How To Create Your PPC Keyword List in 4 Easy Steps

Illustration of a Pay Per Click Campaign

How To Create Your PPC Keyword List in 4 Easy Steps

Creating a keyword list for your new PPC campaign can seem like quite the daunting task. It doesn’t have to be! Regardless of your product, service or industry, you can use the next four steps to create a powerful keyword list.

Step 1- Check Your Website and Your Competitors’

The best place to get keyword ideas is right on your own website. Go ahead, pull it up. Most likely your site is littered with keywords your target audience would likely type in when looking for a business like yours. Don’t forget to check your competitors’ sites as well. They may have identified keywords on their site that you never considered. Check the content as well as their important tags: title tags, meta description and H1 tags. Tweet This

Step 2 – Identify Your Target Audience

Next, think about your main audience. Who is considered your target? Who are you trying to entice to your website? You will want to think about their age, gender, location, interests, tech-savviness, etc. Then, put yourself in their shoes. “What would I search for if I were looking for my business on Google, Bing and/or Yahoo?”

Step 3 – Enter the Keywords in a Spreadsheet

Next, let’s enter into a spreadsheet the keywords you’ve been compiling in your head. Pull up a spreadsheet program – Microsoft Excel and Google Sheets seem to be the most popular. Start typing the keywords into your spreadsheet, and don’t be too picky at this point (we’ll refine the list later). Tweet This
Keyword Brainstorm list

Once the initial brainstorm is done, review your list and identify any themes. Refer to the example (above) I created. It is for a chiropractic office in Calgary, Alberta. As you can see from my list, there are four distinct themes: chiropractor, physiotherapy, massage and acupuncture. Let’s pull each of those themes out into their own columns to expand the list.

Under each theme, type any variations and synonyms that come to mind. Additionally, if you are targeting a local audience (which we are in this case), include any geos someone may type when searching. For example, someone may use “Calgary” or “Calgary AB” to narrow their search results (see the next example for reference).
Keyword Theme Lists

What about branded terms? Should you include branded terms in your list? I say yes. They can be very beneficial. They generally have a higher conversion rate and a lower cost per conversion. Include them!
Branded Keyword list

At this point, review your keyword list and refine it. Note any keywords that seem too specific. If your keywords are too specific, it will be difficult to drive traffic to your site because the search volume will be so low. Conversely, note any keywords that seem too generic. If the keywords are too generic, you could be spending a lot of money on irrelevant keywords that don’t convert the visitor.
Refined Keyword list

Step 4 – Use Tools to Add to Your List

There are many tools you can use to make your keyword list bigger and better. They include,, the Adwords Keyword Planner Tool, Google Analytics, and The latter two tools cost but have some free limited information. Tweet This and are just what they sound like. Type a keyword in the search box and you’ll either get a definition or a list of similar terms. Both are great tools for adding to your keyword list.

The Adwords Keyword Planner Tool is the Google Adwords internal tool that provides keyword ideas and traffic estimates. You can search for keyword ideas, as well as ad group ideas based on your organization.

Google Analytics is often overlooked as a tool to use to help create a PPC keyword list. If you are already tracking the keywords visitors are searching when they come to your site, you have a solid list right in front of you. However, it’s important to note that within the last 18 months Google Analytics has stepped up its stance on privacy and is not showing many keywords.

SEMrush is a great tool to discover keywords your competitors are using in paid search. It will also show you terms your competitors are ranking for organically. You can run a free search to see a few of the top results. To get the entire list, you’ll need to sign up for one of the paid versions.

SpyFu Logo is similar to in that it shows both paid and organic keywords for your competitors. It also has free and paid versions.

Remember to brainstorm keywords at first, then refine as you go. Avoid being too specific or too general. There are many methods and tools to use to create your initial PPC keyword list. Take advantage of them all, and you’ll be off to a great start in building an effective campaign!

Jan Eliason
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