The Most Expensive Google Ads Keywords in 2023
[This post was originally published on March 8, 2022 and updated on June 20, 2023. It was authored by Fraud Blocker’s Founder and CEO, Mike Schrobo, and published at PPCHero.com]
Google generated nearly $224 billion from advertising revenue in 2022, which is a massive increase of over $110 billion from just 5 years ago.
This influx of spending from advertisers creates more competition for search terms and cost-per-clicks (CPCs) are now skyrocketing.
Which keywords are increasing the most?
We analyzed the top 5,000 most expensive keywords on Google search in June 2023† (with a minimum of 300 searches per month) and found that the Legal industry was the most expensive. It not only lead the list with the most expensive keywords, but it also had the greatest number of keywords in the top 5,000, representing a whopping 19.4% of all the search terms we reviewed.
Education had the second most keywords in the top 5,000 with 8.7%. Insurance is 6.1%, followed by Addiction and Rehab Programs with 4.9% and Loans with just 1.1%. The remaining 60% of the keywords represented a wide range of categories such as business services, specialty consumer services (such as water damage or plumbing repair), bail bonds and more. While Covid-19 remained a hot topic in 2021, the search terms weren’t expensive and didn’t make our list.
To start, here are the top 25 most expensive keywords in 2023:
Why are some keywords so expensive?
The quick answer is that competition is stronger than ever before as advertisers allocate a significantly greater percent of their budgets to online marketing.
However, there are also some other areas that can impact CPCs:
- Businesses with high profit margins: Some industries have greater profit margins with large ticket items and they can afford to spend a lot more per click in the expectations they’ll make up for it. This is especially true for law firms that can spend $100 on a click, but can more than make up for it with a successful settlement of a lawsuit. For-profit online colleges are also hugely profitable with nearly a 20% profit margin and students paying approximately $15,780 per year in tuition.
- Speed-to-purchase: This enables advertisers to spend more such as with “pay day loans.” If an advertiser can close a sale quickly the cash flow can help justify paying more per ad click.
- Improved tracking methods: Tracking methods such as cookies, conversion postbacks, UTMs, dynamic call tracking and others, have become more advanced and enable advertisers to very granually track a user’s journey from the keyword they clicked on to the exact item they purchased. This confidence allows marketers to pay even more for high converting keywords.
This category is by far the most expensive today for any advertiser, especially for claims related to personal injury or vehicle accidents.
The chart below shows how a bulk of the keywords in this category are clustered in the most expensive area and location-based keywords made up the priciest search terms. Phrases such as “las vegas personal injury attorneys” or “los angeles truck accident lawyer” reached an astonishing $500 per click.
Addiction and Rehab Program Keywords
Google prohibited advertisers in this category from buying high-demand keywords in 2018 due to significant reports of harm to consumers.
However, in November 2021, Google created a certification pathway for businesses to once again advertise and the cost of the keywords soared again.
This space is highly competitive and a simple Google search today from California or Texas serves addiction ads in every available ad slot on Google.
Searches with “near me” were certainly the most expensive, possibly driven by the user’s urgency for care in their local area and a shorter research period. This is similar to Legal and other categories that offer local services. Highly targeted, localized keywords can often be the most expensive. “Inpatient alcohol rehab centers near me” was the most expensive keyword for the entire category, averaging $185 per click.
Online Education Keywords
For-profit and online school remain highly competitive despite recent challenges by regulators to crack down on the industry due to it’s questionable businesses practices.
The industry’s most popular college, the University of Phoenix, spends an estimated $6 million per month on Google ads alone, according to Spyfu. There are nearly 700 other for-profit schools competing for the same keywords in the US and an additional 3,300 public and non-profit schools.
The most expensive search term was “Online business degree programs” at $110 per click.
Insurance is a highly competitive industry, however, the enormous consumer search volumes often keep CPCs lower than some other categories.
For example, “health insurance” only averages a $9 CPC since it has nearly 200,000 searches per month. Similarly, “car insurance” has about 400,000 searches per month, which keeps CPCs around only $40 each.
Insurance keywords, as with many of the keyword categories in this top 5,000 list, were more expensive if they were targeted or had localized search terms appended to them.
“Best car insurance in North Carolina” was the most expensive term in this category coming in at $220 per click.
Loan keywords had the lowest volume of keywords in the top 5,000.
Most center around a variety of “business loans” for small businesses or those in need of working capital. These types of terms are often a reflection of businesses needing funds quickly and they are willing to pay a premium for them. This is what enables advertisers to spend a bit more on their keywords.
Popular terms such as “credit cards” have a perceived high CPC cost, but in reality, it’s only $15 and thus not included in the chart below. Similar to many broad terms in the insurance category, many loan keywords have very large search volumes by consumers and thus CPCs are not as expensive.
How to avoid expensive keywords
As companies pour more money into online ads, the keyword costs will continue to soar. Here’s a few tips to help you offset the cost of expensive keywords:
- Use negative keywords – adding “negative keywords” to your campaign are a powerful way to reduce low quality users searching with terms such as “free” and “cheap” (try our negative keyword list!)
- Increase your Quality Scores – improve your landing pages and optimize for mobile traffic (mobile users make up 61% of all web traffic).
- Schedule Ads for Optimal Times – Running your Google Ads at the right times can significantly decrease your cost-per-keyword. Analyze your past campaign data and identify the days and hours which convert the best and cost the least.
- Reduce your wasted clicks from bots and competitors – Our click fraud protection helps you reduce clicks from bots, competitors, accidental clicks and more.
Keyword lists and cost-per-clicks (CPC) for the top 25 keywords were provided by Ahrefs, as of June 2023. †Note: keyword data for the category-specific lists were provided by Ahrefs, as of January 2022.
Categories were selected based on the top 5,000 keywords with the highest CPC, with a minimum of 300 searches per month on Google search in the US only, and then grouped together based on related keywords. Results were lightly edited for typos and minor anomalies. This information should be used only for editorial purposes. Be sure to perform your own keyword research before making advertising decisions.