In AdWords, some industries are simply more competitive/expensive than others. That said, whatever industry you’re in, you’ll always come across some keywords that price you out of auctions, forcing you to take a more strategic route to getting your ads seen by the right audience.

So today we’re going to take a look at some of the most competitive industries for AdWords advertising and talk about how you can deal with expensive keywords.

What are the most expensive keywords in AdWords?

Every year we get reports from the likes of WordStream, SEMrush and other data sources on the most expensive keywords. Earlier this month, WordStream released its latest report on the priciest keywords for 2017 and here’s what it has to say:

Source: WordStream


The first “keyword” on that list doesn’t really tell us much. The vague term “Business services” can mean anything from “data room” and “factoring company” (the two examples provided) to web design and digital marketing. The price of these keywords will vary across industries but they’re generally the most competitive for any given service.

The next four keywords on WordStream’s confirm that the most competitive industries for AdWords advertising are pretty much the same as they have been for some time: financial, casino and legal industries.

Here’s the WordStream infographic in full and you can get more info on these from the WordStream site.

Source: WordStream

These findings are pretty much inline with data from SEMrush for 2016. The figures from SEMrush are for the UK specifically and the five most expensive industries in the report were gambling, finance, tech, B2B and legal.

Source: Empirical Proof

Some of those keyword prices are pretty eye watering. Of course, the reason these keywords are so expensive is because businesses are making big money from them – and that’s great, if you can make it work.

But what happens when you’re priced out of the most expensive keywords in your industry?

How to deal with expensive keywords

When you’re trying to reduce your spend on keywords, you need to be sure the quality of the leads you generate doesn’t suffer. So the first place to start is by targeting more specific user intents that suggest people are close to buying.

It’s great if your ads are seen for generic industry keywords like PPC and web design, but these users could be looking for all kinds of things: web design tutorials, web design courses, web design services, etc.

Now, compare that with queries for “mobile friendly redesign” or “why has my website dropped in Google ranking?”. These keywords are less competitive, less expensive and they show a much higher intent.

Target specific user intents

Instead of targeting the most popular keywords by search volume, target the keywords that show the highest purchase intent. Urgency is always a great place to start if it applies to your business.

When someone’s roof is leaking, they need it fixed fast or the structural integrity of their entire home is in danger. When a company’s website has been hacked, they need a quick response to minimise the damage. If your services are every needed in a hurry, people will be itching to get in touch with the first business that can put things right. Make sure you’re that business.

You can also target transactional keywords and queries to narrow down on users with genuine buying intent. Terms like “buy”, “get a quote”, “best [product type]”, “free shipping”, “next-day delivery”, “special offer” and countless others tell you these users are looking to buy.

Long-tails and negatives

This is pretty widely known so we’ll skim through this quickly. You’ll naturally come up with long-tail keywords by targeting user intents, as we mentioned above (“migrate my site to HTTPS” vs “SEO”).

As for negative keywords, these are vital for the more generic, competitive and expensive keywords you bid on. When someone searches for digital marketing, you want to filter out users who are searching for digital marketing conferences or university courses, for example. The more you target specific user intents and long-tail keywords, the less negative keywords you should need.

However, you still need to think carefully. If you’re selling running shoes and bidding on “Nike running shoes for women 2017” you may not want to pay for clicks from businesses looking to buy wholesale. Think carefully about how you can prevent the wrong kind of user seeing your ad – even if they don’t click, your click-through rates will suffer.

Target locations

If you’re operating in locations, this is one of the best ways to slash the price of your keywords and increase the quality of your leads. Better yet, if you’ve got physical stores/business locations, you can boost your chances on Google Maps (via Google My Business) and even pay for ads to show up in local results.

Target seasons and events

Most consumer brands have some kind seasonal transitions to work with. Clothing retailers have fashion seasons, travel brands have weather seasons, retailers have public holidays and the same goes for most B2C businesses. Create campaigns based on these seasonal shifts (eg: summer weddings, winter holidays, Christmas gifts, etc.). Once again, this will reduce the cost of your keywords while generating highly qualified leads – and you can take this even further by targeting seasonal shifts and locations in the same campaigns.

Optimise your account to reduce your ad spend further

Everything we’ve looked at so far covers keywords targeting but campaign and account management is equally important. First of all, by targeting less expensive keywords you’re going to create a lot of campaigns, ad groups and landing pages – all of which need to be managed.

Account structure is important here and you also need to optimise for performance at every level. Here are some key points to consider:

  • Increase Quality Score: The higher your Quality Score, the less you have to pay for keywords.
  • Prioritise CTRs: Every time your ad shows and doesn’t get clicked, your Quality Score drops, hurting your chances in future auctions.
  • Master ad extensions: Ad extensions are one of the best AdWords features to increase click-through rates – master them.
  • Optimise your bids: Your ads will perform better at certain times of the day, week, month and year. Manage your bids to get the best return on your keywords spend.
  • Experiment with ad positions: It’s not always the first ad that gets the most clicks. Experiment with ad positions to see if lower positions (ie: less expensive positions) are more profitable.
  • Optimise your landing pages: AdWords traffic isn’t free; you need to convert as much of it as possible.
  • Optimise your sales funnels: If the sale takes users beyond your landing page, every step needs to be optimised to maximise conversions.
  • Build email lists: Collect emails so you can reach out to AdWords traffic that doesn’t by the first time.
  • Use remarketing: Remarketing allows you to reach out to previous users who don’t buy first time around (especially when they don’t sign up for any of your email CTAs).

Follow all the tips in this article and you can drastically reduce your spend on keywords. More to the point, these are strategies to improve the quality of leads in the same process. This means more sales and better ROI from a more efficient AdWords account. Once you find that sweet spot, the more money you put into AdWords, the more you get out of it – and this is what we’re all after.