- Published: Sep 5, 2021
- Last Updated: Mar 13, 2023
- 7 min. read
Matthew GibbonsLead Data & Tech Writer
- Matthew is a marketing expert focusing on the SEO & martech spaces. He has written over 500 marketing guides and video scripts for the WebFX YouTube channel. When he’s not striving to put out some fresh blog posts and articles, he’s usually fueling his Tolkien obsession or working on miscellaneous creative projects.
Did you know that 46% of clicks in Google search results go to the top three pay-per-click (PPC) ads? That means that for your business to drive traffic through Google, you can’t rely solely on organic rankings — you need a solid PPC campaign backed up by PPC keyword research. The first step to creating PPC ads is to figure out what keywords to target.
But as simple as that sounds, it isn’t always the easiest task. What keywords will work best, and how can you find them? Below, we’ll look at eight tips for optimizing your PPC keyword research strategy.
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8 superb ways to find better keywords for PPC
Knowing you need PPC keywords is easy enough.
What’s not so easy is knowing which ones you need. Here are eight high-quality tips to help you find the best PPC keywords for keyword advertising.
1. Aim for long-tail keywords
It’s important to pay attention to the length of the keywords you use. While there can be certain advantages to using shorter keywords, it’s often a good idea to focus primarily on long-tail keywords — that is, those that are several words long. Long-tail keywords come with two major advantages.
The first is that they’re more specific to user search intent. That means they drive more relevant traffic since they’re more specific. The second benefit is that long-tail keywords tend to have less competition.
Since they’re more specific, a narrower range of companies bid on them, which leads to fewer companies bidding overall. That, in turn, allows for less competition and lower bids. For example, a million different search intents and companies could be associated with the keyword “chair.” But “blue rocker recliner chair” will attract only a very specific group of users and companies, giving you a more focused audience and fewer competitors.
2. Target branded keywords
Another straightforward way to get more keywords for PPC is to target branded keywords — that is, keywords that incorporate brand names from you and your competitors. There may well be people out there who run searches specifically for your business. When that happens, the last thing you want is for them to be greeted by PPC ads owned by someone other than you — particularly your competitors.
For instance, to return to our recliner example, Lay-Z-Boy would want to bid on keywords like “lay-z-boy recliner” because those keywords include their brand name — particularly since some people use “Lay-Z-Boy” as a generic term for recliners! By bidding on keywords that include your brand, you can make sure to claim the traffic that’s searching for your products.
3. Use your competitors’ keywords
Copying your competitors’ every move is never a good strategy. That said, there are situations where you can benefit from borrowing from them… and keywords are one of those situations. Whatever keywords your competitors are currently ranking for, you likely want to rank for as well — and in particular, you want to outrank them.
To find the keywords your competitors are ranking for, you can use tools like SpyFu. Once you have a list of keywords from your competitors, focusing on crafting content that surpasses what they have, so you can rank higher than them.
4. Optimize for voice search
More and more, voice search has become a popular feature for people to use on mobile devices. When people don’t feel like typing out their queries, they’ll simply say it out loud and let their phone process what they’re saying. As this practice becomes more common, it begins to influence the kinds of queries people search.
Where once someone might have searched for “sink drain plumber” to avoid typing more than they had to, they might now speak in full sentences: “Where can I find a local emergency plumber?” To reach these users, you can consider targeting full-sentence keywords that are relevant to your business’s ad.
5. Find the balance between competition and search volume
When finding PPC keywords, it’s ideal to come across those that have as little competition as possible. At the same time, it’s advantageous to find keywords that have a high search volume, because that means you’re reaching more people when you rank for them. These two factors tend to be inversely correlated.
The keywords with the highest search volume tend to have more competition, which makes them harder to bid on for your business. These keywords often tend to be shorter keywords. With longer keywords, you tend to have less competition.
Since the queries are more specific, they don’t generate as high of traffic volume, either. As a result, you must find keywords that strike a satisfactory balance between the two. You want to look for keywords that have a sizeable amount of traffic, but are also specific enough to drive credible traffic.
6. Include variations and synonyms
Once you have a solid foundation, it’s time to start building out your keyword list. One of the best ways to build your keyword list is to use variations and synonyms for the keywords you already target. For example, let’s say you’re targeting “photography services.” This keyword won’t reach everyone searching for photography services.
Some people will use variations of that keyword, like “portrait services” or “professional photographer.” In addition to thinking of some of these synonyms on your own, you can find related keywords by using a tool like KeywordsFX — or simply by using the related keywords Google displays at the bottom of each search.
7. Craft intent-driven ad groups
Your PPC keyword research doesn’t stop with creating a haphazard list of keywords to target. You must efficiently organize those keywords into ad groups, which are groupings of related keywords and the ads that will target them. For example, let’s say you want to use PPC to promote your newest suitcase.
You put together a list of ten keywords to target people looking to buy a new suitcase and create three ads —that’s an ad group. Each of those ads can target your list of keywords. Your ads and keywords are grouped together based on search intent.
You wouldn’t want to include the keyword “new purse,” nor would you want to include an ad for your line of leather jackets, because neither of those has any bearing on potential suitcase buyers.
8. Consider negative keywords
As important as it is to figure out what keywords for PPC you want to target, it’s also critical to know what keywords you don’t want to target. Within Google Ads, you can create lists of negative keywords, which are keywords that aren’t relevant to your ad’s content. If you’re trying to advertise your shade solutions, for instance, you might target plenty of keywords that include the word “shade” — but you wouldn’t want to target a keyword like “lamp shade,” as that’s not what you sell.
“Lamp” could be one of your negative keywords. Clutch has personally interviewed more than 250 WebFX clients to discuss their experience partnering with us.
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Matthew is a marketing expert focusing on the SEO & martech spaces. He has written over 500 marketing guides and video scripts for the WebFX YouTube channel. When he’s not striving to put out some fresh blog posts and articles, he’s usually fueling his Tolkien obsession or working on miscellaneous creative projects.
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