Even people with only a rudimentary knowledge of PPC campaigns understand that choosing the right keywords is essential for success. But how can you know which keywords are the best fit for your campaign?

The simple truth of the matter is that even if you’ve done perfect research for every other element of your marketing, if your company bids on the wrong keywords, your campaign is toast.

So how can you pinpoint the perfect keywords for your next campaign? The following tips are essential for getting the best return on your PPC investment.

Google Keyword Planner

For most marketers, the Google Keyword Planner is the main hub for generating keyword ideas and finding the best opportunities for your brand. On its surface, Google Keyword Planner is remarkably easy to use. Simply by entering words or phrases related to your business, the Keyword Planner serves up a huge list of relevant search terms, alongside essential data points such as competition level and monthly search volume.

However, you shouldn’t be content to accept this list at face value. While Google Keyword Planner provides a great list of relevant keywords, many marketers have found that certain terms are often omitted from these results—including terms with the potential for high traffic.

So how do you get around this obstacle to find these “hidden” high-value keywords and phrases? Moz suggests: “When searching in AdWords, start broad, and then enter narrower queries and note the new phrases that come up. Make sure to use exact match, and be diligent in testing variations.” Those with an adequate budget could also start by buying broad search terms and then using these to discover other relevant phrases through their analytics.

Search Intent

Another important element of keyword selection is aligning your PPC campaign with your business goals and consumer search intent. As Jordan Kasteler explains, there are four main categories of search intent: Informational, navigational, commercial investigation and transactional. You can create PPC campaigns and landing pages that aid consumers with each of these tasks, though developing appropriate content is essential for a successful outcome.

For example, while including words like “buy” or “for sale” in keyword phrases can help you reach transactional searchers, this won’t be very effective at reaching those who are just starting to research your product or service. You’d need to use different keyword phrases (like “benefits” or “pros and cons”) and adjust your landing page content accordingly to give searchers a useful and relevant result.

Ultimately, aligning your PPC keywords with user search intent will help guide potential customers through the buyer’s journey. By adapting your keyword buys for customers in different stages of this process, you’ll be in a better position to guide them towards a purchase.

Keyword Value Criteria

High-volume keywords may seem like the best option for any PPC campaign, but if you’re not careful, you could find yourself quickly burning through your marketing budget. There are several other important factors to consider when evaluating the costs and benefits of a particular keyword.

Among the most important data points to consider are AdWords competition levels and suggested bids. These two data points tend to be directly related to each other, and have a significant influence on your ability to manage your budget.

It makes sense, really. The more competitive a keyword is, the higher you’ll need to bid for your ad to rank highly. Unfortunately, that higher cost per click can eat up your marketing budget in no time if you’re not careful.

Rather than make selections based off search volume alone, combine this information with the competition rate and suggested bid to determine which keywords offer the best value for your budget. By finding an appropriate balance between these metrics, you can find effective keywords at a better cost.

Match Types

The previously mentioned steps can go a long way in helping you determine the best keywords for your PPC campaign, but if you fail to select the appropriate match type, you could expose yourself to irrelevant searches or miss out on some consumers altogether.

Match types range from broad match, which will display your ad for your targeted keyword as well as similar terms and variations (including misspellings), to an exact match, which only shows your ad to searches that perfectly match your keywords.

Each match type offers its own advantages and disadvantages. While broad matches can generate a high search volume, this can often result in your content being displayed to less-relevant searchers. On the other hand, an exact search would target a highly relevant group, but it could also greatly limit your reach.

In general, most marketers recommend phrase matching or modified broad matching, which helps reduce the likelihood of appearing in irrelevant search results while still reaching a larger audience. However, the option that best meets the goals of your PPC campaign will likely vary depending on the keywords you use. Some experimentation might be necessary to achieve the right balance.

Negative Keywords

While finding the right keywords is important, it is just as essential that you ensure that your bids don’t accidentally show up in irrelevant searches and waste your budget. While this isn’t as much of a problem when you use an exact match type, it can become a real problem for almost any other option.

For example, using phrase matching for the term “wedding dresses” will match for any search where the query includes the phrase “wedding dresses.” Your ad could just as easily pop up in a search for “designer wedding dresses” as “red wedding dresses” or “cheap wedding dresses.”

Chances are, your hypothetical wedding dress company doesn’t offer all three of these styles. And you don’t want to display your designer dresses to someone looking for a budget option. Selecting negative keywords tightens your targeting by allowing you to keep your ads from appearing when a searcher includes certain terms.

By selecting search terms where your ads won’t appear, your targeted keywords will be more effective, allowing you to reach the right audiences and maintain control of your PPC budget.


Pinpointing the perfect keywords for a PPC campaign isn’t always easy. In fact, more often than not, it requires a fair bit of trial and error. Even after you’ve found keywords that seem to match your criteria, you’ll need to continually monitor your PPC campaign and make adjustments when necessary to ensure that it delivers the results that will help your company grow.

By prioritizing keyword research and continuing to monitor your results, you’ll be able to make the most of your PPC efforts.

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