Pay Per Click Advertising- All about Keywords

In this article we will learn all about Keywords. What they are, how to think of them and make sure they’re relevant to your customer base and how to really get specific with them to target the kinds of search engine queries that’ll bring you the most conversions.

business woman working on keywords for her pay per click search engine marketing campaign

What are Keywords?

A keyword can be a single word or a phrase that a person types into a search engine.

Keywords are used to match search queries to paid advertisements. As the creator of an advert, one of your jobs is to compile a list of all the words you think your customers may use to find products or services like the type you offer in order for your adverts to be displayed to them.

It pays to be a little more resourceful than everybody else when you do keyword research. Keywords are the backbone of your Search Engine Marketing campaigns. Taking the time to research how best to use them will maximize your ad’s effectiveness.

Robert Collier (an author of self-help books in the 20th century) famously said “Always enter the conversation that is already taking place in your customer’s mind”. This is a key point to bear in mind when compiling your keyword lists.

Compiling your lists

The keywords you choose now are just the starting point. They’ll change over time as you see which adverts are performing better than others.

When thinking of keywords it helps to understand the 3, broad categories of people who search on Google:

  1. Informational searchers: They’re looking for general knowledge on a subject and are not ready to buy.
  2. Comparison searchers: These customers are interested in your product but are still searching around to find the best deals, looking at reviews and comparing prices.
  3. Buyers: They’re typing with their credit card in hand!

The more specific your keywords are, the closer they are to targeting the “buyer” group.

For example, an informational searcher may search “17 inch monitor”. A Comparison Searcher may search “17 inch Acer HD HDMI monitor alternatives” and a Buyer would search “ Buy 17 Inch HD HDMI Acer monitor”

When you’re starting out with your first few campaigns you should only target the Buyer and to a smaller extent the Comparison group to maximize your budget.

How to think of keywords?

You now know the different types of buyers and the kinds of words they’re likely to use. Lets have a look at how you would put together a list of suitable keywords to target.

Creating your list

  1. Browse through your website and make a list of the products or services that you offer. View each of your products or services through a customer’s eyes and think of all the synonyms they may use. Remember, they aren’t likely to be as informed about your market as you, so may not use the correct terms. Once you’ve made this list, add the common “buyer” and “comparison” keywords such as “buy”, “best”, or “compare”. For example: “Buy 17 Inch HD HDMI Acer monitor”
  2. Look at your competitors’ websites to see if they’ve thought of any keywords that you haven’t!
  3. Survey customers that have recently purchased from you to ask what keywords they used when searching for you.
  4. Ask friends and family to see if they can think of anything you may have missed. At this point you’ll already have a pretty comprehensive list but it helps to leave no stone unturned.
  5. Use keyword tools, such as Google’s Keyword PlannerSEMRush or UberSuggest. Most of these kinds of tools work by discovering what keywords your competitors are bidding on and then feeding the data back to you.

How do you know when you’ve got enough keywords?

Many beginners to Search Engine Marketing fall into the trap of thinking they need as many as possible to cover every single angle. In reality, this dilutes your efforts and minimises the effectiveness of your budget. As a rule of thumb, include no less than 50 and no more than 250 keywords.

When pruning your list, think of your keywords displayed on a dart board. The keywords at the bullseye are a perfect match whereas the keywords on the outer edges are less specific. Once you’ve done this, analyse the cost per click and competition for each keyword and find a happy medium. This means you won’t spend your budget on competing for highly competitive, expensive keywords but you’ll still be bidding on effective and conversion producing keywords.

How to make best use of your budget

Once you have your list of keywords there’s one more step to be completed before plugging them into live adverts. This step is crucial for your budget and the effectiveness of your campaign.

Google provides matching options to match your keywords with genuine, real world searches. There are Broad Matches, Phrase Matches, Exact Matches and Negative Keywords.

Different categories of Keywords

  • Broad Matches: The default setting for every keyword and means Google will show your advert for every search it deems relevant. For example, if your keyword was “formal shoes” then Google will show your ads for any of the following searches; “What are formal shoes?”, “Will formal shoes get me a better job?”, “Good work shoes” , “Buy shoes online”. The result of this is you will end up showing your ads to people who aren’t interested, and this will result in a low click through rate which will negatively impact your Quality Score.
  • Modified Broad Match: Works similarly to Broad Match, but you anchor a certain word if you include the + sign before it. So +Formal Shoes anchors the word “Formal” and will show for any search that Google deems relevant as long as it includes the word Formal.
  • Exact Match: When you use Exact Match, your ads will only be shown when people type in the exact keywords you used. Using this means you’ll get fewer impressions and fewer clicks overall, but you won’t have to worry about wasting clicks on useless searches. Activate it by enclosing your Keywords with [square brackets].
  • Phrase Match: People will see your advert when they type the keyword in that exact order but will also see it when they add words at the beginning or end. They will not see your advert if they include words in the middle of your keyword. For example, “buy formal shoes cheap” will still display your ad, but “formal black shoes” will not. Enter your keyword in “straight quotation marks” to activate Phrase Match.
  • Negative Keywords: You tell Google which words you do not want your ads to show for. This can help to eliminate irrelevant searches.


You now have your list of keywords and understand how to apply different modifiers to them in order to specify different customers. Don’t be mistaken and think that your work is done! You should come back on a weekly basis and spend time analysing the performance of your different campaigns. Remove the keywords which aren’t performing and allocate their budget into the adverts which have high performance. Doing this will make sure you remain on top of your conversion rates and will ultimately bring you the most success.

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