Posted by James Lee on 20th September 2010

Getting Started with PPC: Keyword Research

You wouldn’t embark on a trip to somewhere new without checking on driving routes, weather, hotels, and tourist traps to avoid, right? We’re often surprised by the number of people who jump into a PPC campaign without doing their keyword research first. Sadly, the best PPC management software in the world can’t save a campaign without a solid foundation in good keywords. It’s easy to avoid this trap by just spending the time to do the research.

So, what makes a good keyword? Generally speaking, it’s a keyword that is specific enough to trigger relevant queries, has the search volume to generate clicks and conversions, is not so competitive that you lose your profit margin, and most importantly, converts profitably. 

Keep in mind that the keywords you use to describe your business may not be the same ones prospects are searching for you by. If you are a dog behavioral specialist, your clients might type that into their search box — but are more likely to type in things like ‘dog chewing problems.’  Your keywords should be chosen for their search volume, relevance, and likely cost per conversion — industry jingo allowed only if the numbers agree.

Coming up with relevant keywords starts by drafting a list of the keywords you think might work, and using various tools to add, chisel, and refine that list. Here’s how to get started.

  • Check the search volume and competitiveness of keywords on your initial list. (Try www.google.com/sktool to get actual search queries and search volumes of keywords associated with your webpage, Google’s own free keyword tool, or fee-based Wordtracker tools.) Refine, change match type, or discard anything that turns up a lot of very irrelevant results, that you don’t have the content to produce a decent landing page quality score for, has very high cost per click (if you’re on a budget), or has a very low search volume.
  • Next, use Google suggest/autocomplete, Google sktool, and Wordtracker tools (including free keyword questions tool to generate longer tail keywords) to generate additional keywords with potential. Research those.
  • Get the full list together and start dividing it up into tightly focused AdGroups. Do more research to find keyword variations or alternate terms to fill out your AdGroup keyword lists.
  • Make final decisions about what’s staying and what’s going based on the research you’ve just done. Hint: a spreadsheet with all the relevant data will make this step much easier!
  • Collect negative keywords as you go, or (ideally) do comprehensive negative keyword research to generate a substantial list of negatives to screen out irrelevant queries from the start.

The time spent on keyword research is definitely worth it. Of course, getting off to a good start is just the beginning: a successful PPC campaign is also about maintenance, so while your campaign is running, the real-time data will help you make further changes to optimize your keywords and campaign.

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