Keyword Research for Dummies

By Mathilda Martinsson,

How do you know which keywords to include in your paid search campaigns?

Before I started working with PPC (Pay-Per-Click) I thought you chose the words off the top of your head only based on what you thought were the right words to use. That changed when I started working within this industry. Keyword research is vital to creating successful campaigns. Obvious, you might think. But it wasn’t obvious to me before I found out how it is done.

Here’s the PPC Brief:

Maybe you, as you’re reading this, are wondering, “What is keyword research, I’ve never heard of it before?” Let me just brief you; when you want to market your company online via PPC your campaigns are built on words that your future or present customers would be searching for. If you have a business that is selling plants, you don’t want your ads to show when people are searching for something completely irrelevant to your company. So, keyword research is the research you do to make sure you have the right, relevant words for what you are selling, all to get the right audience in front of your ads.

There are different types of keywords to use such as “generic terms”, “related terms” and “competitor terms.” You want to get a broad spectrum, while still keeping it relevant. Then there are also different match types which will determine how much or little the search engine can match with the keywords you’ve chosen. That is something we can go more in-depth with in another post. For a beginner’s guide to all things PPC, check out this blog from Vicky.

Keyword research can be as thorough as you desire. You could spend hours if that is what you’d like but when you get the hang of it there is no need. In this blog, I will go through the basics and explain how I normally go about finding the best, most accurate keywords to make our clients’ ads perform their best.

To start this off, I would say that there are three steps when it comes to the fundamentals of keyword research:


1.  Keyword Brainstorming

What is it that you are selling? What do you think people would search for?

This is a great way to start the process, simply wrapping your head around what you think would be relevant searches.

You need to think as a potential customer would. If you were buying plants what would you search for? If we continue with this example, you can start thinking about what you are offering on your website; plant names, types of plants, do you sell equipment as well? Are there competitors out there that offer the same products? If yes, it might be a good idea to include their company name as keywords so that your ad will be shown when people are searching for those brands.

2. Scanning the Landing Pages

Probably the most important step is scanning your website for relevant keywords. There are different tools you can use to scan your landing pages. Google Ads has the Keyword Planner, and there is also the Moz Keyword Planner, but feel free to use the one you’re most comfortable with.

When creating ads, it’s crucial to make sure the keywords that will appear in the ad can also be found on the page of the website you’re directing people to, otherwise the ads will have a poor quality-score. The quality score is essential as this will affect where, when and if the ad will be shown. PPC is a bidding game against your competitors. If you have a low quality-score, your competitors, who are bidding on the same keywords, will steal your position.

When you’ve finished scanning your landing pages you should have a list of keywords that match what you’re offering. It is now time to analyse the data that the scan provided you with, e.g. average monthly searches, competition and average cost-per-click (CPC). You want to make sure that the words have enough searches each month to be worth your time. You will also want to take your budget into consideration at this stage.

If a very generic keyword has a high CPC, you might want to look for words that are more specific, like long-tail keywords, otherwise your budget could be spent without achieving the desired results. Words that are too generic could attract irrelevant traffic since they could come from people that are looking for something totally different. For example, “green plants” is a very generic term that doesn’t necessarily mean people are searching to buy plants, whereas “succulents for sale” would indicate searchers with a higher buying intent.

Using a landing page scanner is also a great way to figure out if your website contains the right content to achieve the best result, which brings me to the final step. If you can see, after your scan, that you have enough relevant keywords you don’t have to go through the third step, but if words are missing on your website it will definitely help!


3. Adding Keywords to Your Website

After scanning your landing pages, you might realize that there are words that you thought of during your brainstorm that didn’t appear on the list. What you should then do is go back into your keyword planner of choice to check on their monthly search levels and other data. If they are applicable, then add them into the copy on your site. This benefits the Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) for your website as well. It can be tricky to get these words included in a way that seems natural, but PPC systems (like search engine spiders) have a limited ability to understand context, so you must spell things out for them. Although we are told that search engines like Google are getting better at this it is always safer to err on the side of caution.

If you are managing a client’s site, then you should suggest to them that they make some amendments to the copy on their landing pages. As I mentioned before, if you want the keywords in your campaigns to perform well they must, must, MUST appear on the website.

There you have it, a quick run-through of the basics on how to do keyword research. Keyword research is only one stage of running a successful PPC campaign, but it is so fundamental to the success of your campaigns that you cannot afford to get it wrong. These are the foundations you will build your adverts from, so it pays to spend the time to get it right.