Keywords are the foundation of your Google Ads campaign. They determine when your ads appear. In most cases, keywords are what you’re bidding on and what you’re paying for.

If you pick the wrong keywords it won’t matter how good your ads are or how great your landing page is. Your campaign will most likely fail.

keyword research for google ads
Learn how to do keyword research for google ads

Keywords are what potentially connect you to your best prospects. If you choose the wrong ones, then you won’t reach them. And you’ll only be wasting money.

Choose the right keywords and you’ll get your prospect at the moment they’re searching for what you offer and are ready to act.

It’s critical for a business to devote time to keyword research as it will often ultimately determine the success of your campaign.

Knowing how to find your most profitable keywords will help to put your Google Ads campaign on the right path.

Learn How To Do Keyword Research For a Successful Google Ads Campaign

For some businesses, you might not need to do keyword research. Because of your specific vertical, they might be obvious to you. If you’re a plumber, you might guess that phrases like plumber near me or top plumbers might be enough to generate the leads you need.

For most accounts, however, you’ll likely need to do research. And even a plumber might find that the obvious keyword phrases aren’t enough to keep their phone ringing.

The first step is to generate a list you can work from.

I’m not going to go into third-party tools. There are a number of excellent ones, both free and paid. I’m not saying these tools aren’t valuable, but I don’t want to single out a specific one. And these are often more to fill out your keyword list. Not to generate your base of words.

Instead, I’ll begin with Google since that is where most of the searches are done.

How to Use the Google Ads Keyword Planner (Google Adwords Keyword Tool)

The first place to do keyword research is the tool provided in Google Ads. The keyword planner allows you to put in keywords and get historical data on them. Or you can put in a web address and generate ideas from this.

You find the keyword planner under tools and settings at the top of the screen.

On the keyword planner page, you’ll be given two options. I’d begin with Discover New Keywords.

how to use the google adwords keyword tool
Choose discover new keywords in Google Ad Keyword Planner

Enter a keyword phrase and then put a comma before putting in another phrase. After you’ve provided a few keywords, then click Get Results.

how to use google keyword planner to find keywords

There is also the option to enter a web address. It could be your own site, or it could be a competitor. Putting in a competitor can be valuable, but don’t think it’s going to reveal the phrase they’re advertising on Google. It simply uses the information on the page you provide to generate ideas.

No matter which approach you take, you’ll then be provided with a list. You’ll see data on the words you entered, as well as a long list of similar phrases to choose from. Even a handful of words will generate a lot of opportunities.

The results show a search bar graph with volume trends over the last year for the entire list. The blue column shows the overall number of searches in a month, while the red column two the left shows the number that are from mobile. Move your mouse over a bar and you’ll see the specific numbers for that month.

Make sure the list reflects your market. At the top left, you’ll see the region the data is for. If it says United States, then edit this to your market. If the results for your community is too small, then broaden it to your state or possibly county. Then while the number won’t apply, you’ll still get an idea of what are the most used.

With each phrase, you’ll see the average number of searches each month.

Competition tells you how much competition you’ll have for a phrase with high meaning its very competitive. Most likely this is because they convert better for most advertisers. It also means these could perform better for you. A better barometer for effectiveness is the next two columns.

Top of Page Bid (Low Range) is their recommendation on what it will take to get on the first page, while Top of Page Bid (High Range) is what it will take to get at the top of the page. Don’t put too much value in these as they’re often misleading. Go with the lower end, in the beginning, to see what you show up at and most importantly, how many clicks you get.

Ad Impression share relates to phrases that you’re already targeting. It shows the percentage of impressions your ads shown out of the total number of impressions available. If your number is low it means your missing out on opportunities for these phrases.

When you click on keywords a blue bar will appear, providing you options on what to do with a phrase.

Click a check box next to a phrase or all the phrases

Clicking on Plan gives you the option of creating a list or adding it to an existing campaign and into a specific ad group.

You can click the next option if you want to create a new ad group and add words to this.

The next decision to make is what type of keyword match type to use. Then click Add Keywords to complete the work.

On your list, you might see phrases that don’t apply to your business. Since you don’t want to appear for these you might want to add them as negative keywords. It’s not as evident as to how to do this. You must click on the three dots along the right.

In a few minutes, you can literally add hundreds of phrases to your campaign. Yet, as I’ll discuss later not all the keywords will have the same value for your business.

Google Suggestions and Related Searches

Still need ideas? Another good tool is Google itself. Start to type in a keyword and Google will provide suggestions as you type. And these will change as you type.

Google Auto suggest reveals more keyword ideas

For example, a plumber could type in plumber and then start with various letters after and you’ll get searches that begin with that letter. The options are endless.

After you complete your search, you’ll see the results of your search. At the bottom of the search results, you’ll see what Google calls related searches. These are other phrases that are similar to what you typed in.

Related searches at the bottom of your results

Compiling Your Best Keywords List for Google Ads

When you review your keyword list you want to focus on the words that have the most buyer intent. Your first inclination might be to focus on the words that have the most searches, but this is a mistake. You're looking for quality, not quantity.

Your next reaction might be to focus on cheaper keywords. Certainly, you get more clicks by bidding on lower priced keywords, but if conversions are what matter you might be paying more for these words overall since you’re not getting anything from them.

Focus on the words that show your prospect is further along in the buying or decision process.

Typically searches fall into three main categories.

Educational searches are people who have a problem or a question and looking for answers. It might be a leaky faucet or what to do when your garage door won’t open.

Transactional searches are people looking to buy or obtain a service.

Brand searchers are by people looking for information on a specific business. It could be your business name or a competitor.

Not All Words Are the Same

On your list are words that are more valuable than others. The trick is to find out which ones are the valuable ones. Yet, it’s often not a trick. It’s often common sense.

For the most part, educational searches don’t convert as often. If you’re a plumber your initial list might include leaky faucets or toilet not working. Unfortunately, many of these searches might be for do it yourselfers.

The obvious choice is to focus on plumber near me or 24-hour plumber. These are people who know they can’t handle their problems and need help.

For a personal injury attorney, it might seem that is the natural phrase to target. Yet, your firm might specialize in vehicle accidents. Since personal injury covers so many different types of injuries, you’re better off focusing on your specific field.

For most products or services, the more specific a keyword phrase is, the most likely it’s better to convert.  Someone typing in 55-inch Samsung TV shows someone who's looking for something specific. Someone typing in Smart TVs is likely still deciding on what they want.

Don’t be put off if the searches for your phrases are small. Hopefully, you can find enough to generate the number of clicks you need. If not, then you can start to get more general.

The Longer the Phrase the Better. Sometimes. What Long Tail Keywords Are

When you do keyword research, you’ll find that the searches with the largest number of results are often one- or two-word phrases. This doesn’t mean these are the searches for these specific keywords. More likely these words are parts of a large number of phrases. People aren’t typing in plumber, but plumber near me, plumbers on call, etc.

The problem is some businesses focus too much on long-tail keywords and as a result, fail to generate enough searches. If you’re targeting phrases longer than 5 words, then your focus is too narrow. Don’t worry. Depending on your match type, you’ll still show for those longer phrases.

Competitor’s Names

Often times you’ll want to consider targeting competitor’s names. After all these are people who most likely looking for the same products or services you offer.

You might also think that you can take away potential customers from your competitors. Or you might want to get back at them for targeting your business name.

The problem with targeting competitor’s names is that you don’t know why they’re searching for them. It could be to confirm an appointment they already scheduled. Or they have a complaint with them. There can be several reasons and not all of them are good or beneficial.

Another reason not to target a competitor’s names is that you can’t mention them by name in the ads. This ensures you have a lower Quality Score for these terms.

I’d suggest not targeting them, but if you're determined to target them, then the best option is to create a campaign-specific for competitors. This way you can control how much budget goes toward them. If not, these phrases could eat up a lot of your budget at the expense of your higher-performing words.

Also, add a number of negative keywords such as an address, phone, employee names, etc.

Be advised that if you target their name, they might do the same to you.

Bidding on Your Own Name

It does make sense to bid on your own name, even if no one else is. You can control the message and highlight what is unique about your business. Something that might not be showing up in the organic results.

Bidding on your own name allows you to control message

If competitors are bidding on your name, then you really need to make sure you’re showing up first. As I mentioned previously, they can’t use your name in their ads. But you can in yours.

How Much To Bid On Your Words?

Bidding is a topic onto itself. Knowing how much to bid on your keywords is dependent on your market, but also your budget. Resist the urge to be number 1 unless you can afford to be there for the entire day. Otherwise you risk burning up your budget too early.

Bidding lower means you can potentially get more clicks. You’ll know when your bidding too low. You won’t be getting impressions and you won’t be getting clicks.

How Many Keywords to Choose

You might want to put as many keywords in a campaign as you can. This is a mistake unless you have an unlimited budget. Which isn’t likely.

If your budget is limited, then you don’t want to start off with a long list of words.

By having many keywords you’re not getting a true picture of which words are most often used by your prospects. Your daily budget might be depleted and yet, your best prospects are still making searches.

Starting smaller allows you to see how many searches you’re getting for your most relevant phrases.

There is nothing wrong with compiling a large list, but only add words in gradually. Till you get to the point where your budget is being met.

The Success of Your Keywords is Dependent on Your Ad Groups

Don’t throw all your phrases into a single ad group.

I’d suggest having 10-25 keywords in an ad group. Think of each ad group as being the same topic. This way your ad will better reflect your specific keywords. You don’t want an ad that is about a plumber, when the person searching is looking for sewer repair. Instead, have your ads focus on that specific problem.

Which Keyword Match Type You’re Using

When you add keywords to your account, the default is to add them as broad match. This is a mistake. You might think that adding Denver Bike Shop as a keyword phrase that this will be the term people actually use. It’s not.

You’re better off starting off with modified broad, phrase or exact match

Match type is complex and constantly changing. Read my article on Keyword Match Types.

Reviewing the Search Terms Report

As I mentioned, what people type in isn’t always exactly what you have as your keyword phrase. This is why you want to regularly review the search term report.

The search term report can reveal new phases to target, but also phrases that don’t apply to your business. In reviewing your report you’ll often be shocked by the wasted spend you have. This is why adding negative keywords is critical to your campaign.

Use Negative Keywords to Improve Your Buying Funnel

Even if your using exact match your ads can appear for searches that don’t apply. By adding negative keywords, you can prevent this from happening again.

If your business involves a luxury item, then words like cheap or affordable don’t apply. You might serve one community, but see searches involving another community.

You’re likely going to waste money in the beginning and that is an unfortunate part of the process. Over time you’ll see less wasted spend and most likely convert better.

Your Ads Matter

Simply choosing the keywords you target doesn’t mean that your ads will always show for those keywords.

If you choose plumbers near me, but nobody clicks on the ad your created for this phrase, over time your ads won’t run.

Your keywords are assigned a Quality Score. The lower the number the less often your ads will appear, even if you’re bidding more than competitors. That’s because Google only makes money when an ad is clicked on.

A big part of Quality Score is click-through rate, the amount of times your ads gets clicked on out of the number of impressions it receives.

This is why you limit the number of phrases you target with each ad group. So that the ad is relevant to the phrases in that ad group. All your research is for naught if your ads aren’t running.

How to Decide When A Keyword is Bad

Despite the best research you are going to find some words you’ve chosen aren’t effective. Then you must decide whether to jettison your phrase or go with a different approach.

If you’re not getting clicks for the phrase, then the issue is likely with your ads. It’s not relevant to what people are searching for. It’s one reason you should have several ads in each ad group. I recommend three expanded text ads and one responsive.

If the issue is that you’re getting clicks, but no leads, it could be your landing page doesn’t focus on what made your ad so effective.

If the issues aren’t with your ads and you don’t think its an issue with the landing page, then you might have to pause it.

Typically, you want to see a significant number of searches for a keyword before discarding it. I usually recommend about 100 clicks.

What determines what is a good or bad keyword is going to be your conversion data. This is where not having your conversions properly tracked can be a hindrance.

If you don’t have conversion data to work with, then it comes down to what you're seeing on your end. If you’re not getting calls or your forms aren’t being filled out, then you know something not working. Still even this presumes your website isn’t the issue, which it frequently is.

You want to target keywords that show intent. That the person typing in a specific phrase know they need a product or service.

Over time you’ll learn what keywords are doing best for you and as a result, bid more aggressively.

If you’re struggling with Google Ads and need help with keywords or any part of your campaign, then consider hiring a Google Ads Consultant. I can help you to improve your work or even manage your campaign if necessary.