When it comes to creating epic content, sitting down and just writing something isn’t enough. It needs to be helpful, well-thought-out, and easy to find when people need it most.

When someone needs to find an answer to a problem they’re having, they often turn to Google to find the answer. If your content was created with data from Google, that helps your chances of solving their problem.

So how do you create content that uses data from Google? By using one of Google’s own tools, Keyword Planner, to research exactly what people are searching for. Google’s Keyword Planner will tell you the terms people are searching for, how many times per month they’re searching for those terms, and how competitive those terms are. It has its limitations, which we'll cover later, and there are other solutions to cover those gaps.

What does the Keyword Planner do?

The Google Keyword Planner is a multi-functional, feature-rich tool that can help as a big part of your keyword search and planning needs. Whether you’re doing your first-ever keyword research or already have a list of keywords, this tool can help you.

From there, you can take that information to craft incredibly useful content for your ideal customers.

Here’s how to use Google’s Keyword Planner to create epic content.

Getting Started with Google’s Keyword Planner

First thing’s first: To access Google’s Keyword Planner, you need a Google Ads account. But don’t worry — you don’t need to run any ads or even enter you’re billing information. Just follow the steps below. First, you’ll need to go to Keyword Planner's homepage.

  1. Once you’re there, click “Go to Keyword Planner.”
  2. If you don’t have an ad account, create one. (It will prompt you.)
  3. Next, you’ll be asked about your main advertising goal. Just click the link “Experienced with Google Ads” underneath all the goals.
This option saves you a few unrelated steps.

Tip: You can click this whether you have experience with Google Ads or not. Clicking it will skip a few steps that aren’t required for using Keyword Planner.

On the next screen, you’ll be asked to select a campaign type. You can skip this question too by clicking on “Create an account without a campaign.”

You’ll go through a few more screens that will ask you to confirm your business information. Click “Submit.” This won’t ask for credit card or billing info. At this point, you should be in your Google Ads platform.

Now you just have to open up Keyword Planner. Google hides this a little bit. To get to Keyword Planner, click on “Tools & Settings” in the top right of the Ads platform. And then click “Keyword Planner.”

There’s one last step before you can start using Keyword Planner. On the next screen, you’ll be given two options. One that says “Discover new keywords” and another that says “Get search volume and forecasts.”

Using the Keyword Planner for new Keyword Ideas

Click the button that says “Discover new keywords.”

Now the fun starts. You get to enter in your keywords that you want to target. In the box that appears on your screen, enter a keyword that’s related to your business.

You simply need to type a topic, industry, niche, product, or anything that you want related keywords for. Whatever you type in the search box, you will find related keywords for that.

Image via Google Keyword Planner

Once you enter the search term, you will be directed to the results page which will show you a list of related keywords.

Image via Google Keyword Planner

You can use the reach and keyword filters mentioned above to sort through this list and find the best keywords for your business.

You can also use the “Grouped Ideas” tab to find sets of related keywords based on a primary keyword.

Keyword Planner will give you the ability to search 10 keywords at one time, but we suggest just focusing on one keyword at a time. Doing one at a time will make your keyword research much more organized.

You can return to these steps with every new topic you'd like to cover. Once you're comfortable with the basics, you can move on to more helpful tips on what you can do with the Keyword Planner.

1. Filters to limit the audience you reach

Google Ads Keyword Planner is a brilliant tool that helps you with keyword research for your ad campaigns. However, if you simply type in a topic and look at the results, you will see more keywords than you can possibly check manually. And, even if you use keyword filters, this list will be too long.

That is why you need to refine your keyword search, from the very start, to get a more relevant list of keywords. The Keyword Planner provides several filtering options that can narrow down the scope of your search.

Here are some of the filters that you can use to refine and sort your keyword list:

Language

This filter will let you find keywords only in specific languages and will filter out the keywords in any other language. The search volume data for your keywords will also be specific to searches in a particular language.

This feature is especially helpful if you have different copies of web pages in multiple languages. Using this, you can find language-specific keywords instead of using the same keywords for all.

Location

This provides you with search volume data for keywords from specific locations. You can also find keywords trends for a specific location, instead of global trends. These trends vary from location to location and you should narrow your searches to include only the regions that your business is present in.

This filter is especially useful for local or regional businesses as they need to find location-specific search trends and keyword performance data. So, if you are focusing on local SEO, then you should use this filter.

Negative Keywords

Another way to narrow down your search results is to leverage negative keywords. These are basically the keywords that you do not want your ads to rank for.

Negative keywords are very important in refining your keyword searches because you don’t want irrelevant or unrelated keywords.

Sometimes, one word might have two meanings, one of which is completely unrelated to your business. If you use the negative keyword filter for such terms, then you will only find relevant and useful keywords for your campaigns.

Search Network

This filter decides where the data on keywords and search trends come from. You can choose the entire web or restrict it to only Google and Google Search Partners.

Date

This filter allows you to select a time period to restrict your search results. This means that you will see the keyword search volumes and trends for a specific period of time.

2. Keyword Filters to limit cost

The next thing that you need to know about using Google Ads Keyword Planner is the different types of keyword filters. These filters help you find the most relevant keywords for your business, from a list of keywords.

The Keyword Planner has several such keywords filters, here are some of the key ones:

Average Monthly Searches

This option can be used to sort and filter keywords based on their average number of monthly searches. Keywords with extremely high average monthly searches are more popular and difficult to compete for. It is also more expensive to bid for such popular keywords.

Therefore, you should select keywords that have a good number of average monthly searches but are not extremely competitive. Using this filter, you can easily sort your keyword list and select the keywords that provide a perfect balance between popularity and competition.

Organic Average Position

This shows your page rankings for a particular keyword as compared to other pages ranking for the same keywords. This option is only available if your Google Analytics account is linked with your Google Ads account.

Organic Impression Share

This shows the percentage of times your page ranked for a keyword that it was targeting. This option is only available if your Google Analytics account is linked with your Google Ads account.

Suggested Bid

This helps you select the right keywords for your business based on the recommended bid for those keywords. Suggested bid is basically how much you would spend per click for an ad targeting that keyword.

While selecting keywords for your ads, you also need to keep your budget in mind. You cannot select too many money keywords and overshoot your budget. Therefore, you should use this filter to find the best mix of keywords that are relevant and also within your budget.

Ad Impression Share

This is a very useful metric that shows you the share of people who actually see an ad for a keyword after searching for that keyword. This gives you an idea of how likely it is that your ad will be viewed if you target a particular keyword.

Competition

As the name suggests, this filter can sort keywords based on how difficult they are to compete for. The higher the competition, the more difficult it would be to rank for that keyword.

A note about your keywords

When trying to decide on a keyword to use, don’t go too broad. For example, if you run an ecommerce company that sells outdoor gear, don’t target the keyword “outdoor gear.” It’s too broad, and you won’t get any great ideas for content. Instead, make your focus a little narrower.

Focus on specific product categories you offer, like “hiking boots,” “camping tents,” and “rock climbing shoes.” This will help narrow down the searcher’s intent so that you can actually create content that searchers are interested in reading.

Tip: If you have a list of a few of these root keywords but aren’t sure which one to target first, enter all of those keywords into Keyword Planner at the same time to get the average monthly search volume for each root keyword. Then, start with the root keyword that gets the highest number of average monthly searches.

3. Your Plans

Another feature of the Keyword Planner that you should know about is the “Your Plan” section. While doing your keyword search, you can add keywords to your plan and save those for later. You can think of these as temporary storage spaces where you keep adding any relevant keywords that you find during the course of your research.

Once you have added sufficient keywords there, you can then analyze the performance metrics for each and make your final selection.

The first time I saw this feature, I was hesitant to add anything for fear of disrupting the already-active Google Ads campaign that my account was tied to. You can move ahead with total assurance that using "Your Plan" will not automatically add these keywords to any campaign.

Evaluating Keywords

The Google Ads Keyword Planner is not just for finding keywords but also for helping you make the right selection. The search volume and trends data can help you do exactly that.

You can enter one or more keywords that you want to get this data for and simply look at the results.

This option is best for people who already have a list of keywords and just want to check their performance metrics. A lot of marketers will already have data from website analytics tools about the keywords that they are ranking for. In this case, you do not need to search for new keywords but just analyze and refine your existing keyword list.

Multiply Keyword Lists

This is a very useful feature that allows you to upload two different keyword lists and multiply them. This forms different keyword permutations and combinations.

Let’s say that you have a list of product-related keywords and one for locations. If you multiply the two lists, you will get keyword combinations with one product and one location. This is very useful when trying to find local-search keywords for your ad campaigns.

The same can be applied to any two keyword lists to get different combinations of your primary keywords.

After you have created a new keyword list with these combinations, you can always check historical and forecasted performance data for each.

Get Forecasts on Click and Cost Performance

Once you have found and added relevant keywords to your plan, you can get more advanced metrics and forecasts for those. This includes the number of clicks, impressions, cost, Average CPC, and other metrics.

The best part is that it does not just show historical cost and click performance, but can also provide forecasts. This can help you determine whether a particular keyword is worth bidding for or not.

Not just that, you can also see how a keyword has performed by devices and locations.

Image via Google Keyword Planner

4. Keyword Bidding and Budget Allocation

One key aspect of keyword selection is to analyze how much using that keyword will cost you and whether or not it fits in your budget. The Google Ads Keyword Planner provides information on average CPC, maximum CPC, and bid estimates.

Average CPC is the average per-click cost that people pay for ads they want to rank for a particular keyword. The maximum CPC is the highest amount that anyone has paid to rank for a particular keyword. Now, you don’t necessarily have to make the highest CPC bid to rank well. In many cases, you can make an above-average bid.

Keep in mind that your relevance and Quality Score of your site will play a part in how much Google weighs your bid to reach a higher spot and how much you will ultimately pay. The advertiser that outranked you on a particular search did not necessarily pay more.

The more people there are bidding for a particular keyword, the more expensive the keyword. As mentioned earlier, high-competition keywords are not only expensive but are difficult to get a top ranking for. What this means is that your ads might not be displayed on Google’s first SERP or right at the top for highly competitive keywords.

Therefore, you need to be smart about what keywords you bid for and how much. You can make an informed keyword selection using the planner and use Google Ads’ bid-optimization strategies to do the rest.

Also, when making a final selection of keywords, check the total daily cost for all your keywords to get an idea about how much you might have to spend on a daily basis. Allocate your monthly ad budget keeping in mind your average cost and also keep some buffer in case an ad performs exceptionally well.

5. Keyword Competition

As mentioned earlier, more competitive keywords are more expensive. But, how do you measure this competition?

Well, while search volume is a good measure of competition, there is another metric that you can look at. The Keyword Planner actually provides a metric called “competition.”

This categorizes the keywords based on how difficult it is to rank for it. There are three categories for this—high, medium, and low. This gives you a general idea about how tough it will be to compete for a keyword and helps you make the right selection.

However, if you want more granular details of this metric, you can download this data in the form of a .CSV file. This way you will export all data to an Excel sheet where you can actually see the numerical values behind these (high, medium, low) categorizations.

There might be hundreds of keywords that have medium categorization, but some would still be more competitive than the others. This data is helpful because it can help you prioritize between keywords that are in the same category.

So, checking the competition score for keywords takes your keyword selection process to a whole new level and lets you make more informed decisions.

When you are creating epic content that ranks, you can use these ratings (high, medium, and low) within the hub and spoke model. As you create competitive content that has a harder time ranking (high category), you can support it with internal links from relevant, topical content. Creating those pieces in the medium to low range might be easier on your workload and give you linking paths.

Your longtail-focused, more specific content is an important part of supporting your broader content from an SEO angle, but it's also beneficial for your readers.  

6. How to find keywords that will drive a lot of traffic

The goal of keyword research is to find keywords that relate to the products or services that your website sells. Then you can use those keywords to create content that will attract your ideal customer.

The best way to do this is to start by seeking out the keywords that have low competition but a high number of monthly searches.

That combination will give you the best shot at outranking your competitors and getting a lot of organic traffic. For Google’s Keyword Planner, competition actually refers to the number of companies who are advertising on that keyword. Even though it’s a metric based on advertising, it’s still useful for content creation because highly competitive keywords not only have a lot of ads targeting them, but they also have a lot of people creating content for those keywords.

To start finding low competition, high-volume keywords, you’ll first need to download the keyword ideas from Keyword Planner into a spreadsheet. Since we’ve already mentioned the ecommerce company that sells outdoor gear, we’ll stick with that as our example. Let’s say you work in marketing for that company, and you’ve decided to create content for people searching for the root keyword “hiking boots.”

You’ve entered that keyword into Keyword Planner, and it has given you a list of 957 keywords. Not all of them are useful so you’ll need to download the list into a spreadsheet to find the best keywords.

Now that the list is downloaded, you need to filter out all of the high-competition keywords. This returns a list of medium- and low-competition keywords. Let’s take it one step further and find the lowest-competition, highest-searched keywords.

To do that, filter out all the keywords that have a search volume under 100. This number might change, depending on the specific keyword you’re targeting, but the point is to get rid of the keywords that get very few monthly searches.

The remaining keywords are your “low-hanging fruit” keywords that you’ll want to tackle first. This list will be very small, and of the keywords that appear on this list, not all of them will be good keywords to build content around.

Here’s how this looks for the “hiking boots” keyword:

There are six keywords left on this list, but only “men’s hiking footwear” and “hiking tips” are worth building content around. The others likely don't have the right search intent, which means you shouldn't waste time creating content for those.If you’re not sure of the search intent of a specific keyword, do a Google search with that keyword.

When you look at the results, you should be able to tell if it’s a keyword that relates to your company. For example, the results for “women in boots” are definitely not related to outdoor gear. Back to our two useful keywords; we still have one more step to find a good content topic.

Our next step is to find other keywords that can tie into these two. This will help give us a structure for an overall blogging strategy. Remove the filters from your spreadsheet, and manually sort it looking for keywords that fit your first keyword. You’re looking for commonalities here. How do other keywords fit into your original low-competition, high-volume keyword?

For “men’s hiking footwear,” when we sorted through our keyword list, we noticed a number of keywords that could tie into this. We found a few different combinations of “boots or shoes.” That fits perfectly into our first keyword, and now we’ve got a working title for our first piece of content: “Men’s Hiking Footwear: Should You Buy Boots or Shoes?” We also found other combinations:

  • There were a few instances of winter-related boot searches. That gives us a topic, “Men’s Hiking Footwear: The Best Winter Hiking Boots”
  • “Hiking sandals” was another common keyword. From that, we could create, “Men’s Hiking Footwear: Are Hiking Sandals Good for Long Hikes?”
  • The keyword “leather” is also common. For that, we could create a blog post called “Men’s Hiking Footwear: Is Leather the Best Material for Hiking Boots?”

All of a sudden, we’re starting to build out a hub-and-spoke model for content creation. Our hub is going to be “Men’s Hiking Footwear,” and our spokes will be each of the secondary topics.

The hub and spoke model is a great strategy to structure your content in a way that sets it up for success, regardless of how competitive your overall keywords are.

Now, go back to the beginning, and repeat this same process with our other low-hanging-fruit keyword, “hiking tips.” Once you’ve done that, restart the whole process, but this time focus on keywords that are slightly more competitive. Keep repeating this process as many times as you can, and then switch your main root keyword to another product category.

For example, once we’ve exhausted the “hiking boots” root keyword, we would switch and go after “rock climbing shoes” as our next root keyword.

Advanced tactics for using Keyword Planner for content research

We’ve covered the basics of using Keyword Planner. Now let’s go a step deeper and use some tactics that are slightly more advanced. These tactics will really help you dial in your content.

Find commonly asked questions

Commonly asked questions are always great starting points for content. Luckily, Google’s Keyword Planner makes it relatively simple to find some.

  1. After you’ve entered your keyword into Keyword Planner and gotten the keyword ideas, you now need to add a filter.

2. In the filter, click “keyword text” then “contains.”

3. Enter in your question operators: “who,” “what,” “where,” “when,“ “why,“ and “how.”

When we do this with our keyword “hiking boots,” we find multiple questions that we can answer with content. Here are a few:

  • “What is a good brand of hiking boots” could be a comparison guide where you test and compare different hiking boots that your website sells.
  • “How to size hiking boots” should be an in-depth guide about how to find the best fitting hiking boots.
  • “How to shop for hiking boots” should tell readers exactly what to take into consideration when they’re looking to buy hiking boots.

When you’re going through this process, there will be plenty of keywords that won’t work well for blog content. Anything location-specific, like “where to buy [product],” isn’t going to be good because the search intent isn’t right. That searcher is looking to buy, not read content.

Note: SpyFu includes a list of "Questions" for every keyword search. We'll cover this more in the section about Keyword Planner alternatives.

Finding competitor keywords

Speaking of SpyFu, another similar function of the keyword tool is in getting ideas based on competitor keywords. While this is the bread and butter of tools like SpyFu (for good reason--see the next section below), there is a benefit to working with some of these keyword ideas inside the Keyword Planner. If that's the case and you want to do some general research inspired by competitors, here's how to start.

Restart your keyword search altogether. When you click on “Discover new keywords,” you’ll want to enter your competitor’s URL rather than a keyword.  

After you click “Get started,” you’ll be left with a list of keywords that Google thinks your competitors are ranking for, or should be ranking for.

Next, you’ll want to exclude your competitor’s brand name from the keyword results because you're not going to rank for their brand name.

To do this, add a filter of “keyword text does not contain” and enter the brand name.  
We’ll put this in action by using our fake outdoor ecommerce company. In this example, REI is our main competitor. Let’s see what they rank for. We started by entering their URL into the search box, and then we excluded “REI” from the keyword results.

Now we would go through the process of downloading and filtering the list to look for keywords that we can reasonably target.

This tactic becomes especially useful when you add the question operators as a filter, like we mentioned in the previous advanced tactic. That will return a list of questions that your competitors rank for.

This will not necessarily include keywords that they bid on through Google Ads.

Keyword Planner Alternatives

Google’s Keyword Planner is a great tool simply because it’s free but also robust. But as we mentioned at the start, it has its limitations. By nature of its platform, advertisers that compete against each other are all Google's clients. To share any competitive intel about them would be a conflict of interest on Google's part.

So why use other tools instead of the Google Keyword Planner? In short, they are independent of Google and can give you strategic information where Google's hands are tied.

Especially with SpyFu, the tool is designed to prioritize keywords that your competitors have tested and found reliable. It shows:

  • Which keywords your competitors are using
  • Which keywords your competitors have dropped

And similar to the creative uses of the Keyword Planner that we showed earlier, SpyFu also includes a list of common questions people ask and finding competitors' keywords.

SpyFu

We built SpyFu specifically for keyword research. Our keyword research tool gives you an overview of your keywords, tells you how competitive they are, suggests related keywords, provides organic history, and so much more.

Preview of the keyword overview page on SpyFu

Where other keyword tools emphasize the same general metrics like search volume and cost per click, this keyword tool offers more ways to help you develop content for that keyword.

It lists similar keywords to target, questions surrounding that keyword, and terms that others also buy and rank for. These starting points run alongside traditional and new metrics that help you gauge whether a keyword fits inside your campaign.

What we like: The free version gives you a lot of features that most other freemium keyword tools don’t give you.

It might be biased to say, but SpyFu's keyword tool has more meaningful metrics and stronger data on keywords than what you will find in other tools.

The Keyword Planner is limited to Google's data which is, at times, flawed. SpyFu data pulls from Google as well as from third party sources. That gives you the opportunity to gut-check what you are seeing in the stats vs getting a monolithic view.

Answer the Public

Answer the Public makes it easy to find questions that people are searching for. This groups the questions by subtopics under one particular keyword. All you have to do is enter in your keyword, and you’ll get a list of commonly asked questions.

This tool works by giving you all of the questions that are suggested by Google’s and Bing’s autosuggest features. By grouping them with "can" questions, you know to focus on a product's capabilities instead of spreading out the information with "how to" answers.

What we like: It’s free for basic searches, and you can download the questions into a CSV.

Keep in mind: The default user interface is difficult to understand. It puts the questions into wheels that are hard to read. Luckily, you can change this with one click, but it still seems like an unnecessary step.

Keywords Everywhere

Keywords Everywhere is a browser add-on that gives you all sorts of data about the keywords you’re searching for. Right on the SERP, it will give you keyword volume, competition, related searches, and related keywords.

What we like: It’s so simple to use. There’s no difference between using this and a regular Google search.

Keep in mind: While it can still be useful for content creation, the tool's best use case is PPC advertising.

Keyword Tool.io

Keyword Tool helps you find keywords based on Google’s autocomplete. Start with your root keyword and it will tell you what else Google searchers are pairing with that keyword.

What we like: In addition to Google, Keyword Tool also gives you results from Bing, Amazon, Instagram, Twitter, and other search engines.

Keep in mind: The free version is very limited. You only get data from three keywords, even though you’ll get a full list of related keywords.

Epic content requires in-depth keyword research

If you truly want to create epic content that gets a lot of attention and ranks highly in organic search, you need to take a strategic approach to it. Keyword research with Google’s Keyword Planner, or with another keyword research tool, is the first step to creating a strategy for your epic content.

Keyword research takes a lot of time, but if you skip it, you’ll just be guessing at what type of content will rank well for your website. That’s going to lead to a lot of wasted time and energy.