How to Choose Strong, Cost-Effective Google Search Ad Keywords


May, 2020

Once you’ve used Google Keyword Planner to create your list of intent-focused keywords, the next step is to narrow your list to the strongest and most cost-effective keywords. These are the keywords that will generate the greatest return on your advertising spend and help you to complete your advertising goals. Our goal is to remove keywords that won’t share your message with the right person, at the right time, or at the best possible price.

This post assumes that you’ve already gotten started with keyword selection. If not, I recommend reviewing our last post about Google Search Ad keywords and how to think like your customer. In that post, we ended with a totally real-world scenario where you are the owner of a burgeoning cheese sculpting business. Your goal is to increase the number of orders for custom-made cheese sculptures and you began testing keywords.

These are your initial results:


You may be a little discouraged that, statistically, nobody searched for “cheese sculptors” over the last year. But, don’t worry! You’ve learned that people search for what you sell, but not in the way you expected. So, keep exploring. You’ll keep researching terms related to catering, cheese platters, events, and parties.

As you search for keywords and narrow down your list, notice their average monthly searches, competition, and the bid information. Average monthly searches are exactly what it sounds like; it is the average number of times that this keyword is searched for within a month over the course of the last year, by default. Competition is High, Medium, or Low depending on how many advertisers are targeting that keyword. This affects how expensive your ad will be and how often it will run. The bid range gives you an estimate of how much a click for that keyword will cost. Those are the main criteria to consider when you’re choosing keywords.

Ultimately, which keywords are best for you depends on your specific business goals and your industry. Usually keywords with more search volume are better than those with less, but that is not always true, especially if your product or service is intended for a niche audience. Similarly, you may want to save money by using less expensive keywords, but then you may be targeting people with no intent to actually buy what you’re selling.

“Ultimately, which keywords are best for you depends on your specific business goals and your industry.”

Let’s get back to your quest for cheese sculpting keywords. In the above picture, how would you rate the keywords we tested? You can see that “platters for parties” and “cheese platters” are listed as having high competition, which can be a good sign because companies compete for the most intent-focused keywords. Also, they are relatively inexpensive. “Corporate catering,” on the other hand, is listed as having low competition, but the bidding could top out at over $12 per click. Does your budget allow you to spend that much? Is it worth spending over $12 on that click if it gets you a chance at netting a $500 corporate catering order?

What about “cheese catering?” It only had 10 searches per month on average over the last year, but it had no competition. Also, it’s the focus of your business, and you do it with more panache than anyone. It’s your niche! Most of those 120 searches last year were looking for you. Include “cheese catering” in your final keyword list and take a shot at cornering that audience.


Once you’ve narrowed down your list of keywords, sort them! Make groups of keywords that are very similar to each other. By keeping your keywords tightly sorted, you’ve already begun planning out your ad groups. Just throw in some match types and you’re ready to start writing catchy ads that convert your ideal prospect into your newest customer.

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