The essential in-depth guide to PPC keyword research

Keywords form the foundation of a successful PPC campaign. So, we've put together a complete guide to help you find the right keywords for your campaigns.

Did you know: 46% of clicks in Google search results go to the top three PPC (pay per click) ads? So, if you’re currently optimising your SEO strategy and waiting for it to work, PPC can help you to appear at the top of the search results and drive traffic to your website too. 

However, launching a PPC strategy using a load of keywords you think might work isn’t going to drive the results you want. 

That’s why it’s important to make sure you complete thorough PPC keyword research and ensure your campaigns are as successful as possible and deliver the best ROI.

This blog will outline our top tips for getting started with your keyword research. 

What is keyword research for PPC, and why is it important? 

Keywords are the heart of a PPC strategy. They tell search engine advertising platforms such as Google and Microsoft, the search queries you want your PPC ads to show for. These platforms will look at the keywords you’re using in your ads and match it to search queries that searchers are using online. 

When you conduct keyword research, you’re looking for the keywords that you can bid on that will ensure that your ads appear to the right people and drive clicks and conversions for your campaigns. 

If you use the wrong keywords for your campaigns, searchers might see your ads, but they’re not necessarily the people who will buy from you. If your target audience doesn’t see your ads, they won’t perform as well as you want them to. 

Good keyword research will form a solid foundation for your strategy to ensure you’re reaching the right customers at the right time. For many organisations, PPC is a highly valuable lead generation tool, so getting it right can really help to drive results for your business. 

How to do keyword research for PPC 

Take a look at our step-by-step guide for completing keyword research for PPC below.

Step one: Define your goals 

Before you start, you need to think about your business goals and how your PPC strategy will help. 

Think about the following: 

Conversions - what actions do you need your visitors to take to move through the buyer’s journey? 

Metrics - how many clicks or conversions do you need within a specific window? 

Knowing what you want to achieve in terms of these objectives can help you to understand your potential customer’s search intent (what people have in mind when they click on your ad). If you align your keywords and visitors' objectives together, you’re more likely to find the right people at the right time and drive them to take the action you want. 

Step two: Create a list of potential keywords 

For ideas on the keywords you might need to use in your campaigns, you will need to have an idea of what you’re going to be offering when you run your ads. 

What products and services do you offer? What problems do they solve? Start by making a list of everything you can think of that people might be searching for in relation to your business, products or services. 

This will provide you with a great base for researching the keywords people use within the search engines. 

Step three: Research your keywords 

Once you have a list of the keywords you think your customers might be using, you’ll need to use keyword research tools to tell you exactly what people are searching for and how often. 

Guessing the keywords being used probably won’t provide you with great ROI so this is an important step. 

Use research tools such as: 

Type the keywords you have in mind into these tools, and they will show you the words and phrases your audience is using, how many times a month they’re searching for that specific keyword and how competitive it is. 

We recommend focusing on keywords with decent search volume but without too much competition. Highly competitive keywords are likely to be expensive so, if you have a limited budget, you’re more likely to appear for the less competitive keywords and still drive relevant traffic to your website. 

These tools can also help you to find keywords you might not have thought of that you can add to your campaigns. 

Step four: Understand search intent 

Search intent is the purpose behind an online search when someone types their query in. Matching keywords to the right intent means your ads and the landing page you lead your potential customer to relate back to their needs and wants during the customer journey. 

When it comes to choosing PPC keywords, you’ll usually want to focus on transactional and commercial keywords. If you’re not sure what the intent of a keyword is, just type it into a search engine and see what type of content comes up.

The diagram below provides a great explanation of keywords and their intent. 


Step five: Divide your keywords into categories 

Once you know the products and services you want to advertise and you have your keywords, you’ll need to find the keywords that serve different purposes within those topic areas.

PPC keywords fall into four different categories: 

  1. Brand terms - these are the keywords that include your business or trademarked terms 
  2. Generic terms - these are the typical keywords that relate to your products or services e.g. roof installation in sheffield
  3. Related terms - not all keywords outline what product or service you’re advertising but might be what your typical customer is looking for e.g. fix a leaking roof 
  4. Competitor terms - these are usually the brand names of your competitors 

These different types of terms will help you to group your keywords together and create effective ads that meet the need of your target audience. It will also help you to find even more keywords that could help you drive results for your business. 

Step six: Have a look at what your competitors are doing 

Unless you have access to your competitor’s Ads accounts (which is unlikely!) you won’t be able to see the exact keywords your competitors are bidding on but you can get a good idea. 

You can type the keywords you want to use into a search engine and have a look at the ads that appear. These are going to be your competition when it comes to PPC so have a look at their ad copy to work out which keywords they’re targeting. 

Have a look at your competitor’s websites too. The copy they use is likely to contain they keywords they want to target so see what you can pull out and match it up with your own keyword list and see if there’s anything you’ve missed. 

Step seven: Don’t forget negative keywords

Negative keywords are just as important in your strategy as your other keywords. Negative keywords are the terms you don’t want your ads to show for. This means adding them to your negative keywords list so that your ads don’t appear when these terms are used in search engines. 

They can protect you from unwanted searches and clicks (which you will pay for). Negative keywords are usually added over time and you can view reports for the terms that have triggered your ads so they can be added to your negative list and prevent your ads from driving irrelevant traffic to your website. 

Key takeaways

Keywords form the basis of a successful PPC campaign. So, doing this preparation work will help you to get the most from your campaigns and help you to meet your business goals. Understanding the words and phrases your target audience is using to find your products and services online is essential if you want to get the most from your campaigns. 

If you’d like to know more about how PPC can deliver results for your business, please request a free digital marketing audit

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Blog written by

Mark Skinner