The Startup Founder's Guide to SEO & PPC Keyword Targeting Research

 The relationship between keywords and search queries is the foundation of Adwords paid search marketing and organic SEO campaigns. We hope this 5,000 word keyword targeting guide will help startups and business owners have a better understanding of how you can combine PPC and organic search engine optimization strategies to create content and ads for both informational and transactional terms in order to maximize traffic, conversions and marketing channels. Happy reading.

The full Keyword Research Guide has 10 Chapters. Get started here.

Keyword Research for PPC and SEO Campaigns

Keyword research is a crucial starting point of any natural SEO campaign in order to discover the actual words and language people are using when they search for a particular topic or subject related to your brand’s offerings.

You must also research how competitive (competitor’s domain authority, inbound links, etc.) it will be to rank on the first page for a keyword phrase, so that you can measure or estimate the costs and ROI of running an organic SEO marketing campaign.  

Keywords are also used to connect your PPC ads with prospective customers and their searches. Effective keyword management helps you reach the right potential customers to grow your business. Understanding search intent with regard to the buyer’s journey can help to effectively align organic and paid search strategies.    

Keyword research: “market research“ for the 21st century

We now live in a mobile first, digital economy where we are constantly connected. The devices vary: a laptop at work, a smartphone while commuting, an iPad, or even a smart watch while sitting on the couch.

People search for a variety of things, any time of day, for different purposes: research, shopping, entertainment. Search engines must be able to answer many types of queries, such as navigational queries, informational queries and transactional queries.   

And as consumers search for things on Google (the most used search engine), advertisers specifically like to target commercial intent searches, or queries, using keywords. Search is also adapting to become a more human experience:

  • The language of search is changing – with all the voice and virtual assistant technologies available, it has evolved to be more conversational. It’s not just about punching keywords in to find basic info, users are now interacting with their devices more naturally, sometimes asking questions such as, “Siri what is the best Italian restaurant in Soho?”
  • Search is now literally everywhere – the plethora of smart gadgets on the market makes search so much more intertwined and common in our everyday lives. This is bridging the gap between the digital world and our real human experiences.     
  • Search is very personal – The mass amounts of data feeding into Google, Facebook and Bing combined with advances in machine learning makes these search engines more intelligent platforms to better understand intent behind a query. This makes people’s search experience more personal and relevant.

Before we get into using the Adwords Keyword planner tool and showing you how to manage your PPC campaigns more efficiently, we should probably explain the keyword categories first.    

Two types of Keywords: Head keywords and long-tail keywords.    

Head Keywords:  usually a single word that has a ton of competition and search volume. Take the word “insurance” as an example. The person’s search intent is not very clear with this. Are they looking for a car insurance quote, health insurance info, or a definition of the word.      

Long Tail Keywords: are phrases that generally have at least 3 to 5 words in the search query. A long tail keyword phrase could be something like “Restaurant accounting in New York City” or “get a health insurance quote in NY” These phrases may get less searches, but the intent is much clearer and more likely to convert.    

In general, we recommend that startups and small businesses should target lower competition long tail keyword phrases that have a decent amount of search volume or popularity. Why go after long tail keywords?   

  • They will be easier to rank for organically
  • Conversions can be made more easily
  • They will be cheaper to bid on in PPC
  • There is lower risk and investment     

You want to Align Keywords with your Business Goals 

For most marketers and business owners Google Adwords accounts are driven by picking and bidding on keywords to target in ads. There are a number of third party tools available, and, regardless of research tools you use, it’s important to think holistically about the ways that your potential customers could find you.

Why: the keywords you choose should reflect all of the different types of “user search queries” that could help people find your landing page when they are searching for something you offer or sell. 

Here are a few sources to analyze when you’re figuring out what keywords would provide the best return on investment:  

  1. Your Website – you should constantly monitor your site’s offerings and web pages. Try to find any gaps between your current keyword list and your site’s content.  
  1. Your Products and Services – Make sure you are bidding on all your company’s core products and services. When your potential customer is near the end of their buying cycle (after conducting informational searches), then they will be searching to purchase a specific service or product. As an example, say you are a consumer electronics eCommerce site, specific models or product brand names such as “Trüsound T2 Wireless Bluetooth Speaker” can be high converting keywords.
  1. Your Brand – Do not underestimate the value of your branded terms. If your company sells multiple products, make sure you remember to add keywords as a combination of your brand’s name with popular high search volume products that people often search for in the same query.  Such as “Silver Palms Luxury RV resorts”        

Tip: Some people may search for a Brand’s URL on Google if they only recall the name and not the exact website, so remember to include your Brand URLs as keywords in your PPC ad group.    

  1. Examine the Research Process of your Customer – Put yourself in your potential customer’s shoes. What are all the ways and questions they might search to find what you offer? The sales process for an online retailer who sells shoes will be quite different than a commercial building contractor bidding on $500,000 renovation contracts. For your particular business, you need to make a map or funnel of the buyers process and make sure your company has a presence at each step. For each stage, you will want to ask your team the following questions:   
  • How will potential customers find me at this stage?   
  • What kind of information or content do I need to provide to move them along to the next stage?    
  • How will I know or track if they have moved closer to converting?      

For the PPC strategy: you should try to find words with commercial intent,  these keywords usually show “desperation” or an “act now mindset” from the searcher. A common example would include search phrases with “buy” or “for sale” in them.     

Conduct Competitor Research – you can use software like SEMrush or Spyfu to look at what other competitors are bidding on and getting traffic from. There may be some words that you did not think of that you could include in your keyword list. You may also use Google Adwords auction insights reports, which lets you analyze and compare the performance of your competitors who are bidding on the same keyword auctions as you. This tool is useful for both search and shopping campaigns, and shows 6 statistics including impression share, average position, overlap rate, position above rate, top of page rate, and outranking share. You can use this information to make better budgeting and bidding decisions.  You also can look at everything your competitor is doing online to see how they describe their products.   

Leverage Google’s “Related Searches” – you can head over to Google and start to type in searches for each of the individual phrases you started to come up with so far, that are related to your business. Then, scroll down to the bottom of the page, where you will see Google lists 8 other phrases that are popular and related to the phrase you just searched. If any of these are relevant to your business, then add them to the list. We used this tool for a jet charter client of ours to find related longer tail keyword ideas such as “Private jet charter”, “jet charter prices” and “jet charter rates.”    

Use Google Trends to find a Keyword’s Popularity – Google Trends is another tool built by Google that’s both useful and serves a different purpose than Google’s Adwords Keyword planner tool. Google Trends gives you visual, multidimensional insights into the popularity of a keyword. Each keyword is broken down into sections such as seasonalitymedia coverage, and geographical location. It also gives you the history of a keyword’s popularity from 2004 to today. You can even compare up to 5 keywords at a time. 

Another cool feature is the stats around current trending phrases.Bruce Clay wrote a useful post on the 10 reasons you should use Google Trends for more than just keyword research. Most keyword research tools show you two numbers: competitiveness of a keyword and the search volume. Trends can show another perspective into a keyword’s recent shift in popularity. We used it when we conducted keyword research for a coworking space client to see what phrases we were going to use in a content marketing/SEO campaign.  

Tip: Try to avoid bidding on terms that include qualifiers like “discounted” or “free” unless your product or service actually offers free trials or discounts, so that your landing page meets your ad copy and the user’s expectations.      

Want to improve the ROI of your marketing? Click here to read the full keyword research guide and learn about semantic search, match types in Adwords, targeting new opportunities, adding negative keywords, competitor analysis for organic ranking and how search engines use query expansion techniques.