Web Marketing Today

PPC Basics: Part 2. Keyword Research

In this installment of PPC basics, we’ll talk about one of the most important steps in achieving PPC success: keyword research.

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Step 1: Begin with the End in Mind

As with any marketing effort, begin by outlining your campaign goals. Do you want to sell your product? generate leads for your business? encourage a free trial? or something else? Outlining campaign goals ahead of time will make keyword research go much more smoothly.

Step 2: Brainstorm

Open an Excel spreadsheet. Excel is an extremely useful tool in managing PPC campaigns, so if you’re not familiar with it, now would be a good time to learn. Thinking about your goal, make a list of words and phrases that describe your product or service. For example, let’s say you sell several brands of running shoes. Phrases you might think of would look like this:

Running shoes
Jogging shoes
Shoes for running
Nike running shoes
Adidas running shoes
New balance running shoes
Buy running shoes
Buy running shoes online
Find running shoes
Which running shoes should I buy

You’d probably come up with a lot more ideas, but you see how this is done. Don’t spend a lot of time brainstorming — just come up with 10 to 15 phrases and save them in your Excel worksheet.

Step 3: Use a Keyword Tool

One of the great aspects of PPC is the amount of data it yields. The major PPC search engines, Google and MSN/Yahoo, have access to a huge amount of data about what keywords people search for every day. Google has a free keyword tool that will give you keyword suggestions based on a list of keywords you enter. You don’t even need an AdWords account to use the tool. That said, it’s not a bad idea to set up an AdWords account for your business now. Go to Google AdWords (google.com/adwords) and follow the steps to create an account.

Copy your list of brainstormed terms and paste them into the search box. In a few seconds, the tool will return a long list of related terms that you might want to use in your PPC campaign. Click the “download” button and export the file to Excel.

Step 4a: Fine-Tune the List. Remove Irrelevant Terms

In all likelihood, the keyword tool will return hundreds of keywords. Some of them will be relevant, and some of them won’t. Now is the time to pare down your list to only the terms that make sense for your business.

Remember, you pay every time someone clicks on your ad, so it’s essential to only bid on terms that are relevant to your business. Using the running shoes example, let’s say you only sell running shoes, not basketball shoes. So, you want your ad to be displayed for queries related to running shoes, for sure. But if someone searches for “Air Jordan basketball shoes,” you definitely don’t want your ad to show — you may end up getting clicks from people who are looking for something you don’t sell. And you definitely don’t want to pay for those clicks.

There are several ways to remove all the keywords that really aren’t related.

If the list isn’t very long, say less than 100 keywords, you can probably just read through all of the suggestions and delete the ones that don’t make sense. However, it’s not unusual for Google to suggest several hundred keywords. Sure, you could read through all of those, too, but that could take hours.

I like to use Excel’s “Filter” function to break this task into manageable pieces. Turn on the filter in Excel. Read through the first few keyword suggestions. Once you find one that’s not relevant, mark it (I like to color the cell). Then, use the “Filter by Text” function to find similar phrases.

Let’s look at our running shoes example to illustrate. Say you’ve put “running shoes” into the keyword tool, and some of the keywords it suggests are:

free running shoes
wholesale running shoes
compare running shoes
running shoe store
running shoes for men
gore tex running shoes
narrow running shoes
running shoes men
spikes running shoes

Well, you probably noticed right away that the phrase “free running shoes” isn’t relevant (unless you really are giving away free shoes). Therefore, you’ll want to remove from your list any phrases that include the word “free.”

So, with the “Filter” option applied to your entire spreadsheet, click the arrow in the “Keywords” column, then click “Text Filters” and select “Contains.” Type “free” into the text box. Excel will now display only the phrases that include the word “free.” You could color-code them to remove later, but I usually just delete the rows entirely. That way, you won’t accidentally include them in your final keyword list. Continue this process with any other irrelevant terms you find.

Step 4b: Fine-Tune the List. Segment Relevant Terms

Now that you’ve removed all the keywords that you don’t want to include in your PPC campaign, it’s time to segment the remaining terms. It’s important to develop small, tightly-themed keyword groups for your PPC campaign: these will become Ad Groups in your final campaign setup. A good rule of thumb is groups of 10 to 15 keywords, although that’s not a requirement. Sometimes it makes sense to have only one or two keywords in an ad group, and sometimes it makes sense to have 40 or 50. However, aim for 10 to 15 keywords to start. You can always change it later.

We’ll use Excel’s “Filter” function for this, too. Using our running shoes example and the phrases we looked at earlier, I see a theme right away: the word “men.”

free running shoes
wholesale running shoes
compare running shoes
running shoe store running shoes for men
gore tex running shoes
narrow running shoes
running shoes men
spikes running shoes

To isolate the terms that have “men” in them, use the text filter and set “Contains” to “men” (without the quotes). Now you’ll have all the phrases for your “Men” ad group. This is where I like to use color-coding. I’ll highlight all these cells with one Fill Color in Excel. Using color-coding makes it easy to isolate these terms later, using Excel’s “Filter by Color” function. Use a different color for each keyword theme, and make a color key in another worksheet so you can remember what the colors mean.

Step 5: Organize Keywords into Ad Groups

You’re almost done. The final step is to organize your keywords into ad groups. Open a new worksheet in Excel; this is where you’ll organize your ad groups. Go back to your original, filtered keyword list and filter by color. This is where the color-coding really comes in handy. Find the first color in the list and filter. Then, simply copy the keywords and paste them into the new sheet, ideally with an ad group name so you’ll remember what the theme is.

Using our “men’s” example, you’ll copy all of the “men”-related keywords into the new sheet, with a heading “men.” Then move on to the next color-coded grouping, and copy that into the new sheet, and so on.

Using these techniques, you’ll have created a thorough, relevant list of keywords that provide the building blocks for your new PPC campaign.

Melissa Mackey
Melissa Mackey
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Comments ( 2 )

Have Something To Say ?

  1. Sanjeev Kumar August 26, 2012 Reply

    HI Melissa, Such a very informative and valuable article for all PPC beginners also very helpful for me.

  2. April Rogers November 15, 2012 Reply


    Thanks for sharing such helpful and informative tips and instructions! I look forward to reading more of your posts.

    Thanks again!

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