The 20 Most Expensive Google AdWords -- And How to Compete Against Them

Last Updated Jul 19, 2011 8:41 AM EDT

Social media marketing may get all the buzz, but Google advertising still drives tremendous web traffic (and profits for Google): Over the last year Google generated over $33 billion in revenue, 97% coming from advertising, with a major portion of that from AdWords.

So what are the most searched, most expensive Google AdWords? Here's a list from WordStream, a search marketing software and services firm. (For a complete breakdown check out WordStream's Top 20 Most Expensive Keywords in Google AdWords Advertising infographic.)

  1. Insurance
  2. Loans
  3. Mortgage
  4. Attorney (surprised "attorney" follows "mortgage"?)
  5. Credit
  6. Lawyer (a nice double-dip from the legal community, who for cost purposes must wish only one word was commonly used to describe their profession)
  7. Donate (yay!... wait, people have to advertise to get donations... oh, bummer.)
  8. Degree
  9. Hosting (not the dinner party kind)
  10. Claim
  11. Conference Call (people actually want more conference calls?)
  12. Trading
  13. Software
  14. Recovery (not the economic kind)
  15. Transfer (credit card balances mostly)
  16. Gas/Electricity
  17. Classes
  18. Rehab (this time Dr. Drew is anxiously awaiting a call from your people)
  19. Treatment
  20. Cord Blood (is it just me or is cord blood the surprise of the list?**)
Winning the auction for the top slot for in-demand keywords can be incredibly expensive. For example, at the time the list was created (bidding is a dynamic and ongoing process) the top spot for "insurance" cost over $54 per click. "Mortgage" and "attorney" both cost over $47 per click for the top slot, and the most expensive keyword in the "cord blood" category cost over $27 per click.

What if the keywords in your industry are incredibly expensive and you can't afford to spend huge amounts on advertising and customer acquisition? How can you still compete in PPC advertising?

Larry Kim, WordStream Founder and Chief Technology Officer, provided these tips:

  1. Be specific: Focus on specific, 3 to 5 word phrases. For example, say you're an insurance broker; rather than use an expensive and competitive keyword like "life insurance," consider using a keyword tool to generate more specific keyword ideas that are more relevant and particular to your business. Think about what kinds of life insurance your company offers, and where: level term, disability, city and state, etc. Modified keyword phrases allow lets you be more precise -- and cost efficient -- when selecting keywords. Then use more restrictive keyword match options like modified broad match, phrase match, and exact match to help ensure Google only shows your ads for user searches that closely or exactly match your keywords.
  2. Use negative keywords: If your business sells life insurance but doesn't sell whole life insurance, set the word "whole life" as a negative keyword so you don't waste money on clicks from a user searching for something you don't offer. Use a negative keyword tool to determine the keywords you are likely to be matched against so you can weed out keywords that aren't relevant to your business.
  3. Be relevant: Tools like WordStream's Keyword Niche Finder and Keyword Grouper can help break up larger keyword lists into smaller, more targeted lists. That helps you write targeted ad text and create associated landing pages that better align your keywords to your ad text and to your landing pages. The better the alignment, the easier it is for potential customers to find exactly what they are looking for. Relevant ads also raise your Quality Scores in Adwords which lowers your average cost-per-click while raising your ad position. (Google only generates revenue when someone clicks on an ad; when advertisers pick silly keywords and write uninspiring and irrelevant ads, neither the advertisers nor Google makes money -- and users get frustrated because they don't find what they're looking for. That's why Google considers the relevancy of the ads, as well as the maximum bid amount, when deciding what order to display ads. Advertisers with high quality scores can be rewarded with higher ad placement at a lower cost per click.)
  4. Optimize landing pages: The average conversion rate for most AdWords-generated site visits is around 2%. Larry often sees landing page conversions from 20% to as high as 30%. The key to landing page optimization is to consistently try different types of offers (like contests, free guides, special offers, etc.) and test how visitors respond.
** Some couples bank their babies' cord blood (which is rich in stem cells) in case scientists someday determine ways to use those cells to cure currently incurable diseases.)


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    Jeff Haden learned much of what he knows about business from managing a 250-employee book manufacturing plant. Everything else he picked up from ghostwriting books for some of the smartest CEOs and leaders in business. He has written more than 30 non-fiction books, including four Business and Investing titles that reached #1 on Amazon's bestseller list. Follow him on Twitter at @Jeff_Haden.