Keywords are everything in the world of PPC. After all, you funnel a huge chunk of your digital marketing budget into researching keywords, determining which ones fit best with your brand, and then bidding on those that seem the most likely to bring you new leads and conversions.

The sad secret, though? More often than not, the vast majority of the keywords you end up bidding on don’t really contribute to conversions at all—in other words, all those hard-earned marketing dollars are getting flushed straight down the tubes.

Yes, this paints a bleak picture for your AdWords buying efforts. But it shouldn’t. Because while there’s a good chance that yes, you are bidding on some of the wrong keywords, so are your competitors. This means that if you figure out which keywords to stop bidding on, you could easily move ahead of the pack.

So how can you ensure that you’re only using the best possible keywords for your brand? We’ve got a few key steps that’ll put you on the right path.

Step One: Keyword Research

Yep, it all starts with research. Which keywords are the best match for your brand and products? Obviously, you should have at least a basic idea of the type of keywords you want to target before you even begin your research. You know, those search terms related to your product or service.

But those general ideas typically aren’t enough, and that’s where research tools come in. You definitely can’t say that we PPC marketers haven’t been given plenty of tools to work with! There’s AdWords Keyword Planner, Google Correlate, Bing’s Keyword Research Tool and countless others designed to help you find the right keywords for your campaign.

Of course, seeing a large list of potentially relevant keywords can be a bit intimidating, to say the least. Thankfully, there are several factors you can use to narrow down a list of potential keywords.

First, consider the keyword’s actual relevance to your business and your target audience. Is it a keyword people would actually use to search for your product or service? Does a keyword tap into a consumer pain point?

Other nitty-gritty details are also worth your attention. Factors such as search volume, Keyword Difficulty score, and cost per click should all be carefully analyzed when selecting keywords so you can avoid choosing a dud.

Step Two: Use Conversion Tracking

Selecting keywords is a great first step, but it’s not enough. After all, you’ll never know if a particular keyword is driving conversions or not if you don’t track it! Incredibly, however, a huge portion of businesses never bother with conversion tracking.

This is a killer mistake, and one of the leading culprits behind PPC ad waste.

Sure, conversion tracking is a lot of work. There are a lot of actions that could qualify as a conversion—be it an online purchase, a signup for your email newsletter, or the download of a free app. You’ll have to decide for yourself which conversion metrics matter most for your PPC campaign. But you’re not on your own.

Google AdWords provides tools for you to set goals and track conversions (as do Bing, Yahoo, and other platforms). These tools make it easy to understand if clicks from a particular keyword set are leading to the engagements that matter most for your business.

You absolutely must use these resources. If you aren’t tracking the connection between your keywords and meaningful conversion metrics, you’ll never know which keywords are actually worth bidding on.

Step Three: Eliminate Losers; Pick Your Winners

To truly understand which keywords are working (and which ones aren’t), it’s generally recommended that you let your campaign run for about 2 to 3 months. During this time, make sure that your PPC ads and landing pages are at their absolute best—after all, even the most relevant keywords won’t be much good when paired with low-quality ad content.

Once your test period is ended, it’s time to dive into the data and eliminate the keywords that aren’t driving conversions—and AdWords makes this easy.

When you dive into your campaign overview, click on “Search Terms” underneath your Keywords tab. This brings up a menu where you can filter your keywords by several factors—including the number of conversions that a keyword has contributed to during your the time frame you established for your campaign.

One of the easiest ways to identify your useless keywords is to filter your search parameters so that you can see which keywords haven’t delivered any conversions during the last two to three months. Alternatively, you might want to see which keywords yield a conversion rate of less than two percent. This is where your money is going to waste.

It’s usually in your best interests to eliminate these keywords altogether—after all, they’re taking up a big chunk of your budget while not delivering any conversions in return. But it’s also worth your effort to dive a little deeper to find the why behind your conversion issues.

Are there any similarities between these underperforming keywords? Do you need to start implementing negative keywords to avoid appearing in irrelevant search results? Or maybe the keywords that aren’t yielding any conversions all direct to the same landing page—in which case, you might have another problem on your hands.

As you dig deep while eliminating money-wasting keywords, you’ll be able to identify which changes you need to make to your campaign so that you only use the most effective PPC marketing techniques.


We’ve always preached that you can never take a “set it and forget it” approach to AdWords, and it’s shocking to see how many businesses still think they can get away with this and score impressive conversion rates through their PPC campaigns.

Don’t be like them. Sure, it takes more work to do proper research and to track conversions, but when you take these crucial steps, you’ll be able to fine-tune your campaigns and ensure that your PPC budget never goes to waste.

As you continually refine your paid search efforts, you’ll be able to focus on the right keywords and achieve better conversion rates than ever before—and isn’t that what you really want in the first place?

Leave a Reply