Your guide to PPC keyword research: Making the most of every click
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Your guide to PPC keyword research: Making the most of every click

PPC keyword research is at the heart of any successful paid campaign. After all, if you want to connect with your target audience, you need to make sure that you’re providing them with the ads and content that they’re searching for.

Extensive keyword research, both for PPC and SEO efforts, is how companies make sure that their digital strategies are resonating with their target audience. Choosing the right terms to write about in your blog or bid for on Google AdWords can boost your chances of conversions, clicks, and loyal customers.

So, how do you get started?

There’s more to successful marketing than downloading the right PPC keyword research tool or copying what your competitors do. PPC keyword research is part art and part science. It requires company leaders to use the tools at their disposal, along with an in-depth understanding of their audience to predict which terms people are actually looking for when they go online.

Today, we’re going to share our very best PPC keyword research tips with you, so that you can begin building a strategy that works for your brand.

Let’s hunt down those lucrative keywords.

PPC Keyword Research

The difference between SEO and PPC keyword research

The first thing you need to know before you start any PPC keyword research is that search terms come in many different shapes and formats.

A lot of newbies in the marketing world know that they need keywords for both their paid (PPC) and organic (SEO) campaigns. After all, your customers will still use words to find you whether they’re hunting for answers to their questions in the form of a blog post or looking for a product to buy.

However, just because PPC and SEO both use keywords, doesn’t mean that your research strategy should be the same for each campaign.

The biggest difference between PPC and SEO research is “intent.”

Organic keywords often attract people in the middle, or at the top of the purchasing funnel, because they’re informational rather than transactional. For instance, when you’re writing for SEO, you might target keywords like “Best digital marketing tools” or “How to design a logo.”

On the other hand, PPC keywords are more “transactional.” They’re intended to capture the attention of people who are already ready to purchase. For instance, “Buy social media software” would be a transactional search term.

PPC, or “Pay Per Click” marketing forces you to pay for every person who clicks on your search engine ad. It’s difficult to instantly convert traffic that comes to your website from informational keywords because your customers aren’t ready to buy. You’ll usually need to spend time nurturing your audience with multiple articles, emails, and social media strategies before a conversion happens.

Since you want to see a return on your PPC investment as quickly as possible, you can’t afford to waste time targeting those people who aren’t ready to buy. Instead, you need to specifically target people who are already at that stage in the buying funnel when they’re ready to get their credit card out.

Put simply, with SEO keyword research; you can target customers and connect with them wherever they might be in the buying cycle. Your focus is on building relationships with your audience and building a reputation for your brand.

On the other hand, with PPC keyword research, you’re concentrating specifically on targeting customers that are ready to buy already. This allows you to get the best and fastest return on your investment when you’re paying for every click.

PPC Keyword Research

How to conduct effective PPC keyword research: Brainstorming

Mastering PPC keyword research means learning how to find high-volume keywords that appeal to buyers at the bottom of the sales funnel. However, this is easier said than done, you’ll also need to choose keywords that have a low amount of competition, so you’re not spending a fortune on your bids. The amount you end up paying for your PPC keywords will depend on four factors:

  • Quality score: How relevant your landing pages and ad copy are to the terms that your customer is searching for.
  • CPC: How many companies have already decided to bid for the same keywords or phrases as you.
  • Keyword difficulty: How difficult it is to rank for your chosen keyword – or how many people are also using the same term in their campaigns.
  • Volume: The number of times that someone searches for your keyword in a given month.

So, how do you start looking for PPC keywords that are not only valuable but affordable too?

While PPC services and SEO research both have different goals, they start in a similar way: With brainstorming. The starting point of your keyword research needs to be the website landing page that you’ve created for your ad copy. Every great PPC campaign has a corresponding landing page that delivers whatever your ad claims to offer.

Scan your landing page and pluck keywords from the text. For instance, if you’re trying to get people to download your latest social media marketing software, then you might start looking at phrases like: “Social media marketing software download” “Free social media marketing software trial”, and so on.

Provided that you have plenty of well-written copy, you should find lots of material to help you put together a comprehensive list of keywords relating to your services or products. The keywords you collect can be organised into the following categories:

  • Competitor terms: Names of competitors offering similar services or products to you.
  • Related terms: Terms that aren’t directly describing what you’re selling but may still be relevant to the people who are searching for your content, product or service.
  • Generic terms: Keywords that describe the products or services that you’re offering.
  • Brand terms: Any phrases that contain your brand name or trademarked product names.

During the brainstorming stage, your aim is to come up with as many potential ideas for your PPC campaigns as possible. Invite different members of your team, including experts from sales and marketing to come and help you out. This will help you to put yourself in your customer’s shoes.

It’s also worth starting with broader keywords and moving into more specific ideas and variations. For instance, if you’re selling clothes online, you might start with the term “shoes”, then move on gradually to “Women’s leather shoes UK” for more in-depth searches. You can also include variations of your seed keywords by bidding for terms like “Boots”, “Sneakers” or “Stilettos” as well as shoes.

PPC Keyword Research

Using the right PPC keyword research tool to refine your list

Once you’ve got a decent selection of short and long-tail keywords to consider, it’s time to take your PPC keyword research to the next level.

The good news? There are plenty of PPC keyword research tools out there to help you out. These software solutions are designed to help you figure out which terms are precious to your marketing efforts, and which are just going to waste your money. There are even tools available from search engines like Google in the form of the Keyword Planner.

The chances are that you’ll end up using multiple tools to guide your campaigns. That’s because each piece of software works in its own way. One of the easiest options to get you started is definitely the Google Keyword Planner. Here, you can see the average monthly searches for each term – indicating how valuable certain phrases are.

Google also offers a “Competition” rank of medium, high, or low, so you know how much you’re going to have to spend to make a dent in the market. Ideally, the ultimate aim of your PPC keyword research is to choose a lot of low-competition and high-volume keywords to prioritize. These are the terms that will drive substantial traffic for your business, without costing you too much.

The Keyword Planner can also help you to expand your list by offering additional ideas that you might have missed before. This will give you a chance to go beyond your initial brainstorming results. If any of the terms you research have little or no search volume, or they come packed with huge amounts of competition, it’s best to drop them from your list and move on.

Remember – while you’re researching, keep an eye out for “Negative keywords” that you need to add to your campaigns too. These are the search terms that you don’t want your ads to show up for, but that may also be closely related to your preferred terms. Negative keywords are a crucial part of any PPC campaign because they help to keep the costs of your ads low, while improving your targeting potential. For instance, if you’re selling “High end furniture”, you won’t want your ads to appear for “Cheap high-end furniture” or “Free furniture” if that’s not what you have to offer.

Handy PPC keyword research tips to help you excel online

So now that you know the basics of doing your PPC keyword research, it’s time to take your strategy even further. After all, why settle for “Good” research when you can have an excellent selection of phrases to bid for and target instead?

Here are some of our favourite PPC keyword research tips to take your campaign up a notch.

1. Use the best PPC keyword research tools

As we mentioned above, using tools for PPC research can help to make your life a lot easier. There are some tools out there that can give you the extra inspiration that you need when it comes to finding terms to bid for, like and Browsing through a wide range of different services will help you to get the widest possible range of terms ironed out, so you can find the terms with the best volume and competition levels.

You can also use premium tools to help identify which keywords your competitor’s are ranking for with their PPC strategies. The Alexa Competitor Keyword Matrix, for instance, offers a premium way for businesses to find the keyword gaps in their strategies that other companies are already ranking for.

PPC Keyword Research

Combining a range of tools will mean that you never run out of ideas for your paid campaigns.

2. Step into the customer’s shoes

Just as you would consider the needs of your customers when building a keyword research strategy for SEO, you’ll also need to keep your audience in mind when you’re planning your PPC keyword research too. Think about what your customers are going to be looking for when they’re trying to find the products or services that your business has to offer.

If you’ve got user personas that you already use for your marketing and sales strategy, now’s the time to get those out and start using them to guide your decisions. Additionally, remember that when you’re hunting for PPC terms with your keyword research tools, you’re going to be focusing specifically on the kind of phrases that users will rely on when they’re at the final point in their purchasing journey.

If you have a hard time thinking from your customer’s perspective, you can always use your competitor research to guide you. Solutions like SEMRush allow you to enter the URL of your biggest competitors into a search bar and see the biggest keywords that the site is ranking for. Since your competitors are probably trying to reach the same audience as you, there’s a good chance that you’ll want to be competing for similar keywords.

There are plenty of other tools that can help you to dive deeper into both your competitors and your customers. For instance, Open Site Explorer helps you to examine your competitor’s site optimization strategy with a complete list of handy insights. Don’t forget to ask your sales and marketing teams for their ideas on the kind of things that customers search for too!

3. Align your keywords and content

When you’re building out your PPC keyword research strategy, make sure that you start with your end goals in mind. This means looking at the landing page that you’re going to be linking your ads to, and any other content that you’re going to use to convert your visitors. As mentioned above, your brainstorming strategy should start with your landing page, but as you continue building out your campaign with your PPC keyword research tool, make sure things don’t fall off track. Keep checking that your content aligns with the keywords you’re bidding for.

Ensuring that you have a good connection between your content and your PPC keyword bids will do two things. First, it will ensure that your customer get a good experience with your brand because when they click on a link or ad, they get the material they expect to see in return. This improves your company’s reputation and improves your chances of gaining traction in your industry.

Secondly, aligning your keywords and content improves your relevance score with Google. The more relevancy you have for a particular keyword, the less you’ll need to pay to rank higher on the search engines for it.

4. Use the Search Terms Report for more insights

There’s a good reason why today’s marketers love the resources that Google has to offer for PPC and SEO marketing. Most of these tools are free to use – so any business can take advantage of them. What’s more, they’re incredibly effective too. Great PPC keyword research doesn’t stop with selecting the right terms. You’ll need to make sure that you’re testing your theories about which phrases are best for you against the data available from Google and other search engines.

PPC Keyword Research

Fortunately, Google Ads allow you to figure out exactly which phrases and terms people are using to find your pages. Once you’re in your Google Ads account, simply click on the Ad Group or Campaign that you want to evaluate, then click on Search Terms in the navigation menu.

The Search Terms Report is a very useful tool from Google because it helps you to determine the effectiveness of each keyword that you’re targeting. You can use this solution to look for patterns and find out which of your campaigns are driving the most traffic, and what kind of intent might be guiding your customers.

Should you combine PPC and SEO keywords?

Now we come to a slightly more advanced stage in your PPC keyword research strategy.

As noted above, there’s a huge difference between your PPC and SEO keyword research. However, there may be times in your campaign when it’s beneficial to bring what you know about your customers in the SEO world together with your plans in the PPC environment.

The truth is that SEO and PPC are generally more effective when they’re used together. Search engine optimization and organic content creation will help you to develop relationships with your audience and strength your brand over time. On the other hand, PPC is the tool that younger companies can use to improve their chances of getting customer attention in the search engines as quickly as possible.

Together, SEO and PPC create the components of both a long-term and short-term strategy for growth. So, when should you combine your keyword research for both plans?

Well, when you target the same keywords with your organic search and your paid search, you can start to make sure that you’re taking up more of the space on the front page of the search results. In other words, the next time you’re planning your blog content, ask yourself whether you can target some of the bottom-of-the-funnel terms that you use with your PPC campaigns. You’ll still need to think about informational keywords and top or middle-of-funnel marketing too. However, combining your SEO strategy with your PPC keyword research will allow you to take over more real estate in the search engines.

The more space you can take up in the search results, the higher the chance that your searchers will end up clicking on your listing and converting into customers.

Though organic and paid search campaigns do need to be treated differently, there are moments when the keywords from each can overlap to create golden opportunities for growth. While you can’t necessarily use your SEO keywords in your PPC campaigns, you can definitely use the keywords that you target with your PPC strategies to enhance your presence online.

Remember not to silo the employees working on your SEO and PPC campaigns either. Communication between your sales and marketing teams will help you to gain a better understanding of the marketplace and develop a more complete strategy for the entire buyer funnel. When everyone is working together to make the customer journey as simple as possible, your potential for conversion and long-term customers goes through the roof.

PPC Keyword Research

Turbocharge your paid advertising campaigns

PPC keyword research is just one of the things that you’ll need to do if you want to build an effective and immediate strategy for gaining traffic and attention online. Paid-Per-Click advertising might not be the best way to generate customers in the long-term, but it can give you the extra boost that you need to bring people to your website while you’re still working on your organic campaigns and SEO results.

Of course, for PPC to be effective, you’ll still need to think carefully about what your audience is searching for online – particularly when they’re in the later stages of the buying funnel.

By considering buyer intent carefully, analysing the keywords that your competitors use, and accessing PPC keyword research tools to improve your campaign, you can make sure that you have everything you need to stand out online.

Don’t forget to think about combining aspects of your SEO and PPC strategies too – you could accelerate your results and strengthen your chances of long-term growth this way.

Need more help? Reach out to Fabrik today!

If you enjoyed this article, you might enjoy these too:

— Making your mark: How to find a profitable niche

— Keyword research: The key to unlocking your SEO

— Boost your SEO: Avoiding keyword cannibalisation

— Audit checklist: Optimisation from the inside out

William Baker
Digital producer
William Baker
Digital producer
As our digital producer, Will regularly contributes to the pages of Brand Fabrik, our online publication dedicated to branding, marketing and design. Will enjoys relaying his enthusiasm for technology and its impact on the creative services sector. He also relishes the opportunity to review the latest design-related products and gadgets.

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