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. 

Free Guide, Template & Planner: How to Use Google Ads for Business

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:

Legal 

Legal CPC

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:

Keyword CPC
houston maritime attorney $1,090.00
offshore accident lawyer $815.00
best motorcycle accident lawyer $770.00
18 wheeler accident lawyer san antonio $670.00
scranton personal injury lawyer $560.00
truck accident attorney dallas $515.00
houston trucking accident attorney $500.00
mesothelioma attorney assistance $490.00
new york construction accident lawyer $485.00
maritime lawyer new orleans $485.00
california auto accident laywer $475.00
auto accident attorney california $465.00
auto accident attorney colorado springs $460.00
car accident lawyer jacksonville $430.00
truck accident lawyer dallas $425.00

 

Medical

Medical CPC

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.

Keyword CPC
urgent care emr $90.00
hospital alcohol detox $65.00
dermatological problem $65.00
fort lauderdale hospital detox $65.00
transporter hospital $60.00
children's hospital emergency room near me $60.00
kensington hospital detox $60.00
urgent care jasper tx $55.00
childrens oakland hospital $55.00
weight loss surgery dallas tx $55.00
urgent care snider plaza $50.00
dallas bariatric $45.00
endocrine weight loss $45.00
urgent care 77041 $45.00
urgent care electronic medical records $40.00

 

Marketing & Advertising

Marketing CPC

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: 

Keyword CPC
what is marketing channels $165.00
call tracking marketing $125.00
marketing your law firm $120.00
seo and social media marketing services $115.00
affiliate marketing software free $110.00
law firm marketing los angeles $100.00
marketing automation for agencies $100.00
what does cpm stand for in advertising $95.00
3 p of marketing $95.00
marketing cloud software $90.00
ppc advertising management $80.00
marketing integration $80.00
email marketing automation software $80.00
what does ppc stand for in marketing $75.00
best marketing quotes $75.00

 

Business Software

Software CPC

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: 

Keyword CPC
complete business solution $95.00
top 10 help desk software $95.00
help desk software for small business $90.00
small business call center software $85.00
accounting online program $70.00
best online accounting program $60.00
business performance management software $60.00
employee management software for small business $60.00
email marketing software for small business $55.00
best medical billing software for home based business $55.00
marketing automation software for small business $55.00
best crm software for small business $55.00
crm software for small business $55.00
best hr software for small business $50.00
small business marketing software $50.00

 

Real Estate

Real Estate CPC

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.

Keyword CPC
sell house fast austin $95.00
sell my house fast phoenix $70.00
sell my house fast austin $65.00
sell my house fast san diego $65.00
selling a house as is by owner $60.00
teacher home buying programs texas $60.00
sell my house fast orlando $60.00
quickly sell house $55.00
we buy houses fast for cash $55.00
will my house sell $55.00
sell house cash $55.00
buy house cash or mortgage $50.00
sell house fast for cash $50.00
buy my home for cash $50.00
worst month to sell a house $60.00

 

Home Improvement Services

Home Improvement CPC

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:

Keyword CPC
ac repair coral springs fl $320.00
emergency flood repair $265.00
flood restoration san diego $210.00
air conditioning repair weatherford tx $210.00
best ac repair phoenix $185.00
air conditioning repair boca raton $150.00
water damage restoration portland oregon $145.00
water damage restoration los angeles $145.00
air conditioning repair phoenix $140.00
air conditioning repair mesa az $135.00
air conditioning repair simi valley $125.00
air conditioning repair plano tx $120.00
water damage restoration mesa az $120.00
water damage restoration dallas $120.00
water damage restoration vancouver wa $115.00

 

Automotive

Automotive CPC

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:

Keyword CPC
auto repair shop modesto ca $50.00
paintless dent repair denver colorado $45.00
abs unlimited auto repair $45.00
paintless dent repair mn $40.00
denver auto hail repair $35.00
change oil light $35.00
automotive repair lubbock tx $30.00
auto repair shops stockton ca $30.00
paintless dent repair colorado springs $25.00
auto ac repair las vegas $25.00
auto repair shops omaha ne $25.00
auto repair shop mesa az $25.00
aftermarket automotive warranty $25.00
dent repair colorado springs $25.00
paintless dent repair denver $25.00

 

Insurance

Insurance-CPC

Top CPC: $280.00
Average CPC: $3.44

Car insurance completely dominated the insurance industry:

Keyword CPC
compare vehicle insurance $280.00
oklahoma auto insurance quotes $210.00
insurance companies okc $185.00
cheapest auto insurance reddit $170.00
insurance strategy $160.00
texas auto insurance quotes online $155.00
preferred auto insurance companies $150.00
what is insurance deductible $140.00
what is premiums in insurance $135.00
fort myers auto insurance $130.00
auto insurance connecticut $125.00
definition collision insurance $125.00
hail damage car insurance claim $120.00
car accident other driver has no insurance $120.00
define insurance brokers $120.00

 

Loans & Finance

Finance CPC

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):

Keyword CPC
irs tax debt relief program $320.00
va loan multi family $190.00
tax credit for college students $135.00
va loan after chapter 7 $130.00
how to get preapproved for a va home loan $125.00
structured settlement loan $105.00
national guard va home loan $95.00
cost to refinance home loan $95.00
how long does a credit card balance transfer take $90.00
va home loan specialist $85.00
will refinancing hurt my credit $85.00
maximum fha loan amount $85.00
does opening a checking account affect credit $80.00
fha loan foreclosure waiting period $80.00
tax debt relief program $75.00

 

Education

Education CPC

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.

Keyword CPC
online business degree programs accredited $140.00
online accredited psychology degree $135.00
online degree in educational psychology $135.00
online business degree florida $135.00
online university college $125.00
online psychology bachelor's degree $125.00
online college business degree $125.00
fastest criminal justice degree online $125.00
online masters degree in business administration $125.00
parapsychology degree online $125.00
online degree criminal justice $120.00
online school for business degree $120.00
online masters degree programs in healthcare administration $120.00
masters degree in human resources online $120.00
public administration masters degree online $115.00

 

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.

The average CPC per industry is unable to be determined from small datasets, so we pulled this information from WordStream’s keyword benchmarking report

Didn't see your industry represented? Follow the steps below to find the keyword costs for your most relevant keywords.

How Do I Find Out How Much a Keyword Costs?

Thankfully, not everything on the Google Ads platform is so expensive. In fact, WordStream estimates that the average CPC on Google is between $1 and $2

With CPCs like that, you might be ready to:

  • Decide if Google Ads is right for your business
  • 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

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. 

Here’s how to estimate CPC in Brand Overflow:

  1. Navigate to the Keyword Tool.
  2. Type your desired keyword in the first field. 
  3. Ensure that the second field accurately describes the geographic location you’re targeting. 
  4. Click the Search button. 
  5. Scroll down and look for the AVG CPC box on the left.

 

SEMrush

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. 

Here’s how to estimate CPC in SEMrush:

  1. Create an account or log in
  2. Type your keyword into the search bar at the top.
  3. Click the Search button. 
  4. You will be directed to the Keyword Overview tool, and CPC is at the bottom of the first box on the left.

 

Ahrefs

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. 

Here’s how to estimate CPC in Ahrefs: 

  1. Create an account or log in
  2. Click the Keywords explorer option in the top menu.
  3. Ensure Google is selected at the top of the field. 
  4. Type your keyword(s) into the field. If you are wanting to do multiple keywords at once, separate them with commas or line breaks.
  5. Click the button with the magnifying glass.
  6. 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. 

Here are the steps: 

  1. Sign up for a Google Ads account.
  2. Go through the prompts to set up your first campaign.
  3. Once complete, click Explore Your Campaign. 
  4. In the first card that shows the campaign you just created, click the arrow next to Pending. 
  5. 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:

  1. Navigate to the Keyword Planner.
  2. Click Get search volume and forecasts.
  3. Type your keyword(s) into the field. If you are wanting to do multiple keywords at once, separate them with commas or line breaks.
  4. Select Historical Metrics from the top menu.
  5. 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.

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Originally published May 19, 2020 7:00:00 PM, updated May 20 2020

Topics:

Keyword Optimization