Begin PPC keyword research with these 10 steps

So, you’ve taken a big brave step towards creating your own PPC campaign. Now, if you’re hoping for any success it’s time to perfect your keywords. At the end of the day they’re what match your ads to potential customers, so you’ve got to get them right.

How do you do that? The answer is through lots of keyword research. It takes time, patience and analysis to not only to understand what keywords might work, but find the ones that will.

Taking the time to understand keyword art and science is important. If you’re not bidding on the right keywords you can kiss goodbye to your precious budget and get little in return.

Here at Report Central we understand that knowing where to start in the big wide world of keywords can be a daunting task. But, it’s necessary if you wish to create a winning PPC campaign that yields real results.

We’ll take you through this step-by-step guide to commence with your PPC keyword research, so you can start building an awesome PPC campaign.

Get into your target market’s mind-set

Kick off the process by thinking about the terms you want to rank for –  this includes both words and phrases. To do this, think about content on your site and your ideal buyer persona – what is your ideal client typing into the search engine to land on your site?

It’s not all about what products you’re selling, it’s about understanding what your ideal customers are searching for. For example, you might be selling coffee and your ideal customer is a millennial searching for fairtrade coffee for flat whites, so your search campaign will need to reflect that in types of words and tone and language of the ad copy.

Understanding the search from your ideal client’s perspective is the first step in coming up with an initial keywords list.

Start by thinking of keywords that will achieve your campaign goals

Carrying out thorough keyword research is an important part of your PPC campaign, to make sure that you’re targeting keywords that perform well and deliver maximum ROI.

The primary goal of conducting research is to create a list of keywords that you want to bid on. When you start your research you’ll also gain a sense of how much your chosen keywords will cost you, as well as getting an idea of a good cost per click bid for each keyword, so you can come up with keywords within your budget.

Tools like Google Ads Keyword Tool will help you identify how competitive the word is and the estimate costs for bidding on it.


Begin Brainstorming

Right, you’re ready to start brainstorming. A great place to begin is by noting down keywords for each of the following term types:

Brand terms – these are keywords that include your brand name.

Generic terms – these are the keywords that relate to your products or services.

Related terms – these are keywords that don’t relate directly to what it is you’re selling, but people will be searching for them in order to find products or services like yours.

Competitor terms – the clue’s in the name for this one. These keywords are the brand names of your competitors who offer a similar thing to you.


Get specific

Now you’ve got a list of keywords you need to think about the quality of traffic that those keywords will attract. If you sell coffee, for example, the broad term keyword ‘coffee’ will return millions of searches, but not necessarily from people who want to buy your products. Although broad terms can be useful sometimes, it’s often good to get specific!

You need to refine your keywords list to include long-tail keywords. These will be the keywords that drive specific traffic to your site. So, if you sell coffee, examples of long-tail keywords would be:

  • 6oz package house blend
  • Fairtrade coffee beans
  • Single origin coffee beans

Try starting off with your broad term keyword and work from there: ‘coffee’ > ‘coffee beans’ > ‘single origin coffee beans’ > ‘Fairtrade single origin coffee beans.’

Chances are, people typing these more specific terms into search know exactly what they’re after. They’re far more likely to be interested in your page and convert, and that’s what you want! Long-tail keywords may have a lower search volume but the traffic they do attract is high quality.

It’s all about variation

Google doesn’t always pick up connections between terms that are related. So, it’s a good idea to think up variations of your keywords, as well as any abbreviations and plurals.

Let’s say your keyword is ‘women’s maxi skirt.’ You don’t want to miss out on relevant traffic just because searchers are typing in slight variations of that term, do you? So, for each of your keywords note down possible variations.

In this case variations could include:

  • Women’s long skirt
  • Women’s full-length skirt
  • Ladies maxi skirt

These variations are all still relevant to your product and might just help you bag a sale you could otherwise have missed out on.

Think about the way people search

Technology’s come on leaps and bounds, and nowadays many of us use voice to search the web. Whether it’s asking your mobile phone to Google something or talking to a smart-home device. The thing is, the way we type is different to the way we talk.

A search that’s been typed is likely to look like this – ‘best bars London.’

Whereas a spoken search will probably be more like this – ‘what are the best bars in London.’

Are your target audience likely to be searching this way? If the answer’s yes, expand your list of keywords to include terms that searchers are likely to use when carrying out a voice-led search.

Make use of Research Tools

If you’ve got an Ads account then you’ve got access to the Ads Keyword Planner.

In this tool you can search words and phrases related to your business and the Keyword Planner will find relevant keywords and search volumes. This tool also tells you suggested bid estimates.


Google Ads Keyword Planner also gives you valuable insights into how popular particular keywords are, as well as how high the competition is for that word or phrase. So obviously, if a keyword has a high volume of searches, plus low competition, you’re on to a winner.

This is a great tool for helping you narrow down your keyword list and set your budget to the terms you really want.

Check out your competition

You can learn a lot from what your competitors are doing.

If things are working out well for your competition, try and uncover the secret formula to their success. Make the most out of tools like Spyfu. Here, you can simply type in your competitor’s domain and Spyfu will uncover what keywords they’ve purchased on Google Ads and monthly budgets.


You never know, this might just give you the keyword inspiration you need!


Organise your keywords

If you’ve been following the previous stages, then by now you’ll have a lengthy list of keywords.

The next step is to organise your list into groups, with each group containing keywords that relate to each other. These groups will align with your ad groups in Google Ads.

If you sell products, a good way of doing this is by mirroring your website structure. Say you sell trainers, your groups might look something like this:

  • Brand – Nike
  • Brand – Adidas
  • Brand – New Balance
  • Generic – Trainers
  • Generic – Women’s Trainers
  • Generic – Men’s Trainers

This helps you think about any keywords you’re missing, as well making it easier for you to craft specific, targeted and relevant ads. At the end of the day relevance increases your Quality Score, which works to improve your ad ranking. So, it’s true, organisation does pay off!

Build up your negative keywords

So, you’ve come up with a list of keywords that you know your users will be searching for. That’s great! But, now you’ve got to establish which keywords you don’t want to rank for – you’ve got to do your negative keywords research. Not all keywords are created equal – so why waste precious budget on one’s that don’t convert?

Back to the coffee shop example, if you’re using the term ‘beans’ as in coffee beans, you don’t want to appear for searches for green beans, do you? That would be wasted budget and not attract the right customers. So, think about keywords relating to the wrong kinds of beans and add these to your negative keywords list. For example:

  • Green beans
  • Baked beans
  • Tinned beans
  • Canned beans

The aim here is to eliminate the terms that aren’t bringing in business or are irrelevant.

Having curated your negative terms list you can continue to review and add to it, which you’ll want to do on a weekly basis.

Next Steps – ready to find the keywords that will get results?

Following these steps, you can start researching and bidding on the right keywords that will actually get your ad and website seen by the right searchers, at the right time. Keyword research will take time, but it’s a necessary ingredient to any winning PPC campaign.

Constant monitoring and reviewing is required to ensure you’re getting the most out of your keywords. At Report Central we know exactly what’s required to create an awesome PPC campaign that yields real results. If you’re looking to get more from your PPC campaign, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

learn how report central drives results

Request a free consultation with our team of experts.


Share this blog post:

award nominations and accreditations.