Web Marketing Today

How To Select Pay-per-click Keywords

Keywords are the cornerstone of pay-per-click advertising. Success in PPC depends on choosing the right keywords that will trigger your ads. While many factors other than keyword selection impact PPC results, choosing the wrong keywords will surely doom a campaign.

This isn’t a post on keyword research. Countless articles have been written on how to perform keyword research, including “PPC Basics: Part 2. Keyword Research,” my previous article. Instead, this post will teach you how to select the right PPC keywords and give yourself the best chance for success.

What Not to Select

Although PPC has been around for over a decade, it’s still new to many advertisers and business owners. If you’re thinking about trying PPC for the first time, the keyword selection process can be overwhelming.

In my experience, many new advertisers make the mistake of equating keywords with product features. I once worked with a restaurant client. It was introducing a new lunch sandwich and wanted to bid on sandwich ingredients: “roast beef,” “whole grain bun,” and “poblano peppers.” Another time, I was working with a poker magazine to sell subscriptions. It wanted to bid on “Texas hold ‘em.”

While these terms are related to the products, they’re not good keywords. People looking for a new restaurant to try for lunch are not likely to search for “poblano peppers.” Most people don’t think of what they want to eat and then search for it — they search for what they want to do: “lunch restaurant near 5th and Main” instead of “where can I get a sandwich with poblano peppers on it?.”

Additionally, people who do search for “poblano peppers” probably have other goals in mind. Maybe they want to plant poblano peppers in their gardens, and they’re checking if they’ll grow in their geographic area. Maybe a recipe calls for poblano peppers, and the searcher has never heard of them so he or she wants to see what they look like. Maybe a 4th grader is doing a report on poblano peppers. None of these searchers would help the restaurant get people to try their sandwich. As I explained in “How Paid Search Fits into Your Marketing Mix,” the goals aren’t the same.

When you’re selecting PPC keywords, don’t just list features. Think about the problem that your product or service solves, and how a prospect might ask about it. If you’re a local business, directional searches like the “lunch restaurant near 5th and Main” typically work well. If you’re selling a magazine, bid on the magazine type: “poker magazines” or “magazines about poker.”

Find the Right Mix of General and Specific Keywords

If there’s one word to describe a successful PPC campaign, it’s “relevance.” Selecting relevant keywords is crucial to having a successful PPC campaign.

When new PPC advertisers hear the word “relevance,” it frequently means different things. I’ve seen new clients choose very broad keywords, claiming relevance to their products or services. While broad terms probably do describe your product, it’s important to consider how other meanings of the word may affect your results.

Let’s look at the term “asset management.” If you asked 10 people what that phrase means to them, you’d probably get 10 different answers. It could be about financial assets, physical assets, personal assets, or manufacturing assets. Bidding on a vague term like this usually results in a significant amount of irrelevant traffic. Remember, you pay for every click on your ad, so it’s wise to steer clear of overly broad terms.

I’ve had clients go the other direction, too. Sometimes advertisers get very specific in keyword requests, using 5-to-6-word phrases. While being specific is good, oftentimes these long tail keywords have no search volume. Therefore, it makes no sense to bid on something if no one is searching for it. It’s kind of like putting a billboard in a ghost town: It doesn’t do any good if no one will see it.

Alignment with Landing Page and Ad Copy Is Key

It’s important to align your keywords with your ad copy and your landing page. By the time consumers get to a search engine, they likely have an idea of what they’re looking for. They may not do a good job of communicating that idea via their keywords, but they still have expectations that must be fulfilled.

Incorporating the keyword into the ad copy is a best practice, because it shows the searcher that they’ve come to the right place. If you can’t work your keyword into your ad copy, think very long and hard before deciding to bid on it.

Keywords must also be relevant to the landing page. If you offer manufacturing asset management, don’t send visitors to a page about manufacturing process control. The great thing about search is that people are trying to tell you exactly what they’re looking for. Few other forms of advertising offer this benefit. Don’t squander it by sending people to the wrong page. If prospects ask you for an apple, don’t hand them an orange.

In short, selecting the right keywords will go a long way towards a successful PPC campaign.

Melissa Mackey
Melissa Mackey
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