Keyword Research Basics: PPC

By Lauren Kade | Jun 23, 2011
More Articles by Lauren

If you read part one of this blog series, you now know all the basics for doing keyword research for SEO.  PPC keyword research is somewhat similar to SEO, but instead of focusing on monthly search traffic, your are mainly focused on getting every single keyword that someone could search for!

Step 1:  Build an Account Structure

First you need to make a skeleton of what you want your AdWords (or Bing) account to look like.  What do you want to advertise or what are your main focuses?  If you truly have no idea how to start, create a basic keyword list as in step 1 of the SEO keyword research.  Write a list of everything you can think of about what you do; it’s also helpful to go through your website to pick out key terms.  Then look through your list for patterns.  Are there obvious sections or categories?  Make each one a campaign, and there you have a skeleton account structure.

Step 2: Build Out Each Campaign

Take the first campaign from your structure (or the one you feel most comfortable starting with).  If you’re new to building out campaigns, it may be easier for you to start with building out a single keyword list for this first campaign.  Write down everything someone might search for – long phrases, short phrases, or just single words and make sure to include synonyms, plurals, and misspellings.  The Keyword Tool can help you with this as well.  You don’t really need the search traffic data (since you’re trying to show your ads to everyone who is relevant, even if only five people search on that phrase), but it can be helpful to get new ideas for synonyms or phrases.

The Google autocomplete feature is also extremely helpful to find phrases that people search for.  Different people think in different ways, so the phrase that you think of may not be what most people search for.  For example, you may think of the keyword “volunteer jobs” but if you type in “volunteer” autocomplete may suggest “volunteering jobs.”  You never know what you’ll find!


When building out campaigns, I build out all the plurals and misspellings for one term, such as “webinar” and then duplicate those keywords and find and replace “webinar” for a synonym or similar word such as “seminar.”  This will not only ensure that you’re not missing any keywords for a synonym but will also help cut down on time.

Now that you have your full list and have exhausted all the potential phrases, separate them into ad groups.  Make each synonym or category a different ad group.  For example, if you were a college, so you may want to split the ad groups into “public” and “private” school keywords, or “college,” “university,” and “school” keywords.  If the campaign is too large once you have all the ad groups built out, or if there are ad groups you would like to have a different budget then others (since the budgets are set at the campaign level)  then split the ad groups into a separate campaign.  That’s why we only made a skeleton account structure in Step 1, because it can change drastically when you actually start to build out the keywords.

Once you have built out a few campaigns it becomes easier to foresee the ad groups and build out the keywords by ad group.  Then, you can build out a full ad group and find and replace for similar ad groups.  However, use caution: the find and replace function is definitely helpful, but make sure to go through the new keywords to ensure they all make sense.


Step 3: Create Ad Copy

It’s not really “keyword research”, but after you have all the keywords for each ad group, you need to write ads, ideally at least two ads for each ad group.  With two ads you can test them against one another and see what terminology or phrasing work best.  Try to include some of your keywords in the ads, because when the search term is in the ad, it appears bolded, which increases the likelihood that someone will click.


That’s all folks!  Now go forth and build campaigns – leave a comment if you have any questions.

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