Building Successful Low Budget PPC: Building Keyword Lists


If the account structure is the backbone of your AdWords account, then keywords are the blood running through its veins. Building a descriptive keyword list that closely represents your product will give life to your account, put your ads in front of a relevant audience, and reduce wasteful spending. You may ask yourself: Which keywords should I bid on? How much should I bid? What’s a match type?

In this post, we explain some techniques for building a keyword list that will keep your account alive and performing well.

Finding keywords

When building out your initial keyword list, you should try and put yourself in the shoes of your customers. I like to ask myself “What would my mom search for?” Qualified customers that you want to target are searching on Google because they have a specific problem or want. Your keywords should reflect that want in the same way that your product should be their solution.

There are many different tools out there to help you expand your keyword list from a few core keywords to a fully developed list. In AdWords, you can use the Keyword Tool:

Keyword Tool Dropdown

The Keyword Tool will take a list of existing keywords or your website URL and generate new related keyword ideas that you probably didn’t think of the first time brainstorming.

There are many other tools out there to find new keywords. A couple of my favorite research tools are Google search suggest and the “searches related to” tool. These are tools right in the Google search engine itself.

With Google search suggest you can type a keyword into Google and then simply take note of the more long-tail keywords that Google suggests to you. Chances are there are a few frequently searched terms right there for the taking.

Google Search Suggest

Searches related to that can be found at the bottom of the search results page.

Searches Related To

Match types

Now that you have an initial keyword list, you need to set appropriate match types for all of your new keywords. There are three main match types to select from: broad, phrase, and exact.

Broad match is the default for all keywords. When a keyword is set on broad match, AdWords will show your ads when someone searches for that keyword as well as some slight variations of that keyword.

Broad Match Example

When in phrase match, ads will only show when that exact phrase is searched but will allow for additional words before or after the keyword (i.e. “buy steak online”).

Phrase Match Example

Exact match (i.e. [buy steak online]) limits your ads to only show when the search query is exactly the same as the keyword with no additional words.

There is no right or wrong time for each match type. In general, it is best to be as specific as possible. So utilize phrase and exact match when applicable to prevent gaining excess impressions from unqualified customers.

After you upload your first list

Once you have your keywords uploaded into AdWords, there are a couple of other useful features in AdWords for finding additional keywords, missed keyword opportunities, and negative keywords.

Add Keywords tool & Search Query Reports(1)

In AdWords under the keywords tab, you can find new keyword suggestions by clicking the green Add Keywords button. After your keywords have run for a short period of time, you can click on Keyword details > All to find a list of search queries that have trigged an ad in the past. This is called the Search Query Report. This list of queries is a great resource for finding new keywords you should be bidding on, as well as negative keywords that are irrelevant and should be excluded.

Setting Bids

The final step left is setting your bids. A great tool for deciding how much to bid initially is the AdWords Traffic Estimator.

Traffic Estimator tool

With this tool you can enter in groups of keywords and AdWords will give you an estimate for how many clicks you can expect depending on your bid. You will get a graph that looks something like this:

Traffic Estimator Graph

From this you can determine an appropriate starting bid for that keyword group.

Based off of the keywords I entered to generate this graph, I would start my bidding near $1.50-$2.00 because that is the point where increased bids stops yielding higher click totals.

After you have strong keyword lists built and uploaded into your account, it’s time to start crafting your ads.

Make sure you check out our entire six-part series covering the cornerstones of setting up your first Google AdWords account for success:

Part 1: Structuring the Account

Part 2: Understanding Campaign Settings

Part 3: Building Keyword Lists

Part 4: Crafting Engaging Ads

Part 5: Implementing Ad Extensions

Part 6: Tracking Success