Google Sets & Squared: Powerful Keyword Research Tools

One of the toughest challenges facing pay-per-click marketers is keyword expansion. Marketers need to be adept at selecting keywords that will not only drive traffic, but more importantly, will drive conversions in a cost-effective manner. As competition intensifies, identifying unique, high quality keywords becomes increasingly important-and difficult. While basic keyword research remains important, search marketers need to look to other tools to gain an edge.

Basic keyword research

Keyword research generally begins with one of the popular keyword-research tools. These include-but are not limited to-Google’s keyword tool, Wordtracker and Keyworddiscovery. These tools allow marketers to research topics, identify search-volume data, and find additional permutations of their “seed keyword.” To illustrate my point, a search in the free version of Wordtracker for “dog training” produces the following:


This list is a great starting point for anyone promoting a dog training service. It includes several highly searched keywords relating to “dog training” as well as a vast number of less searched terms as you move down the “tail.”

While basic keyword tools help marketers generate keyword ideas for their pay-per-click campaigns, they also create a huge problem. As most keyword tools are readily available to the public, there is nothing prohibiting your competitors from including the same highly trafficked keywords in their campaigns. Naturally, as more and more competitors enter your niche, the costs-per-click begin to rise. Following this keyword research methodology will undoubtedly leave you with a long-but thin-list of keywords, not to mention that you will be paying too much for “overbought” keywords.

So what is a PPC marketer to do?

As competition increases, intelligent PPC marketers realize that it is imperative to not only build out long keyword lists, but to also “widen” those same keyword lists. What do I mean by “widen?” Let’s revisit the dog training example from above:

Traditional keyword tools suggest that you include terms like:

  • dog training
  • dog training tips
  • dog obedience training

In general, these potentially useful keywords speak directly to your target audience’s needs. But these are also keywords that are most likely to be bid on by your competitors.

What if we dissected this keyword list and expanded on the term “dog?” Think about how many breeds of dog exist: Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, Beagles etc. Now, lets replace the word “dog” with specific breeds:

“dog training” and “training a dog” become “Golden Retriever training” or “training a Golden Retriever.”

By incorporating breeds and replacing the term “dog,” we were able to exponentially increase the size of our keyword list.

Some simple math to consider

If you choose to focus on 10 dog breeds and combine those with 50 seed dog-training keywords, the result would be 550 unique keywords! 10 unique dog breeds * 50 seed keywords = 500 + 50 original seed keywords, for a total of 550 keywords. Additionally, the new breed keywords probably have less competition and are much more likely to convert with a targeted landing page (a topic for another time).

New tools from Google can help

Google Sets and Google Squared are amazing free tools that will allow you to quickly identify elements of a set.

Here are examples of both in action:



To summarize, basic keyword tools are excellent for exploring generic topics and developing a set of keyword permutations. However, in order to differentiate your keyword list, and to avoid complete reliance on highly competitive keywords, I encourage all PPC marketers take steps to widen their keyword lists by utilizing Google Sets and Google Squared. This approach will increase the likelihood that you will find less competitive, and more targeted keywords that ultimately produce conversions at more cost-effective rates.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: SEM | Google: Other | How To: PPC | Search Marketing: Search Term Research


About The Author: is an SEM Analyst for Clickable. He began his career in search marketing in 2003.

Connect with the author via: Email


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  • spanishgringo

    I agree that this is a great idea, but it seems that the ToS are so strict that in theory what you suggest for SEO purposes violates the ToS.

    They talk about not copying, reformating the information and the use must be strictly non-commercial.

    It is way more draconian than the standard Google ToS.

    2. Proper Use. The content and software on this Site is the property of Google and/or its suppliers and is protected by U.S. and international intellectual property laws. Accordingly, you agree that you will not copy, reproduce, alter, modify, create derivative works, or publicly display any content (except for your own personal, non-commercial use) from the Site. You also agree that you will not use any robot, spider, other automated device, or manual process to monitor or copy any content from the Site. Furthermore, the Site is provided to you for your own personal use, and it may not be used for any commercial purposes. For example, you may not do any of the following: use the Site to sell a product or service; use the Site to increase traffic to your Web site for commercial reasons, such as advertising sales; take the results from the Site and reformat and display them, or mirror any portion of the Site on your Web site; or “meta-search” the Site. If you wish to use any portion of the Site for commercial purposes, please contact us for more information. Any use of the Site that infringes upon Google’s intellectual property rights or that is for commercial purposes will be investigated and Google shall have the right to take appropriate civil and criminal legal action.

  • kimberlymccabe

    I also think that you need to look at keywords from a different perspective. Ian Lurie pointed out that most of the keyword selection is ego-based. Even by using Google tools to look at keyword volume…we are still beginning with what we think people would use to search.

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