The Ultimate Beginners Guide to PPC Keyword Research

Regardless of the type of website you have or the kind of product or service you offer, the truth is that you can't be successful without doing PPC keyword research. Like it or not, keywords are the backbone of your campaigns - the better keywords you use, the more success you will have with your digital marketing campaigns.

Using the best keywords will result in more clicks and conversions. However, finding the right keywords requires some creativity and a methodical approach. With the use of certain tools and a better understanding of what your audience wants, you can predict what words they will use when searching for answers.

PPC keyword research will help ensure your ads are seen by the right people and prevent wasted clicks, as well as divert traffic to your website. Keep reading, and we will explain how to find accurate keywords for PPC and how they work in ads.

Step by Step Guide to PPC Keyword Research

PPC keyword research is a serious task that requires you to think outside of the box. Not only that, but you will also have to take a lot of details into consideration, see what your competition is doing, and tune in the keywords you use according to your targeted audience.

Here's a quick breakdown of all steps you need to take to find the best keywords and build up your website's ranking.

Figure Out Your Niche and Industry Sector

The first thing you have to do before you can start using PPC keyword research tools is to place your business into the right niche or industry. This is a critical step because it will determine the following steps in the process. If you get it wrong, you might end up attracting the wrong type of clients that will not follow through with the actions you want.

Think about what type of products or services you offer. Do you sell bikes and bicycle parts online, or are you an owner of a small local carpentry shop? Get a piece of paper and write down all of the products and services you offer.

It doesn't have to be everything; categories and groups will do just fine.

Remember that this step may take you some time to figure out, but the more effort you put into it, the better the chances are that you'll do things right.

Analyse Your Landing Page

Once you've pinpointed your brand keywords, it's time to check the words that are already used on your landing page and other pages. Imagine that you're a customer looking to buy a certain product or service. Put yourself in your user's shoes and try to understand the offer on your landing page only based on the keywords you see. Are they clear enough? Do some words have better alternatives? Is the text good enough to get you interested?

Remember that most users prefer to get all of the information right away after visiting your landing page. Since you have a limited amount of words and information you can provide there, you must wisely choose every keyword. That's why it's always a good idea to see how your competitors do things.

With PPC keyword research tools, you can get valuable insight into which keywords are the most effective ones in your niche. That will give you a good starting point. When you add some creativity and originality, the keywords you come up with can give you a significant advantage over the competition.

Formulate A Seed Keyword List Based On Target Model

Seed keyword list

Before you can find the best keywords to use, you need to formulate a seed keyword list. That's the initial list of keywords you think will work well. You should also include the target model in the research. It will allow you to organise generic keywords based on their popularity and level of interest.

Keep in mind that this is just a starting point, meaning that you will have to eliminate some keywords from the list and change others until you're left with only the ones that will provide the best results.

The original target model will help you select the right keywords, as it will lead you to a list of terms that are most relevant for people looking for similar products and services found in your offer.

The target model has six different categories. Each of them is ranked according to their effectiveness when it comes to converting potential customers:

  • Brand terms
  • Product terms
  • Competitor terms
  • Substitute product terms
  • Complementary product terms
  • Audience terms

Now, let's take a closer look at each category and explain why they are important for your keyword bid optimisation.

Brand Terms

Brand terms are keywords that relate directly to your brand. These keywords are used by people who already know about your brand, so instead of using general keywords, they use specific keywords tied to your brand. As expected, these keywords have the best conversion rate since a specified search used by people who already know about your brand. Competitors can also bid on your brand keywords, so make sure you optimise each keyword the best you can.

When someone uses brand terms in their search, they are most likely to make a conversion, even if those keywords don't have the highest search or traffic volume. Most people who look for your brand do so with the intent of making a purchase.

Let's say that you sell branded bicycle wheels. When someone types in your brand name bicycle wheels, they will get a list of ads that match your brand name. Since the search includes your brand’s name, your ad will be the best ranking ad on Google. The following ads might also be using the same keywords as you, but since your brand is a part of the keyword, your ad will be the first on the list.

PPC keyword research - brand terms

Product Terms

These terms are keywords that explain the how's and why's of your products or services. They are functional, self-explanatory keywords used by people looking for a product or service to help them with a specific problem.

Your goal is to come up with a set of product terms that will match your offer as closely as possible. So, if a user types in bicycle wheels, your job is to use keywords that match that term the closest. Finding the best keywords will give your ads a better ranking, making it easier for people to find your offer.

Competitor Terms

Competitor terms will give you a better idea of the difference between the keywords you use and those of your competitors. They allow you to create customer segmentation and pinpoint a list of specific keywords to give you an edge over your competitors.

However, keep in mind that you can use competitor keywords and direct users to your website, even though you don’t have the same offer. That is usually expensive, especially when talking about big brands. For example, Pepsi can use keywords like cola, or Coca Cola, to drive traffic away from the original brand.

Substitute Product Terms

Sometimes customers search for similar products to what you offer. Instead of using direct keywords, they use synonyms relating to the product you're selling. These keywords are usually not very popular, meaning that your Cost Per Click will be higher than if you use keywords that better describe your product. Cost per click or CPC is the amount of money you have to pay for each click of your ad.

Most businesses don't use them because they don't have a very high search volume, but they might give you an edge if you're ready to invest more money into every click.

Complementary Product Terms

All of the terms that relate to your services or product in some way are called complementary product terms. They are often used in product searches and can help you navigate users directly to your offer. These keywords are worth checking out because they widen your search options, making it easier for people to find your offer, even if they don't type in specific keywords.

Audience Terms

Audience terms are all keywords your customers could use, but that does not fall under the previous categories. They are not so general and are usually a result of an average customer thought process.

So, if you're selling bicycle wheels and equipment, your customers could be searching for the best off-road bike equipment or something similar. Put yourself in their shoes, and you will be able to come up with keywords that can help you increase visibility on Google.

Creating Your Seed List

Your original seed list should have specific keywords for each of these six categories. That means that you'll have to do some serious brainstorming and use keyword research tools to pinpoint the best options. Sometimes you will come up with keywords that relate to your product but don't have a high search volume.

The goal is to slowly eliminate all keywords that are not that popular and keep the ones that will help your website rank batter. With that said, you should put the most effort into brand and product terms. Here's a quick overview of the process:

#1 Research on your audience

Think about what words they use to describe your services or products. You can get a better idea of what terms to use by looking at the most frequent terms used in product reviews, social media comments, and blog posts. You will get a list of keywords that fit into your niche and narrow your search down from there.

#2 Find the terms that are currently used

Take control of your keyword research tools and pinpoint the trendiest search terms used at the moment. You can also use an internal website search to see what terms are searched for the most. You must figure out the general direction to predict and influence the keywords used in your website optimisation.

#3 Look for suggestions

There are a few useful tools you can try when you want to know what keywords have the highest ratings on all search engines. Soovle is one such tool, and it can help you understand what you can expect from using some keyword. If the keywords on your seed list are not very popular, you'll at least get an idea of which ones are so that you can change your strategy accordingly.

#4 See what your competitors are doing

Many keyword tools allow you to spy on your competition to understand better what keywords they bid on. You will get a list of the most popular keywords that are the hardest to bid on, but you can also get a few other keywords that are not used as much but could help you increase your traffic rate. Your competition can't think of everything.

Expand On PPC Keyword Research with Useful Tools

Now that you know which keywords are essential and why you must know how to extract them. Here's a list of the best keyword tools to pinpoint the best keywords for your business.


SEMRush includes over 40 different tools that work together to help you optimise your website's keywords. It's the complete SEO solution that allows you to manage all SEO, SMM, and PPC projects. You can use the tools to analyse competitor websites, see more details about ranking, conversion rates, and many other features.

You will get access to all crucial keyword metrics, product listing ads, historical data analysis, and other useful information you can use to find the perfect keywords for your ads and optimise marketing campaigns. The software will tell you more about the results you can expect and whether or not a keyword is worth investing in. The software is available in three different plans. The Pro plan costs $99.95, the Guru plan is $199.95, and the Business plan is $399.95.

SEM Rush

Google keyword planner

Google's keyword planner is one of the available tools you get when using Google Adwords. It's an excellent solution when you want to find the perfect keywords for ad campaigns, and also does a great job of increasing your organic search.

It doesn't have any advanced features; its only role is to provide you with extremely accurate keyword results, and it does so perfectly. The keywords you extract can then be used to improve your ad campaigns further. When used together with other tools from this list, you can't go wrong when finding the best long-tail and standard keywords for your website.

Long-tail keywords present an excellent way of increasing conversions. These keywords are made from a few words and have a lower search volume, but people who use them to find products make purchases more often.

On the other hand, short tail keywords are one or two-word keywords that pop up in the search frequently, but have a lower conversion rate. Google’s Keyword Planner is free.

 Google keyword planner

Keywords Everywhere

Keywords Everywhere is a browser add-on that allows you to find the right keywords for your website. It provides you with useful information, including monthly search volume, competition data, your estimated CPC, and other details. It can help you find the best keywords you can use in a matter of seconds.

The tool does all of the hard work, providing you with highly-accurate information for your PPC campaigns, but you can also use it to increase organic traffic as well. All of the metrics are shown in easy-to-read reports, which you can then download in a few different formats. Keywords Everywhere costs about $2 a month.

 keyword everywhere


Despite being an SEO tool, Spyfu is one of the most widely used PPC keyword research tools because it offers a set of useful features you can use to improve your digital marketing campaigns and increase conversion rates for ads. It's an advanced tool that offers a wide selection of keyword management tools at an affordable price.

You can use it to spy on your competition and get a better idea of what they do to boost traffic. The reports will give you information about all PPC and CPC metrics and search results. You can use the tool to monitor your keywords and make the needed adjustments on the go. SpyFu costs $39 per month.


Keyword Tool

Many business owners turn to the Keyword Tool when they want to make sure their keywords are up to date. The PPC keyword research tool pulls information from multiple search engines, including Twitter, Google, YouTube, and Play Store. It generates a set of keyword suggestions designed to help you improve your PPC campaigns.

You can use it to find the best keywords to use, but it also does a great job of monitoring and managing your keywords. The Keyword Tool is available for $48 per month.

keyword tool

Keyword Finder

Another hugely popular PPC keyword research tool, Keyword Finder brings tons of useful features you won't find anywhere else. It provides you with a detailed breakdown of every keyword you plan on using. That includes predictions of how hard it will be to rank a specific keyword. The keyword difficulty score can help save you a lot of time and money in the process. You will get all of the information you need about every keyword, allowing you to make a decision whether you’re going to invest in a keyword or not based on the predictions you get from the software.

You can also use the tools to see what your competitors are doing. Once you run a search, you will get a detailed report with useful metrics and historical data. It does an excellent job of finding local keywords and SERP analysis. Depending on the plan you get, the price can be between $30 and $80 per month.

keyword finder

Google Trends

You can't build a strong marketing campaign without knowing the latest trends. Google Trends is explicitly designed for that. It's an easy to use tool that provides all kinds of useful information presented in visual reports that are effortless to understand. You can see how popular a keyword is, and compare its search volume with different queries.

When used with Google Keyword Planner, you can get a whole bunch of things done right without too much trouble. That includes finding keyword groups and categories, identifying seasonal trends, finding relevant topics, and, of course, finding new keywords that are still not used by competitors. The tool is free so make sure you give it a try.

 Google Trends

The Importance of Competitor Analysis

Understanding how things are done is one thing, but understanding what your competitors are doing is completely different. It's always a good idea to see what keywords your competitors are using to get more traffic. The most important metrics you should consider are CPC, relevance, and traffic percentage.

If your competitors are bidding on the same keywords, you can either outbid them or try using other keywords if you’re on a tight budget. You'll also see how much those keywords cost other businesses. Proper competition analysis is key for any successful marketing campaign.

Filtering Through Your PPC Keyword List

Alright, by this time, let's assume that you have done the research and found the best keywords for your SEM campaigns. You're left with the specific keywords your audience uses to find the products and services they need. That's great because you've narrowed down the search, but the final keyword selection is still not done. You should filter through the list until you're left only with the most effective keywords.

You should focus most of your funds on keywords that fit in high-performing categories like product and brand terms. Remember that each click is costing you money, so make sure that you do everything you can to optimise the keywords you use. The idea is to find the words with the highest conversion rate and the lowest CPC. That will lower your CAC, allowing you to get the most out of every investment. CAC stands for Customer Acquisition Cost, and it’s the average total amount of money you’ve invested to attract a customer.

Match Type

After choosing your PPC keywords, you will need to decide what search queries you want your ads to show up for. This is where keyword match types comes in.

There are four different match types you can choose from. Each of them provides you with different results, so it's important that you find the one that best suits your keywords.

Broad Match

This type of match triggers your ads when users type in specific keywords in the search bar. If their search matches your keywords, they will be able to see the ad you published. If someone searches for "bike repair and service," your ad for "bike repair" could pop up.

Phrase Match

This match type triggers ads that match your entire keyword phrase. So, if your keyword phrase is "bike repair and service," your ad will show up only in searches that include the entire phrase. For example, if someone types in "sports bike repair and service," your website has a good chance of popping up since it matches the phrase completely.

Exact Match

If the search matches your keyword exactly, you have an exact match. That means that your ad for "bike repair and service" will pop-up only when someone writes that same exact long-tailed keyword.

Negative Match

A negative match is a powerful tool because it can help you minimise the number of mismatches for your ads. It can help you minimise the number of irrelevant searches and make sure that you get the most out of every ad. So, if you add a negative keyword "-vintage," that will mean that you don't provide bike repair and service for vintage models. You will immediately eliminate all vintage bike owners looking for repairs.

You can find out more about keyword match types here.

Monitor Your Progress

Even when you go through the entire process of finding, selecting, and using the best keywords for your business, you must keep a close eye on its behaviour. PPC keyword research is a continuous process that needs improving and changing all the time. After some time, you will have a better idea of your keyword performance by using the tools we mentioned.

If you see that some keywords don't provide expected results, you can switch them with other keywords that work better. You will be able to see all available adjustments in real-time, allowing you to tweak your SEM campaigns on the go.


Every successful SEM campaign depends on three main actions. You first have to do your keyword research and make a rough plan on the following steps. Then you have to analyse the gathered information to get a better idea of how things work.

When you've covered that, you should base your Ads campaign on what you found.

Once you've figured out which commercial keywords work best, you can make a keyword planner and include them into your website's landing page, blog posts, and other areas.  The good thing about keyword analysis is that you can use the information you get to improve other factors such as SEO, blogs, etc. The idea is to present yourself as an expert in your field and create content that other users can easily share through social media networks.

Taking care of the entire process yourself is doable, but getting some professional help is always a good idea. Heroes of Digital can help you manage all of the technical aspects that go into planning and executing Ads campaigns, making sure that you get the most efficient setup right away.

That way, you will be able to focus on other aspects of your business and leave the optimisation to experts with years in the field.

Get a risk-free consultation today!

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Xavier Tan
Xavier is the Co-Founder of Heroes of Digital. He started social media marketing and SEM long before it became popular in Singapore. His passion is in helping businesses grow through effective lead generation. He has overseen campaigns for Amara Hotel, NTU, Marina Bay, L'Oreal, and 100+ SMEs.


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