Choosing Google Ads Keywords | Keyword Selection & Targeting

If you’re new to the world of pay-per-click advertising then you may want to start with the basics such as learning what keywords are and the purpose they serve. If you’re not completely new to internet marketing then you may have heard the term “keyword” before in the context of search engine optimization. Check out our SEO guide to learn more about search engine optimisation. In PPC, keywords fill a very similar role. 

Keywords are words or phrases that are used to show your ads to the terms that people are searching for. Selecting relevant keywords to your industry for your advertising campaign can help you reach the customers that you want. This article explains how keywords work, how to select them, where your ads will show and how much they cost. 

Whenever someone types a keyword into Google, it sorts results in the order that they’re most relevant to you and your needs. The search engine results page is also known as SERPS. Companies use search engine optimization strategies in order to appear higher on the search rankings and this often involves the use of content marketing. However, nurturing your SEO can take a long time which is why many businesses like to use PPC marketing to get a headstart. Also it is hard to show organically for every keyword that is relevant to your business using SEO marketing only. Websites that make use of PPC marketing will appear at the top of a search result page such as Google’s without the need for the time-consuming task of optimizing their website for search engines. Instead, the website owner pays a certain amount of money for each click that their website receives, hence the term pay-per-click. 

In short, effective PPC marketing stems from those keywords that you choose. The keywords you target should be relevant to your business and also have a high chance of converting those searches into paying customers. To learn more about the definition of PPC advertising, check out our article what is PPC advertising?

keywords phrases google ads

How Keywords Work​

When a customer searches for a term that matches your keyword, your ad enters an auction to determine if it will show. 

The cost for each keyword will be different depending on the quality score of your keyword, your competition in the auction and other factors. Make sure that your keywords and landing page are all closely related to the terms that a customer might be searching for or that would appear on websites a customer would visit. To help you understand the quality for your keywords, each keyword has a Quality Score.

This score is based on expected click-through rate, ad relevance and landing page experience. Higher quality ads typically lead to lower costs and better ad positions. Learn how to make sure that your ads are relevant.

Understanding How Search Marketing Works

Search engines like Google rank pages organically based on a number of different factors. Good use of keyword targeting is a key factor that a search engine takes into consideration because it matches intent for what the user wants. If the keywords are relevant to your website, then your website will show up based on its relevance and quality compared to your competitor website pages. There are many other external factors aside from keywords that can affect a search result in SEO, but for PPC it’s often all about the keywords you use.

If you’re not using keywords effectively then not only will it hurt your PPC marketing campaigns but also the general effectiveness and visibility of your website, hence the importance of understanding how all of these elements come together and are affected drastically by your keyword targeting choices.

Understanding How PPC Works

PPC is essentially a bidding auction system. When you search on Google then can see that the top few results are usually always ads. This is because Google reserves a limited amount of space on its website for PPC marketing. Think of this little space above all of the search results as the position that people are bidding for. Advertisers bid on keywords that they want as part of their PPC marketing campaign. When a user searches these keywords your advertisement will show depending on various factors. The possibility of your advertisement showing up is governed by an automated auction process that search engines use to determine which services and products are worthy of being shown at the top above all the other search results.

The main determining factors are a combination of relevancy and budget If it were down to just money then companies with a lot of capital would simply just overwhelm the competition and appear at the top for virtually every search result. Instead, the algorithm built into these search engines will scour web pages for keywords and content to provide something that is relevant to the user that performed the search. If the keywords you’ve chosen do not match with your content, then you’re not going to be featured very regularly. Also if your landing page engagement rate is below industry average, this will affect how often your ads show along with your advertising costs. If your website users bounce, have low session duration and a relatively low return user ratio, this will impact your success. 

However, if your website landing page has an above average user experience, then it will show up above the search results and you’ll be charged a smaller fee should the user click it. The amount you pay for the click will then often be minimal when compared to the profit you could make from the sale. However, this is also a good reason to specialize in the most relevant keywords to your industry and company goals, instead of trying to bid for a wide range of different terms. Using the best keywords increases your targeting to the search which means there’s a higher chance that you’ll profit from the click.

picking best keywords

Picking the Right Keywords

In order to pick the right keywords it’s essential that you perform keyword research for PPC. it’s a time-consuming process but one that is also very important to the success of your marketing campaign. There are various strategies and tools you can use for keyword research, with the best starting point being the Google Keyword Planner Tool. This is also a task that you need to do on a regular basis because the more often you update your keywords, the more likely you are to stay relevant with the most popular search terms regarding your industry or business.

For starters, focus on relevant keywords that are closely related to your business, industry and target market- that offer you a high chance of converting clicks into actual leads and sales. These are the keywords that provide you with an effective cost per click and higher user engagement. Given the importance of relevant keywords, you should consider bidding highest for these from the outset, and investing more money due to their higher chance of return. Conversion tracking lets you fine-tune your bids to get the best ROI using performance data.

Next, focus on long-tail keywords that are very specific and less common but do also have very high relevance to the search. Some examples include specific variations of services and products, or even location-based searches. For instance, “sports clothing” would be a general relevant keyword whereas “black and white sports clothing for men” would be exhaustive. These long-tail keywords are less competitive and more affordable but still offer a high conversion rate and a chance of profit.

Lastly, think about iterating your PPC keywords by constantly refining and expanding your selections. It’s important to consider the latest trends, update your keywords with new products and also look at popular search terms so that you understand what keywords are popular and how you can take advantage of changes in how customers look for your products.

Where Keywords will show your Ads​

You can choose to target your ads to a number of different ad networks. Keywords work a bit differently on each network:

  • Google search and search partner sites: When you build your ad groups, you select keywords relevant to the terms people use when they search, so your ads reach customers precisely when they’re looking for what you offer.
  • Google Play: When promoting your mobile app, pick keywords that are related to the ways people look for apps. Add all of the keywords that you imagine people might use. Keep in mind that Google may extend the scope of some of your keyword match types in ways that are specific to apps. For example, adding the word “app” when advertising outside of the Play network.
  • Google Display Network: If you’ve chosen to show ads on Display Network sites, Google Ads uses your keywords to place your ads next to content that matches your ads. Google’s technology scans the content and web address of a web page and automatically displays ads with keywords that closely match the subject or web address of the page. For example, on a web page that includes brownie recipes, Google Ads might show ads about chocolate brownies or delicious dessert recipes. Learn how to choose your keywords for Display Network campaigns.
  • YouTube: YoTube is the second biggest search in the world, and you can use search keywords with YouTube Ads within Google Ads.

Keyword Tips​

keywords phrases

Keyword Research

The Google Keyword Tool, the Google Ads Search Terms report and third party tools are useful for discovering new keywords. Additionally, stay on top of your website’s offerings to identify any gaps between your keyword list and site’s content. For e-commerce, try using product names, or serial part codes, manufacturer names and other conventions that the product is known by. 

Choose your keywords carefully

Think like a customer! Try imagine what your customers might search for and creates lists of all the categories your services or products. Include terms or phrases that your customers would use to describe your services, product, industry and competitors. Make sure that your keywords directly relate to the theme of your ad and the page that you’re directing your customers to. Keywords of two or three words tend to work most effectively. Select more specific keywords that directly relate to your ad’s theme if you want to target customers who may be interested in a particular product. Using more specific keywords would mean that your ad only appears for terms that apply to your business. Keep in mind that if the keywords are too specific, you might not be able to reach as many people as you’d like.

Group similar keywords:

Try grouping your keywords into themes. Organizing your keywords into well-defined groupings often makes it easier for you to manage and maintain your account. This may correspond to the customer’s journey, for example, grouping upper funnel versus lower funnel keywords. These themes can be based on your products, services or other categories. For example, if you sell rings, you can have a group of keywords for “engagement rings” and another group of keywords for “wedding rings”. Then you can create separate ad groups for these groups of keywords and have specific ads for “engagement rings” and specific ads for “wedding rings”. You may group keywords by performance targets, such as cost per acquisition, margin, or profitability. Alternatively, you may want to group keywords by business structure, such as product line, brand, or geography. 

Pick the right number of keywords: 

Most advertisers find it useful to have somewhere between 5 and 20 keywords per ad group. Keywords automatically match misspellings, so these are not needed.

Wider Keywords with Search Remarketing:

Select more general keywords if you want to increase your targeting reach. Look especially for more general keywords that have a lower cost per click and therefore require lower bid amounts.

Use Negative Keywords:

Negative keywords prevent your ad from showing in searches that use terms that aren’t relevant to your product or service. Adding negative keywords can help you reduce costs and make your ad appear only for the search terms you want.

Types of Searches

When people search in Google, they typically make three types of keyword searches, namely informational, navigational or transactional searches.

Keywords are words or phrases for targeting your ads with corresponding user search terms. The three most popular search types include:

Transactional Searches – People are looking to complete an action.  Well suited for advertisers targeting prospects later in the buying cycle. Transactional keywords with commercial intent can be even more successful. For SEO- these are the keywords used on the main pages of the website. (e.g. services page, home page). The purpose of this content shoud match

Informational Searches–Also known as “question words” as they frequently contain: “why,” “how,” and so on. Typically more useful for generating awareness and interest earlier in the buying funnel. For SEO- these keyword search terms are often targeted organically using a blog to inform and educate search engine users.

Navigational – people are searching for a website, company or brand name. Bid on your keywords to increase CTR and reinforce your brand by showing in the top ad position.

Transactional searches typically have a higher conversion rate for PPC because these are people later in their buying searching to complete an action.

Some transactional keywords have explicit commercial and local intent- and these are the best starting point for new advertisers.

Commercial intent gets explicitly signalled by combing a service or product keyword with a commercial modifier like supplier, company, prices, proposal, agency, practise, tender and much more. (for example, car hires rates, car hire company, car hire supplier, car hire agent, etc.). These explicit searches are more relevant than just Car Hire. Starting with the keywords with clear commercial intent or local intent is the most efficient starting points for accounts with search volume and demand for your offering.

Products keywords with commercial intent examples include (Plasma TV sale, discount TV Sale) than just a generic- Plasma TV. Some of the searches for just Plasma TV will be informational, and some will be transactional- and, therefore, a lower conversion rate. However, the generic word Plasma TV will have a higher search volume, and can also get targeted with lower bids- or/and through RLSA campaigns.

Local intent can be signalled by combining a product or service keyword with the closest location/s name. For example, car hire London, car hire Wimbledon, car hire Surrey. When local searches get made, they often have commercial intent. These searches are often people explicitly looking for local service providers. In the natural organic listings, search engine results are more local and regional than ever before, with less weight on a national and international scale. Targeting local search can have a very high engagement due to commercial intent. Targeting local searches, and commercial intent searches are not only the best starting point but also for ongoing optimization- from bids and ad copy to landing pages. Use Adwords conversion tracking to record web leads, web sales and telephone calls to test then keywords that are wider to optimise for advertising goals.

In the natural organic listings, search engine results are more local and regional than ever before, with less weight on a national and international scale. Targeting local search can have a very high engagement due to commercial intent. Targeting local searches, and commercial intent searches are not only the best starting point but also for ongoing optimization- from bids and ad copy to landing pages. Use Adwords conversion tracking to record web leads, web sales and telephone calls to test then keywords that are wider to optimise for advertising goals. You can also check out Google’ own checklist 


Hopefully, this article has shown you what keywords are and how they are used effectively in PPC to grow your business. PPC isn’t a difficult concept to grasp and the use of keywords should be easy to understand once you realize their importance in getting your business noticed.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Scroll to Top
Click to Zoom in!

Free Google Ads Report

Easy to copy and connect to your own account in minutes! Updates automatically each day!