In the previous parts of this series, I’ve gone over the importance of headlines and body text in your pay-per-click ads, but now I’m going to talk about the core component of your ad: the keywords.
Keywords are search terms that trigger your ad, allowing web users to find the brilliant headline and ad content that you’ve already come up with. Choose words that are too obscure or not of interest to your target audience and you’ll face a steep uphill battle to get exposure for your PPC ad.
What Are Keywords All About?
The main idea behind keywords is to find the words that your target customers are using to search for products or services online. For example, a college student trying to save money might search for “discount textbooks” or “used textbooks” as opposed to just “textbooks.” They might also tailor their search to the classes they need books for and type something like “used biology textbooks” or “used Shakespeare anthology.” As the advertiser, it’s up to you to determine what keywords are going to bring in the most customers.
Since you will have to bid on keywords, it’s important that you find the keywords that give you the best return on investment. Start by thinking about what keywords are most relevant to your website’s content, and perform searches of those keywords to find out what websites already rank highly (this will give you a sense of your competition). You can also Google’s keyword tool to get a sense of what kind of search volume you’ll get for different keywords (more on that later).
Although A/B testing sometimes seems to take a “throw everything at the wall and see what sticks” approach, you can bring some order to the process by trying specific strategies to come up with the best performing keywords for your product.
Use different keyword groups for the same ad copy. To understand keyword groups, think of a funnel effect. Let’s say that your main products are “greeting cards,” “flowers,” and “chocolate.” In each of those categories, you probably have more specific types, such as “birthday cards,” “long-stemmed roses,” and “chocolate strawberries.” Each of your main products can be divided into groups with subgroups of more specific search terms underneath them. In any given ad, you may want to use keywords from different groups, such as “long-stemmed roses” and “chocolate strawberries” in order to attract more customers who are looking for either of those items.
Don’t forget to make use of negative keywords. The goal of your pay-per-click ad isn’t just to attract the most viewers – it’s to attract the most qualified viewers. For example, if you run a computer repair business but don’t work on Macs, a Macbook owner who searches for “local computer repair” and sees your ad probably isn’t going to become a customer. In order to filter out unqualified leads, you could select a negative keyword like “Mac” so that your ad won’t show up for people who search things like “Mac computer repair.”
Don’t throw out those poor performing keywords right away. Just because a particular keyword isn’t performing well doesn’t mean it’s the keyword that’s the problem. That keyword may perform quite well in the context of another ad, so your goal should be to find the best keyword/ad combos. That’s why A/B testing is so important – it lets you try out those combinations and get empirical evidence about which perform best. If you need a refresher on how A/B testing works, check out Part 1 of this series here.
Additional Things to Try
Use Google’s Keyword Tool to generate ideas. If you’ve never had to come up with keywords for a pay-per-click ad before, you may be thinking, “It sure would be great if there was some way to quantify the value of all these words and phrases I’ve brainstormed.” Well, you’re in luck. Google’s Keyword Tool gives you a straightforward way to do just that. Just enter your keywords in the text book labeled “Word or Phrase,” and Google will tell you the global and local monthly searches, the level of competition, and the approximate CPC. You can also look at the results for multiple keywords at the same time in order to see a direct comparison.
Get more specific with your keywords. Using a general keyword like “laptops” isn’t going to do you much good because there will be a lot of competition and people searching for general terms may just be starting their research and haven’t committed to buy yet. Try more specific keywords, and consider crafting different ads for different products and services that you offer. For example, if you offer cleaning services for both homes and offices, create one ad for just “home cleaning” and one for just “office cleaning.”
Uncover negative keywords. As mentioned above, using negative keywords can help you hone your results so that only qualified leads are seeing your ad. In order to figure out what negative keywords you might want to use, you can download a search query report that will show you the actual terms people search for that have triggered your ad. Look for searches that are unrelated to your products and build a list of search terms that you want to filter out. You should also think about alternate meanings of words that may have brought people to your ad (for example, there are movie theaters and theaters that stage plays, and those are two very different things). You may even want to look for movie and song titles that are similar to your product so that you can filter those results out.
Choosing keywords for your PPC ads isn’t an activity you can do haphazardly. Picking out ineffective keywords can be the biggest waste of money in your online marketing campaign, but choosing keywords that attract qualified leads can lead to great results for your business. Take the time to research what your target customers are looking for so that you can anticipate their search queries and lead them to your PPC ad.