How to Determine Keywords for PPC

Guest post by Marianne Pratt

Figuring out just the right keywords to use for your pay-per-click advertising can seem as elusive as finding the proverbial needle in a haystack. The good news is that there’s more than one needle out there, and there are plenty of tools to help you find the sharpest ones. You just need to conduct a little keyword research.

The best keywords for search engine optimization (SEO) and PPC are not necessarily the same, so you need to think differently and research specifically for PPC. Success depends on selecting the words and phrases that will be most effective and also cost-effective.

It’s all about ROI. Your ads need to be seen, but they also have to attract clicks and generate sales. Betting on the wrong keywords can be extremely costly, a total waste of advertising resources.

Your keyword research goal is to find choices that are specific enough to your business and products to separate you from your competition. Using a variety of specific keywords can help maintain ad display frequency while keeping cost per click (CPC) lower. Look for even more specific “niche” keywords, as they can be even more valuable.

Keyword finders can help.

There are a number of online tools you can use – some are even free — to identify potential keywords and phrases for variously-targeted PPC ad groups, confirm the probably value keywords and generally make sure you aren’t missing out on new search trends. Try:

  • Google AdWords Keyword Tool.
  • WordTracker.
  • Google Sets, which suggests keywords based on a particular theme.
  • Keyword Map, which lists synonyms to your keywords. This is especially useful for separating yourself from competitors.
  • WordStream Keyword Niche Finder, which identifies long tail keyword variations. Extending tails on your current keywords can better-target your ads.

Get more ideas by asking customers what words or phrases they’d use to search for you.

Keyword competition is an important consideration.

The cost of PPC advertising is based on supply and demand, just like the overall business environment. The greater the overall and industry-specific popularity of a given keyword, the greater the “competition.” In other words, you’ll have to bid higher for the most sought-after keywords. That’s why specificity and less competitive words are so important.

Less competitive keywords generally draw less traffic, because there are fewer searchers for those words, but less competition can be more budget-conscious and generate more effective results.

It’s much harder to achieve top ranking using the most competitive keywords, so evaluating your prospective keywords’ competitiveness helps determine your smartest choices. To help figure this out, you can:

  • Check the age of competitive domains. Older, established ones are your toughest competition.
  • Use Google search for “allintitle” or “inanchor” to see how many pages are currently optimized for your prospective keywords. Obviously, more means more competition.
  • Analyze keyword research results to see if those in the top 10 are home pages or inside links. The latter are more competitive.
  • As already noted, use keyword suggestion tools to find alternatives that might be more competitive and provide better ROI for you.
  • Look at sponsored ads that use your potential keywords. Are the advertisers your direct competitors?

There’s no substitute for testing,

Using tools to conduct keyword research can only take you so far. Only you can assess the potential value of suggested words and phrases, because that depends on your unique business and products and your specific PPC goals. Realistically, the only way to get truly accurate information is by trial-and-error.

Tracking and analyzing your PPC results will tell you which keywords are attracting the right responders, those you can convert into buyers. Monitoring the effectiveness of keywords can tell you not only which ones drives traffic but which ones drive sales.

“Broad match” is a good way to start. You can attract searchers using variations of your keywords, and study results to see which ones produce the most responses. Use that information to refine your ads and boost results.

Keyword research is an important first step. But in the end, the keywords that perform “best” for you are those that prove to be most profitable, delivering the strongest ROI.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Jennconspiracy

Interested in PPC? Download our eBook: The Paid Search Primer

One response to “How to Determine Keywords for PPC”

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