would be great if you could choose states and cities.

  5. Sam says

    Excellent post Kevin W. Phelps.

    I don’t know that adwords keyword tool can be used in many ways. Thanks for sharing. Learned many things from this post.

  6. Cat says

    i use the adword tool after seeing this site it is great help to improve the quality of seo if some one now other tools like this please reply i am happy to know

  7. Michelle Greene says

    Hi Kevin, thanks so much for this eye-opening post. I had been using the broad search term.

    By reading your post, I realized how skewed my information was. I appreciate you sharing your knowledge.

    Michelle Greene

  8. Anthony says

    Whao! this is a great post honestly, I got to adword keytool for some months now and since I have been using it, I only remain on the broader part of it because I know nothing about that aspect of broad, exact and phrase, but now I’m informed through this your great post. Thaks for sharing your knowledge with us.


  9. Alison Cooper says

    A very good post, clear and well explained. Thank you for clarifying the differences between broad, exact and phrase.


  10. Chelsea says

    Adwords is awesome! Everyone should use it!! Nice post… I think a lot of people could benefit from this info.

  11. Patrick Sekhoto says

    Hi: Blog Master
    Thanks for sharing, I have learned 1 or two things from your
    post. When coming to free SEO Google Key word tool is the first thing I consider, at least you will be targeting the kind of traffic that is well optimised for your blog. The sky is the limit really if you combined Onpage optimisation together twith Off page.

  12. Jomar says

    this cool….this 5 features helps me and give some idea to know how to use keyword toll and im hoping that i will able to use it. thanks for your post.

  13. Ryan says

    This is really good info. I never knew to look to the left to find the broad and exact. I was thinking it was exact the whole time.

    Thanks again!

  14. Shelby says

    If i finding a keyword in adword tool, for example cricket schedule, but i only found schedule for cricket, than which one i prefer keyword for my content.

  15. Hamza says

    Very helpful article .I was looking to use adwords keyword tool as i am planning to launch some content based sites .After reading your article i think i can choose my keywords carefully and without wasting time

  16. Sasikumar says

    Nice post. It’s interesting and insightful. If you have anymore articles (written by you or sourced from the net)on keyword research, please forward the links to me.

    Creative Group Head (Copy)
    Sabre Marketing Services

  17. Rick Cano says

    I used to Coach SEO a few years ago but I had moved onto WordPress Web Design and now I do teach SEO very sparingly. I was contracted for training SEO recently by a large company so I’m brushing up on my SEO.

    Thanks for the detailed and in depth explanation for using Google Adwords Keyword Tool.


  18. Jeanine says

    Thank you for the post. Question – how do i know which keyword is the best to use? High local / global searches with low competition? Jeanine

  19. Walter says

    The information provided is really great,but it would have been great if you people would have digged the concept a bit more…i mean to say few more examples and a bit more detailed way to use this tool. I just wanted to know how to use this tool for building niche sites.

  20. Justin says

    Thank you very much, it is very helpful, since it is not easy to pick when you do not know what is all about. I am going to be back on your website and tell everyone I know about it. Keep up the good work and Happy New Year.

  21. Conor MacEvilly says

    Thanks Kevin,

    Just the clear and simple explanation I needed for using this tool which I started playing with last week. I was about to splash out on Samuri but looked like most of their data was just being pulled out of Adwords Tool. What package would you recommend for a non-expert self-use site owner?


  22. Tanner says

    Hi Nice post.. but what would be the next step, I mean which keyword should I choose for my blog or site’s content. Sometime I have noticed that searching keywords competition is high but global and local search is less and vice verse, so I am lil bit confused for the next step. Need help…

    • Rick Cano says

      Hey Techno world news…in answer to your question, global versus local search and competition can be very complicated and I teach people how to use the Adwords tool and how to differentiate the data and some rules of thumb.

      It would be impossible to answer it here without creating a whole new article. But I can direct you where you can get some answers.

      Thanks again

  23. Nicole says

    Google Adwords Keyword tool is really awesome. I have improve my SEO upto 200%
    Thanx to Kevin for sharing this helpful article.

  24. George W. says

    If anyone wants the best keyword Google ad words is the best tool built by Google for all the interested persons. My work improves when I used this superb tool. For PPC and Seo work, this tool will surely increase the quality in this market for the betterment. Thanks a lot.

  25. Cameron says

    The tool is perfect for keyword research, I’m now working on improving my previous articles by doing keyword research.

  26. Melinda says

    it seems to be good but its not cent percent accurate one to get good results in business promotion point of view

  27. Palla Sridhar says

    I really love the Google Adwords tool. I’m waiting for advanced keyword research topics using the same. There are several keyword research tools, which predict the online competition as well. It’d be nice by the author to list few of them based upon free or paid. Also after Panda 3.3.1 update, lot has changed for small blogs and we should see keyword research from a different perspective.

  28. Shawn Radcliffe says

    Thanks for the tips. I’ve been using the Keyword tool for a while, but still learned something from this post. I look forward to more useful tips in the future.

  29. Sandy says

    Wow.. Back to the drawing board. Had bought a couple EMDs thinking they were goldmines, then I checked the [exact] box…

  30. Jason says

    It is very simple to use AdWords to research keywords. We can either enter the URL of your site or put in some seed keywords, the tool will then automatically generate a whole bunch of suggested keywords. Look at the results and shortlist all the keywords that seem relevant and have a decent global search volume.

  31. Gayle says

    Learning how to use the Adword tool has been like trying to find my way around in a blizzard. Your post and photos have now cleared a path that I can see through. Thanks for the information.

  32. Kenneth Poh says

    Google adword is a helpful tool you can get some keyword research.
    Broad keyword searches can give you lots of keywords idea and exact keyword search actually gives you the real searches in your local areas and also as well as in other countries.
    Google rocks!

  33. Prime Aque says

    Thank you for this tutorial! I blog couple of months but I always feel there is something important missing from my “to do list” ! It’s keyword research! I need to consistently research effective keyword first!

  34. Cliff says

    There’s the new contextual targeting tool that you can use along with adwords tool. It gives all sorts of LSI keywords, which is pretty useful if you want to diversify the anchor texts.

  35. Rick Noel says

    Well the other shoe finally dropped yesterday. Much of the world sighs as the Google Keyword Tool retires. It was expected as Google announced 99 days that the Google Keyword Tool would “sunset” after 60 days, being replaced by the Google Keyword Planner, available exclusively to Google AdWords clients.

    Yesterday was a huge loss and seismic to the online marketing industry, but perhaps we should be thankful for the additional 29 days of sunset grace period. RIP Google AdWords Tool.

  36. Craig says

    I notice on the new keyword planner the broad match, the exact match and the phrase match are all the same. Are you guys getting this too? Maybe it will change in the future. Sure hope so it is very useful Cheers for sharing your stuff. always a good read thanks!

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