Keyword research is central to any PPC campaign. If you’re not bidding for the right keywords, then there’s no way you can drive the right kind of web traffic to your website.
As is the case in any digital marketing campaign, you’d do well to understand the intent of your audience. After all, the words they’re going to enter in search queries are based on that intent.
Finding the PPC keywords that will translate to a worthwhile return on your investment is no easy task, however. Pick a set of keywords to use in your PPC marketing campaign and chances are there are thousands of others who are targeting those same keywords as well.
In doing keyword research, you simply have no room for guesswork. You have to adopt tried-and-tested PPC keyword research strategies to give yourself the competitive edge needed to give your brand a boost in PPC rankings.
But don’t just take our word for it. Here are the best PPC keyword research tips straight from today’s most seasoned marketers.
- 1 1. “Brainstorm as many synonyms and related words as you possibly can” – Ron Dod, CEO of Visiture
- 2 2. “You need to know what your customers want, what they’re looking for, and how they’re searching for it” — Neil Patel, Founder of CrazyEgg and KISSmetrics
- 3 3. “Find hidden gems with multiple research options” – Gael Breton, Founder of Authority Hacker
- 4 4. “Factor in commercial intent.” – Bryan Dean, Founder of Quicksprout
- 5 5. “Negative Keywords can be the key to keeping the bad traffic out.” – Daniel McClure, Founder and CEO of The Modern Entrepreneur
- 6 6. “Competitor analysis should feed into your decision-making at the earliest stage possible.” – Richard Wilner, Director of Digital Strategy
- 7 Final Word
Ron Dod, the CEO and co-founder of Visiture, shared a brilliant tip on how to kick off your PPC keyword research, which is to “brainstorm as many synonyms and related words as you possibly can.”
It makes perfect sense. For one, you can’t hope to create a profitable keyword list if you’re not casting as wide a net as possible. There’s always big fish lurking even in the remotest parts of the lake and you need to catch them all.
So start broad as you brainstorm keywords that are related to your niche. Use the a-z method if you have to. Don’t worry about having too many keywords in your initial list. You can remove words that aren’t relevant and competitive later on.
An effective starting point is to brainstorm a list of broad topics related to your business. Don’t worry about getting too specific for now. As mentioned earlier, the idea here is to cast a wide net.
For example, if you’re selling sports shoes, you can start by listing the different types of sports footwear, such as sneakers, gym sneakers, running shoes, tennis shoes, and more. You can also list of branded keywords like “Nike,” “Converse,” or “Adidas.”
It’s also a good idea to use an Excel spreadsheet and create a tab for each main topic.
2. “You need to know what your customers want, what they’re looking for, and how they’re searching for it” — Neil Patel, Founder of CrazyEgg and KISSmetrics
Now this is where it gets interesting. What you must do is put yourself in the shoes of your target audience, and then think about the words you think your customers will use in search engines to find your product.
Remember, the goal here is to target keywords you want your ads to show up for when your target audience enters them as search queries.
So how does one come up with a list of keywords that your target customers are likely to use?
You can do some further brainstorming to refine your list. But use a slightly different approach this time.
You can take the sage advice of KISSmetrics founder and digital marketing guru Neil Patel, who enumerated three important considerations when launching an AdWords campaign:
- What do your customers want?
- What are they looking for?
- How are they searching for it?
After you’ve finalized your keyword seed list, you need to expand your keyword list via extensive keyword research.
The operative word here, of course, is “extensive.” And the only way you can do that is to follow Authority Hacker founder Gael Breton’s advice: “Find hidden gems with multiple research options.”
The first keyword research option you can use is Google Suggest. By entering your seed keyword in the Google search, you’ll be automatically shown suggested terms in the drop-down menu.
Suggest is such a useful tool because it “suggests” real words and phrases people have been using as search queries.
Another good option is to use a dedicated keyword research tool. Tools like Ubersuggest are essential in keyword expansion because it can generate keyword ideas you won’t be able to come up with on your own.
Better yet, keyword research tools provide keyword metrics that can help you come up with informed decisions on which keywords to target in your PPC campaign.
As a simple exercise, let’s use the aforementioned tool Ubersuggest. For this one, let’s use one of the seed keywords in our example, “running shoes.”
Just enter the keyword in the main field, click “Look Up,” and the keyword research tool will generate you hundreds of keyword suggestions in an instant.
As you’ll notice in the screenshot above, each keyword suggestion comes with key metrics (Search Volume, CPC, Competition) that will inform your paid search marketing strategy.
By looking at each of these metrics in conjunction with each other, you are provided with the means to do a more advanced analysis that will guide you in your paid search marketing strategy.
Another great future of Ubersuggest is that it provides each keyword suggestion a month-by-month comparative data of monthly searches. This comes in handy during seasonal campaigns since it helps you optimize for seasonal keywords.
To check for monthly trends, simply hover your mouse pointer over the bar graph icon found on the right side of each keyword suggestion. Let’s use the keyword ‘black friday shoe deals’ in the example below.
Ideally, you should be targeting keywords that have a high search volume and low competition, although it also depends on the circumstances.
One consistent trend that applies to keywords is that the higher level of competition, the more expensive the keyword (higher CPC) will be. But in the final analysis, the decision should be based on keyword relevance as well as your total budget for the ad campaign.
4. “Factor in commercial intent.” – Bryan Dean, Founder of Quicksprout
Imagine that you’re a potential customer looking to order a birthday cake for your 5-year-old son. What are the keywords you are likely to type in the search field?
Surely it’s not “how to bake a birthday cake.”
No. Chances are you’ll be using “birthday cake for sale” or “cheap birthday cakes” (if you’re on a budget).
The point is, keywords with purchasing terms such as “for sale,” “buy,” “cheap,” or “affordable,” are strongly indicative of a prospect’s intention to make a purchase.
Bryan Dean, the founder of Quick Sprout, said it best:
“Search volume is an important metric when determining the value of a keyword. But it shouldn’t be the only thing you use in your keyword decision making process. You also want to factor in commercial intent.”
To refine your keyword suggestions based on commercial intent, you can use Ubersuggest’s ‘Filter Results’ feature found on the lower left portion of the results page.
As can be seen in the screenshot below, just enter the “buying terms” of your choice and you’ll get a list of keyword suggestions with high commercial intent.
By bidding on keywords with high commercial intent, you can drive targeted leads that are further down in your marketing funnel. This, of course, increases your conversion rate for those specific keywords, ensuring that the money you’re paying for PPC ads is well-spent.
5. “Negative Keywords can be the key to keeping the bad traffic out.” – Daniel McClure, Founder and CEO of The Modern Entrepreneur
You can’t hope to be successful in your ad campaigns if your PPC ads aren’t showing up for the right keywords.
If you want to exclude keywords that don’t align with your PPC campaign, you need to have a negative keyword strategy.
Daniel McClure, founder and CEO of The Modern Entrepreneur, will tell you the same advice. In fact, he wrote about the benefits of negative keywords in one of his articles for The Modern Entrepreneur.
“When paying for traffic with pay-per-click (PPC) placements every click counts and negative keywords can be the key to keeping the bad traffic out.”
Using negative keywords, sometimes referred to as exclusive keywords, is crucial in refining your PPC traffic since it filters out extraneous words and phrases that dilute your keyword density.
But before you can filter out negative keywords, you need to come up with a negative keyword list.
Ask yourself which words and phrases that will prove irrelevant to your paid search campaign.
For example, if you’re offering a paid eBook marketing course, you’d want your ads to be excluded from searches that include the word “free.” So include that word in your negative keyword list.
To use our previous example (“sports shoes”) again, are there specific shoe brands that you’re not offering in your store? Let’s say you don’t have Asics and Mizuno in your shop inventory. To avoid your ads showing up in searches specifically looking for those specific brands, you can add “Asics” and “Mizuno” into your negative keyword list as well.
Once you have a final list of negative keywords, you can refine your keyword research by using a Negative Keyword tool.
For our example, we can use Ubersuggest’s Negative Keyword tool, which can be found on the lower left portion of your keyword suggestion results page (below Filter Results). It’s hard to miss.
If you’re having difficulties coming up with negative keywords, there’s a ton of negative keyword list generators you can use for your convenience, such as Wordstream.
6. “Competitor analysis should feed into your decision-making at the earliest stage possible.” – Richard Wilner, Director of Digital Strategy
Competitor analysis is essential in your PPC keyword strategy, not only in regards to finalizing your keyword list, but also in helping you determine which adjustments and tweaks you have to make in bidding for specific keywords.
More importantly, you need to analyze the competition early in the game. As Richard Wilner, the director of Digital Strategy, writes in his in-depth Competitor Analysis essential guide, “Competitor analysis should feed into your decision-making at the earliest stage possible.”
Towards these ends, you’d want to know how your competitors are faring in the rankings for the keywords you’re bidding on, and how well you’re stacking up against them.
To keep an eye on your competitors, you don’t need to look further than AdWords’ Auction Insights. The best thing about this tool is that it’s free.
Just go to your AdWords account, select the ad campaigns you want to examine, and then download the Auction Insights report.
Once you’re there, you’ll notice that you can get in-depth reports on three levels: Campaign, Ad Group, and Keyword.
The Audience Insights report will show you a list of your competitors, along with their respective impression share, average position, overlap rate, positive above rate, top of page rate, and outranking share.
By going over the data and doing a comparative analysis of them all, you should be able to acquire data-driven insights which will drive your PPC strategy to new heights.
If you want to be successful in your PPC keyword research efforts, you can do no wrong by following the suggestions of today’s best digital marketers. After all, they got to where they are by doing the same thing.
As a digital marketer, always keep in mind that your goal is to deliver value to your target audience. Without delivering value, you can’t expect to receive value in return. But to reach that goal, you have to focus on understanding your audience’s commercial intent.