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Keyword Research: Using the Google AdWords Keyword Tool to Identify the Best Keywords

Over 80% of all online transactions begin with a keyword search. To compete, you need to target all of the most relevant keywords.

Keywords are the foundation of search engine optimization.  What are keywords?  Essentially, keywords connect customers to your web site.  These are the words people type into a search engine – such as,, etc.  – when searching for your business, services, products or info.

Conducting a keyword analysis is a crucial component of search engine optimization.  The goal is to make sure there is not a disconnect between the keywords on your site’s web pages and the keywords your target audience is typing into the search engines.

It’s important to conduct keyword research and not just assume you know the keywords your target audience is using.  Not analyzing keywords may result in:

  • Missing important keyword terms people search for
  • Focusing on terms you think are important but really aren’t being used

How to Conduct a Keyword Analysis

  1. Create a list of terms you think your target audience is using
  2. Write down the words or phrases you think are important
  3. Ask your customers which keywords they think are important or they used to find you
  4. Look at competitors’ web sites (look at their source code, especially the keywords meta tags)
  5. Use the Google AdWords Keyword Tool

How to Use the Google AdWords Keyword Tool

The Google AdWords Keyword tool is a free keyword analysis tool provided by Google for its AdWords product, which is a pay-per-click (PPC) advertising platform.  You can use this keyword tool without creating an AdWords account, however, Google will serve up more detailed information, if you are signed into AdWords when using this tool.

To create a free account, go to   Once you are logged in, open the Keyword Tool.  If you choose not to login, go to to use the tool.

Keyword Research: Using the Google AdWords Keyword Tool to Identify the Best Keywords

  • Open the tool and enter in a keyword or keyword phrase into the “Find keywords” box.  You can also enter in your website or a competitor’s to see which keywords are being indexed.
  • Deselect the “Only show ideas closely related to my search terms” box.
  • Under “Locations and languages”, keep the “United States” and “English” selected.
  • Under “Advanced Options and Filters”, keep “Local Monthly Searches” selected.  To only show results that have a certain amount of searches per month, you can select an operator and number.  For instance, if you only want to see terms that are searched for 500 times or more per month, enter in the “>=” operator, and add “500” to the text field to the right of the operator.
  • Click on “Search”.

The search results that will appear are not the number of local searches per month.  Rather, these search results relate to Google’s PPC program.  To see the number of local searches per month, change the checkbox under “Match Types” (in the left column of the Google Adwords Keyword Tool Dashboard) from “Broad” to “[Exact]”.

These search results are the number of local searches conducted each month in the United States for the search term you entered in the “Find keywords” box.

You can also include or exclude terms, or use categories.

Categories can be helpful when keywords mean different things depending on the content or category.

These numbers are approximate but will give you an idea of the value and competitiveness of the keywords.

Click on the “Local Monthly Searches” heading to sort by the number of searches.  Select all of the keywords and then deselect the keywords that are not related or unnecessary.  Google will save your selections as you move from page to page and work your way through the list.

Once you have your list, you can download the list to a spreadsheet (by clicking on the “Download” dropdown menu and choosing “Selected”. The keywords will have the square brackets around them.   This is a Google AdWords thing.  You can do a “Find and Replace” to remove them.  Do this for a variety of keywords and then merge the keyword lists into a master list in your spreadsheet program (such as Excel or Google Docs).

There are commercial services that provide better keyword tools for a fee. Several of the most popular include:

Whichever program you choose, remember, it’s very important to spend some time understanding the keywords that are important to you and your target audience before delving into search engine optimization for your web site.