You may have heard that Google Ads is a quick way to get ROI from search engine traffic. This is an appealing prospect, especially because Google runs on a PPC (pay per click) model where you only pay for traffic that actually makes it to your site. However, handing Google your money is a concerning prospect, especially if you’ve heard rumors that it can be cost-prohibitive if you’re bidding in a competitive space on some of the most expensive keywords.
The best thing you can do for your strategy is understand exactly how Google Ads determines cost per click (CPC) on specific keywords, what makes certain keywords more expensive, and how you can build your ad budget in a way that actually gives you ROI.
How Does Google Ads Determine Keyword Costs?
Google has many different sources of revenue, but one of their most noticeable is the ads that appear next to search results for specific keywords. How much that keyword costs depends, in part, on how often people search for it — the more people search for a certain keyword, the more expensive it is.
Ad placement is determined by an action system. The combined impact of these two factors will determine if and where your ad is placed on the page when a user searches for your query:
The maximum bid you specify for the keyword
The Quality Score that Google has given your ad
These two factors will help Google determine your ad rank. In short, higher bids and higher quality ads win the best placements.
If a user ends up clicking on your ad, Google determines the cost of that click using the following formula:
The ad rank of the person below you divided by your quality score plus $0.01.
With this in mind, as long as you have a solid keyword strategy and high-quality ads, you can win ad placements even over organizations that are spending more on Google Ads than you are. The only thing to keep in mind is how strict your competition is.
Most Expensive Keywords by Industry
While it's difficult to quantify the most expensive keywords on Google because of the sheer amount of data that changes daily, we've broken down the most expensive keywords for some of the most common industries:
Top CPC: $1090.00 Average CPC: $6.75
The legal industry has some of the highest CPCs in this article, primarily due to the high amount of competition they're up against and the higher ticket service cost. For this industry, we looked at keywords relating to "lawyer," "attorney," "legal services," and a few other related keywords. Here are the ones that topped the list:
houston maritime attorney
offshore accident lawyer
best motorcycle accident lawyer
18 wheeler accident lawyer san antonio
scranton personal injury lawyer
truck accident attorney dallas
houston trucking accident attorney
mesothelioma attorney assistance
new york construction accident lawyer
maritime lawyer new orleans
california auto accident laywer
auto accident attorney california
auto accident attorney colorado springs
car accident lawyer jacksonville
truck accident lawyer dallas
Top CPC: $90.00 Average CPC: $2.62
What's curious about this is that we targeted keywords around the top most common types of doctors, yet it was still urgent care and detox programs that dominated the highest costs per click.
urgent care emr
hospital alcohol detox
fort lauderdale hospital detox
children's hospital emergency room near me
kensington hospital detox
urgent care jasper tx
childrens oakland hospital
weight loss surgery dallas tx
urgent care snider plaza
endocrine weight loss
urgent care 77041
urgent care electronic medical records
Marketing & Advertising
Top CPC: $165.00 Average CPC: $3.33
Marketing professionals in this space presumably know advertising tricks to help keep costs down, but this industry is also more likely to put value in Google Ads. That's why the average CPC is relatively reasonable compared to these top CPC keywords:
what is marketing channels
call tracking marketing
marketing your law firm
seo and social media marketing services
affiliate marketing software free
law firm marketing los angeles
marketing automation for agencies
what does cpm stand for in advertising
3 p of marketing
marketing cloud software
ppc advertising management
email marketing automation software
what does ppc stand for in marketing
best marketing quotes
Top CPC: $95.00 Average CPC: $3.80
For this category, we didn't want to include "SAAS" since that would not be a keyword a consumer would use to find the software of their choice. Instead, we used aggregate keywords around "business software" to see what the most expensive CPCs would be:
complete business solution
top 10 help desk software
help desk software for small business
small business call center software
accounting online program
best online accounting program
business performance management software
employee management software for small business
email marketing software for small business
best medical billing software for home based business
marketing automation software for small business
best crm software for small business
crm software for small business
best hr software for small business
small business marketing software
Top CPC: $95.00 Average CPC: $2.37
Curiously, despite pooling all keywords related to "real estate agent" and "REALTOR" along with the other service-based keywords, it was the descriptive keywords using "fast" or "with cash" that seemed to outpace all others when it came to cost per click.
sell house fast austin
sell my house fast phoenix
sell my house fast austin
sell my house fast san diego
selling a house as is by owner
teacher home buying programs texas
sell my house fast orlando
quickly sell house
we buy houses fast for cash
will my house sell
sell house cash
buy house cash or mortgage
sell house fast for cash
buy my home for cash
worst month to sell a house
Home Improvement Services
Top CPC: $320.00 Average CPC: $6.40
The home improvement industry is a large one, but we focused primarily on services such as HVAC, plumbing, and restoration and renovation. It seemed as though air conditioning and water damage seemed to be the ones with the dominant CPC in this group:
ac repair coral springs fl
emergency flood repair
flood restoration san diego
air conditioning repair weatherford tx
best ac repair phoenix
air conditioning repair boca raton
water damage restoration portland oregon
water damage restoration los angeles
air conditioning repair phoenix
air conditioning repair mesa az
air conditioning repair simi valley
air conditioning repair plano tx
water damage restoration mesa az
water damage restoration dallas
water damage restoration vancouver wa
Top CPC: $50.00 Average CPC: $2.46
For this industry, we decided to pull keywords relating to "auto repair," "auto body," and "dent removal," taking care to remove any insurance or car accident litigation keywords. You'll notice that lower ticket items such as oil changes and tire services are not present on this list. We can reasonably assume that advertisers in this category want to put their advertising dollars toward higher ticket items:
auto repair shop modesto ca
paintless dent repair denver colorado
abs unlimited auto repair
paintless dent repair mn
denver auto hail repair
change oil light
automotive repair lubbock tx
auto repair shops stockton ca
paintless dent repair colorado springs
auto ac repair las vegas
auto repair shops omaha ne
auto repair shop mesa az
aftermarket automotive warranty
dent repair colorado springs
paintless dent repair denver
Top CPC: $280.00 Average CPC: $3.44
Car insurance completely dominated the insurance industry:
compare vehicle insurance
oklahoma auto insurance quotes
insurance companies okc
cheapest auto insurance reddit
texas auto insurance quotes online
preferred auto insurance companies
what is insurance deductible
what is premiums in insurance
fort myers auto insurance
auto insurance connecticut
definition collision insurance
hail damage car insurance claim
car accident other driver has no insurance
define insurance brokers
Loans & Finance
Top CPC: $320.00 Average CPC: $3.44
In the finance space, we compiled keywords relating to banking, credit, debt, loans, mortgages, and more. The common theme among the high-CPC keywords was debt relief or loan acquisition (VA loans being especially popular):
irs tax debt relief program
va loan multi family
tax credit for college students
va loan after chapter 7
how to get preapproved for a va home loan
structured settlement loan
national guard va home loan
cost to refinance home loan
how long does a credit card balance transfer take
va home loan specialist
will refinancing hurt my credit
maximum fha loan amount
does opening a checking account affect credit
fha loan foreclosure waiting period
tax debt relief program
Top CPC: $140.00 Average CPC: $2.40
It's clear that online learning overtook the list of high-CPC keywords. This is likely due to smaller ticket educational items such as certifications, courses, and training not providing high enough ROI to justify such high costs per click.
online business degree programs accredited
online accredited psychology degree
online degree in educational psychology
online business degree florida
online university college
online psychology bachelor's degree
online college business degree
fastest criminal justice degree online
online masters degree in business administration
parapsychology degree online
online degree criminal justice
online school for business degree
online masters degree programs in healthcare administration
masters degree in human resources online
public administration masters degree online
Some Notes About Our Methods:
The list of highest CPC keywords was determined from approximately 10,000 related keywords per industry. This information was accessed from Ahrefs and compiled on April 3, 2020 and should be used only for editorial purposes as there are many more keywords out there, CPC is subject to change with current industry and economic conditions, and keyword tools will provide differing data. Be sure to perform your own keyword research before making advertising decisions.
Find out the true cost of your most desired keywords
Estimate the budget that it will take to power your lead generation engine
The unfortunate part, though, is that Google's Keyword Planner is no longer available for use if you don't have an account. That means you'd have to go through the entire process of signing up and providing your payment information upfront, before you're ready to create your first campaign.
That means you need a way to find keyword cost estimates before committing to a campaign. Here's how:
Use a Third-Party Keyword Research Tool
The good news is that Google is not the only place where you can get data about keyword cost and volume. There are a number of keyword research tools that you can use to estimate CPC for the keywords you want to target in your campaign.
Brand Overflow allows you to look up 10 keywords completely free, so if you’re doing preliminary research, this is a great option. After your 10 free keywords, their plans start at $9 per month.
Ensure that the second field accurately describes the geographic location you’re targeting.
Click the Search button.
Scroll down and look for the AVG CPC box on the left.
SEMrush is also a full-scale SEM and SEO platform that includes keyword research and discovery as just a subset of its functionality. Unfortunately, it does not offer any free keyword searches without signing up for an account.
Plans start at $99.95 per month, but have the option to take advantage of a 7-day free trial. This is a great option for those who are doing more in the digital space than just setting up a Google campaign.
You will be directed to the Keyword Overview tool, and CPC is at the bottom of the first box on the left.
Ahrefs is also a full-scale SEM and SEO platform. Its plans start at $99, but there is no free trial. In order to determine if this software is worth the investment, you can start a 7-day trial where you get access to all features for $7.
This is also a great option for individuals investing in search as part of their ongoing website and digital marketing strategies.
Click the Keywords explorer option in the top menu.
Ensure Google is selected at the top of the field.
Type your keyword(s) into the field. If you are wanting to do multiple keywords at once, separate them with commas or line breaks.
Click the button with the magnifying glass.
CPC is represented in the third box in the top row.
Set up a Fake Campaign in Google Ads
If the cost of a third-party keyword research tool turns you off, you can still use Google's Keyword Planner. You just have to go through the campaign process and then turn the campaign off.
Note: By doing this, you'll see a temporary $50 authorization which Google uses to verify your payment information. This is typically removed within a week. If you don't turn off your campaign, your card will be charged every 30 days or when you reach your billing threshold. Be sure to review Google's billing policies yourself before taking this advice.
Go through the prompts to set up your first campaign.
Once complete, click Explore Your Campaign.
In the first card that shows the campaign you just created, click the arrow next to Pending.
Select Pause campaign.
Once you verify that you really want to pause the campaign, you now have a Google Ads account and can use the Keyword Planner for free (once the verification money is returned to you, of course). The plus side to this approach is that if you decide to move forward after your keyword research, you already have an account set up and a jump start on building a campaign.
Here’s how to estimate CPC in Google’s Keyword Planner:
Type your keyword(s) into the field. If you are wanting to do multiple keywords at once, separate them with commas or line breaks.
Select Historical Metrics from the top menu.
Instead of providing an average CPC, Google provides a low range estimate and a high range estimate. These are represented in columns on the left side of the table.
Getting CPC costs for your target keywords is the first step toward setting up your Google Ads campaign. The next thing you’ll want to do is determine the budget you’ll need to achieve your goals with the campaign. Start by reading our Ultimate Guide on Google Ads or downloading our free Ads kit.
Originally published May 19, 2020 7:00:00 PM, updated May 20 2020