Google Keyword Planner: 5 Ways to Use It (Without Using AdWords)

Google is the king of cool free stuff. Gmail doesn’t charge postage, there’s no finder’s fee on Google Maps, and if Oberlo’s SEO is on point, then maybe you stumbled across this post on that free search engine everyone’s always talking about.

In fact, Google is so good at creating free stuff, even the tools that do cost money can be used for free.

Case in point: Google Keyword Planner.

Google Keyword Planner delivers huge value at no charge despite being part of Google AdWords, an advertising platform that can get pretty freaking expensive.

But whether or not you ever spend a cent running ad campaigns with AdWords, you can still leverage Google Keyword Planner for all sorts of exciting stuff. (“Exciting” in the way that online store owners use the word.)

This post will look how you can use Google Keyword Planner – and use it for free – as a hack to optimize your Facebook campaigns, scope out competition, find new markets to target, and more.

Google Keyword Planner: “Free” With Quotes

If Google had its way, you would use Keyword Planner to optimize your massive Google AdWords budget. As Google explains,

Keyword Planner works to find the keywords that are most relevant to your business which you can then choose to add to your plan…

Get keyword ideas to help build your campaigns with the AdWords Keyword Planner…

Narrow down your keyword list and set your budget for the keywords you really want…

Plans. Campaigns. Budgets. This is definitely not the language of free.

Thing is, you don’t have to actually advertise with AdWords to use Google Keyword Planner. You need an AdWords account, sure, but you don’t need to be spending money.

Think of it like this: Google AdWords is a workout studio, and every time you want to use a machine or lift a weight, you have to pay. Google Keyword Planner, meanwhile, is a room off to the side where you can do some stretching, maybe a yoga pose or two, at no charge.

In other words, Google Keyword Planner doesn’t have all of the powerful features of AdWords, but it has more than enough to help keep your store healthy.

Wait, But Why Don’t We Want to Use AdWords?

Simply put – money. AdWords can get expensive, and fast.

For those not familiar with AdWords, it’s the platform you use to get face time on Google search results pages. You choose the search terms that you want to trigger your ads, and then you set prices on how much you’re willing to spend for placement atop those search results.

For example, if you search “analytics tools,” you get search results about analytics tools… but only after a bunch of ads about analytics tools.

These search terms, or keywords, are so valuable because they signal someone’s intent to buy something. And a ready-to-buy shopper is like blood in the water for marketers running AdWords campaigns.

All the more so because everyone using AdWords is bidding on the same intent-driven keywords.

The ruthlessness of AdWords is heightened for dropshippers. After all, a sizable chunk of dropshipping purchases are impulse buys. Before someone buys a pair of running shoes, they do research on Google. Before someone buys an $4 scarf, they didn’t even know they wanted one.

So if you’re a dropshipper, Google Keyword Planner’s value doesn’t come from its ability to place your ads.

Instead, Google Keyword Planner’s value comes from these five tricks.

1. Use Keyword Planner Country Data to Inform Facebook Ads

When we say that dropshippers don’t want to advertise with AdWords, that’s not to say that dropshippers don’t want to advertise. It’s just that people conduct Google search if they want to shop around, maybe do some research. It is the opposite of impulse.

Facebook, on the other hand, is designed around impulse. Someone sees something in their feed, and they get interested.

With that in mind, we can use Google Keyword Planner to optimize Facebook ads.

First, enter a product that you want to promote on Facebook, and then adapt the location filter. Here we’ll look at Denmark and Mexico. (Quick note: We’re using screenshots from the new Google Keyword Planner interface, or Google Keyword Planner “experience” in Google-speak. Yours may not look exactly like this, but it probably will soon.)

As you can see, the “Reach” in Denmark is about 4.1 million, and about 68.2 million in Mexico.

When we apply the location filters, we see the search volume in each country. Here’s Denmark:

And here’s Mexico:

Mexico’s 14,800 searches are clearly more than Denmark’s 5,400. But as any fourth grader who knows a little long division can tell you, 4.1 million divided by 5,400 is quite a bit more than than 68 million divided by 14,800. So adjusted for population, there is a much higher density of searches for watches in Denmark than Mexico.

That could be for any number of reasons. Language, disposable income, the list goes on. Doesn’t matter.

What does matter is that if you’re creating Facebook ad campaigns, then you can use this information to create better targeting filters. An ad for watches, at least an English ad for watches, will probably be more valuable on a per-impression basis in Denmark than Mexico.

2. Explore Seasonal Trends

Keyword Planner data can also be used as a proxy for how interest in certain products evolves month to month.

To take a predictable example, here is Google Keyword Planner monthly data for “sunglasses” in 2017. Search volume goes up six straight months from February to July before returning to hibernation in the winter.

Keyword Planner data for 2016 looked much the same:

Here, on the other hand, is Keyword Planner data for “yoga pants.”

Unlike sunglasses, which experience wild fluctuations depending on the month, yoga pants are remarkably consistent. Search volume peaked at 4.8 million in January – maybe it was all those New Year’s resolutions to get healthy – but never dipped below 4 million. So everything was in a pretty narrow range, showing sustained interest throughout the year.

There are any number of things to do with this data. If you sell sunglasses, you can anticipate high season by preparing all of your ads and campaigns ahead of time. You can also anticipate the low season and know that those June sales will be harder to recreate in November. Whether that means focusing on another store over the winter or getting more aggressive with discounts, Google Keyword Planner confirms that it’ll be trickier to get people thinking about sunglasses when there’s snow outside.

3. Explore Niche Viability

If we use Google Keyword Planner to look at seasonal trends, we can do the same sort of things with longterm trends.

Instead of setting a one-year time frame…

… we can expand that to a few years…

This, for example, is a four-year overview of searches for yoga pants. Suddenly the search volume doesn’t seem so static: It’s definitely trending up.

Not everything is going up, of course. Let’s say we want to capitalize on the fidget spinner craze. They’re still popular, right?

This is what Google Keyword Planner tell us about the last three years of fidget spinner interest:

Looks like we missed it.

Anyway, the point is that you can focus group your idea with millions upon millions of people punching stuff into Google Search every day. That Google Search data gets fed directly into Google Keyword Planner.

At the very least, this Keyword Planner hack can protect you from investing in a niche that is on its last leg. And who knows? Maybe you will identify a product or niche that is about to explode. Imagine stumbling across “fidget spinners” in Google Keyword Planner back in January or February of 2017, just as it was taking off. You would have been on the cusp of something huge. That might be as likely as finding gold at the end of the rainbow, but hey: The data is there.

4. Spy On Your Competitors

Google Keyword Planner is typically used to find keywords related to certain search terms. But you can repurpose it to search for terms related to certain websites, too.

Why does that matter? As you build up your store – or as you fend off competition from competitors building up their stores – you can use Keyword Planner to understand the terms that Google associates with other brands.

Let’s stay in the yoga niche and look at the popular site Manduka. We’ll start by dropping a URL into Google Keyword Planner. Then we’ll clarify whether we want to look at the entire site, just that page, or just that keyword. Usually we’ll want to do Entire site.

Now Google Keyword Planner spits back results for terms that it associates with that site:

And here is the same Keyword Planner data sorted by search volume instead of relevance:

This is a sneak peek into Google’s logic when looking at stores. It’s like playing a word association game with Google. Okay, Keyword Planner: Tell me what pops into your head when I say “manduka.com”!

If you know you’re going after the huge yoga market – and, as we saw earlier, Google Keyword Planner data suggests this market is still growing – then find the best yoga shops, drop them into Google Keyword Planner, and see what Google sees.

5. Guide your SEO Content Decisions

Keyword Planner can also help you boost the search engine visibility of your site by telling you what to include in your product descriptions, landing pages, and blog posts.

Now, before we go on, this tip is last for a reason: Having robust SEO is really time-consuming. (We just crossed the 1,700-word mark of this blog post, and it took several hours and a few hundred milligrams of caffeine to get here.)

So if you’re running a one-person operation, understand that building up your search engine visibility will take time.

But! If you like writing, and if you’re super energized about your products and your niche, then creating content with some Keyword Planner guidance could be a way for you to be visible on Google search results pages without pumping lots of money into AdWords.

To use Keyword Planner to inform your SEO content, you will first research keywords that you want your website to rank for in Google Search results. In other words, what will people be searching for when they look for your products?

Next, drop those search terms into Google Keyword Planner, and look at:

The actual keyword suggestions: Apply the “smell test” to the keywords you get. For instance, if you drop “yoga pants men” into Google Keyword Planner, then terms like “yoga pants for women” and “yoga clothes for women” pop up among the keywords. If you only sell men’s yoga apparel, then you can safely ignore stuff about women. 

Search volume: After we sniff out the irrelevant results, “Avg. monthly searches” is the next metric to look at. If people aren’t searching for a certain keyword, then there is no point in slaving over blogs posts full of that keyword. If people are search for a certain keyword, then fire up the coffee pot.

Competition: When you find keywords that are relevant and have good search volume, then look at the competition. “High” competition means that lots of companies are trying to rank for this keyword, too, so it might be hard to break through. Doesn’t mean it’s impossible, just be warned that it might be a bit ruthless out there.

If you want to pursue SEO – or if you want to learn more about SEO before deciding whether or not to pursue it – then check these out:

The Beginner’s Guide to Dropshipping SEO

SEO Optimization Tips and Tricks for Ecommerce

13 Best SEO Tools that SEO Experts Actually Use in 2018

Google Keyword Planner Conclusion

So, now you know how to get real value out of Keyword Planner for free. There is nothing wrong with AdWords, but for ecommerce store owners, and especially for dropshippers, paying for AdWords might be something to look at after six or 12 or 18 months. After you’ve built a beautiful store, after you’ve optimized your product pages, after you’ve nailed Facebook ads.

In the meantime, take advantage of Keyword Planner and use it as one of your tools to

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