PPC for SMBs Part 6: Keyword Research

Last time you learnt about how to plan your Adwords account and this week we will discuss how to research keywords for your online marketing campaigns. This is part 6 of our PPC for SMBs article series. Keywords serve as a window of opportunity for you to capture attention of search engine visitors to products or services offered on your website. Question: do you have the answer to their question?


  • What is a Keyword
  • Keyword Research Defined
  • Use of Keyword Tools
  • Keyword Research for a Limited Budget
  • Group Your Keywords
  • Optimizing Your Keywords
  • Benefits of Keyword Research
  • Home Takeaway

What is a Keyword

Really simply put a keyword is a word your potential customer is searching on when looking for a product or service. There are two types of keywords:

  1. Head term - usually more generic terms e.g. "travel". Such keywords tend to draw more traffic but are expensive.
  2. Long tail - usually more specific terms e.g. "late holiday deal". Such keywords tend to draw less traffic but are cheaper.

Keyword Research Defined

Keyword research means figuring out which terms you want to rank for based on description of your product or service, and then you using them as in an ad group. Thus keywords connect your products with your target audience in effective ways. Most important when doing keyword research is to keep in mind that the user experience on your website will affect your brand in positive or negative ways. Hence you need to be crystal clear about the problem solved by your solution or service. Smart ways of finding keywords include:

  1. Search your own website for keywords (competitors as well)
  2. Use of free or paid Keyword Tool e.g. Good Keyword Planner
  3. Use search query reports e.g. Google Adwords
  4. Import keywords/campaigns from other search engines e.g. Bing

Next you may use a free keyword tool to build your set of keywords.

Use of Keyword Tools

Google offers a free keyword research tool known as Keyword Planner. The Keyword Planner relies on Google's in-depth Adwords data.

keyword adwords planner

Example of a paid keyword tool is WordStream.com. If you are expanding your keyword portfolio to multiple languages then Google Translate maybe useful for your translation. But beware of the fact that user intent might differ across different search markets due to cultural variations. Before you start searching for keywords you might ask yourself these questions. Do your keywords bring you:

  1. The right visitors looking for your product
  2. The right volume of visitors to your website?
  3. Customers who are ready to buy?
  4. Customers untapped by your competition?
  5. Opportunity to present your product's Unique Selling Points (USP) against competition?

As a rule of thumb first identify a simple industry term before using a keyword research tool to expand and find variations. For example, if you are conducting keyword research for a travel product site using Google Keyword Planner then follow these 4 steps below.

  1. Root keyword / concept e.g. "Travel"
  2. Synonyms e.g. "Break", "Holiday"
  3. Colloquialisms / informal e.g. "Trip", "Getaway", "Vacations"
  4. Qualify with modifiers e.g. "Late holiday deals", "Cheap holiday deals", "Cheap holiday Canada", "UK vacation", "City Break", "Luxury Break"

keyword research process

Other useful frameworks for grouping or modifying your keywords include:

  • Quality elements e.g. compare, best
  • Price adjectives e.g. Cheap, luxury
  • Product adjectives e.g. Innovative, fun
  • Product names/types e.g. Jet ski
  • Manufacturer/brand names e.g. Honda Marine, Kawasaki
  • Words that indicate intended use (for him, back to school)
  • Intended action (buy, book, reservation) or
  • Location/place name e.g. Toronto, Nairobi

The use of a framework helps you to align your keywords with your product/service goals.

Keyword Research for Limited Budget

As you carry out keyword research using the Keyword Planner consider your available budget. At this point you want to add a seed keyword ("travel") into the Google Keyword Planner to see what it recommends.

adwords keyword planner adgroup ideas

You'll receive recommendations based on ad group and keyword ideas. The ad group ideas are potential ad groups you can run based on similarly themed keywords. The keyword ideas are individual keywords you can consider that are related to the term you searched for. Google makes it easy for you to simply create ad groups using suggested themes and adding keywords into the group.

You may either weed out unwanted keywords right away or delete poor performing keywords later on. Your budget size determines how many keywords you will add to your ad groups. If you have a limited budget start with only the most focused keywords and expanding from there. If you have a large enough budget to test, begin with as many terms as are relevant for your business. You may optimize by narrowing down based on what doesn't work well (see optimization below). One tip might be to use misspellings or keyword variations which tend to be cheaper than correctly spelt words helping to keep CPC costs low.

Group Your Keywords

You should keep in mind that keyword grouping is key for better campaign performance. Keywords can be put into themes or categories. Themes might include features of your product/service or even competitor terms. However, you should keep in mind that the use of competitor trademark brands in ad copy is prohibited by Google policies. For our travel product site above we could group our keywords according to vacation location, type (budget vs. luxury) etc.

Optimizing Your Keywords

You need to consider weeding out non-performing keywords from your ad groups. Usually wait for sometime (1-2 weeks) until each keyword or ad has accumulated statistically significant data. The next article will cover account optimization. Here are a few areas to look at while optimizing your keywords:

  • Click-through Rate
  • Conversion Rate
  • Impressions

Next you will need pause poor performing keywords. Pausing poorly performing keywords helps you avoid adding the same words in the future. Paused keywords do not accumulate any clicks which saves your budget. Your Adwords account requires daily optimization for ~15-20 minutes. This allows you to react quickly to changes in the marketplace. Do not set up your campaigns and forget: this strategy may prove costly.

Benefits of Keyword Research and Best Practices

Keyword Research saves money in the long term. Using relevant keywords eradicates wasted impressions and clicks which will result in higher click-through rates for your ads and better return on investment (ROI). Some best practices to observe:

  1. Do not use duplicate keywords.
  2. Do not repeat the same keyword(s) in more than 1 ad group.
  3. Do group related keywords in the same ad group.
  4. Do use common word variations (misspellings, plurals)

The Takeaway

We have learnt that a careful analysis of generic keywords is essential for a successful search campaign. Keyword research is about using relevant phrases to create a much better experience for the user. Putting your ad in front of customers actually looking for your products and services will enhance your brand while solving user problems. We next look at how you can optimize your online marketing campaigns.


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  • 2. How costs are calculated in Adwords <https://support.google.com/adwords/answer/1704424?hl=en>
  • 3. Check and understand Quality Score <https://support.google.com/adwords/answer/2454010?hl=en>
  • 4. Google Search Economics, Youtube.com <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qwuUe5kq_O8>
  • 5. Suchmaschinen im August 2012 nach die AGOF Markt-Media –Studie zu Suchmaschinen Reichweiten, Q2, 2012 <http://www.agof.de/aktuelle-studie.583.de.html>
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  • 8. Promotional codes have no promotional value and entry of the promotional code serves only to begin your qualification for the associated promotional credit. You get an additional 75 € worth of advertising only when you spend 25 €.
  • 9. Anderson, Chris. The Long Tail. Wired Magazine, Issue 12.10 October, 2004. <http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/12.10/tail.html> Global Search Market Draws More than 100 Billion Searches per Month. ComScore, Inc. Aug. 2008. http://www.comscore.com/Insights/Press_Releases/2009/8/Global_Search_Market_Draws_More_than_100_Billion_Searches_per_Month
  • 10. Sullivan, Danny. Search Engine Land, February 11, 2013. http://searchengineland.com/google-worlds-most-popular-search-engine-148089

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