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How to Select Keywords for Pay-Per-Click Campaigns

By: Guest | August 20, 2012 | 
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Today’s guest post is written by Brent Carnduff.

Search engine marketing (a.k.a. pay-per-click or PPC advertising) is an often-ignored element in small business Internet marketing.

When asked, small business owners typically give one of two reasons for not using PPC advertising: They have already tried it, lost money, and given up on it or they have considered trying it, think they will lose money, and have decided against it.

Despite the fact search engine marketing is easy to use, and simple in concept, the old poker expression “it takes only a minute to learn, but a lifetime to master” could just as easily be applied to SEM.

Recent data indicates, while organic search results normally receive 75 to 85 percent of all clicks during the critical “high commercial intent” searches – those searches used when consumers are READY TO BUY –  searchers actually click on pay-per-click ads 64.6 percent of the time!

Getting Started

Although many factors influence the success or failure of an AdWords campaign, keyword selection is often where the problem begins in many self-managed campaigns.

For example, if you wanted to start an AdWords campaign advertising  “search engine marketing services,” you might come up with an initial list like this one:

  • Search engine marketing
  • SEM
  • Pay-per-click advertising
  • PPC advertising
  • PPC
  • Google AdWords
  • AdWords advertising

Is this a good list? As an initial list to feed into a keyword research tool, it would be a good start. However, as a list of keywords for an AdWords campaign, it would lose money. These keywords are much too broad. None of them will be included in the final list of keywords.

Less is More

When selecting keywords for PPC campaigns, the goal is to select keywords that LIMIT your traffic!

As counter-intuitive as it sounds, you want to limit clicks – the clicks that you have to pay for – to the few keywords that are most likely to convert for your goal.

Analyze Your Keywords

The best way to do this is to put yourself in the shoes of the searcher. Ask yourself, “What is this person likely to be looking for? Are they deep in the sales cycle, or are they at the top?”

You’ll filter your keywords dependent on your budget and how aggressive you want to be. Because most small businesses are generally on a tight budget, I always recommend to start on the conservative side. You can grow your keyword list later on.

Look at Context

Ask yourself what the searcher is looking for when entering a phrase such as “PPC Advertising.” It may be to look for a marketing agency to manage a SEM campaign, or it may be trying to find out what PPC advertising is, looking for a new career, trying to learn how to do PPC advertising, or simply logging into a Google AdWords account.

This term is too broad so eliminate it and all others that are too general.

The term “search engine marketing” is often misunderstood and therefore misused. For that reason, remove it from your initial list. You can always add it back in and test later. Phrases mentioning both SEO and SEM also represent doubt as to what the searcher wants, so eliminate those from the list too.

The more specific you can be, the better.

Research has shown plural searches (i.e. SEM companies) often represent someone who is not as ready to buy as a singular search phrase (i.e. SEM company), so avoid plural keyword phrases if your goal is to attract people who are ready to buy.

Think about phrases that identify the service plus:

  1. A word indicating “company” (i.e. SEM firm, PPC agency, pay-per-click company); or
  2. A variation of manage, manager, management (i.e. SEM manager, manage PPC, pay-per-click management). A phrase such as “AdWords manager” may actually refer to a software program so you’ll want to keep that in mind.

The best keyword phrases combine both elements, such as “PPC management company,” but these are very expensive.

Once you decide the best phrases, you can go back to the keyword tool and dig deeper to find out about competition and price.

SEM offers many benefits. It gives you the opportunity to quickly appear on or near the top of page one for your targeted search terms, it puts you in front of the buyer when they are ready to buy, and it can be monitored, evaluated, and refined, quickly and easily.

Try and be as specific as possible in your keyword selection and put yourself in the shoes of searchers.

Remember, if you want to make money using AdWords, LESS IS MORE when it comes to your keyword selection.

What is your experience with PPC?

Brent Carnduff is the founder and president of Echelon Business Solutions and Echelon SEO. He is also the author of the Inbound Marketing Insider blog, and the Break Away Marketing blog. You can connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn , or his new favorite, Google+.

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21 Comments on "How to Select Keywords for Pay-Per-Click Campaigns"

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Lisa Gerber
3 years 9 months ago

Hey Brent, Thanks so much for this! It helps a ton – one question we get a lot is… how do you balance the competition level and the “number of monthly searches?” I know you don’t want to go for high competition…

Brent@Echelonseo.com
3 years 9 months ago
 @Lisa Gerber My pleasure Lisa – thanks for allowing me to contribute to the great community that surrounds SpinSucks! This is a great question, and the answer is a different depending on whether you are selecting keywords for SEO or SEM (PPC).   For SEO, if we are limited in the number of keywords that we are focusing on, and the amount of content that will be produced, I usually think in terms of a competitive value of:   0-50  will be fairly easy to rank for 50-65 moderately challenging 65-80 Challenging 80-100 Very difficult   Then you have to… Read more »
magriebler
magriebler
3 years 9 months ago
Hi Brent! Thanks for the research about consumers preferring PPC ads over organic results when they’re ready to pull the trigger. Intriguing! I’m going to read more. And your tips on narrowing keyword selection are absolutely on target. This is one time when you really don’t need a big net to catch more fish.   I’ve learned that for the most consistent user experience (which increases the probability of conversion), it’s critical to design custom landing pages to support your PPC ads. And the content has to include the keywords you just invested in. Sounds obvious, but I’m surprised how… Read more »
Brent@Echelonseo.com
3 years 9 months ago

 @magriebler Thanks for reading Marianne! I completely agree – custom landing pages and split testing are other important, and often “money saving” elements in PPC advertising. Split testing is relatively easy for PPC and can have a huge impact on results!

FelicityFields
FelicityFields
3 years 9 months ago

@ginidietrich Thanks for sharing the pay per click article. Venturing forth into that realm for a client this week!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
3 years 9 months ago

@FelicityFields it’s a good one, too. I hope it helps.

lisagerber
lisagerber
3 years 9 months ago

@brentcarnduff We love having you! Thanks for the very technical post. These are things we need to know!

BrentCarnduff
BrentCarnduff
3 years 9 months ago

@JavierArronis @SpinSucks Thank you Javier – much appreciated!

JavierArronis
JavierArronis
3 years 9 months ago

@BrentCarnduff @spinsucks You’re very welcome, Brent!

mariawilliams672
3 years 9 months ago

thanks a lot for this post… this has seemed to be of a great help to me

HughAnderson
3 years 9 months ago

Thanks, Brent, perfect timing as I’m just helping a client who is trying to identify their relevant keywords, not for PPC, but for defining and finding where their target audience resides on the internet. Another application to consider for keyword research in addition to PPC and SEO. I’ll point them in this direction.

Brent@Echelonseo.com
3 years 9 months ago

 @HughAnderson Your welcome Hugh! Thanks for the note – glad to hear it was helpful! Keywords are so important to all aspects of online marketing – really the foundation of everything that follows. Good luck with your project!

BrentCarnduff
BrentCarnduff
3 years 9 months ago

@ForthMetrics Thanks for the mention Forth Metrics!

BrentCarnduff
BrentCarnduff
3 years 9 months ago

@shonali Thanks Shonali!

jannatorres12
jannatorres12
3 years 3 months ago

Hi Brent, Thanks you so much for taking time to discuss it here. This will help me a lot as I got a hard time in selecting the best keyword for my PPC campaign. Good Job!

trackback

[…] Google keyword tool estimates search levels at approximately 2,400 per month. Can you guess how many clients they get from this in a year? A handful at best, because it takes a long time (and more than 12 visits) for a contractor to sign an accountant. The conversion funnel is huge as a result. […]

Williams Brown
Williams Brown
2 years 6 months ago

Selection
of the keywords play an integral part and the points that you have discussed
for choosing the right keywords for pay per click campaign are simply
significant and to the interest of the person. 
PPC companies Arizona
http://www.xavagemarketing.com/services/pay-per-click/

andrewssofie
andrewssofie
2 years 2 months ago
I’ve spoken with a lot of PPC companies, but the most important thing that you can actually do to your marketing campaign is landing pages. Try out this company results driven, call them at 256-398-3835. They are by far the best marketing company to go with since they not only create solid ppc campaigns for you, but they also do landing pages, CRO and remarketing which are all 100% necessary elements of a successful online marketing campaign. Most companies sell you 1 single thing such as CRO, or just PPC, or just popups, etc. This is completely ludicrous because while… Read more »
ronmartin05
ronmartin05
2 years 2 months ago
Keyword relevancy is one of the keys to success with Google AdWords. While it may be tempting to include all sorts of keywords you can get your hands on, be aware that this is often the #1 mistake advertisers make when creating their first campaign. You only want prospects who “Need You Now” and are going to be motivated to contact your company, or purchase your services if they click your ad. People bid on the wrong keywords all the time and it hurts them big time. My company was losing an average of $0.67 per click until Simon over… Read more »
JamesSimon1
JamesSimon1
1 year 1 month ago

Pay-per-click is something I don’t know a whole lot about. I’ve been doing research. I know that the keywords that you choose are crucial to whether or not you’re going to have success. What other factors are there? Does design play a very big role, or is it overstated?
http://www.kcmedia.com/service/pay-per-click/

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