Paid search strategy 101

Over the past few weeks we’ve laid a good foundation for an effective Internet marketing strategy. We’ve discussed the basic elements for search engine marketing including page optimization, best practices for metadata and how to quickly get traffic to your site through paid search marketing (pay per click, or PPC). Today we’re going to talk about how to go about forming that perfect list of keywords for both your website and your PPC campaigns to make sure you’re getting the type of traffic you need and not wasting advertising dollars on traffic that will never convert to dollars.

After you’ve built your PPC ads it’s time to select the search terms you want your ads to be displayed next to. Effective keyword research is essential to ensure your PPC campaigns will be a success. There are a few key points to keep in mind when conducting your research and several ways to determine what your best keywords.


Have a clear idea of what your goals are and what you want to achieve. Do you want to generate leads for kitchen and bath remodeling work for homeowners in a given area or are you targeting landscaping work commercial locations?


Whatever goals you’ve set for your campaign make sure your keywords (and ad copy) reflect those goals. Keep keyword choices on topic for each ad groups’ goal. Resist the temptation to try to be found for every type of service or product you offer with a single ad and a huge list of keywords. If the overarching goal for your PPC campaign is to increase leads for all types of service jobs then create ads targeted for each individual type of service and use keywords only relevant to that specific service ad group. The same goes for campaigns designed to drive product sales – bust up your campaigns and ad groups into tightly targeted themes with 10-20 thematically worded keywords per ad group.

Think Like a Lead

This step goes hand in hand with targeting goals for your PPC campaign as well as their relevance. Here, it’s important that you use keywords and phrases that your ideal prospect would most likely use to search for the product or service their needing. Avoid technical jargon or industry lingo used to describe what you do unless that would be the most popular way a potential client might search. If the goal of your ad campaign is to attract leads more in tune with the industry-speak associated with what you’re offering you may consider running a separate ad campaign using those specific search phrases as your keywords

Get Specific

Make sure keywords are worth the effort. Too little volume for your chosen keywords will make a campaign seem ineffective, when it’s actually the keyword choices that have limited the campaign’s success. You want to narrow your keyword focus enough to make sure you’re only attracting the right type of visitor to your site, but an ad that has a keyword list full of search terms that absolutely no one is searching for will bring you absolutely no traffic or sales!

Get Negative 

All PPC services I’ve dealt with have allow you to supply a list of negative keywords to help filter out traffic that you don’t want coming to your site. For example, if your company sells commercial refrigeration cooler gaskets and has several ad campaigns targeting different variations of that keyword it’s possible that your ads could show for search terms like “chevy 350 head gasket” or “water hose gasket.” Unfortunately gaskets are not specific just to just the commercial refrigeration industry. There are several different types gaskets available for a wide variety of products across a number of unrelated industries. Since the name of the game for paid search is relevance, it doesn’t make sense to try to purchase traffic that’s not relevant to the products or services I’m trying to promote. Also, I don’t want to run the risk of depleting my ad budget on clicks from Googlers searching for “oil filter gaskets,” or “refrigeration compressor motors.” Neither of these search terms match my campaign’s goals nor match up with any of my target audiences, so they’re in my negative keyword list to prevent my ads from showing for these types of searches. This is a great way to further refine the focus of the keywords you do want to target.

Check Competitors 

Constantly seeing your competition’s ads show but not yours? Use a tool like SEM Rush ( or SpyFu ( to get a better understanding of what keywords they’re using and possibly uncover some gold nuggets you hadn’t considered!

Still need some help picking out keywords? Luckily there are some great tools available to help make suggestions for you. Google has their own keyword suggestion tool in AdWords to help jumpstart your brainstorming process: ( Keep in mind though when using this or any other keyword research tool – no one knows your prospects, advertising goals or market like you do and it’s going to take your expertise to put together the most effective keyword list to ensure your PPC campaigns are a success!


Chris Hood

Chris Hood is an internet marketer with more than 15 years experience in email, organic and paid search marketing for e-commerce businesses. Chris spends most of his downtime riding bikes, tinkering with Raspberry Pis and updating this website. Say hey to Chris sometime.

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