Keyword Research for Pay Per Click Ads: PPC Research


Alex Corral

Oct 1, 2019


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Search Engine Marketing

Keyword Research for Pay Per Click Ads: Maximize Your PPC Campaign

Google continues to change its algorithm, and with that comes a variety of changes to how we conduct keyword research for pay per click ads. We're living in a cutthroat time where advertisers are competing for your eyeballs like never before. 

The competition is out there, and you've got to use every angle possible to get ahead. Are keywords everything when it comes to ranking for PPC? 

No, but they are a brutally essential factor in determining whether or not you get clicks and whether you have a high or low conversion rate. Bid on the right keywords, and you'll find yourself with the right audience and a low cost per click on your ad campaign. 

Understand Keyword Categories

Okay, if you're in the beginning phases of understanding how Google Ads operate, different types of keywords will impact the search query. It might seem like a no brainer to make a giant list of everything you think someone will search for and throw it into an ad group to see what happens, but that won't work.

Well, it might get you a ton of impressions and plenty of clicks, but you won't bring in the best audience to purchase your product or service. 

You want to break each keyword down into one of these categories outlined below. 

Brand Specific

These are keywords associated with your specific brand. (or a competitors brand) If you want to display your ad using these search terms, you need to have awareness. People need to know already who you are and what you do. (psst...otherwise you won't have any search volume) 

For example, if you sell fishing gear on your website, you might have popular brands like Berkley, Shimano, and Penn. You could leverage their exposure for your advertising purposes. If your site is popular enough, you could even rank for your brand. 

Product Specific

Now, if your customer has no idea who you are but they know what they want. You could use keywords associated with a product or service. For example, the search traffic might not know about a Shimano fishing reel, but they know that they are looking for a "lightweight spinning reel." You could target that keyword instead. 

You could go as specific or broad as you like and play around with it. Create a complete list of everything someone may search for that you have available on your website. If you're selling services, do the same thing but with results or outcomes instead. 

Intent Specific

Here is where you take the keywords you have associated with your products or services and add buyers' intent to them. For example, "end of summer fishing gear" or "trout season sale." 

We're not mentioning any specific type of product or service, but instead, we're looking to display our ad to someone highly interested in buying something. 

Beware of taking it too broad and showing your ad to people who are interested in purchasing, but not what you have to offer. 

As you're making your list of keywords put them into one of these categories so you can help determine the intent of your traffic. 

Use Keyword Research Tools

There are many tools like the Google Keyword PlannerKeywords Everywhere, and Ubersuggest to help with PPC keywords. You want to use these tools to find out if there is a demand for your list of keywords. 

In the previous section, we broke up our keywords into a few different categories. Now we can go through each and see what the search volume, competition, and an average bid is for each.


search competition in Google Ads

I went over to the keyword planner and inputted some keywords based on our fishing gear examples. As you can see, the Shimano spinning reel is the most common example, and it has one of the lowest costs per click as well. 

This tool will help you determine what keywords you should spend the most money on. 

In a perfect world, you want to go for keywords with the highest search volume and the lowest cost per click. I would recommend keeping your list of keywords and inputting the data for each. 

Keep Intent in Mind

Here is where things get tricky. Not everyone thinks about intent when they input keywords, so they end up wasting a lot of money. Take this phrase as an example: 

"Best Spinning reel for under $100." 

It sounds like a high intent keyword, right? It seems like someone would want to rank for this phrase because people will search it and want to buy a spinning reel. 

The problem is, Google will not display your ad for this phrase. If you go over to Google and type in that phrase, you'll find a list of reviews from affiliate websites rather than retail sites. 

Why is that? 

It's because Google has determined the intent of that keyword is informational rather than transactional. People are looking for information on buying spinning reels when they type in that phrase rather than a website to sell them a reel. 

It's incredibly important to understand this point. Make sure you know the intent of the keyword you're using. 

Start Making Cuts

Okay, let's review for a second. By this point, you should have a long list of keywords grouped based on intention. They should each have information like search volume, cost per click, click-through rate, and impressions. 

Now it's time to narrow it down. Go through your list and find the keywords with the highest search volume for the lowest competition and lowest cost per click. Once you've got a few of them, you can move onto the next step. 

Don't always assume that low-cost, high volume is the ideal recipe. If you think that a more expensive keyword is worth it, you might be right. Test it and see what happens. 

Grouping Your Keywords and Ad Groups

Once you've got the first list of keywords for your PPC campaign, you're ready to organize them and put them into ad groups. Organization is the key to having a high-quality score which will lower your cost per click and display your ad to the right audience. 

Here's how this works: 

You'll take a list of relevant keywords and group them under one ad. When someone searches for one of those keywords, they'll see the specific ad which will take them to a particular webpage. 

For example, your ad headline might say, "End of Summer Spinning Reel Sale!" The keywords in that ad group might be, "spinning reels," "Shimano spinning reels," "and Penn spinning reels." 

Those keywords are related to what someone is searching for, so that would result in a high-quality score. The score is determined based on how well the content is received by people searching for it. 

If you were targeting "Shimano spinning reels" but your headline read "End of Summer Boat Motor Sale," you might have a problem. 

Makes sense, right? 

Make sure always to keep intent in mind. Someone who is searching for an end of summer sale is a transactional visitor. They're looking for pricing, features, and how to buy. They likely know about spinning reels already, and they might even have a brand in mind. Get them to the sale and sell them something. 

Final Tips

By this point, you should have some keywords up and running in an ad group. Here are a few extra tips to help take your ad campaign to the next level.

  • Don't ignore negative keywords - Negative keywords prevent you from appearing in searches you don't want. For example, if you're running an ad for spinning reels, but you keep getting clicks for casting reels, you might want to use "casting reel" as a negative keyword. It results in less traffic, but the traffic you get is improved, which raises your quality score. 
  • Exact match doesn't mean exact - Years ago, if you chose an exact match keyword in Google Ads, it meant EXACT. Google updated this, and now the exact match is somewhat more like a broad match. For example, if you're exact match keyword is "fishing rods" you might get "graphite fishing rods" or "fiberglass fishing rods" even though you're using exact match targeting. Make sure you understand this factor. 

Finally, testing is the key to success with PPC ads, so don't get discouraged if your keywords aren't cutting it. Keep your original list and go back regularly to update the metrics to see if anything changes. Good luck! 

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