5 Tips for Finding New PPC Keywords

March 25, 2015

Digital Marketing Chris Denham By Chris Denham

You have a sophisticated campaign structure in place, and you’ve written compelling ad copy. You’re seeing some great results from your keywords — but now it’s time to take your pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns a step further by expanding your keyword selection. To save you time and wasted PPC spend, we’ve compiled five tricks to help you get started.

1. Set a Clear Goal

Before you can identify keywords to add, you need to establish what you want to do. Increase sales? Get more website traffic? Push back that competitor that’s trying to muscle in on your turf?

Whatever it is, setting a clear goal can help you make sure your keywords work together. You can have multiple goals (for example, increased sales and decreased costs), and you can refine the goal as you progress.

The bottom line: Set a goal and let it guide which keywords you add.

2. There Are No ‘Right’ or ‘Wrong’ Keywords

It can be tempting to assume that the ‘right’ keyword is out there, hiding under the gigantic keyword haystack, ready to turbocharge your performance. However, search isn’t usually that dramatic.

It’s much more likely that a collection of keywords will make the difference. Why? Because they’re optimized over time. Try to set reasonable expectations and always think of the ‘collective’ of keywords in the ad group.

It can be just as tempting to assume a keyword is ‘wrong’ and avoid it at all costs. But being too heavy-handed on what keywords make the cut can limit a campaign’s success. That isn’t to say that some keywords aren’t unsuitable (for example, if you sell equestrian dressage, it’s unlikely that a search for ‘Kim Kardashian’s Trousers’ is going to benefit the account – no matter how many search terms overlap). The key is to ensure that, unless you’re certain, you’re adding and testing keywords to gain insight.

The bottom line: Multiple keywords optimized over time are usually the most effective strategy. And unless you’re certain that a keyword isn’t appropriate, add it, test it and learn from it.

3. Negatives Can Be Just As Effective As Positives

Negative keywords probably aren’t what you first think of when adding keywords – but don’t overlook them. Though your main goal is probably to drive further volume, with paid search you should always be looking for ways to optimize and squeeze those cost per click (CPC) rates down to their most efficient level.

Instead of adding positive keywords first, start with negatives. Don’t be too heavy-handed – and always remember the first two points above – but you may find that negatives actually improve your performance more dramatically than positives.

The bottom line: Don’t neglect your negatives — they can often have a bigger impact than positive keywords.

4. Run a Search Terms Report

We now have three solid ground rules for adding new keywords, but how do you actually decide which ones to add?

Your first step should be to run a search query report. In Google AdWords, go to the Keywords tab and look for the Details button. Under Search Terms, select All. We recommend running data for at least 60 days if this is your first report and then updating every 30 days.

A search query report shows the search queries that triggered your ads. This will help you identify long tail variations that resonate with people searching for your products, as well as keywords that are consistently triggering ads but aren’t valuable.

When looking at the report, ask yourself these questions:

What Keywords Don’t Work (That I Can Add As Negatives)?

Are there any keywords with a high impression volume but no clicks? Can you see keywords with high clicks but no conversions? Are any keywords just plain wrong?

Adding negatives as a first action will help reduce cost, improve your click metrics and give more room to the keywords that do work.

What Keywords Do Work (That I Can Add As Long Tail)?

Long tail keywords typically cost less, have less competition and perform better. You should always make a point of adding long tail keywords where appropriate. ChannelAdvisor Digital Marketing customers can use the Inventory Driven Search feature to create and manage long tail paid search ads that are product-specific, accurate and dynamic.

If you see a high-performing keyword that’s triggered by another keyword or match type, add it in. The performance of this specific long tail keyword will almost certainly be better. We recommend adding long tail keywords in exact match to keep tight control.

What Keyword Themes Are Working (That I Can Test)?

To help establish which keywords fit into your goals, look at click-through rate (CTR), cost, impression volume and click volume, in addition to any tracking you may have to monitor conversions and revenue.

By following these steps, you’ll be able to both optimize your existing keywords and identify avenues of opportunity for keyword expansion.

The bottom line: When looking to add keywords to an existing campaign, run a search query report as a first step. Ask yourself the questions above to keep your campaigns optimized and growing.

5. Cross-Pollination

For most retailers, digital marketing relies on more than a single campaign in Google. There can be multiple themes, multiple campaign types, multiple engines – even multiple channels. It can be tempting to look at each in isolation.

Taking the blinkers off and looking at the big picture can provide rich insights. A negative keyword for one campaign can be used in another, or a top-performing keyword from Bing might work well on Google. The key is to ensure that you’re always looking at the bigger picture to improve the details of your keywords.

Here are our top three picks for cross-pollination:

– Test top-performing keywords from Google Shopping in your PPC campaigns
– Test your top-performing keywords from Google in Bing (and vice versa)
– Test your top-performing natural keywords in AdWords (and vice versa)

The bottom line: Take the blinkers off! Putting top-performing keywords from one area and testing in another can prove to be a quick win.


There’s no right or wrong when it comes to adding keywords – the most important step is setting a goal that guides your actions, then testing out your keywords. Even if you test a keyword that doesn’t work, you’ll still get insight for your negative keyword strategy. Finally, whatever tests you run, always ensure you’re looking at the big picture.

We hope you found our guide useful! If you’d like to hear about how to break 10 common digital marketing bad habits, you can download our tip sheet here.


Blog post by Chris Denham, campaign manager, ChannelAdvisor