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5 Super Tips to Understanding Keywords in Paid Search

  |  September 18, 2012   |  Comments

How to ensure that you can deliver an ad closest to the searcher's intent so they are more likely to click and later convert.

With all of the advanced tips and tricks published about paid search, it's easy to forget the reason it's so effective - the keywords. Reaching searchers at the exact moment they are expressing an interest in something via their keyword search is a golden opportunity to raise your hand and say, "I have that something!"

Selecting the right keywords is a skill and art. The key is relevancy of the keywords to the searcher's query. We want to ensure that we can deliver an ad closest to the searcher's intent so they are more likely to click and later convert.

For example, if we sell human resources software, relevant keywords may be:

  • Human resources software
  • Talent management software
  • Employee recruitment software


  • HR laws
  • College recruitment software
  • Talent casting software

So how do we accomplish this and ensure we're showing up for the relevant searches? Even if we select the correct keywords, there are a few things to consider that impact the final results.

  1. Keyword suggestion tools. Most people start with an online tool to get keyword suggestions and search traffic estimates. Remember that keyword tools will give you great suggestions, and also many bad suggestions. Some of the suggestions will be irrelevant to the search and it's easy to filter out those suggestions. The biggest issue I see with keyword suggestions is very general keywords that can apply to several different types of searcher intent. See the next point.
  2. Understand how people search. People are searching for information and will use different cues in their queries to indicate what kind. For example, navigational searchers may use a company's name or part of a URL. Searchers who are comparison shopping will use queries containing "Reviews" or "Ratings." Very general keyword searches about a thing are not usually converting keywords. However, in many cases it's OK to use them but they should be organized appropriately.
  3. How to group keywords.Keyword groups should focus on very tight themes, all with similar terms, for example:
    • Human resources software programs
    • Human resources software
    • Human resource software solution
    This will ensure the correct ad shows for the search and the ad contains keywords and the proper messaging.
  4. Keywords match types.Keyword match options determine the searches that can trigger your ads to appear. The options range from very broad to very narrow and can make or break a campaign. Consider the following match types:
    • Broad match: laptop computers. This will allow your ad to show on similar phrases and relevant variations, i.e., desktop computers, which is not relevant.
    • Broad match modifier: laptop +computers. This is used by adding the plus sign in front of the keyword. It indicates the keyword must appear in the user's search exactly or as a close variant, such as misspellings, singular/plural forms, abbreviations, acronyms, and stemmings (like "computer" and "computing").
    • Phrase match: "laptop computers." This will allow your ad to show for searches that include the exact phrase and possibly include other words as well like "laptop computer cheap." If the laptops are not cheap, this would not be a good search to appear on.
    • Exact match: [laptop computers]. This will allow your ad to show for searches that match the exact phrase exclusively. This is the narrowest matching option.
  5. Negative keywords. Negative keywords serve to keep your ads from showing on certain queries. Without them, you can waste precious PPC click budget on irrelevant traffic. Learn more details on using negative keywords here on ClickZ.

Understanding the critical technical components and psychology behind searches is not a luxury. It's a necessity to funneling media budget into keywords that will drive your business forward though paid search.


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Lisa Raehsler

Lisa Raehsler is the founder and principal strategist at Big Click Co., an online advertising company and Google AdWords Certified Partner, specializing in strategy and management of SEM and PPC for search engines, display, retargeting, and social media ad campaigns. Lisa has led strategy on dozens of PPC accounts and puts her experience into practice every day as a thought leader in integrating clients' search campaigns with ecommerce websites, behavioral targeting strategies, and web analytics. She has participated extensively in the local interactive community, as well as at national search engine marketing conferences. Lisa's recent speaking engagements include SES, OMS, MIMA, HeroConf, and SMX conferences, as well as numerous private and public training engagements. As a columnist for ClickZ and Search Engine Watch, she writes on the topic of paid search. Follow her on Twitter @LisaRocksSEM.

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