Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising is one of the most effective ways to market your products and services online. With a solid PPC campaign, you configure a set of keywords to resonate with your ads. When a user searches for a keyword string that includes your selected keywords, your ad appears among the top results, ranked by relevance. High-quality ads with diverse and intuitive keyword settings tend to rank the highest and appear on top of search results. Whenever a user clicks on your PPC ad, you pay Google for each click, hence “pay-per-click.”
PPC can be incredibly effectively, but only if done correctly. It’s essential for digital marketing teams to understand PPC and how Google ranks PPC ads. One of the most important parts of a solid PPC ad strategy is PPC keyword research. You’re going to need to determine which keywords fit the best with your ads, and this often involves snooping into what your competitors are doing.
What Is PPC Keyword Research?
PPC keyword research is a relatively straightforward process; you need to determine the best keywords for your ads and then arrange your bids to net the highest possible return on your PPC ad campaign investment. Typically, you want to bid the most on the keywords that are most likely to convert; this yields a high return on investment (ROI) and helps drive your business. Since many different brands likely operate within your market niche, you want to bid lower on more competitive keywords that many of your competitors likely use.
Researching your PPC keywords is equal parts science and art. You need to understand the fundamental mechanics of how PPC keywords work so you can make informed decisions about your PPC keyword strategy, but it’s also essential to know your target audience and think of the keywords you are most likely to use. You need to think carefully about what kinds of search terms your ideal customers will be typing into the search engine that could lead them to your products and services and focus your attention on those keywords.
Tips for PPC Keyword Research
A few simple tips to bolster your keyword research can help you improve your PPC ad campaign success:
- Brainstorm ideas. Think carefully about what your target customers would likely type into a search engine that could lead them to your website, products, and services. You should develop a solid multi-tiered list of potential PPC keywords including brand keywords related to your specific brand, generic keywords related to your industry niche, products, and services, related keywords that pertain to topics tangentially related to your products and services, and competitor keywords, such as the brand names of your biggest competitors.
- Know your competition and look at them for inspiration. Tools like SpyFu and BuzzSumo are fantastic for helping you discover what keywords are working for your competitors. Competitive research can not only help you to effectively steal your competition’s thunder and outrank them with competitive PPC keywords, but also discover gaps in their PPC keyword strategies upon which you can easily capitalize.
- Create ad groups to hone your list. If you sell a variety of products and services, you don’t want to put all of your PPC keyword eggs into one basket. Ad groups allow you to more precisely tailor your PPC ad settings so specified groups of keywords will lead to your defined ad groups. For example, if your company sells apparel, shoes, and seasonal outerwear, you wouldn’t want to use your shoe-related keywords in your ads for outerwear and vice versa. Start thinking about how to divide your PPC ads into groups and then develop keywords and keyword strings that fit into each group.
- Don’t forget negative keywords. You can probably think of many different terms you want your audience to associate with your brand, but have you considered which terms you don’t want linked to your brand? Negative keywords help prevent your ads from appearing in irrelevant searches and prevents irrelevant clicks, which can quickly chew through your PPC ad budget.
- Take advantage of Google’s Keyword Planner. Google provides PPC advertisers with a wealth of tools to make PPC keyword research easier, and that includes the Keyword Planner. This tool helps you find keywords with the most traffic and the lowest competition, effectively allowing you to find commonly searched terms that your competitors aren’t using.
- Track your progress. The PPC keyword settings you use now may not work this time next year or even six months from now. You need to carefully track the success of your PPC ad campaigns over time so you can adjust to market shifts, consumer trends, and other disruptive events.
PPC keyword research is a relatively straightforward process, but it requires consistent attention and creative thinking. You also need to be prepared to experiment; your PPC ad budget should offer a clear return in the form of conversions. There is no sense in paying for PPC ads that do not generate conversions and sales for your brand. Over time, you may need to adjust your keywords, keyword groups, and bids as you track your progress over time. PPC keyword research requires ongoing diligence, but it can be incredibly rewarding for your brand if done correctly.