The 25 Most Expensive AdWords Keywords (And Why They’re So $$$)

You know who makes a lot of money? Google.

The funny thing is, most of their considerable profits effectively come in the form of micro-payments – hundreds of thousands of companies paying pennies or dollars per click, every time a potential new customer clicks one of their Google ads.

Even though the average cost per click (CPC) across all industries is just over $2, there are so many searches and so many clicks all day every day that it adds up to billions.

Some industries, though, aren’t so lucky to enjoy the relative affordability of “average” CPC’s. Some highly competitive businesses have to pay an average of $50 or more per click, with individual long-tail keywords costing twice that much. (Yes, that’s $100+ just for a click – not even for a sale!)

The good news is, these tend to be businesses that can afford higher ad costs because the lifetime value of a new customer is much higher – think products or services with super high price tags or long customer lifetimes. (More on this later.)

But let’s not keep you waiting any longer. Here are the top 25 most expensive keywords in Google AdWords, according to 2017 data:

1. Business Services – $58.64
2. Bail Bonds – $58.48
3. Casino – $55.48
4. Lawyer – $54.86
5. Asset Management – $49.86
6. Insurance – $48.41
7. Cash Services & Payday Loans – $48.18
8. Cleanup & Restoration Services – $47.61
9. Degree – $47.36
10. Medical Coding Services – $46.84
11. Rehab – $46.14
12. Psychic – $43.78
13. Timeshare – $42.13
14. HVAC – $41.24
15. Business Software – $41.12
16. Medical Needs – $40.73
17. Loans – $40.69
18. Plumber – $39.19
19. Termites – $38.88
20. Pest Control – $38.84
21. Mortgages – $36.76
22. Online Gambling – $32.84
23. Banking – $31.43
24. Hair Transplant – $31.37
25. Google AdWords – $30.06

So why are these particular keywords so pricy? There are two main reasons.

1. High New Customer or Customer Lifetime Value

If you’re new to Google AdWords or leery about getting started, this data might scare the heck out of you. But the fact is, the system isn’t necessarily broken for advertisers in these niches. Often, they are willing to pay more per click because they can afford a relatively high cost per acquisition – because that acquisition is so valuable to the business, it outweighs the advertising costs.

Marketing and advertising always come down to ROI, and you can get strong ROI from AdWords even with high CPCs as long as enough of those clickers are converting into customers. Many of the keyword categories in the infographic are for high-priced items like “business services” and “insurance.” Products or services with large price tags can support more expensive advertising.

Or take the “lawyer” category, with examples like “malpractice lawyer” and “lemon law layer” coming in at over $50 per click on average! If you’re doing online marketing for a law firm, you know it’s highly competitive – but it’s worth doing, because those new leads and clients keep your business going.

The smart advertisers are making sure they keep CPA low by containing costs as much as possible and optimizing for conversions. Strategies that work here include:

  • Geotargeting that focuses ads on your operating areas.
  • Call tracking so you can measure your most important leads.
  • Emotional ads and landing pages that feature video and client testimonials.
  • Display and other media campaigns to encourage brand recognition.

Bottom line: Don’t be afraid of AdWords just because the cost per click is high; consider your ad costs within the context of your whole business.

2. Urgent Problems That Need a Fast Fix

Another category of super-expensive keywords covers products or services that people are desperate for – think emergency dental work.

Pricy keywords that fit this pattern include “bail bonds” ($58 per click on average), “rehab” ($46), and “termites” ($38). See also the “medical needs” category, which includes keywords like “emergency rooms near me,” and a lot of local searches for “rehab” (such as “rehab los angeles”).

Speaking of rehab – a number of keywords are related to addictive behavior: see “casino” (the third most expensive keyword at $55 per click) and “online gambling” – gambling-related keywords grabbed both the #1 and #2 spots in the UK! – plus a cluster of psychic keywords (e.g. “psychic hotline” and “psychic chat”).

There is, of course, considerable overlap between these two categories – sometimes people need a lawyer fast, for example.

Wild Cards

There are a few surprises on the list. Like “hair transplant.”

But a quick Google search tells me these procedures can cost up to $15,000 and most insurance plans don’t cover it. Yikes!

Even more of a surprise though? That #25 keyword: Google AdWords. And you know who’s bidding on “Google AdWords” in Google AdWords? Google AdWords!


Image Credits

Infographic: WordStream

Screenshot: Taken by author, July 2017