AdWords Keyword Planner: Brainstorming Great Keywords

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Posted: November 28, 2014.
Keywords are the foundation of both great SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and great AdWords. Yet, in my humble experience, many companies just do not have a robust keyword list. The starting point is to brainstorm all potential keywords, looking for synonyms (what I call tomAYTO vs. tomAAAHTos), helper words, and tight target phrases that really get to transactional keywords. Especially, if you are using AdWords, you really need to have a very focused, tight, and systematic understanding of your kewyords. Fortunately, there are some good Google-based tools to discover keywords – IF you know how to use them correctly.

Leaving aside issues of volume vs. value, educational vs. transactional, in this video I am going to show you –

  • How to use the Google AdWords Keyword Planner to brainstorm keyword ideas (especially synonyms, and helper words or phrases).
  • How to use AdWords Display Network keywords to get even more keyword ideas.

To do so, you’ll first need to set up an AdWords account at Note: you will need a credit card to set up an account, but you do not actually have to spend any money. (If you do not have a credit card, go to your local Safeway or grocery store, and simply purchase a VISA or MASTERCARD gift card, and use that to activate your Google account).

OK, let’s get started!

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AdWords Keyword Planner: Brainstorm Great Keywords

The AdWords Keyword Planner is Google’s relatively new and improved (SIC!) tool for keyword discovery. The old keyword tool was much, much better, but unfortunately the powers that be at Google stuck us with this version, so we have to learn how to use it. Google has at least a 65% share of the search market, so you gotta fish where the fish are, and only Google has the ‘fish finder’ to locate yummy yummy keywords. Here are your steps:

  1. Sign up for your free Adwords Account at You’ll need a credit card.
  2. Login to your AdWords Account. If you’re not spending any money, ignore the really obnoxious red banner at the top!
  3. Click over to Tools > Keyword Planner
  4. Brainstorm AdWords Keywords using the Google AdWords Keyword PlannerType a target phrase in; this gets you to the real tool. Set Target to United States; or all locations.
  5. Use your mouse, and highlight suggestions. Write down a) synonyms, b) helpers, c) interesting, high value ‘late stage’ or ‘transactional’ keywords. Look for ‘groupings’ of keywords and patterns!

Using the Display Network Tools to Brainstorm Keywords

  1. You’ll have to create a NEW campaign and NEW group. Just call them DISPLAY and DISPLAY IDEAS.
  2. Click on the Campaign > Group > Display Network > Targeting (the big red box). Did anyone tell Google that color codes should ‘make sense?’ That is, GREEN = GO, RED = STOP. Note to self: the color codes are generally backwards in Google AdWords and Google Analytics… Isn’t that weird?
  3. Targeting > Choose Your Group > Keywords and click on the pencil.
  4. Type in your target keywords, and look for ideas. (You’ll need to click the box ‘Find Related Keywords.’
  5. Use your mouse, and highlight suggestions. Write down a) synonyms, b) helpers, c) interesting, high value ‘late stage’ or ‘transactional’ keywords. Look for ‘groupings’ of keywords and patterns!

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~ Jason McDonald