PPC Keyword Research in 4 Simple Steps

Five or 10 years ago, PPC keyword research was all about how many hundreds of keyword variations you could figure out. Today, that method has fallen by the wayside in order to make way for more targeted keyword research that’s focused on relevance and conversions.

The foundation of keyword research is understanding the themes around your products or services, and then doing a sanity check on your ideas through the tools available to you.

In this post, I’ll walk you through a process you can replicate to get started with your PPC keyword research.

1. Review the Web Page about Your Product or Service

In my last post, I talked about structuring your PPC account. That step in launching a program really sets the stage for the keywords you’re going to target (i.e., if you have a campaign for mens fleece jackets, and an ad group for mens fleece hoodies, you have that starting point for keywords).

So start with your website. Take a close look at the content on the page about the product or service you’re selling. What is the product? How does your website describe it? Those are the words you want to start with (keeping in mind that you’ll probably target two-word, three-word and sometimes four-word phrases most often).

2. Look into Your Analytics

If you’re just starting PPC and you don’t yet have an account up and running, your keyword data is going to be very limited in tools like Google Analytics (Google is operating under a secure search environment now, which means the majority of keyword data will be “(not provided)”).

However, you can look at the data regarding your site’s search function and even in Google Webmaster Tools to see the keywords used by your audience.

Once you’re up and running with PPC, the great thing about advertising in Google (versus just relying on organic search optimization) is that you now have access to the keywords that are driving traffic and converting. And you may find new variations you never would have thought of prior.

At this point, you can use the search function in Google Analytics to find those variations of a keyword your audience is using, as illustrated in the screenshot below:

Screenshot Matched Search Query Analytics

If you’ve found variations you’d like to target, you can start a separate campaign entitled “[product or service name] variations” that includes those keywords you’ll want to bid on.

3. Look at Google’s Autocomplete Feature

In Google’s search bar, you can type in your proposed keywords and see Google’s suggestions in its autocomplete function. These suggestions show common and popular searches for a word like the keyword you want to use.

Building on the examples of keyword topics from the previous section, here is an example of how you could find variations of a keyword:

Google Autosuggest Keyword Research

The autocomplete suggestions could also be personalized based on your Web history, so if you want to receive the most objective suggestions, make sure you’ve cleared your Web history and are signed out of any Google accounts (like your Google Analytics or Gmail).

4. Check Keyword Planner … Maybe

Keyword Planner is the Google AdWords keyword tool that can give you numbers on search volume and competition. This can be a way to spot check your ideas. But it’s not perfect. So don’t get discouraged from trying a keyword if you don’t see high search volume there.

google keyword planner tool

The Main Thing is, Don’t Stress about Keyword Research

In the end, there is, of course, keyword research to be done ahead of time, but not in the way it used to be. Gone are the days of generating hundreds of possible word variations as a core step in launching PPC (at least that’s the way we see it).

I’m certainly not saying launch your PPC program carelessly and just see what happens. Do the best you can with the resources you have available to you upfront, and then use the data you gain once your campaigns are up and running.

You can then begin to see which keywords are the moneymakers, and which keywords you may be able to let go.

Keyword research doesn’t have to be difficult or overwhelming. It doesn’t have to be perfect right out of the gate, either. Just like every other aspect of your PPC account, it will evolve and change over time.