How to do keyword research for your SEM campaigns

Keywords are the cornerstone of a successful pay-per-click (PPC) marketing campaign. We'll show you how to find the right ones.
7 minute read
Gauri Gautam @GauriMelb
Technical Co-pilot
Cover photo for How to do keyword research for your SEM campaigns

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Using the right keywords is the start of your SEM campaign's success

Keywords form the foundation for all SEM campaigns. In other words, your entire focus should be on identifying and incorporating relevant keywords that not only increase the number of clicks your site receives, but also result in higher conversions. For this purpose, keep in mind that your ads link to the website’s landing page. Therefore, this is where you need to scan and select the keywords that you should work with.

Keyword categorization

Interestingly, keywords can go beyond your brand or your product. For better understanding, keywords are categorized as follows,

  1. Brand Keywords – These keywords contain your brand name or your trademarks like Dominos.com.
  2. Generic Keywords – These are terms that describe your products but are not the names of your products directly, like pizzas.
  3. Competitor Keywords – As the name suggests, these keywords are usually names of competitor products that offer similar products or services, like Pizza Hut.
  4. Related Keywords – these terms have no direct relation to your product or service, but these are related to the search that your potential customers are likely to conduct. For instance, fast food or home delivery.

If you are suffering from  writer’s block in your keyword research, then one of the best methods to overcome this is by putting yourself in your client’s shoes. Think about the words that they would type into the search engine if they are looking for products like yours. Once you have a basic list, don’t forget to include the variations of the keywords that you have identified. The list must also include synonyms and related terms. It is also important to remember that English is not a native language for most internet users. So, make sure that you provision for misspelled words as well. These steps will help you arrive at a basic keyword list that you can use for your SEM campaign.

High intent keywords vs. low intent keywords

You may think that you have designed a perfect SEM campaign with the best selection of keywords, however, if you fail to understand the target market segment’s intent behind using those keywords then your campaign is doomed to failure. This is because an intent-driven marketing campaign can lead to increased traffic as wells as conversions. Intent keywords are of two types,

High intent keywords

These primarily translate into the ‘customer’s intent to transact’. Here, the user is searching with an ‘intent’ to find a result that may result in a purchase. Within high-intent keywords, keywords with ‘commercial’ intent are the most preferred type. Keywords like ‘discount’, ‘buy’, ‘coupon’, ‘deal’ or branded searches with product names are types of commercial intent keywords.

Low intent keywords

Low intent keywords are, at best, navigational or informational. Searches conducted with low intent keywords are used for satisfying an inquiry and are less likely to convert into a purchase at the time of the search. Users are either looking at getting their questions answered or, are gathering knowledge on a particular subject. For example, ‘cheapest’, ‘best’, ‘review’, etc.

As with any SEM strategy, it is always beneficial to attract quality rather than quantity. If your visitor lands on your page as a result of information or a navigational search, then the chances of conversion are likely to be low. However, as the advertiser, you will still get charged for all those clicks even if they don’t translate into sales. On the other hand, with high intent keywords, the chances of sales are much higher, and you are likely to get better returns on your advertisement investment.

Branded vs. non-branded keywords

The keywords that you target will determine the kind of users that you will reach. In any keyword research, you are likely to come across both branded as well as non-branded keywords. In order to determine which is better for your business, you must understand the meaning of each of these.

Branded keyword

Any online inquiry or search that specifically includes the name of your brand, website, or product is termed as a branded keyword inquiry. Names of other brands will not be considered as branded keywords for the sake of your SEM campaign. These have to be directly linked to your trademarks and product names.

Non-branded keywords

Non-branded keywords neither reference to your brand nor are they unique to your domain name. However, they do relate to your product or service. More often than not, these are phrases that users search with when they are interested in a similar product or service line but there is no direct reference to your brand.

Since every keyword comes with a cost attached in a marketing campaign, therefore, it is important to select them wisely. Branded and non-branded keywords reflect different search intents and can be relevant depending upon the stage of the purchase process. Therefore, If your competition is your primary concern, then using branded keywords is a good idea. Although, competitors can use your brand names to direct traffic to their sites as well. On the other hand, if you are looking at increasing your visibility, then non-branded keywords with high search volume can help you reach more people. Ultimately, your SEM campaign is aimed at generating sales and revenues. Considering this, branded keywords may not get you the number of visitors or clicks, but they come with a higher conversion rate than their non-branded counterparts.

Mistakes to avoid when selecting keywords for a SEM campaign

Make sure that you avoid the following common mistakes while building your SEM campaign.

Budget

Budget is very important, especially if you are repeatedly working with a broad targeting approach. In such a case, your budget can take a big hit leaving you with inefficient ads distribution. Most of us begin working with budget constraints, hence, it is best to avoid making visibility a unit of success measurement. Focusing on visibility will get you quantity but a higher visibility need not mean more sales conversions. Your ultimate focus should be ROI, so concentrate on leads and conversions instead. Go for niche keywords and stay within your budget by optimizing your keyword usage on a regular basis.

Balancing

Creating and implementing an SEM campaign is just one aspect of the process. For the campaign to be successful in the long run, it requires a balanced approach backed by regular optimization. The online advertisement and marketing landscapes are forever changing and evolving. In fact, nearly 15% of all keywords that get added to Google every day are completely new. Therefore, it is imperative that you dedicate a sufficient amount of time to regularly check and update your SEM campaign. Make sure that the keywords that you started with are still relevant and working in your favor.

Landing page experience

You might be running a well-researched keyword enabled SEM campaign, but if you are still unable to convert, then it could be a result of an inefficient landing page. Your landing page is the first impression that the user will have after he clicks on your advertisement. If the users are greeted with a scattered layout or a page filled with irrelevant content, then there is no way that you will achieve your target revenues from SEM. Therefore, make sure that you devote enough time and funds to your website to have an overall successful SEM campaign experience.

Searchability

SEM is a consumer-centric marketing campaign. Therefore, your keywords need to be aligned with what the customers are writing in their searches. At the same time, the keywords must be relevant to your brand, product, or service. Interestingly, the search volume of the keywords is just as relevant. It is always a good idea to use relevant keyword planner tools to come up with a well-balanced list of words or phrases that can generate the best results from your campaign. Also, don’t negate non-branded and low intent keywords. Each keyword category has a role to play in increasing your searchability along the purchase process. So, focus on creating a balance and utilize those keywords to the best of their abilities.

Inability to measure success

Don’t avoid or delay incorporating a success measurement metric. For best results, do this before you begin your campaign. If you are purely looking at increasing visibility or branding your service, then regular measurements may not be as crucial for success. However, if your ultimate aim is to increase conversion rates, then you must have a robust success measurement strategy before you initiate your SEM campaign. You might be ranking at the top of the search page and getting more traffic than you ever expected. But, if there is no substantial increase in conversions and sales, then the SEM strategy is not working in your favor. You might want to take another look at your list of keywords and realign them to derive maximum benefit.

Negative keywords

Don’t forget to create a list of negative keywords as you prepare your keyword list. While you want to use relevant keywords to direct appropriate users towards your site, it is also important to prepare the list of words, the search of which should not bring traffic towards your site. For instance, if you are manufacturing or selling expensive shoes, then you don’t want users searching for ‘cheap’ or ‘affordable’ shoes to land on your site. Such a list will ensure that you receive a more relevant audience with a higher possibility of conversion.

SEM is one of the most efficient methods to reach new customers and grow your business. Try and get better insights into your consumer intent and prioritize your keywords accordingly. Try and understand your consumers as much as you understand your business and the product that you are selling. Look for SEM keywords that give you maximum impact and use them in your ads as well as your key web pages for achieving the best results. Survey data, analytics, and even the existing keyword research reports can help you align keywords for your website and SEM campaign making sure that you stay abreast of the online marketing requirements.

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