Learn PPC One Step at a Time – The Best Keywords for Your PPC Campaign

Learn how to pick ppc keywords.

Like SEO, PPC keywords are dependent on your business. But there are major differences with PPC keywords, such as the number of variations and more specific targeting. Read more to learn how to better pick your PPC keywords.

Millions of PPC professionals spend hours upon hours burning their eyeballs out from staring at dozens of spreadsheets, all in the name of finding out which PPC keywords to use for their ads. So, how do you, a PPC novice sort through the clutter to answer the following:

Which PPC keywords should I use for my campaigns?

That’s the $29.8 billion dollar question behind last year’s overall PPC revenue. The answer? It’s simple: the keywords that bring the most customers to your online store. But how do you know which ones will give you the most bang for your buck? You’ll have to perform thorough PPC keyword research to before you start any campaign.

Fortunately, many of the same principles from SEO keyword research apply to PPC. It’s best to start with an internal brainstorm, ask others, and utilize keyword generator tools to give you ideas about which keywords are relevant to your business and product line. However, there are major differences between SEO and PPC that are vital to the success of your PPC keyword research.

PPC requires a much bigger focus on the long tail
Long tail keywords are keywords that are less popular and competitive than other important keywords, but are still utilized by searchers. These keywords are much longer (3-6+ words) than more general keywords (1-2 words) and are much more targeted.

For example, if you’re selling apparel, a general keyword could be “women’s pants” while a long tail keyword would be “affordable khaki women’s pants.” With SEO, it would be difficult to optimize your content for this long tail keyword. With PPC, however, it’s easy to create an ad for this. Additionally, the cost per click (CPC) for long tail keywords is much cheaper than more competitive keywords – this is especially important for brand new online businesses with smaller budgets

Similarly, PPC requires a longer list of keywords
Since there’s an added emphasis on the long tail with PPC, you’ll naturally have a lot more keywords to work with. When conducting keyword research, take more basic keywords and add adjectives and modifiers to them to help build your long tail, much like the previously used “women’s pants” examples. Some potential keywords include:

  • “best khaki women’s pants Austin”
  • “size 9 women’s khaki pants”
  • “fashionable women’s khaki pants”

And the list goes on and on. Fortunately, you can place these keywords into similar categories and groups that utilize the same PPC ad copy. And as a special hint, make sure you’re keeping track of all of your keywords in a spreadsheet.

PPC allows you to optimize for keyword “mistakes”
Based on what you know about SEO, it’s clear that you would never want to optimize your site for misspelled words. But with PPC, you can take advantage of searchers’ typos and misunderstandings. After all, no one’s perfect and search engines don’t provide a spell checker. These keywords are also much less competitive, thus have a much lower cost per click than many other keywords.

So with our example, some potential mistake keywords are “kackee pants” or “khakee pants” are both potential PPC keywords. Granted, you wouldn’t want to base your entire PPC strategy on misspellings, but it definitely presents an opportunity that others might not consider.

PPC lets you optimize for competitors

You’d never include your competitors as a primary focus of your internal SEO strategy. PPC, however, allows you to place ads on branded searches for your competitors. Having your ads appear on competitors’ search results brings additional exposure to your brand and helps bring customers over from other online stores. Perform a competitive analysis to see which competitors you’d like to go against and add them as a keyword to your research list.

A note on negative keywords
One often overlooked key to a successful keyword list and PPC campaign is the use of negative keywords. A negative keyword is essentially a term that you don’t want your ad to appear for when entered into a search engine. If our pant-selling merchant sold every kind of pant except for jeans, she would want to include “women’s jeans” and “women’s denim” as negative keywords in her campaign.

Incorporating negative keywords into your PPC strategy is one of the easiest and most efficient ways to cut costs and increase conversions. And with these cost savings, you can readily invest that money into going after more competitive keywords.


Of course, once you have your list of keywords, the next step is to decide how much you’re willing to pay for each respective click. This aspect is often the thorn of many PPC efforts – bidding. That’s what we’ll cover next time.

Happy selling!
-Matt Winn, Marketing Associate, Volusion


Learn PPC One Step at a Time Series

Part One: What’s the Difference Between PPC and SEO?
Part Two: How PPC Works with Search Engines
Part Three: The Best Keywords for Your PPC Campaigns
Part Four: How to Save Serious Bucks on PPC Bidding
Part Five: How to Write PPC Ads That Convert
Part Six: How to Use Landing Pages for an Instant PPC Boost


Matt Winn is Volusion’s Senior Brand Manager, where he helps oversee the organization’s branding and communications efforts. Matt has created hundreds of articles, videos and seminars on all things ecommerce, ranging from online marketing to web design and customer experience. Beyond being a certified nerd, Matt is an avid college football fan, enthusiastic home cook and a self-admitted reality TV junkie.

One Response to “Learn PPC One Step at a Time – The Best Keywords for Your PPC Campaign”

  1. Charles Moore

    I haven’t started my PPC campaign…(that’s why I am here…) and it is obviously another big learning curve for me. All of what you have said makes perfect sense, now to figure out what keywords and negative ones too.

    (Oops! I gave my keyword in my URL in that last comment! I need more practice!)


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