Keyword Research for PPC - Find More Qualified, Cheaper Clicks

PPC keyword research is an integral part effective paid search marketing. The beauty of pay-per-click search marketing is that the people offering products and services get a chance to enter into a discourse with potential customers and clients at exactly the right stage in the back-and-forth:

  • People are Looking for You - Every day, people are asking questions by typing words into a search box.  You the marketer get to jump in and offer them a potential answer.  The first step to doing this effectively is to make sure you're providing the right answers to the right questions.
  • You Need to Help Them Find You - To get your ads in front of the right people, you have to determine what it is the people likely to be interested in your offering actually say when they want to talk about the product or service you're promoting.  This means creating a list of "keywords" and then bidding on them, possibly using an AdWords bid tool.

The problem with keyword research is that while pinpointing a number of relevant terms that drive traffic is ideal, its generally the case that as you add keywords to your campaign, the quality and relevance of those keywords suffers, as is depicted in the following graphic:

PPC keyword research generally means having to sacrifice quality or quantity.

In the coming paragraphs, we'll explain why the most productive, cost-efficient way to generate these listsof targeted keywords is to utilize keyword research tools.

PPC Keyword Research: The First Step

The first step in researching keywords for a PPC campaign is pretty simple. You ask the person or people who know the business best to create a list of words that describe their products.  That gets you a small list.  You can now launch a campaign.  You'll have one "group" of keywords.  The number of words you're bidding on will be small and not very closely related.  They'll seem related, because they'll all be about your business, but in reality they'll be a lot more scattered than is optimal. 

If I'm a custom cabinet maker trying to drive people to my website, I would obviously know a few terms people might search for.  I'd probably come up with "custom cabinets," right off the top of my head.  I could probably list off some other terms pretty quickly, too. My list might look something like this:

  • "custom kitchen cabinets"
  • "high end custom cabinets"
  • "custom medicine cabinets"
  • "custom built cabinets" 

But what if someone searches for "high end white custom kitchen cabinets?"  I'll want to show up for that too. 

Or "high end custom kitchen and medicine cabinets." 

And what if someone types something a little odd, like "custom kitchen high end cabinets, medicine cabinets." 

It's becoming pretty obvious that there are a whole bunch of search queries it would make sense for me to bid on.  I don't have time to sit around all day, figuring out what they are, though: I have cabinets to make!

So now I've done a little preliminary keyword research.  I'm faced with the challenge of trying to get a handle on all of the different searches I might want my ads to display for.  From here, I have a few different options.

Option 1: Forget my Pay-Per Click Keyword Research and Listen to the Engines: Using Broad Match

"Broad match" refers to a keyword matching option that allows an advertiser to bid on any query that includes given keyword phrases. So, I can apply a broad match option on "custom cabinets," and then every time something like "high end custom cabinets" comes up, my ad will be in line to appear.  Sounds pretty good, right? Now I can cover all kinds of "long tail terms."

Not so fast. 

What if I'm a small custom cabinet shop in Boston?  I want to get more customers, but I can't really afford to be shipping my cabinets all over the place.  With broad match, I'm paying for clicks on terms like "custom cabinets Tennessee".  I don't have any control over what searches my ad is appearing in; many of them could be unrelated to my business goals, and there's a very good chance that those unrelated terms are expensive clicks. And the problem gets even worse if a keyword has completely different meanings depending on the context, for example I certainly wouldn't want to display my ads on searches for "cabinet minister".  If my ad is appearing next to these "broader" searches, the ads aren't as relevant.  That hurts my Quality Score.

So I'm burning through money on expensive, useless clicks while ruining my Quality Score (which makes even my relevant clicks cost more money).

I'll probably try something else.

Option 2: Pay-Per Click Keyword Research Services from a Dedicated Search Marketer

All right so I can't generate a lot of keywords myself, and broad match clearly isn't a good idea.  How about I hand the list over to an in-house search marketer or a search marketing agency, and she (or they) takes those terms and runs with them? 

She could do some keyword research using any of various keyword suggestion tools.  She'll probably find a nice bunch of related terms.  She might even come back with hundreds, maybe even thousands of keywords.  Sounds pretty good, right? She'll make sure they're relevant, too.  Then she'll track them.  She won't sit around coming up with new terms every day, but who needs to?  A couple hundred or even a few thousand relevant terms feels like a lot.

It's not.

In reality, there are literally hundreds of thousands of terms I should be bidding on. There are all kinds of queries for which I should have a bid in. In only bidding on the most obvious two or three hundred key phrases, I am leaving most of the search traffic out there unexplored. The graph below illustrates what's commonly referred to as the "long tail of search."

Each bar in the bar graph represents a keyword used by your customers to find your website; the bar graph is then sorted in descending order of keyword popularity.  Basically, it depicts the fact that for any group of keywords, there will exist very few exceptionally high-traffic, popular keywords, and an enormous mass of keywords that bring very little traffic. The interesting, somewhat counter-intuitive thing here is that the large number of terms bringing a small amount of traffic (the graph's "long tail") account for more traffic than the handful of more obvious, popular searches.

In conducting keyword research for paid search, not ignoring the "long tail" is crucial.

According to Udi Manber, Google's VP of search, 20 to 25% of Google queries are totally unique.  This means that roughly a quarter of what people are typing into Google has never been typed by anyone else on the planet, ever.  Think of how many of these random clicks could be providing you with very inexpensive, qualified leads.  First off, your competitors aren't driving up bids on low volume keywords (they're too busy targeting the same couple hundred words and phrases your dedicated PPC expert came up with).  Plus, specific searchers are generally after something...well, specific, and when they find it it's likely they're late in the buying cycle.

So I need to find a way to get my ad in front of all these long tail custom cabinet terms, while creating relevant ads and Ad Groups for them.  Broad match won't work.  It doesn't look like my PPC consultant will be able to cover the whole range of keywords and generate Ad Groups for all of them.

What's next, you ask?

Option 3: Keyword Research Tools from WordStream

WordStream is an innovative, patented PPC software service that first automates this repetitive, time consuming, manual process of keyword research and development, and then lets you act on that data in an intelligent manner to grow your search engine marketing campaigns.  Here's how it works:

If you don't have your old Web server log files, WordStream also supports the importation of keywords from third party Web analytics and keyword suggestion tools – which is a start…

Keyword Software Never Takes a Day Off

By including just a few lines of JavaScript code on the footer of your website, WordStream can automatically capture new PPC keywords every time someone visits your site. This is far better than a stagnant Excel document with a hundred some odd terms that gets updated once a year, or maybe every time you overhaul your site. 

WordStream perpetually locates and stores new and valuable long tail keywords that are actually bringing customers to your website, so that you can automatically and continuously improve the Quality Score of your paid search campaigns.

A Unique Keyword Research Service: Intuitive Keyword Grouping

Once you have all these keywords, you need to organize them in a way that enables you to actually do something useful with them. WordStream features powerful keyword visualization, query and keyword grouping tools that intuitively find entire families of related keywords and group them together into what we call "Keyword Groups," which as the name suggests, are groupings of related keywords. To find related keywords, just query your keyword database the same way you would query a search engine; for example, by typing in the word "cabinet" into the search box, WordStream will visually display all of your key phrases that contain that keyword, as shown in this illustration:

WordStreams's keyword research services offer you unique keyword grouping and keyword visualization capabilities.

In this example, you've found 20,114 keywords all containing the words "cabinet," and you can group them together by clicking the "Create Group" button to organize them. That's a good start, but you've still got quite a large number of keywords in this group. 

We could better organize these keywords by further breaking them down into more specific groupings. To do this, we can use the WordStream segment keywords dialog:

Keyword research for paid search requires that you intelligent segment the discovered keywords, as pictured.

Here we see the software offering a series of relevant suggestions for how to group our "cabinet" keywords. The software generates these suggestions based on the number of keywords in a potential segmentation, and on the amount of traffic that segmentation will drive.

We can then create whichever of the segmentations we like, turning those segmentations into nested Keyword Groups. A potential result of these efforts is illustrated in the graphic below:

 they also group them, as illustrated here.

This process of querying and grouping together results is quite a lot easier than using Microsoft Excel for keyword segmentation. But more importantly, these keyword lists aren't static lists! Every day your WordStream account is hard at work both discovering new keywords based on how users are actually finding your site, and at automatically classifying newly discovered keywords into the Keyword Groups that you've set up. Why is this so important? Because the key to continuously maximizing Quality Score (and also, one of the most time consuming tasks) in managing high performing PPC campaigns is the process of finding large numbers of specific keywords and grouping them together into related keyword groupings.

You Need More than Just a PPC Keyword Research Tool

WordStream isn't just a keyword research tool; it’s designed to be actionable! Once you've created a few Keyword Groups, you can use that data to drive traffic via high quality score Ad Groups, directly from within your WordStream dashboard. Setting up an Ad Group using WordStream is similar to setting up an ad group using Google AdWords, with the main difference being that rather than typing out a static list of keywords, you simply associate your Ad Group with one of your Keyword Groups as shown in the image below. As new keywords are discovered every day, they're automatically uploaded to your PPC campaigns: resulting in improved Quality Score.

PPC keyword research means researching keywords that can be intelligently shifted into Ad Groups. That functionality is displayed in this image.

PPC Ad Copy for Your Researched Keywords

In PPC, one of the most important factors in achieving a high Quality Score and in maintaining high click-through rate, is the relevance of your ad text to the keywords in your Ad Group.

WordStream actually suggests algorithmically relevant ad copy for you. It looks at the keywords that are actually driving traffic to your site and populates those keywords as ad copy suggestions to help you improve your PPC click-through rate.

The WordStream Contribution to Better Relevance

  • Real-life Keyword Suggestions You KNOW are Relevant - You'll have an extensive, ever-growing list of terms to choose from, and you'll know they're relevant (because they're mined from your own logs).
  • Never-Ending Keyword Suggestion - The software generates them daily and continuously
  • Integration with Every Aspect of Your PPC Efforts - All of these researched and suggested terms will be matched to appropriate Ad Groups and paired with relevant ad copy.  You maintain tight, Quality Score friendly Ad Groups, without missing out on the "long tail" of search.

learn more about Paid Search keyword research solutions

The above is an excerpt from the "Pay-Per-Click Search Engine Marketing Best Practices" white paper. To learn other best practices surrounding keyword research, and to find out how to apply them to your business, download the free white paper in its entirety today!