on July 22, 2021 (last modified on July 11, 2022) • 18 minute read
The PPC keyword landscape is always changing.
Just because one of your keywords tops your list now doesn’t mean that it’ll be outshined by another in the future. This principle works the other way around, too — future power-keywords could fly under your radar because they aren’t doing well today.
Due to PPC keywords’ dynamic nature, you should add regular Google Ads forecasting to your ad management routine. In this blog post, you’ll learn what this practice is, what tools you should use for it and what you can do to optimize it.
Keep reading to get insights from advertising experts across the world.
Google Ads forecasting is the practice of predicting future keyword performance based on previous data. It’s also known as PPC keyword forecasting.
Some folks use this term only to refer to PPC keyword forecasting performed through the Google Ads Keyword Planner. But, for the purpose of this blog post, we’re talking about forecasting keywords for your Google Ads campaign using your preferred tool.
Whatever term you use, Google Ads forecasting is as much of an art as it is a science. It uses numbers and data, but you need to choose the keywords and data you want to examine.
We consulted professional PPC advertisers for their opinions on the best tools for PPC keyword forecasting. They named more than 11 options:
As you can see, the most popular tools come straight from Google itself — Google Ads Keyword Planner, Google Analytics, and Google Trends. That’s great news to hear if you don’t have room in your budget for paid technology.
The advertisers we polled had extra comments to share about these forecasting tools:
To monitor and improve the performance of your Google Ads campaigns, you can spend hours running a variety of reports and compiling selected metrics manually into one dashboard. Or, you can pull all your data automatically into one dashboard with Databox.
You can instantly review all of your campaigns and drill down on important metrics, such as:
Now you can benefit from the experience of our Google Ads experts, who have put together a plug-and-play Databox template showing all the key insights you need to optimize your Google Ads campaigns for conversion and ROI. It’s simple to implement and start using as a standalone dashboard or in PPC reports, and best of all, it’s free!
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To set up the dashboard, follow these 3 simple steps:
Step 1: Get the template
Step 2: Connect your Google Ads account with Databox.
Step 3: Watch your dashboard populate in seconds.
Let’s let Brian Stewart from ProsperoWeb, LLC introduce Keyword Planner’s forecasting tool: “The Google Ads forecast tool can assist you in determining how well your keywords will perform in optimal conditions. You can adjust your maximum cost per click (CPC) based on your budget, check a graph of your expected performance, and see estimates for individual keywords with this tool. You can vary the time period of your forecast to see how it affects your forecast by changing the date range.”
Best of all, every feature is free. You only need to pay for the ad bidding you already perform in Google Ads.
“Google claims to update its estimates daily, using data collected from the past 10 days. The forecast tool is a complex feature of Google Ads, demonstrating how helpful the advertising medium as a whole is,” Condo BlackBook’s Sep Niakan says of the forecasting tool’s potential.
Niakan also explains how to use Keyword Planner’s forecasting features. “You’ll click on “Get search volume and forecasts” within the Google Ads Keyword Planner,” Niakan tells us first. That option should look something like the below screenshot.
“After that, input your keywords and click on Get Started,” Niakan instructs us next. This is what the input box will look like:
Here’s what Niakan wants you to know after you’ve input your keywords:
“There will be other tabs available, but you must stay on the predicting tab. As per the keywords you entered, Google Ads will automatically show you the following:
Moreover, the tool will show you a data chart that forecasts the upcoming trends. This assists you in determining the best course of action for future efforts, as well as determining whether or not existing efforts should be adjusted depending on customer searches and behavior.”
In other words, the “Get search volume and forecasts” feature tells you how a keyword is performing now and predicts what its metrics will look like in the future.
“The tool will give you forecast data for each keyword such as impressions, the click-through-rate, the clicks per day, the average projected daily spend amount, and the average amount you might pay for an ad click. Adding your own conversion metrics can customize the forecasts to your brand,” adds Tori Bell of Clever Touch Marketing.
Putting it all together, you can plug multiple keywords into Keyword Planner’s forecasting tools to get present data and future predictions. Then, you can adjust the finer details as needed and add your own metrics for more accurate forecasts.
At Creatopy, Diana-Alina Aldea supplements Google Keyword Planner’s forecasting capabilities for paid keywords with Google Analytics’ organic keyword metrics.
“Here I check affinity categories, in-market segments, locations and queries, but from all sources, not only paid traffic, to see which opportunities I’m missing in my PPC efforts. To make most of the data I’m seeing, I try to go more in the past, if possible (three or six months),” Aldea says.
If you don’t already, you should factor organic search data into your campaigns’ keyword structure. In fact, we’ve recommended that tactic before for PPC keyword research. Since customers are already searching for high-ranking organic keywords, make sure to see if any will impact your campaign.
A few respondents pointed out that they use more niche forecasting tools or generate their own PPC reports.
“So, I use a couple of tools to forecast and manage my Google PPC accounts,” says Newaz Chowdhury of Powerphrase. “Jepto is one tool that I use to manage and forecast my ad spend for my client accounts. It shows what I’m spending and what results I can get if I keep with the current ad spend. It gives me the insights of our PPC budget and KPI management.”
The Powerphrase team also uses Morphio, a tool with similar features to Jepto. “It also shows us the traffic and conversion rate too. User-friendly interface to read and understand the data that’s being shown.”
Wikijob’s Edward Mallet is a fierce advocate for affordable third-party tools and manual reporting. “For an easier and faster forecast report, you might use a third-party PPC campaign reporting platform. Alternatively, you can create your forecast and projection reports by hand,” Mallet suggests.
“You can develop data tables to forecast short-and long-term projection consequences if you want to pull the data manually. Although it is impossible to predict the future with 100% accuracy, you can identify elements that may have a favorable or negative impact on ROI by combining CPC analysis and historical trend data,” Mallet says of manual reporting.
So, if you want to try manual reporting, you’ll still need to reference your campaign performance data and Keyword Planner metrics. This method can offer more control and access to version histories, though. You’ll just need to get used to drawing your own predictions from the data you have.
Mallet offers the following advice for updating your reports: “Some data will require more frequent updates than others. CPC data, for example, can vary more quickly than industry trends and should be updated every week or month in your prediction report, depending on how frequently you execute campaigns. For longer-term predictions, assess the best days and times of years for specific keywords using year-long trend data (or longer) to get the best results over time.”
If you manage ads on a large scale or have in-house reporting software, the Google Ads API will help you make your own forecasting tools. The API documentation has more information on generating forecast metrics in your custom solution.
The advertising professionals we polled shared six tidbits of Google Ads forecasting advice.
Don’t fret if you have a small biz ad budget when reading these tips. The respondents come from a wide range of advertising budgets, skewing toward $5,000 a month or less. In fact, 27.4% work with less than $3,000.
Dig into the tips below:
As with most practices in marketing and advertising, good Google Ads forecasting begins with thorough research. You should know your organization and competition inside-out before choosing any keywords.
“Gathering relevant and accurate data is the first step,” Miranda Yan from VinPit affirms. “I track data like CPC, monthly spend, conversion rate, etc., and analyze [my] competitors. Keeping industrial trends in mind and creating performance reports, I strategize the ad campaign for future success.”
PeopleFinderFree’s Eden Cheng adds a human element to this initial research process. “My recent process of forecasting Google PPC potential includes checking with team members to perceive any obscure troughs and peaks. I have chosen to be conservative with the developed figures, like UPOD [under-promising and over-delivering],” Cheng explains.
Cheng continues, “Also, I have used similar uplifts, which can be seen in previous years unless I became confident. At the same time, I have cross-checked the final forecast against the previous year’s figures to make sure [there are] no high plunges in performance and built up the strategy of forecasting, actualizing, and re-forecasting, if required.”
In other words, Cheng checks performance metrics from previous years to make sure the forecast looks realistic. Then, Cheng creates a forecasting strategy alongside the research plan.
Additionally, Code Signing Store’s Rameez Usmani recommends establishing “a foundation for future calculations.” Usmani says, “This foundation should correspond to the advertising campaign’s objectives for the potential advertiser.”
Usmani suggests aligning your forecasting strategy with the number of clients you need to get your intended income, your sales team’s closure rate, your website conversion rate and cost per click.
No PPC forecast is one-size-fits-all — you need to adjust different variables to account for your bidding style.
“We use the Google Ads forecast tool, among others, for a variety of purposes, the main one being to help us determine how our keywords will perform in optimal settings,” TurboFinance’s Josh Stomel tells us.
Stomel explores multiple variables when forecasting keywords. “For example, viewing charts of our estimated overall performance, delving into projections for individual keywords, and then seeing how these estimates change when we adjust our maximum cost per click are all part of our current process for optimizing our advertising potential,” Stomel says. “Depending on the time of year, we also leverage the forecast date range to see how specific time frames might affect our Google PPC potential.”
Consider what conditions you prefer to bid under, and adjust your forecasts accordingly. You want your projected situation to match your real bidding situation as much as possible.
According to Google Ads Help, you can change the default bid for your Keyword Planner forecast at the top of the “Plan overview” page. Try different numbers to see how your typical bids compare.
The term “forecasting” can be a little misleading in terms of PPC predictions. Every forecast is a best guess, meaning that many factors can change the results.
“We like to call it projections, rather than forecasts,” says growth360’s Sasha Matviienko. “This term highlights that at the end of the day, we are making a data-driven guess with lots of factors outside of our control (the 2020 lesson).”
So, what can you do to make the best guess possible? “When projecting for a year/quarter we primarily look at factors like cost per click and quality scores. This way, we are able to tell a better story and consider multiple scenarios – with cost per click of X and quality score of Y we should be getting a result Z,” Matviienko explains.
Matviienko has one final piece of advice if you use in-house algorithms to forecast your keywords: “Models that you use are important as well. The ARIMA model tends to give us the closest results as it accounts for past performance as a time progression.”
Never consider your forecast set in stone, and remember that multiple scenarios can happen to your keywords.
Many respondents mentioned using a mix of tools in their forecasting workflow. Considering that different platforms have unique features, data and algorithms, it’s a great idea to get more than one perspective.
At Futurety, Lulia Poe changes tools depending on the forecasting stage, starting with Google’s platforms: “Forecasting PPC campaign performance for Google usually starts with a few Google Trends dives, in order to better understand the evolution of search interest over time. Once we understand the trends, we build out predictions using volume data from Keyword Planner.”
Once the campaign starts running, Poe keeps switching up tools. “Performance Planner is a great tool to optimize budgets and bids after the campaigns have been running for a while, especially those in highly competitive & volatile markets. We account for competition using the Impression Share metric suite, coupled with Auction Insights and Semrush, which come together to form a comprehensive view of who we’re up against.”
StableWP’s Djordje Milicevic also uses Keyword Planner in early forecasting stages. “We typically start by plugging in a website (our clients’ website as well as competitors’ sites) and coming up with target keywords. Once we identify keywords with high potential, we use the built-in forecasting tool to get a better estimate of the average CPC and how much traffic (and conversions) we can expect based on various budget levels.”
Milicevic then exports Keyword Planner’s data to adjust for better accuracy. “Based on our experience, Keyword Planner sometimes underestimates the traffic as well as search volume, especially when there’s little to no campaign history. That’s why the next step is to export the keyword data into a spreadsheet and, using our proprietary forecast modeling tools, get a final estimation of the traffic we can expect, as well as the conversions and the CPA (and ROAS). Finally, we connect the sheets to a Google Data Studio report to visualize the performance and share it with stakeholders,” Milicevic concludes.
CocoSign’s Caroline Lee runs historical data through multiple Google tools. “Firstly, we use historical data to measure previous performance. Then we use trends to identify the talents trends and hot keywords. Google Keyword Planner also provides aid in the process,” Lee begins.
“Then we use Google Auction Insights to check our competitors and their performance. This helps us determine the Budget for each keyword and overall ads for the month,” concludes Lee. Since all of Google’s keyword tools are free, Lee’s method doesn’t cost any extra money.
As you can see, there are plenty of ways to go about your keyword forecasting. Running your forecasts through multiple tools can help you account for multiple scenarios and get more accurate predictions. Try different combinations until you find a workflow that delivers more accurate forecasts.
Editor’s tip: See how multiple Google keyword tools can work together with the Google Ads Campaign Engagement Dashboard Template for Databox. It pulls engagement data from Google Ads and Analytics to help you discover which keywords give you the best results.
As you adjust your Google Ads forecasting plans according to market growth, don’t forget that your campaign will evolve over time. Your keyword forecasts should align with your campaign’s future growth.
Jordan Brannon from Coalition Technologies considers a client campaign’s future growth whether it starts with historical data or a fresh setup.
When running an account with historical data, Brannon factors optimization and future growth into every calculation. “We may add a percentage of improvement to important lead generation or ecommerce metrics based on our optimization scope (e.g., reducing irrelevant cost, increasing sales/leads/revenue, etc.)… Then, we set a percentage growth assumption for month-on-month or quarter-on-quarter projections,” Brannon says.
“For new accounts, we consider the average cost per click (CPC) of the top 10 keywords, take the industry average conversion rate, and derive a cost per acquisition (CPA). For ecommerce clients, we use average order values for revenue projections,” Brannon continues. “…Similar to what we do for accounts with historical data, we set a percentage growth assumption for month-on-month or quarter-on-quarter projections.”
When you’re creating your initial projections for your campaign, you need to play the long game. You can adjust your forecasts and bids in the future, but a strong forecast that accounts for future changes will save you work in the long run.
As you forecast your Google Ads keywords, you might wonder how to adjust your budget alongside your predictions.
At VisualFizz, Marissa Ryan starts with a budget or builds a budget from goals and forecasts. “There are two ways that we forecast at VisualFizz, and we approach them with two starting questions,” says Ryan.
“First, if you have a budget in place, we ask ourselves ‘What can we get for this budget’? We take a look at the Costs-per-Click (CPCs) for the keywords we want to target and forecast how much traffic we can ‘afford’ with our budget. We usually forecast an expected Click-Through-Rate (CTR) (use industry average if you don’t have one),” Ryan begins.
Continuing on the topic of that first question, Ryan continues, “We can then forecast the number of expected conversions by applying an expected Conversion Rate to the incoming traffic. You can see how this gives us a forecast of the number of visitors and number of conversions we might be able to ‘afford’.”
So, what’s the second question? “The other question to ask is relevant when you have Performance Metrics/Goals to hit but aren’t sure how much budget it will take to meet those goals. Here, the question is ‘How much does it cost to ‘buy’ the results I want?’ To answer this question, we take a similar forecasting approach. We analyze the CPCs for the keywords we want to target, and we determine how many clicks we can reasonably expect from our budget at these CPCs. From there, we forecast the expected conversion rate of those clicks, and we are left with similar forecasted metrics: the number of expected clicks, CTRs, CPCs, and CR for the incoming traffic,” Ryan explains.
Related: 10 Tips for Executing a Cost-Effective Google Ads Bidding Strategy
For Ryan, a campaign’s budget is virtually inseparable from its forecasts. “When forecasting PPC traffic, budget is a critical component. If you know your budget, you can forecast expected traffic/conversions at that spend amount, if you don’t know your budget, you can forecast the expected spend it will take to achieve your goals,” Ryan concludes.
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