As an advertising consultant for one of the leading PPC firms, I’m always asked this question, “Where do you get your keywords from?” And since this is such a popular question, I have decided to finally write a post about it once and for all. Because afterall, if it’s something you’re going to do, you should probably do it right from the start.
Before we really jump right in, I want to mention that there are different circumstances between advertisers who are looking to do keyword research for the very first time and those who are looking to add additional keywords to their existing keyword mix. Depending on what resources you have available at the time you do your research, that would dictate how you could go about finding them.
There are actually quite a few ways in which to find keywords. Not all of them will be mentioned here in this article. However, we will mention the most popular ways to research keywords and also give the disclaimers to them as well. There is no perfect way to get the right keywords the first time around. And whatever keywords you do find will have to undergo some tests to make sure it holds true for your account.
Some things we’ll want to mind as we go along is that more isn’t always merrier. It can be but only if it makes sense to have that many keywords and if the keywords make sense themselves. Some advertisers go and try to cram tens of thousands of keywords into their campaigns all at once, paying no attention to whether that word qualifies to describe the service/products accurately or not. First, that many keywords have no business being in your business unless of course you are able to properly build out unique keyword ad groups and ads to fit them into. Please see one of our articles about writing relevant ads to learn more about the ad grouping process. Secondly, if you’re not taking the time to make sure every single keyword you are bidding on has relevance to your business offering, then you have committed yourself to wasting money on irrelevant search inquiries and clicks.
All you have to do is take a little time and have a method to your keyword research. Don’t copy and paste out of some list you manufactured from the Internet. Don’t settle for any words either. Use ones that are specific to what you do or offer. Then build the ad groups out around them. You’ll be a winner for it.
Okay, so there are several places to do keyword research. The 4 places we are going to talk about today are keyword research tools (especially free ones by Google), competition spy programs, Adwords reporting features, and offline methods.
I am going to actually start with offline methods because I believe this to be the nursing ground for the business, and it really takes place in the human mind. Ask yourself, “What would my customer type into the search engine to find my widget?” Ask this about all your products. Be specific. Be general if you want but make sure whatever list you create, have every word accurately describe your products. Try not to be so general that your words accurately describe your products and some others that you don’t sell. Only use general terms if they describe ONLY what you sell..
This method is the basis for all your other methods of research. You know your customers and business better than anyone or anything else so you are where it all starts. Develop a list to your satisfaction. Once you have done this, it is very likely that you will be exhausted yet excited to keep going. Fortunately there’s still more work to do.
Keyword Research Tools
Now that you have created your list in your mind and put it into actual word (via paper, Notepad, or Word), it’s time to expand on it. Unfortunately, we often don’t hold the mental creative capacity to think of everything. There are your customers out there who think nothing like you. Plus, we need to finish that mundane task of listing all the relevant variations of your key terms.
Initially, the best way to expand on keyword ideas is to use the keyword tools. We’ll have more options later after the account has been running a while. For now, some simple tools we would show you is the Google Adwords Keyword Research Tool . This can be found either in your Adwords Account under the Tools button or by visiting https://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal.
This tool will give you many of the variations of keywords that you have been missing in your current selection. Google produces this list by offering up suggestions that might commonly be seen on other websites who have historically advertised the keywords that you are inquiring about. It will give you surround information about these words including Advertiser Competiveness, Local and Global Search Volume, and if you opt to show more columns, additional data surrounding those words. Just as you did with your initial rough list of keywords; use heavy scrutiny and discretion when picking the right words for you. Also use this tool just find similar variations to the keywords you have already chosen.
Note: that the search volume in this is not an accurate reflection of how many clicks you will be receiving in the sponsored links. It simply shows how many searches have been made for these words and some of these searches are counted from longer tail inquiries. They also account for a lot of the visits that will originate in the organic natural listings.
Another tool which will give you some more accurate (but not perfectly accurate) PPC traffic estimates is the Adwords Traffic Estimator Tool, also found in your Adwords account. It can also be found here: https://adwords.google.com/select/TrafficEstimatorSandbox . This tool will give you much more in-depth information about particular keyword expectation in the sponsored links. Don’t dwell here too long as this is still a rough figure of what to expect and has never been 100% accurate. Get a rough indication as to a performance level and then move on. Do not try and find the perfect keyword combo here. You will only frustrate Google who will block your IP address for a limited period of time after repetitive searches. This tool in my experience has been more unreliable in the local search inquiries than the national geography. Its best you take it with a grain of salt but take notice to some of the potential traffic particular keywords might have. It’s also useful in determining a “rough” Adwords budget allocation.
Competitor Spy Tools
The third way to get some ideas about keywords is through the use of competitive spy tools which spy on your Adwords competition. You will find I am not the biggest advocate of this research type because spy tools don’t tell the whole story and I simply don’t hold much confidence in what other advertisers are doing, regardless of how long they have been on Adwords or how much they spend monthly.
They do, however, hold a great level of value when it comes to painting some of the picture in terms of what you ‘could be doing’. Furthermore, spy tools are best used as a method for researching your competition when looking to ‘differentiate’ yourself from them. Always look for ways to create a competitive advantage. Instead of saying all the time, “What is it they are doing that I am not?” Say, “What can I do that they are not?”
This will create tremendous insight for you and your industry position. And you may find that there are some very basic things you may have overlooked when advertising your business on Google.
Here is a list of spy tools which I have used in the past.
SpyFu- www.spyfu.com- This tool goes for about $60/mo and they have just recently added a whole gamut of additional features to its main service. SpyFu Kombat allows you to look at yourself with multiple competitors and see which keywords are exclusive to the individual companies and which overlap between each other. This goes for both organic and paid keywords. It allows you to compare budgets between the companies as well. The main tool functionality allows you to print lists of keywords and surrounding data including daily and average CPCs, budgets, ranges, ranking etc. SpyFu also recently added a new Ad History tool that allows you to type in a keyword and find out what ads your competition is running. Once again, I don’t hold a lot of confidence in what your competitors are doing but you might notice some good ideas for your ads. Pay close attention to what attributes might be considered strengths and which would constitute weaknesses. Weaknesses in competition ads are probably always harder to spot than strengths. Look to our posts on Writing Adwords Ads to learn what to keep an eye out for.
Keyword Spy- www.keywordspy.com- These guys do a great job of creating an effective tool that is easy to use. This product goes for $90/mo. and allows you to look at the most important info about specific competitors right away. This data might include charts with daily ad budgets, paid and natural keywords, more competitors, ads, clicks per day, number of keywords, etc. This tool I have found to be more accurate than SpyFu. They also offer a 7-day free trial so you can try it out on a limited basis at no charge. This might be enough time to get all the research done that you need to in order to set up a campaign.
Unless you are an SEM agency, I don’t see a real need to subscribe to one of these services ongoing. Just use the basic services or the free trials in the beginning. Now I will show you one of the best ways to do keyword research but it requires you to have a somewhat seasoned campaign and some accrued historical data.
Adwords Search Query Reports
This option is available only after you have ran your camapaign for some time. The longer you have ran your campaign, the better this will work.
In the reporting feature of Google Adwords, you can run a report called Search Query. This report is a list of all the keywords that people actually typed into Google that resulted in your ad showing as a result at least once. A common misunderstanding is that when advertisers bid on keywords, they think that those keywords are always EXACTLY what people type into Google to find them. In fact, people type into Google your exact keyword only a portion of the time (unless keyword settings are set to exact-match). Most of the time, people are typing in a different variation of your particular keywords.
Some of these keywords accurately describe what it is that you do or offer. Others are completely irrelevant to what you do. For these irrelevant inquiries it is probably important that you add some negative keywords to your campaign list so that your ads do not show any more for these tyoes of queries. Google is constantly trying to find relevancy in your campaign so they can have more ways to sell your products or services. It’s no coincidence that Google makes more money doing this too but there is a greater benefit for us advertisers. If Google didn’t do this routinely, advertisers would probably see less than only half the sales that they currently do.
By looking at this list of search queries, you will see keywords that you can be found for every time; provided that you don’t already have it included in your keyword mix. Place the new keyword into the most relevant Adgroup or build out a new one so that the ad is relevant to the keyword. What you will do is; ensure your ads show for that keyword all the time and possibly relieve traffic from other keywords that are more general and more expensive. Search Query Reports are my favorite way to do keyword research because it is real data that has come from your business. It is bound to be the most relevant and accurate of all the keyword research methods. The only downsides to this particular method is that you have to accrue that data first and if there are keywords that are very relevant but no variation has ever been included in your existing keyword mix, it is unlikely it will show up in this report. You might consider running some other keyword tools along with this one after the account has been running for a while.
In conclusion it is best to try a little of everything to paint the biggest picture of who your customers are, how they think, who your competition is, and how they think. Too many times I have seen advertisers looking for a quick way to get as many keywords in as possible. When it comes to keyword research, it is 80% quality and 20% quantity. Take your time and evaluate each keyword to decide if it is relevant and most importantly; that it is possibly irrelevant.
Whatever you end up with, you are going to have to test it regardless. So if you don’t end up wit the perfect list right away, its all good. The stats will show before long. Pull more search query reports and look at conversion cost. Add negative keywords if you need to make it better.
And remember, just because your competitor does it, doesn’t make it the right thing to do. If you become obsessed with what your competitor does just because you know them, or you believe they are bigger, or because you think they are more successful in business; that doesn’t necessarily mean they are doing the right think when it comes to their keywords. It just means they might have more money to waste. Make your own assessments and judgments about your campaign. Take in the information. Use it. Then execute the best possible keyword selection for yourself.