There’s hardly a time in a PPC campaign’s lifecycle that you wouldn’t need new PPC keyword ideas.
Whether you’re just starting out or have been fishing in the PPC waters for years, there’s always room for additional keyword research.
If you’re just starting out, it’s pretty simple: you need the keywords for laying out the foundation of your campaigns.
Even if you’re getting a 1000% ROI out of your PPC campaigns (oh the promised land...), there are a few good reasons to do additional PPC keyword research:
- As you add negative keywords over time, your account will spread too thin, leaving you with a budget surplus and fewer conversions.
- There might be some (PPC) life changing opportunities waiting to be discovered, like revealing your competitor’s sweetest keywords and stealing away their conversions.
The logic is simple:
Just kidding. Not all search intents match your offer, meaning they won’t necessarily result in any purchases.
Finding the PPC keywords that attract the right audience that lead to conversions is one of the biggest factors of your PPC success.
That’s exactly why you need to be on a constant lookout for new keywords. And that’s exactly what this article’s set to accomplish: to help you do better PPC keyword research and discover new keyword goldmines.
Below, the first eight tactics are a must-have, but go through all the 23 to max out on new findings.
- 1. Reveal Hidden Gems with AdWords Search Terms
- 2. Build Your Own Broad Match Keyword Mines
- 3. Up Your Game with Dynamic Search Ads
- 4. Set the Base by Using Your Brain
- 5. Get Thousands of Keyword Ideas with Google Keyword Planner
- 6. Multiply Your Keyword Lists
- 7. Step into the SEO Research Land
- 8. Spy on your Competitors’ PPC Keywords
- 9. Observe Your Competitors’ Landing Pages
- 10. Scan Your Competitors’ Blog Content
- 11. Don’t Forget Your Own Blog Content & Landing Pages
- 12. Use Buzzsumo to Uncover Brilliant Ideas
- 13. When in Doubt, Google
- 14. Use I Search From
- 15. Get Cool Ideas with AnswerThePublic
- 16. Flip Through Product Catalogs
- 17. Read Forums and News
- 18. Find Hot Topics on Reddit
- 19. Discover Long-Tail Keywords with Quora
- 20. Get Smart Insights with Wikipedia
- 21. Spy on… Your Own Salespeople
- 22. Play Around with Your Keywords
- 23. Look for Synonyms
- Your Turn to Give It a Try
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1. Reveal Hidden Gems with AdWords Search Terms
Quick note: If your AdWords spend is zero, move on to point 2.
The reason we wanted to start with this particular method is because AdWords accounts are a disregarded fortune.
By checking your ads’ search terms, not only will you discover new keyword opportunities but also, additional negative keywords.
Log in to your AdWords account and select a campaign or ad group that contains either broad match or phrase match keywords.
Select “Search terms” to see the search terms that have triggered ad impressions.
If your ads have run for a while, you should get a long list of different search terms googled by various people.
When you notice a great keyword, you can either copy-paste it to a spreadsheet you’ve created for this research, or select the keywords and click on “Add as keyword” to add the keywords to AdWords.
Note the difference: If you select “Add as keyword”, the keywords will be added to the same ad group. However, it’s generally a better idea to create new SKAGs (single keyword ad groups) with high-potential keywords.
Using SKAGs instead of ad groups overloaded with tens of Broad Match keywords gives you more control over your AdWords account. Avoid the Iceberg Effect where the keywords you’re bidding on are not the end result of what you’re paying for.
2. Build Your Own Broad Match Keyword Mines
Even if you’re a die-hard fan on SKAGs, Broad match keyword campaigns do have their time and place.
Broad match campaigns can serve as valuable PPC keyword mines.
Set up a campaign with a small budget and target a few Broad match keywords. You can use either Broad match or Broad match modified keywords. Let me explain:
Broad match – Your ads may show on searches that include misspellings, synonyms, related searches, and other relevant variations. E.g. if you bet on keyword coffee, your ad will also show when someone searches for double latte.
Broad match modifier – Your ads may show on searches that contain the modified term (or close variations, but not synonyms), in any order. E.g. if you bet on keyword online + coffee + store, your ad shows when someone searches for best coffee stores online.
After your campaign’s run for a while, you can dive into the Search term report and start mining golden keyword ideas.
For example, a campaign with the Broad match keyword file for bankruptcy has been delivered as an answer to many different searches.
As you discover new keywords, add these as new SKAGs or insert these to an existing campaign.
While all these Broad match search terms aren’t the best place to spend your entire ad budget, they lend a helping hand when in need of new PPC keywords.
When dealing with a large AdWords account with hundreds of ad groups, look for keywords with a high number of conversions and a low CPA (cost per acquisition). Normally, it’s an indication that people’s search intent matches well with your value proposition.
3. Up Your Game with Dynamic Search Ads
Dynamic Search Ads aren’t as popular as other PPC campaign types. That’s a shame because the DSA are the perfect tactic for filling in the gaps in keyword-targeting campaigns.
Dynamic Search Ads use Google’s organic web-crawling technology to automatically target relevant search queries based on your website content.
How the DSAs work: When Google finds new searches that are a match for your Dynamic Ad target URLs, it generates the ad headline and landing page URL with a dynamically inserted keyword. The ad will link to the most relevant page on your website.
Now Dynamic Search Ads can be a wildcard as you never know exactly what Google will come up with.
But when looking for new PPC keyword ideas for your AdWords and Bing Ads campaigns, DSAs work similarly to the Broad match keyword mining campaigns explained in the previous point.
When creating a DSA campaign, you’ll have three targeting options to choose from:
- All webpages – Google’s index of your website determines relevant user searches and generates your ad.
- Specific pages – Run a DSA campaign based on a site category (like, “coffee”), or specific webpages that contain specific words or strings.
- Page feed – Use a spreadsheet of URLs for highly focused targeting. You can target your entire feed or parts of it.
Hint: Dynamic Search Ads can have longer headlines than other search ads, which improves their visibility.
When looking at your Dynamic Search Ads reports, you’ll be able to see the ad and landing page combinations used by Google. If Google thinks your landing page is a good match for a specific search term, this may appoint to your next superstar PPC keyword.
4. Set the Base by Using Your Brain
While keyword and PPC research tools are simply amazing in terms of features and usability, there’s an even more powerful force for discovering PPC keywords: your mind.
You’re familiar with your company’s unique value proposition (UVP) and know which words are used in your industry jargon.
Before you fire a keyword planner tool, write down some of the most obvious keywords that describe your product. You’ll need a starting point to use various SEO and keyword tools.
Later on, you can explore each of these words in depth, and turn one keyword into hundreds.
A brief 5-minute brainstorming session will leave you with plenty of material for further investigation.
Also, write down the names of your top 10-20 competitors along with their domains as you’re going to need this information in the next phase.
5. Get Thousands of Keyword Ideas with Google Keyword Planner
Google Keyword Planner is the most popular and well-known tool for PPC keyword research. And it’s free. (All you need is an AdWords account, which you’ll have to create anyway for PPC advertising.)
Log into your Google Adwords account. Click on “Tools” from the toolbar and choose “Keyword Planner.”
You’ll be presented with three different options:
- Search for new keywords using a phrase, website or category
- Get search volume data and trends
- Multiply keyword lists to get new keywords
Start with the first option: insert a phrase, website or category to get keyword suggestions.
It’s super important that you enter relevant information into the Keyword Planner, so you’ll get the most out of the Keyword Planner.
Your product or service – This is the place to enter your KEY words that you gathered in the brainstorming phase (see point 2 of this article). Avoid entering keywords that are too vague such as “cats” or “cars.” Be more specific (e.g. “organic cat food” or “used cars reseller” and enter 1-5 keywords).
Your landing page – If you have created a targeted landing page for your PPC campaign (and you should), enter the link here.
Your product category – Play around with the wide set of options (you might discover additional keyword ideas) and select the industry that describes you best. This allows you to benefit from Google’s internal database of different industry keywords.
Targeting – The targeting options are automatically set to English-speaking people in the US searching in Google.
If that’s your target audience or your real target audience is too small (less than million people), you can use this automatic option.
Negative keywords – Add negative keywords to “clean up” your Keyword Planner search results and get more useful ideas (e.g. exclude the word “free” when your goal is to sell the product).
You can also reduce the number of irrelevant results by customizing your search with keyword filters and other helpful options.
Keyword filters – Filter out keywords that don’t fit your criteria. Be careful not to restrict your search results too much. When searching for high-volume keywords, you can exclude keywords with fewer than X monthly searches.
Keyword options – This box tells Google how broad you want your results to be. If the goal of your PPC keyword research is to uncover the maximum number of new ideas, leave it as it is.
Keywords to Include – You can ask Google to always include certain keywords in the results. For example, if you just launched a new caramel mocha, you could ask Google to only show the results including words “caramel mocha.” You can also insert a longer list of keywords here.
Once you’ve completed the setup, click on “Get Ideas” and check out the Keywords Results Page.
You can also click on “Ad group ideas” to see the keyword bundles suggested by Google.
In addition to inserting words to the search box, you can also give Google some links to find related keywords.
Pinterest search results – Use the URL from a Pinterest search result as your landing page search criteria. Google will crawl the Pinterest results to deliver you new keyword ideas.
Reddit URLs – Feed Google sub-reddit URLs to get detailed ideas.
Wikipedia URLs – Find for your product/service/offer in Wikipedia and use the URL to get even more ideas, e.g. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coffee.
When looking at Google’s suggested PPC keywords, keep your eye on the average monthly search rate. There’s no point in creating a SKAG for a keyword with less than 10 monthly searches.
By now, you should have plenty of new keywords to add to your AdWords account.
Most people would stop their keyword research here and head to AdWords to set up new campaigns. But you don’t want to be like most people. You’ll want to be the top 1%, getting all the sweetest deals.
6. Multiply Your Keyword Lists
Google Keyword Planner isn’t limited to general keyword suggestions.
There’s another powerhouse feature with the ability to turn your keyword lists into thousands of new keywords.
The keyword multiplier tool is especially beneficial for ecommerce keyword research as it helps to identify almost every possible combination that people might use when searching for your products.
If you’ve never tried the keyword multiplier tool before, take it for a test drive.
First, enter a list of keywords into “List 1,” then add the “List 2” and click on the “X” to add even more lists. The more lists and keywords you add, the more combinations you’ll get.
After you’re done, click on “Get search volume” and see what keywords Google comes up with.
Mostly, you’ll get tons of boring results, but occasionally there’s a real ? among these.
7. Step into the SEO Research Land
In many respects, the research needed for SEO is very similar to AdWords keywords search.
In both cases, you’re looking for golden keyword opportunities to drive more potential customers to your website.
These similarities also turn SEO tools into a rich treasure chest for PPC marketers.
There are tens of SEO tools that you can use, and maybe your marketing team’s already using some of these. To find more, see Backlinko’s list of 184 free and paid SEO tools and filter out “Keyword Research” tools.
Let’s use Moz’s Keyword Explorer tool as an example. (It’s a paid tool, but you can get a 30-day free trial and use it for your PPC keyword research).
First, you’ll need to enter a keyword. If you’re looking to target a particular location, select it from the menu.
You’ll get a keyword report looking like this:
Click on “Keyword Suggestions” to see other related ideas. You’ll see a huge list of potential keywords that you can filter by relevancy or monthly search volume, or export as a CSV file.
If needed, narrow down (or vice versa, expand) your search results by selecting one of the following options:
You could spend hours in SEO keyword tools as every search result can be turned into another search term in a single click.
Your keyword list’s getting packed with ideas. So why not peek into what your competition’s up to?
8. Spy on your Competitors’ PPC Keywords
PPC spy tools give you insight into what’s working for other companies in your industry.
Yet you should take it with a grain of salt as what works for them, might not work for you. They could have a single ad group cannibalizing all others, or maybe they have 10x bigger budgets than you do.
Use the PPC spy tools as a gateway to finding brand new channels, offers, and other gold mines that you’ve never considered before.
Uncover your competitor’s keywords with tools like SpyFu or SEMrush.
SpyFu’s competitor Kombat Venn diagram is one of my favorites. You can enter multiple competitor domains and your own domain to see which keywords a competitor is bidding on that you’re missing.
If you happen to know which competitors have legendary PPC agencies or enviable in-house teams working for them, the sweeter the insights.
If you’ve been dreaming of getting the black belt in PPC spying? Here’s your guide: 17 PPC Spy Tools That’ll Crush Your Competition
9. Observe Your Competitors’ Landing Pages
Browsing on competing brands’ websites and trying to uncover all their landing pages takes tens of hours. That’s not the smartest way to spend your time.
With a little help from iSpionage’s landing page spy feature tool and the like, you can get the work done in 10x less time.
Give iSpionage the PPC keywords and competitor domains you want to look up, and the tool will give you a selection of their past and current landing pages.
You can even discover all the A/B tests running on competing landing pages. Or set up an alert to be notified each time there’s a change on your competitor’s landing page. Maybe they’re testing new keywords or website copy? You’ll be the first to know.
When doing PPC keyword research, explore how competitors describe their products or services – what words and value propositions do they use?
10. Scan Your Competitors’ Blog Content
After completing the first eight points, you should have hundreds if not thousands of keyword ideas. These are the most obvious search terms to add to your AdWords campaigns.
If you want to uncover exotic raw diamond keywords with competitor keyword research, take it to the next level. Reveal their most-read blog topics along with new keywords.
You can either browse your competitor’s blog headlines or open the articles and use Command+f to gather specific keyword ideas.
Take note of the words your competitors use to describe a specific product or service.
Keep a notepad close to write down all the ideas. You can later return to Google’s Keyword Planner to expand on each of these ideas.
11. Don’t Forget Your Own Blog Content & Landing Pages
While you were floating in the pink PPC clouds…
... your content marketing team was down to earth thinking about what your customers might need.
If you’re not into reading long blog articles, just ask your content and SEO teams for their keyword lists. These lists are often based on in-depth research and tons of customer research. It’s a potential goldmine.
There are two ways to use content and SEO keywords for PPC:
- Use these as an inspiration to add new keyword ideas to existing campaigns.
- Create new low-threat PPC campaigns to drive people to your blog content instead of asking them to buy something right away.
12. Use Buzzsumo to Uncover Brilliant Ideas
Your AdWords or Bing Ads research doesn’t have to be limited to your brand and the competition. What about including the entire world?
With a tool like Buzzsumo, you can find the world’s most-shared content across all social media channels and various domains.
Once you’re ready, click on “Search” and see the most popular results.
Be aware of the difference between commercial keywords and content-driven keywords. The latter is great for blog content but might have a wrong search intent for your PPC campaigns.
For example, if you’re an online coffee beans retailer, you’re interested in keywords like:
- Guatemalan coffee beans
- Online coffee beans sale
- Best online coffee shops
Unless you’re planning to create low-threat PPC campaigns that lead people to helpful content, avoid keywords with a search intent that doesn’t match your PPC offer:
- How to brew a good cup of coffee
- Free coffee guide
- List of coffee types
You can also use Buzzsumo to uncover your competitors’ best-performing blog content. Just type in their domain to get the results.
Buzzsumo’s a paid tool, but you can get some free limited searches each day. Play around with the content filters (date, type of content) and social channels to get additional insights.
13. When in Doubt, Google
Once in awhile, you’ll run into a high search volume keyword that looks like an undiscovered treasure. Yet no competitors seem to bet on it in AdWords.
There are two options:
- Either the search intent of people searching for this keyword doesn’t match with your value offer, or...
- You’ve just found a pearl in the middle of the keyword ocean.
Let’s say you found out that the keyword “online coffee” has 2k monthly searches in the US. However, none of your US competitors seem to bet on this PPC keyword.
Just like you’d do a background check on every perfect stranger introducing themselves on the street, you should also double check high search volume keywords by looking them up with Google Instant Search.
You may find that this keyword is mainly used by people looking for online coffee guides, not coffee stores. Or you could have just uncovered a PPC new keyword opportunity.
In addition to the search engine results page (SERP) answers, you’ll get more potential keyword ideas by looking at Google Instant’s autocomplete suggestions.
If you use the Broad match modifier, your search terms already show with these keywords. But as you add more words to the search, you’ll discover potential longer tail keywords for SKAGs.
The reason you’ll want to find long tail keywords is that they tend to have higher CTRs – the more relevant your ad is to the search term, the better results you’ll get.
Higher CTR = more clicks = more conversions
After you’ve picked all the best keywords from the top of the SERP page, scroll down to get even more wildcard suggestions.
14. Use I Search From
Seeing you competitors’ ads in PPC spy tools is undeniably super helpful when brainstorming new keyword ideas.
However, the person searching for a keyword on Google doesn’t see a single ad – they see up to four ads followed by organically ranking content.
People don’t decide to click on a particular ad based solely on its text. First, they compare it to other ads and only then will they select the most promising one. An eye tracking study conducted by Mediative showed that people explore multiple search results before making their selection.
To come up with magnetic keyword ideas (and ad copy) that drive buyers to your landing page, see how the SERP page looks to your target audience.
As you’re not always located in the same country as your buyers, use a marketing tool like I Search From. Here, you can enter the location, language, and device of the person potentially searching for your keyword.
As you click “Search,” you’ll see a SERP page just like a potential buyer would see it.
What to look for:
- What products are being sold – Maybe your potential keyword is normally used to describe a totally different product/service and is irrelevant to your UVP.
- What keywords are used in the headlines – Are these exact matches to the search term?
- What value proposition are competitors using in Headline 2 – Can you offer something better?
Basically, what you want to do is ensure that when bidding on a particular keyword, you’ll be able to draw people’s attention to your ads. You’ll also want to make sure that the search intent matches the value offer on your landing page.
15. Get Cool Ideas with AnswerThePublic
Out of all SEO and PPC keyword research tools, AnswerThePublic is an underdog. Mostly, people haven’t heard of it.
This tool allows you to enter a search term and select a country. In exchange, you’ll get good-looking data visualizations with hundreds of variations of the keyword.
There are charts that show you an incredible amount of questions related to your keyword:
You can also see alphabetical lists of word pairs containing your keyword:
For our “coffee” search, there was a total of 1283 results. Not a bad tool for massive keyword expansion.
16. Flip Through Product Catalogs
This one mainly applies to ecommerce sites selling a large variety of products.
When conducting a thorough PPC keyword research, don’t forget to browse through your product catalogs (or the ones on competing websites).
For example, a company selling sports shoes could check out Nike’s official website to get additional ideas of product categories (running, basketball, training shoes, etc.).
Even if you’re not selling a specific product, you can expand on your findings by using a keyword research tool.
17. Read Forums and News
Forums are like having live focus groups ready for questioning 24/7.
The easiest way to find forums visited by your target groups is to ask them. Or you could easily conduct a Google search: “keyword” + “forums.”
Once you find an interesting forum, you’ll notice that the forum is divided into sections that each signify a niche topic. That’s a potential keyword resource.
Dig deeper and read a few threads on each topic to learn which words your target audience use to describe your products or services.
18. Find Hot Topics on Reddit
You can use Reddit for similar purposes as forums – to find currently prevalent topics.
Search for your keyword and navigate to a relevant subreddit to check out what people are talking about.
Look for top threads with lots of comments to find niche keyword ideas for your PPC campaigns.
Another option to get extra PPC keyword ideas is to check relevant Reddit Wiki Pages.
19. Discover Long-Tail Keywords with Quora
Long-tail keywords are highly specific and increase the likelihood of the search intent matching with your offer. There’s also a better chance that your competitors haven’t discovered all the long-tails.
Long-tail keywords also have their imperfections – the search volume might be way too low to justify creating a SKAG with this keyword.
However, a quick look into Quora’s queries can give you ideas on your target audience’s problems and interests.
Just type in a keyword to Quora to see questions related to it.
Browsing on Quora can give you tons of various insights:
- What are people talking about? What are the most popular questions with the highest number of answers?
- What solutions and products are most often suggested? Maybe you’ll find a new competitor to later spy on.
- Which words are used to describe a product or service?
Another way to hunt down long-tail keywords is to review the “Related Questions” box on the right side of the page.
It’s important to keep in mind that no matter how cool a long-tail keyword might seem, its search intent must match with your landing page offer.
20. Get Smart Insights with Wikipedia
We’re so used with Wikipedia that we look at it as a commodity, rather than a powerful PPC tool.
But if you think about it, Wikipedia’s curated by thousands of industry experts and other highly committed people.
Start by searching for a basic keyword. You’ll be taken to the Wikipedia entry for that broad topic.
Have a look at the “Contents” section of the Wikipedia page. Some of these topics are killer niche keywords that you may not have considered otherwise.
Click on the next keyword or topic to go to the next Wikipedia page, with a new “Contents” section.
Easy as pie!
21. Spy on… Your Own Salespeople
Pull on your spy costume. Make sure that nobody’s looking. Wait until the sales manager leaves her table. Run for your life and steal her still opened laptop!
This will likely never work as nobody leaves their laptop unguarded these days…
But there’s another way of getting your hands on sales call recordings and email exchanges: ask the sales manager and explain why you need these.
So, why do you need all this sales history?
Reading and listening to the correspondences between your salespeople and customers will tell you many things about your target audience:
- Why are they interested in your product and what expectations do they have?
- Which words are used when describing various problems, services, and products?
It may turn out that the keywords you thought are most relevant to your product mean nothing to your clients. Maybe they have their own way of naming things, and you’ll want to find out about these words.
Another option is to get your hands on your company’s frequently asked questions. You can mine through the Q&A for more insights on popular topics, needs and pain points from your customers’ perspective.
22. Play Around with Your Keywords
Imagine you’re ordering a pizza with friends. You start by typing “pizza order near me,” but then someone adds “make sure they have parmesan and olives.”
Soon, the “pizza order near me” search has turned into “pizza order near me parmesan olives fast best.”
This happens all the time: people start by searching for a product or service and then continue to specify their search. They know that Google will understand their question, even if it’s a grammatical Frankenstein.
If your ad groups mainly target Exact match keywords, you’ll miss out on all the nonstandard searches. Entering Broad match keywords to AdWords campaigns won’t help you either as Google could then add additional words to the mix, leading to potentially irrelevant ad clicks.
If you have lots of high-volume search terms, create versions with different word order. Mix & match until you feel like you’ve covered all the possible variations.
23. Look for Synonyms
The Second Edition of the 20-volume Oxford English Dictionary contains full entries for 171,476 words in current use.
Whichever PPC keywords you already have in your list, chances are that you’ve overlooked several synonyms.
An online Thesaurus can help you turn 100 variations with a single “seed” keyword into 2,000 variations by using 20 synonyms. Power Thesaurus is a nice crowdsourced option with a sleek user interface.
Enter a broad keyword to the search and see what will come up.
If there are too many irrelevant results, you can narrow it down by choosing between “Broader” or “Narrower” options or filtering out nouns or verbs. There’s a cherry on top – you can filter the results by topics, giving you even more relevant results and additional ideas.
Your Turn to Give It a Try
It’s a good sign if you’re exhausted from a thorough PPC keyword research. It means that you put in a strong effort and came out of it with new shiny keyword gems.
Review all your results with heightened scepticism and ask: Would someone searching for this keyword combination potentially buy my product?
Let go of the awesome keywords if the search intent doesn’t match with your product offer. You should still have plenty of great material for updating your PPC campaigns.