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Keyword research is critical to your online advertising

Keyword research is critical to your online advertising

Keyword research is a bit like cardio. We all know we should be doing it, and occasionally we have a flurry of activity and do a bit. But, for most of us at least, we simply don’t do enough.

For online advertising, keyword research is the cornerstone to your success. Whether it’s display advertising, search marketing or PPC campaigns, without robust keyword research, your already doomed to fail.

Getting started with keyword research is easy, and usually takes no more than a half hour of brainstorming to come up with a longlist of potential search terms. You’ll need to think about:

  • Generic terms: Build a list of terms relating to your products or services, using best sellers and key products to inspire your list
  • Related terms: Think about other search terms which may not directly relate to your products, but which customers like yours may enter into search anyway
  • Brand terms: Add to your list any brand names or trademarked slogans that are unique to your business
  • Competitor terms: Think about brand names that your competitors use, or do a bit of secret squirrel to see what search terms their businesses rank for

From your longlist, you now need to hone down your keywords into those which are likely to be more lucrative to your business. This can be not quite as easy as the first stage.

Keyword research for the 21st century

Keywords aren’t what they used to be. No longer is it enough to find a handful of high traffic keywords and put in our best bids; now we need to be savvier about the types of keywords we’re targeting.

Tech has changed the way people search online, and increased competition has made it harder than ever to rank for the most obvious keywords. Now we need to really hone down our chosen target phrases, so that bids don’t need to be eye wateringly high in order to secure a top spot on the SERPS.

When you’re marketing in the modern world, and particularly for PPC and display ads, you need to be smarter. Here’s how to do it:

  • Find keywords with user intent

Instead of looking simply for keywords that relate to your business, aim to find keywords which suggest the user wants to buy from a company like yours. All the big boys will be targeting ‘men’s shoes’ and ‘kids toys’, so seek out keywords that have a narrower appeal, but will get you higher in the rankings.

Intent is all about purchasing, so don’t be afraid to look for keywords with transactional elements. For instance, ‘next day delivery shoes’ or ‘cheap toys for kids’. Narrow down your remit further by focussing on something you do really well, such as ‘discount men’s trainers next day’ or ‘cheap wooden toys for two year olds’.

With longer tailed keywords such as this, the traffic will inevitably be a lot less. However, it will be firmly targeted at those people who want to buy from someone just like you, which means you’re getting a better conversion rate and a lower cost per conversion.

  • Consider voice search

Google has identified that 20 per cent of searches on a mobile device are via voice, and forecasts are that this will only grow over time. Right now, 71 per cent of voice searchers are in the 18 to 29 age group, so if this is your target demographic, you need to tailor your keywords to voice too.

More and more homes have a digital personal assistance presence too. Even in the over 55’s age group (not your traditional early adopters), over a third are using Echos or Google Homes to search online. So, what should you be thinking about when optimising keywords for this audience?

Quite simply, think about how you’d say it rather than type it. Instead of ‘men’s shoes’, users will be searching things like ‘where can I buy cheap men’s shoes’. Instead of ‘wooden toys’, they might ask ‘which are the best wooden toys for three year olds’. Building in this natural language as long tailed keywords will help you pick up more of these voice searching prospects.

  • Get to grips with negative keywords

With cost per click at an all-time high for competitive keywords, if you are bidding for a high value term, it’s essential that every click you pay for is relevant to your business. If there are things you can’t do, it makes sense to add them to a negative keyword list to avoid your ad being shown to people who do not want anything you can do.

For example, targeting ‘wooden toys’ is great, but if you’re picking up lots of clicks from those searching for ‘how to make wooden toys’, that’s not so great. You’re paying for every one of those clicks, so it’s important to make them count. Not only that, but a low click to conversion rate can affect your quality score, making it more expensive for you to bid on keywords.

Build your negative keyword list by looking at Google Analytics to see how people have arrived at your site. If you see a trend for clicks relating to something you can’t  help with, add the keywords to your negative list. Review it regularly to avoid costly mistakes.

Long tailed keywords are crucial in the modern, competitive world of online ads. Research suggests that 51 per cent of all search queries are now long tailed keywords, or searches containing more than four words.

Changing our mindset around how we conduct keyword research can be touch. When you’ve spent years looking for high traffic search terms, targeting long tailed keywords with a handful of searches per month can seem pointless. But, it works, so approach with an open mind.

Not all your keywords should be long tailed queries, of course. There’s still plenty of room in your strategy for high traffic, competitive keywords too. Just work to give your strategy an even spread of different keyword types and values.

Regular reviews are key

Keyword research is not a set and forget part of digital marketing. It’s important that you keep reviewing your keyword strategy to ensure you’re picking up on any trends or changes in the way your customers search. A weekly viewing of Google Analytics will keep you on track, with a more in depth monthly adjustment of your keywords and bids.

Just like your cardio workout, little and often is the key to success. The more often you’re active, the better the results will be. The big difference, however, is that procrastination with online advertising could end up costing you a lot more than your lapsed gym membership will. For more support with keyword research or any other aspect of digital marketing, come to Search South for expert advice.

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Vanessa Simms
Vanessa writes on a range of subjects for the Search South blog, but has a strong focus on her core interest area of Google AdWords management best practices.