Last time in our Inside PPC series we looked at the early planning stages of your first PPC campaign. Hopefully, the key takeaway was how much research a successful paid ads strategy requires – far too much to cover in one article alone.
So we’re back this week with a look at the next stage of the planning process: keyword research. This topic is big enough to demand a whole article to itself (maybe even an entire series) and your PPC success largely swings on creating the best keyword list for individual campaigns. So let’s not waste any time and jump right into the process of keyword research for a killer PPC strategy.

Stage 1: Jot down your first ideas
Stage one is nice and simple: for want of a better word, we’re basically going to brainstorm and start with the most obvious keywords. No pressure, you don’t have to get them all right now, but a good place to start is the landing pages your ads will link to.

At this stage you want to be confident you have quality, optimised content on these pages. Assuming this is the case, you can start by reading through your copy and pick out the relevant keywords from the text. This will be your first keyword list to work with and it’s a good idea to group these phrases into the following categories:
• Generic terms – related to your products, services or brand
• Related terms – which users interested in your products or services may search
• Brand terms – containing your brand name, slogans or any other trademarks
• Competitor terms – brand names, products and services of your closest competitors (although bidding on these can be expensive)

Stage 2: Expand your keyword list
The above categories will help you generate more ideas and expand your list of keywords, giving you a good place to start without even breaking a sweat. But now that you’re warmed up it’s time to flex those brain muscles and add your own keywords to each category. You need to think like your target customer and pinpoint the words and phrases they’ll use to find your brand. Start with broad keywords (eg: “PPC”) and get more specific (“PPC strategy”) as you go, until you have a list of precise search terms (“keyword research for killer PPC strategies”) as well as basic phrases.

Next up you want to think of as many variations, synonyms and even any slang or common mistakes your target searchers could make. Google is getting better at interpreting these related terms, but you may find you still need to bid on them – and they’ll certainly come in handy at a later date, even if you don’t need them now.

Stage 3: Time to get negative
You’re paying good money to get your ads displayed in search results, which means you don’t want to waste budget on traffic that never converts. This is where negative keywords come into play, telling Google not to show your ads for certain search terms.

For example, the phrase “digital marketing” is a very broad keyword and users could type it for any number of reasons. Searchers could be looking for jobs, courses, agencies or how-to articles on any given number of topics within the industry. Here at Hot Click we’re not likely to want people searching for “digital marketing jobs in Manchester” to see our ads – but we certainly want people looking for agencies in the area to have us in their search results.

Negative keywords allow to stop Google from displaying your ads to people who use specific words that make their searches irrelevant to your brand. The idea is to only spend your budget on relevant traffic – that’s likely to convert – so take the time to create a list of negatives for each campaign and develop them as time goes by.

Next time on Inside PPC
In our next post we’ll take a look at a range of tools to help you expand and refine your keyword list. By the time you’re done with our following article in this series you’ll be ready to rock PPC keyword research and make your paid ad campaigns all the more profitable.