If you are a beginner when it comes to running paid search advertising through Google Ads or Microsoft Ads, selecting target keywords is the first major step in launching a successful paid search campaign. When you hear “keywords” in reference to paid search advertising, think of these as words or phrases people search in Google (or Bing), and your ad would appear in front of them as a possible solution. Selecting the right paid search keywords can make or break any paid search campaign, through keyword research. Advertisers should weigh several factors when researching and selecting their target keywords. New advertisers should consider the following:
- Keyword Relevance to Product/Service: How relevant the selected keyword is to the product or service you are advertising. Ask yourself, “Is this a word or phrase a typical prospective customer would search for when researching or shopping for my product or similar product”.
- Keyword Relevance to Search Ad Copy: How relevant the selected keyword is to the search ad copy within the same ad group. Google assigns a keyword quality score to all active keywords in paid search campaigns. These keyword quality scores are determined by all the factors listed here, however the degree of relevancy between the target keyword and the ad copy within search ads in the same ad group is perhaps the biggest factor in achieving high keyword quality scores. It is often easier to select your target keywords first and then developing ad copy around your target list of keywords within each ad group. It is recommended all paid search ads within each ad group contain at least one if not multiple target keywords in either the ads’ headlines or descriptions.
- Keyword Relevance to Ad Landing Page: How relevant the selected keyword is to the landing page on your website. The landing page is where your paid search ads will be directing web traffic to when a user clicks on your search ad. A great first step in researching target keywords for a new paid search campaign is reviewing the content on the landing page you are going to be directing web traffic to. Identify words or phrases on the page that accurately describe the product or service, as well as the product’s features. These can often be the most valuable keywords in a successful paid search campaign. Similar to a keyword’s relevance to the copy in paid search ads, the keyword’s relevancy to the content of the ads’ landing page is also a major factor Google uses in determining keyword quality scores.
- Keyword Search Volume: The total volume of search queries around a target keyword in a specific geographic area. The volume of searches for your target keyword will determine the amount of paid search ad impression inventory a search engine (Google, Bing) has available to sell. Keywords with lower search volume will have fewer opportunities to serve an ad impression. Keywords with higher search volume will have more opportunities to serve an ad impression but may not be as relevant to your product or service. Selecting keywords with very low search volume is not recommended as the campaign will fail to serve ads unless a user searches for your target keyword.
- Estimated Top of Page Bid: The level of advertiser competition around the target keyword. By default, paid search campaigns are priced by cost-per-click, or CPC. You will only be charged when a user clicks on your paid search ad regardless of how many impressions the ad has served. The actual CPC an advertiser pays for each target keyword included in their campaign is determined by the keyword relevancy factors listed above, as well as the level of competition around each keyword. Tools like Google Keyword Planner offer advertisers the ability to research a keyword’s estimated top of page bid without actively bidding on the keyword. The estimated top of page bid is the estimated PPC necessary to deliver ad impressions on the first page of search engine result pages.
Keyword Research Tools
It is highly recommended that advertisers utilize an online keyword research tool in selecting target keywords. Google Keyword Planner is the most used keyword research tool as it is available within the Google Ads Platform and is free to all Google Ads users. Google Keyword Planner allows an advertiser to look up the estimated search volume and estimated top of page bid for potential keywords, as well as offer recommendations for similar keywords based on the potential keywords an advertiser enters. Google Keyword Planner can also crawl a website to identify target keywords based on the website’s content. This is particularly effective in selecting keywords that have a high degree of relevancy to the content of search ad landing pages.
Google Trends is another free tool available to the public to identify keyword search volume trends over time. While not as robust as Google Keyword Planner in identifying estimated top of page bids, or similar keywords, Google Trends excels at showing trends in keyword search volume over time and within specific geographic areas or demographics.
Apart from the free keyword research tools offered by Google, there are several paid services that offer more advanced keyword research capabilities. SpyFu and SEMRush are perhaps the two most common paid services for more advanced advertisers conducting keyword research. In addition to the features offered in Google Keyword Planner, SpyFu and SEMRush allow users to examine competitor paid search activity and history, as well as provide more detailed CPC and search volume data.
Branded, Unbranded, Competitor Keywords
New advertisers should consider bidding on branded, unbranded, and competitor branded keywords. Branded keywords are words or phrases containing the advertiser’s brand or product name. Bidding on branded keywords is typically cheaper than bidding on nonbranded or competitor keywords as the content on the advertiser’s website inherently has a strong degree of relevance to branded keywords leading to typically higher keyword quality scores. Bidding on branded keywords also helps fight off any competition bidding on your branded keywords and ensures your search ads are at the top of search result pages. Bidding on branded keywords also allows advertisers to reinforce their message in their search ad copy as search ads will typically appear above organic search results. This allows for more content and links for users to read and interact with on search result pages.
Unbranded keywords do not contain any brand or product names. These are the most common type of keyword and typically make up the majority of an ad accounts overall target keywords. It is best to develop search ad copy that is highly relevant to your target unbranded keywords, and ensure the ads’ landing page contains relevant content to each target unbranded keyword in order to ensure high keyword quality scores.
Some advertisers may opt to bid on competitor branded keywords. This is typically more expensive and often results in lower keyword quality scores, however it can be an effective strategy in gaining impression share and click traffic on searches for competitor brands and products. It can sometimes be difficult to develop effective ad copy targeting competitor branded keywords as Google restricts the use of trademarked brand or product names in search ad copy. Another potential pitfall of bidding on competitor branded keywords is running into potential retaliation from the competitor whose keywords you’re bidding on. Competitors are likely to notice a decrease in the impression share on their branded keywords and may start bidding on your branded keywords in retaliation.
Keyword Match Types
Once you have a list of target keywords, the next step is to assign keyword match types to each keyword. Keyword match types allow advertisers to control which searches can trigger a search ad impression. Broad match keywords show your ads on search queries that include misspellings, synonyms, related searches, and other relevant variations, while exact match keywords will only show your ads on search queries that match the exact term or are a close variation of that exact term. Phrase match keywords fall in the middle with ads showing on search queries that match a phrase, or close variation of that phrase, which may include additional words. Advertisers should examine the search volume and estimated top of page bid when deciding on their keyword match types. It is also recommended to use the phrase match type on longer tailed keywords to capture other variations of the keyword phrase users may be searching for. Below is a quick syntax guide for uploading target keywords in each match type.
Exact Match: [keyword]
Phrase Match: “keyword”
Broad Match: keyword
Ongoing Keyword Optimization
After launching a new paid search campaign, it is recommended to routinely check in on the campaign’s performance. This includes examining the CPC, CTR, keyword quality score of each target keyword included in each campaign. Google Ads and Microsoft Ads both offer a recommendation tab in their ad dashboards that provides useful optimization tips around keyword bid prices, keyword recommendation, and keyword quality scores, in addition to many other optimization recommendations for all active advertising campaigns. Advertisers should regularly check the CPC bids for all their keywords and raise/lower keyword bids in order to maximize each keyword’s impression share and CPC. If a keyword is operating at a lower than average quality score, the advertiser should consider re-writing or developing new ad copy that is better aligned to that keyword, or potentially add additional content to the ads’ landing pages that is more relevant to the target keyword.
Selecting and optimizing target keywords is an ongoing process for all advertisers running paid search campaigns. Keyword top of page bids and search volumes are constantly changing, so advertisers need to be able to adjust their keyword lists and keyword bids to maximize the effectiveness of their search ad campaigns.
For further help in paid media success, contact Anvil Media today!