How to Use Google Keyword Planner Without Running Ads
Learn how to set up Google Keyword Planner without running ads and use the features like a pro. 

Learn How to Use Google Keyword Planner Without Running Ads

Google Keyword Planner is a fantastic free tool for doing keyword research. Unfortunately, setting up the Google Ads account so that you can utilize the keyword planner can be a bit cumbersome. One wrong click and Google Ads will have you building and paying for an ad you don’t need instead of getting access to the tools within the account.

I’m Stefanie, your SEO expert, and I’m here to teach you how to set up Google Keyword Planner without running ads and to make sure you know some of the awesome features within the Keyword Planner. 

By its nature, the Keyword Planner is designed for planning pay-per-click campaigns, but you can utilize the same tools to gather excellent data needed for keyword research.

How to Create a Free Google Ads Account

Step 1

Go to & select ‘Switch to Expert Mode’

Google Ads Setup (1)

Step 2

Select ‘Create an account without a campaign’

Google Ads Setup 2

Step 3

Select the appropriate Billing country, Time zone, and Currency — then select ‘Submit’

Google Ads Setup 3

Step 4

Select ‘Explore your account’

Google Ads Setup 4

Congratulations–you’ve successfully set up your Google Ads account without running ads. Now that you have your account established, let’s access Google Ads’ Keyword Planner.

How to Access Google Ads’ Keyword Planner

Step 1

Hover over ‘Tools & Settings’ at the top — then select ‘Keyword Planner’ under ‘Planning’.

Google Ads Setup 5 (1)

Step 2

Select ‘Discover new keywords’

Google Ads Setup 6

Google Ads’ Keyword Planner Tips

Now that you’ve accessed Google Ads’ Keyword Planner, there are several tools you can use to help refine your search and data. You’ll want to utilize the location editing to make sure that the data you’re seeing is specific to the area you serve, and use the ‘Refine’ and ‘Filter’ functions as you explore new keywords to help ensure that you’re not saving keywords that don’t fit your intent.

For local SEO, getting area specific search data is imperative. 

Edit locations

The best feature in Google Ads Keyword Planner is the ability to adjust the location. Most keyword research tools give data for the entire country instead of by state, cities, DMAs, or other localized areas. 

Location Targeting

While the newborn photographer in Pinehurst, NC might relish the idea of working for people in the entire US, their ideal customer is located within driving distance of them so we need to filter by location.

How to filter data based on location under ‘Keyword ideas’

  1. Toggle over the map icon where it says ‘United States’
  2. Enter a location to target using a zip code, city, county, state, or DMA region
  3. Remove ‘United States’ from the list of ‘Targeted locations’
  4. Select ‘save’

Using the example of a newborn photographer located in Pinehurst, NC… Focusing on the keyword “newborn photographers” — it gets 10,000-100,000 average monthly searches across the entire US vs 100-1,000 average monthly searches when we narrow the location to the counties surrounding Pinehurst, NC. 

Here you can see that for the entire US, “newborn photographers” gets 10k-100k in average monthly searches.

Newborn Photographers Pinehurst

After using the location filters to narrow down to counties surrounding Pinehurst, NC, we can see that “newborn photographers” get an 100-1,000 average monthly searches. 

Newborn Photographers Us

How to Refine Keywords

Once you’ve entered your keyword idea and generated the keyword list in Google Ads Keyword Planner, you should use the ‘Refine Keywords’ section to the right to refine the keywords. 

For photographers and wedding industry professionals, I eliminate branded keywords each time I generate a new keyword list during the research phase. 

See groups of keywords based on their themes, brands or categories.

For example, if your keywords are related to running photography, you may see a category for brands. To only avoid seeing keywords for jcpenny”, you’d uncheck the box for jcpenny.

Refine Keyword 2 Edit Ps

Refine Keywords

  1. Look for the “Refine keywords” side panel on the “Keyword ideas” page.
  2. Open the categories beneath it to see characteristics related to your keyword ideas.
  3. Uncheck the box next to each category to remove these keywords from your list.

While the ‘Refine Keyword’ feature is not perfect, it can help reduce irrelevant keywords from your research data. 

How to Filter Keywords

Narrow down your list of keywords based on criteria like competition, impression share, and keyword text. 

Gkp Filter

You can filter by: 

  • Keyword
  • Competition
  • Ad impression share
  • Top of page bid (low range)
  • Top of page bid (high range)
  • Competition (indexed value)
  • Organic impression share
  • Organic average position
  • Exclude keywords in my account
  • Exclude keywords in my plan


For example, you may want to see keyword ideas that don’t include ‘maternity’ if you are doing keyword research around newborn photography.

How to Filter by Keyword

  1. Click Add filter
  2. Select ‘Keyword’ 
  3. Select ‘Does not contain’ from the drop down
  4. Enter “maternity” in the value field
  5. Select ‘Apply’

Your list of ideas will now match the filter.

Or if you’re an expert at keyword research and are looking into pay-per-click ads, you may filter by data and decide that you need to see keywords where bids under $1 may be enough to reach the top of the page.

How to Organize Keywords

I like to organize keywords into ad groups as I do the research to make it easier to filter for data once I export. I prefer to create Ad Group names based on seed keywords or content buckets as mentioned in the Blog Content Strategy post.

Follow these steps to add keywords to your plan and forecast their performance:

How to Organize Keywords

  1. Check the box next to each keyword that you’d like to add to your plan.
  2. If you’d like to specify the name of the ad group in your plan to add this to, click the New ad group drop-down and specify a name.
  3. Specify the match type by clicking the ‘Broad Match’ or ‘Exact Match’ drop-down and selecting a match type.
  4. Click Add keywords to create a plan to create a new plan, or click Add keywords to add the keywords to an existing plan.

Exporting Keyword Data

Now that you’ve utilized the Keyword Planner and added your keywords to the plan, it’s time to export that data. 

To export your keyword data, navigate to the ‘Saved keywords’ section found on the far left. 

How to Export Data

  1. Change the ‘Draft plan’ name to something you remember + the date
  2. Change the location to match the locations you serve
  3. Click the download button on the top right
  4. Select ‘Plan Forecast’ — Google Sheets
  5. Click ‘Open Sheet’ once the report is done
  6. Once that is complete, select ‘Plan historical metrics’ — Google Sheets
  7. Click ‘Open Sheet’ once the report is done
  8. Open both documents and begin exploring your data

When you’re ready to make your website SEO-friendly, here are a few tips to consider:

  • Find a Showit template. Designs created by experienced SEO professionals already have your pages structured for SEO, so you just need to add the details.
  • Invest in an SEO audit. An audit will show you how your website is performing and provide insights on how to improve its SEO.
  • Work with a Showit SEO Expert & Website Designer. If you’re considering building from scratch or relaunching your website with SEO in mind, find a website designer that specializes in brand identity and SEO.

Take your next steps today by connecting with me today and establishing the best move for a search engine optimized website to start generating organic traffic from Google.

Contact me today and/or leave a comment with your questions!

About The Author

Stefanie Morris

I’m a recovering wedding photographer turned Showit SEO expert & marketing consultant. 

Explore the blog to learn how to do keyword research, search engine optimization, and create blog content strategy to uplevel your marketing and drive leads.