PPC Keyword Research: 8 Tips For Unlocking Your Campaign’s Potential

Brian Bojan Dordevic
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Brian Decoded

President at Alpha Efficiency

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Imagine you’re launching a new product or service and are eager to make a big splash in the market. It’s no secret that PPC marketing can be a game-changer for businesses like yours. But where does the key to success lay? How do you ensure the right people see your ads and that you’re not wasting money on irrelevant clicks? The answer is simple – PPC keyword research. The world of PPC marketing can be complex and competitive. Still, with the proper keyword research strategy, you can maximize your ROI, reach your target audience, and turn clicks into conversions. 

In this article, our Chicago digital marketing agency reveals eight essential PPC keyword research steps. From establishing clear goals, brainstorming keyword lists, and utilizing various PPC keyword research tools to conducting competitor analysis and identifying negative keywords – you’ll learn it all and much more. We aim to help you obtain the knowledge and tools to make informed decisions and succeed in your PPC marketing efforts. So, let’s start!

Table of Contents:
Discover 8 essential steps for conducting successful PPC keyword research.

What Makes PPC Keyword Research So Important?

With the rapid development of technology, businesses are constantly seeking ways to stay ahead of the competition and attract more customers. When it comes to PPC marketing, the secret sauce still lies in effective PPC keyword research. It’s the process of discovering and analyzing the words and phrases people use in search engines when looking to find all kinds of stuff online. But why is it so vital for your campaigns? Here are just some of the reasons:

  • Reaching the right audience: The success of your PPC ads depends on how well they resonate with your target audience. During thorough PPC keyword research, you’ll identify the terms and phrases your potential customers use to search for products like yours. You’ll gain confidence that your ads will appear in front of the right people at the right time. This will make your ad campaigns much more profitable and impactful.
  • Maximizing ROI: Without the right strategy, Google Ads can be a waste of money. To achieve a higher return on investment, allocating your PPC budget wisely is crucial. By focusing on the most relevant and high-performing keywords, you can make the most of your advertising spend and search engine marketing campaigns.
  • Getting insight into competitors’ strategies: PPC keyword research allows you to uncover the keywords your competitors are targeting, helping you identify potential gaps and opportunities to stand out in the crowded marketplace.
  • Optimizing ad performance: When you know the keywords that resonate with your audience, you can create more effective ad copy and incorporate landing page best practices more effectively. This will lead to better ad placements, lower costs per click, and higher conversion rates.
  • Supporting other marketing efforts: You can use the insights you gain from PPC keyword research to inform your SEO, content creation, and social media marketing.

8 Essential Steps In PPC Keyword Research

Mastering PPC keyword research requires both an artistic and scientific approach. It involves understanding your audience, analyzing data, predicting trends, and more. As the e-Commerce ecosystem evolves, so do the keywords that resonate with your audience. As with any successful endeavor, having a detailed plan before diving into PPC keyword research is vital. A well-structured plan lets you stay agile and adapt to changing trends and emerging opportunities, ensuring your PPC campaigns remain relevant and effective. Also, by outlining the steps you need to take, you’ll avoid wasting time and resources on irrelevant or low-performing keywords.

In the following sections, we’ll explore the essential steps of a comprehensive and effective PPC keyword research plan. By understanding and implementing these steps, you’ll be well-equipped to increase your Google Ads Quality Score and drive meaningful results for your PPC marketing efforts. So let’s dive in:

Don’t Start PPC Keyword Research Without Having Clear Goals For Your Campaign

Before diving into PPC keyword research, it’s crucial to establish clear and measurable goals for your search engine marketing campaigns. Defining your objectives from the start will guide your keyword research and help you evaluate the success of your efforts. Later stages of PPC keyword research will ultimately depend on whether your primary goal is to:

  • Increase brand awareness: If you aim to boost your brand’s visibility, focus on keywords related to your brand, products, or services. This approach will ensure your ads reaches the right people at the right time.
  • Drive website traffic: To attract more visitors, consider targeting high search volume keywords relevant to your products or services. But be careful. While this strategy can help you maximize exposure and attract a larger audience, such keywords can be very competitive. They might require you to master your search bid management systems to make your ads appear in SERPs.
  • Generate leads: The best approach for lead generation might be concentrating on long-tail keywords that demonstrate strong user intent.
  • Increase sales or conversions: To boost sales or conversions, you’ll need to target keywords with commercial and transactional intent. For example – “shoes for sale,” “smartphone discount,” etc.

If you don’t set clear goals, you might end up spending your whole PPC budget without achieving any noticeable results. But don’t worry; we’ll show you how to find relevant keywords that will benefit your campaigns in the following steps.

Understand Different Search Intents to Target Users At The Right Time

Understanding different keyword intents is crucial for crafting a successful PPC campaign. Each keyword type serves a specific purpose and, when used effectively, can drive targeted traffic and boost conversions. By knowing the distinctions between keyword types, and the intent behind every search query, you can craft PPC ads people will find valuable. Here are the critical keyword types to consider:

Commercial keywords:

Commercial keywords indicate a user’s interest in learning more about a brand, product, or service with the intention of potentially making a purchase. These keywords may include terms like “best,” “compare,” “top,” “reviews,” and similar. Targeting commercial keywords is a great way to attract users in the research phase of their purchasing journey. Providing them with valuable information might influence their buying decision in your favor.

Transactional keywords:

Transactional keywords indicate a user’s interest in purchasing or obtaining more information about a product or service. These keywords often include terms like “buy,” “price,” “discount,” etc. Users searching with these terms are often in the final stages of their buyers’ journeys.

Informational keywords:

While your first instinct might be to target transactional and commercial keywords only, this is not always a wise idea. Without including informational keywords in your PPC strategy, you’ll be missing tons of potential customers. Informational keywords indicate a user’s intent to learn more about a topic. These queries often start with “how to,” “what is,” or “tips for.” While it rarely directly results in a sale or conversion, such keyword targeting helps you establish trust and authority with potential customers. 

Navigational keywords:

People use such keywords when searching for a specific website or web page. Navigational keywords often include brand names, product names, or website URLs. When you bid for such keywords, remember that your ads will essentially display to users who are already familiar with your business. This might not drive you new leads, but utilizing navigational keywords within your search engine marketing campaigns is a great way to drive your customers to appropriate or new pages on your website.

Understanding the difference between various keyword types and search intents is vital for crafting well-rounded PPC keyword research strategies. By selecting the right mix of keyword types, you can effectively target users at various stages of their buying journey and improve the overall performance of your PPC campaign. Tailoring your ad groups and ad copy to match the intent behind a search query will result in a more relevant and compelling ad experience for your target audience. After all, your click-through and conversion rates ultimately depend on your ability to satisfy search engine users.

Brainstorm a PPC Keyword List

Building a successful PPC campaign starts with a well-researched and relevant keyword list. And a great starting point for building this list is brainstorming keyword ideas. Closely examining the website landing page(s) your ads will link to can also help you get a sense of keywords and phrases directly related to your products or services. But even if you haven’t written your on-page content yet, that’s okay. During the brainstorming process, try to think like your customers. Consider the words and phrases they might use to search for your products or services.

Start with broader keywords and gradually move to more specific ones. For example, start with “sneakers” and then narrow it down to “women’s sneakers,” “women’s Nike sneakers,” and finally, “women’s white Nike sneakers.” You can even use Google’s autocomplete feature to find inspiration and get a sense of the direction you should be heading in.

Also, include variations, synonyms, and abbreviations in your keyword list. Search engines usually do a good job associating related terms, but this is not always the case. To ensure your ads show up for relevant searches, include various forms of your target keywords, especially if you’re using Exact match type in Google Ads.

During the brainstorming phase of PPC keyword research, consider the balance between search volume and specificity. Broad keywords might have a higher search volume but are usually not as relevant to your target audience. On the other hand, long-tail keywords with lower search volume will likely result in a higher conversion rate as they’re closer to niche topics. Google Search Console keyword research is often overlooked when it comes to identifying long-tail keywords.

And finally, we advise you to write your ideas down, as there will be plenty of time to analyze each keyword during the next step. 

Use PPC tools to refine your keyword list and make it more manageable and focused.

Utilize PPC Keyword Research Tools To Refine Your List

Once you have brainstormed an initial list of keywords, refining and expanding upon it using PPC keyword research tools is essential. These PPC keyword tools can help you uncover new opportunities, analyze keyword data such as search volume, and assess competition levels. Here’s how to make the most out of your PPC keyword research using various tools:

Analyze search volume:

Search volume represents the number of times a keyword is searched within a specific period. High search volume keywords usually indicate a higher level of interest, but they are also more competitive. Utilize tools like Google Ads Keyword Planner, SEMrush, or Ahrefs to find the search volume of your chosen keywords. Finding keywords with high search volume and low levels of competition is an ideal scenario (the definition of “high” and “low” heavily depends on your niche). But it can be extremely challenging to find such keywords. We advise you to aim for a balanced mix of high and low search volume keywords. By doing so, you’ll also ensure a wide reach without exhausting your budget.

Evaluate competition level:

The competition level refers to how many advertisers bid on a specific keyword. Highly competitive keywords are more expensive and difficult to rank for. Most PPC keyword tools provide a competition score or rating, which comes in handy when you want to gauge how competitive a keyword is. Try to target lower competition keywords to maximize your chances of ranking higher in search results pages and getting more clicks on your PPC ads. However, if a specific keyword is closely related to your product or service, it might be worth bidding on despite being very competitive.

Assess CPC data:

Average CPC (cost-per-click) is the amount other businesses usually pay for each click on their PPC ad for a given keyword phrase. According to PPC statistics, the average CPC across all industries for search ads is $2.69. Keywords with high CPC can quickly drain your PPC budget, so it’s essential to find ones with reasonable CPCs that still have the potential to drive valuable traffic. Check cost-per-click using a keyword research tool of your choice, and prioritize keywords that offer a good balance between cost and potential return on investment.

Examine search trends:

Using tools like Google Trends to visualize search volume data over time is an excellent idea. Analyzing seasonal search patterns and emerging trends related to your keywords can help you spot shifts in consumer behavior and make data-driven decisions for your PPC campaign. You’ll be able to capitalize on rising interest and target relevant keywords before your competitors do. This approach will also enable you to adjust your keyword targeting and ad scheduling in accordance with trends, maximizing the impact of your PPC keyword research.

Conduct Competitor Analysis To Find Interesting Opportunities

Unless you’re a pioneer within your niche, chances are that many businesses are already running search campaigns like yours. But what if we told you that you can leverage this to your advantage? Analyzing your competitors’ PPC campaigns can provide valuable insights and uncover new opportunities for your campaign. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to conduct an effective competitor analysis:

  • Identify your main competitors: Start by determining who your main competitors are in your niche or industry. These could be direct competitors offering similar products or services or indirect competitors targeting the same audience as you.
  • Analyze competitor keywords: Use your favorite PPC keyword tools to gain valuable insights into your competitors’ target keywords, ad copy, ad placement, and even their estimated PPC budget. Look for high-performing keywords that you may have overlooked or underutilized. Also, identify any gaps in their keyword targeting that could present opportunities for you to gain a competitive edge.
  • Study competitor ad copy: Examine the ad copy your competitors use for their PPC ads. Analyze their headlines, descriptions, and calls to action to understand what messaging resonates with your target audience and which keywords they prioritize.
  • Learn from their successes and failures: Written copy is not the only essential element for boosting your conversion rates. We strongly advise you to evaluate competitors’ designs, layouts, and content to understand what works well and what doesn’t. This will help you improve your own PPC keyword research strategy and campaign performance.

There are many tools you can use for competitor analysis. You can even do it with Google’s Keyword Planner. Do not skip this essential step of PPC keyword research, as it can help you uncover exciting opportunities and make data-driven decisions for your campaigns.

Organize And Prioritize Your PPC Keyword List

If you’ve followed previous steps, chances are you now have a comprehensive list of keywords. But it may look a bit unorganized. It’s essential to organize and prioritize them effectively, as proper keyword management is crucial to success. The following tips will help you structure your keyword list:

  • Group similar keywords: Divide your keyword database into groups or themes based on similarity. This will help you create more targeted ad groups, resulting in better ad relevancy and higher Quality Scores. Grouping keywords will also make it easier for you to write ad copy that resonates with your target audience.
  • Prioritize by relevance: Rank keywords in your master keyword list based on their relevance to your products or services. Focus on the most relevant keywords, as they are more likely to drive conversions and bring in qualified traffic. Prioritizing by relevance is a great way to tame the chaos that initial PPC keyword research efforts usually produce.
  • Evaluate keyword intent: Depending on your campaign goals, you should prioritize keywords with the right search intent. If you primarily want to drive sales, prioritize keywords with strong transactional or commercial intent. Good keyword management requires a keen understanding of keyword intent to ensure you’re targeting the most valuable search queries for your campaign.

Create Negative Keywords List To Ensure High-Quality Traffic

Unlike when doing keyword research for search engine optimization, during PPC keyword research, you must think about negative keywords too. These help you filter out irrelevant traffic and save your ad budget. Creating a negative keyword list prevents your ads from showing if a search query is unrelated to your products or services. This way, you can ensure that you only attract high-quality traffic through your efforts.

You should review your search query reports in your PPC platform, such as Google Ads, to identify irrelevant search terms that have triggered your ads. After you add negative keywords, you’ll prevent future ad impressions for those queries. 

Also, monitor the performance of your keywords over time. Don’t be surprised if you find out that some keywords you initially thought were a great choice consistently drive low-quality traffic with high bounce rates and low conversion rates. Consider adding such keywords to your negative keyword list.

Constantly Adapt And Refine Your PPC Keyword Research Strategy

It’s vital to understand that PPC keyword research is not a one-time task but an ongoing process that requires constant efforts from your side. But why? The most obvious reason is that search trends and user behavior change, making it essential to update your PPC keyword lists accordingly. 

Also, new trends are changing the way professionals approach keyword research too. Many modern businesses leverage the power of AI keyword research to analyze search patterns and generate keyword suggestions that could slip unnoticed otherwise. However, AI keyword research is not perfect, at least at the time we’re writing this article. So make sure to understand all of its pros and cons before deciding how to utilize artificial intelligence for your PPC keyword research needs.

But regardless of whether you use AI tools or not, the key to success is to invest time in monitoring and adjusting your PPC keyword list based on ever-changing keyword data and performance metrics such as click-through rate, conversion rate, and cost per click (CPC). You must understand that what’s working for someone else won’t essentially work for your business too. If you don’t have enough time to monitor the performance of your campaign or a dedicated in-house PPC team to do it for you, it’s best to hire a professional agency that will handle all the work.

Need Help From PPC Experts?

As you can see, PPC keyword research is crucial to creating successful search engine marketing campaigns. Following the steps outlined in this guide, you can develop a comprehensive and targeted list of keywords to drive high-quality website traffic and increase conversion rates.

But if you feel like you don’t want to go through this process alone, our PPC agency in Chicago is here to help you navigate the complexities of PPC advertising and create tailored strategies to achieve your business goals.

Whether you’re just starting or looking to improve your current PPC campaigns, don’t hesitate to schedule a call with our team of experts. We’re more than happy to share our knowledge and experience to ensure your digital marketing success. We’ll help you understand your audience, conduct thorough PPC keyword research, and continually refine your strategy to take your business to new heights. So let’s partner up!

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