How to Do Keyword Research for PPC

Vizion Interactive Reading Time: 5 minutes

Keywords are words and phrases that customers and audiences search for in Google and other search engines. Advertisers and businesses bid on the right for their link to come up when people search for those words. Google runs these auctions, charging advertisers for each click based on the quality score and bid. This is one of the most basic, yet relatively unknown processes in online advertising. Bidding on keywords that aren’t searched for by the target audience and not understanding how the audience is searching is the worst outcome for an advertiser.

Having good keywords make all the difference in a successful PPC campaign. Keyword research is the key to finding, refining, and organizing effective keywords that will put one business ahead of the competition. Proper brainstorming techniques and goals, understanding negative terms, using available keyword research tools, and efficiently categorizing acquired keywords are factors of successful keyword research. The goals of keyword analysis are to create a thorough list of keywords, understand the target customers or audience, and gain insight into how negative keywords affect the campaign.

Keyword Brainstorming

Brainstorming for keywords should start out simple. Create a list using these four categories:

  • Brand terms. Brand terms are keywords that relate directly to a specific brand. They can contain the name of the brand. For example, if the keyword research was to promote an elementary learning website the brand keywords would be “Starfall learning,” “PBS kids math,” or “ABCmouse science games.”
  • Generic term. Generic terms are not tied to a specific brand but are directly related to the PPC campaign. An effective way of coming up with generic terms is to think of the topic in basic terms. For example, generic terms would be “e-learning,” “elementary math games,” or “K-12 online education.”
  • Related terms. Related terms are closely related to generic terms. They are more specific than generic terms, but not as precisely targeting the topic. To come up with related terms it is beneficial to think of the broader subject and pick specifically related subjects. Examples of related terms are “science games,” or “online math activities.”
  • Competitor terms. Competitor terms directly relate to the competitor campaigns. It is helpful to look at what peers in the field are doing with their keywords in order to be available to the same universe of customers. If the keyword research is to promote, then competitor keywords would relate directly to other companies, such as,, or

There are several brainstorming techniques that will promote effective keywords. By putting oneself in the shoes of the customer, the person doing keyword research will have an easier time coming up with keywords. Most people use a Google search every day, so it is a simple and helpful technique to think as the target customer group does when conducting keyword brainstorming.

A simple way to develop a list of keywords is to start with broad ideas. By beginning with broad topics and then working down to specific keyword phrases, a researcher can generate many keywords that will cover every aspect of the campaign. Starting broad and moving to specific words is also a productive thinking method that will promote productive brainstorming.

A thesaurus is a valuable tool in keyword research. Using synonyms is an easy way to develop related terms. For example, it would be helpful to use not only “shirt,” but also “blouse,” “cardigan,” and “t-shirt.” Mix and match keywords to create different phrases that all relate to the PPC campaign. Humans make mistakes, so including misspelled words on your list will cover a wider audience. Search engines are becoming more and more able to understand longer strings of words and phrases. Limiting keywords to 1- or 2-word phrases is unnecessary as technology advances.

Negative Keywords

Negative keywords are terms that are not beneficial to a PPC campaign. These can be words that are offensive, off topic, or unrelated. These words can create irrelevant traffic. Effective keyword analysis and research produces words that will lead to clicks and purchases by the target group. For this reason, it is important to create a list of negative keywords. This will optimize the relevance of the campaign. Negative keywords can seem like related terms but are ultimately off topic.

Available Research Tools

There are a variety of keyword research tools available on the internet. Google’s Keyword Planner is a trusted tool. It allows keyword researchers to discover and compare keywords, as well as keep an eye on trends. By using this tool, and others like it, keyword analysis becomes easier and more effective. When searching for keywords, tools like this can help find keywords with a high search volume and low competition, which is ideal for a PPC campaign. By searching for commonly searched words but not used by competitors, a campaign can reach the target audience first.

Other Keyword Tools

  • WordStream. WordStream’s tool will offer suggestions for related keywords. This is a helpful brainstorming tool. It also offers competition scores for each keyword and an estimated CPC.
  • Soolve. Soolve uses almost every search engine to provide hundreds of related keyword terms. These terms comprise the widest range of audience search in relation to your keyword. This tool speeds up the brainstorming process significantly.
  • Ubersuggest. Ubersuggest offers a variety of tools. Keywords are searchable by the categories web, news, shopping, YouTube, or image. Once you begin searching for a keyword, Ubersuggest offers an analysis of that keyword. Volume, seasonality, CPC, competition, and displays the number of results for each keyword.

Final Steps of Keyword Research

After creating a list via brainstorming and editing that list using any of the keyword research tools, it is time to organize the chosen keywords. It is important to sort these terms into the four categories including brand terms, generic terms, related terms, and competitor terms. Rank the keywords by relevance, volume, and competition to determine which of the chosen words will be the most powerful. This is also the time to begin considering CPC and budgeting your keyword bids. Look at the list again with the customer in mind to determine that none of these keywords could get misconstrued or end up being negative keywords.

In the final stages of keyword research, putting thought into target audience intent is vital. In the modern age there are many ways to search for content on the internet. There is a difference between informational searches and transactional. Depending on the campaign, keywords should promote transactional searches with the goal of purchase or informational searches with the goal of subscription. Many customers now have Intelligent Personal Assistants (IPA) that they use to search the Web on their behalf. The way that an IPA searches the internet is different from that of a normal person getting on Google. IPAs will search for more grammatically correct phrases or sentences without spelling mistakes as opposed to real people.

Bidding for PPC keywords is a complex and necessary part of online advertising. Doing thorough keyword research and picking the operative keywords cements the triumph of an internet campaign. Keyword research is an important part of creating a successful PPC campaign. The internet is a competitive landscape. Leave the competition in the dust by using the available tools and understanding the trends and intents of your target audience.

Have more questions about PPC keyword research or campaign management? Check out our PPC Management Services!

Also check out:
5 Tips to Make Your PPC Campaigns Better
Key Tests That Will Help Optimize Your PPC Strategies
The Most Creative PPC Ads of the Last 10 Years

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