How to Do Keyword Research for PPC Campaigns? (2023 Guide)

How to Do Keyword Research for PPC Campaigns? (2023 Guide)

Choosing to start a pay-per-click (PPC) campaign can be daunting and somewhat confusing. You can avoid wasting your time by putting advertisements out into the world and not getting the clicks that you are looking for by doing keyword research. But what is keyword research?

In order to ensure that your PPC campaign is successful, keyword research for PPC campaigns is absolutely essential. In this article, we will explore what makes a PPC campaign successful and how to do keyword research to optimize PPC campaigns, including ways to automate this process.

What is a PPC Campaign?

A pay-per-click advertising campaign is a way to get your products, services, and brands seen with a lower cost. PPC advertising charges you for advertising each time a prospective customer clicks on your advertisement.

In order to run a PPC campaign, you will need to assign keywords to your advertisement in order to tell your ad platform where to place your ad. This part of starting your PPC campaign is arguably the most important because the keywords associated with your ad will inform the ad platform of where your ad should be shown.

If you use improper keywords for your new PPC advertisement, your ad may end up being displayed to the wrong audiences or target markets.

What Makes a PPC Campaign Successful?

So, now that you know what a PPC campaign is and how PPC campaigns can fail, what makes a PPC campaign successful?

You may have already guessed it, but the answer is: properly optimized keywords. PPC advertisements that reach both people who are searching for things related to your keywords and the people that are known to be interested in your keywords are most likely to be successful.

Let’s think about an example of a PPC ad:

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Consider that your new pay-per-click advertisement is displaying your company’s brand-new handbag and the word handbag is nowhere in your keywords. This advertisement will be missing out on not only your target audience but also those who are actively searching for handbags at that moment.

Let’s also consider a twist on this example:

Your new pay-per-click advertisement is still displaying your company’s brand-new handbag, but the keywords that you chose are all related to popular American sports to target men buying gifts for women. You may find some clicks through this strategy from your intended audience, but the majority of people are going to find your advertisements to be irrelevant outside of major gift-giving holiday times.

With this in mind, let’s discuss how keyword optimization works for PPC campaigns.

How Do You Do Keyword Research To Optimize PPC Campaigns?

If you decide to select keywords for your PPC campaign organically, here are four areas of PPC advertising that you may find helpful to look at for selecting new keywords.


This should be a huge focus for keywords for your pay-per-click ads. Your brand message and brand-related keywords should come to mind fairly easily and will help ensure that the people who will be shown your PPC ads are interested in your brand, not just your products.

If your brand name is well-known enough to be searched, by all means, include it on this list! You may also want to include terms that are associated with your brand. If your brand sells all sorts of women’s clothing and not just handbags, you may want to include other clothing items on your list!


Equally important to consider – what are the products or services that you are advertising to prospective customers? These keywords should be easy to think of as well! Use words that are synonyms or in the same realm as the product that you are trying to advertise through your PPC ads.

Consider our earlier example of the handbag advertisement, “handbag” should absolutely be one of your selected keywords. Others to consider are “purse, clutch, women’s accessories”, write them all down!


This strategy for keywords can be a little tricky, but if your brand is commonly associated with other brands, you may want to consider it! Keep in mind that there may be associated costs with taking this approach to your PPC keywords. This is because the keyword is less relevant to the actual advertisement.

For example, you may want to choose keywords such as “prada bags, michael kors purses, gucci handbags” for our handbag example. These keywords include your competitor’s names and could drive their traffic toward your PPC campaign.

Remember that this approach may be more costly than others, but you can also reap serious benefits from targeting competitor keywords in your PPC ad keywords.


Your audience has what is known as a “pain point”, which is something that they are trying to solve. By identifying what the issue is that your product or service serves to solve, you may be able to capture your market while they are searching for that problem. Consider keywords that include this problem.

For example, if your product is anti-itch cream, you may consider “bug bites” or “rashes” as keywords that are related to the problem your customers are experiencing.

Should You Use a Keyword Tool to Help Expedite the Process?

If the section above is giving you anxiety or if you feel like your busy life will not be able to sustain coming up with keywords on your own, using a keyword tool is a great alternative. SEO keyword tools are a great resource even if you just want to check the work that you have done manually when selecting new keywords for your PPC advertisements.

Keyword research for PPC can be easily outsourced to these handy tools, so let’s discuss how to properly use a keyword tool to optimize your PPC campaigns.

How Can a Keyword Tool Help with Keywords for PPC Campaigns?

Keyword research tools host information on how often people are searching for terms on the internet, also known as “keywords”. The reason for using such a tool is to know whether or not your keywords are something that people are even looking for online. In this way, keyword research tools can make or break your keyword plans, but that is why they are so helpful!

Let’s say that your main keyword for your new PPC campaign for handbags is “women’s handbag for daytime use”. This keyword may not be the best keyword for this campaign and there may be other keywords that are searched more frequently that you can use instead.

Keyword tools can be a great asset in this way by helping you replace uncommon search terms with search terms that are more likely to be sought out on the internet. This will help to improve the overall quality of your pay-per-click advertisement’s keywords.

As well, keyword terms can help you be prepared for your costs. If you are using Google Ads for your PPC campaigns, Google offers a Keyword Planner tool that is quite helpful with this. Aiming for high search volume but low competition terms will help you to avoid high costs with PPC advertising.

Finding Negative Keywords for Your PPC Ad Campaigns

Contrary to popular belief, it is important to know where your PPC advertisements should not be appearing on the internet. In this way, you can optimize PPC campaigns by focusing on the negative a little bit. Doing so will help you avoid turning off any prospective buyers who may find your ad irrelevant or annoying.

Let’s go over some helpful examples of where this may be important in PPC advertising campaigns.

To reference our handbag example, your PPC advertisements for handbags probably shouldn’t be appearing alongside things that aren’t really relevant to handbags. For example, you may want to consider “duffel bag” as a negative keyword so that your keyword of “bags” is not directing your advertisement to irrelevant spaces.

As well, if your handbags are affordable, you may want to strike the word “expensive” from appearing alongside it. You may not be marketing to affluent customers and doing this will help to focus your target market.

This is a great way to avoid your product appearing in spaces that they shouldn’t. Marking negative keywords improves both user experience and your experience. Improve the likelihood of gaining clicks by optimizing your keywords to discourage negative keywords as well!

Conclusion and Takeaway

Your approach to keyword research should be ongoing and productive. All in all, we hope that this guide to finding keywords for your PPC campaigns has informed you of how to find the best keywords, how to outsource keyword research, and how to use negative keywords to focus your campaign.

Consider your brand, your competitors, your product, and the problems that your target audience faces when you are gathering your keywords for your new pay-to-click campaign. Focusing on these areas of online marketing will help you to ensure that your new advertisement campaign will be a success!

We wish you the best of luck with your keyword research!

Ashley Keller

Ashley Keller, a marketing reporter for The San Francisco Chronicle and MarketingCrow covers advertising and affiliation: how ad networks and affiliate networks operate, and how to use them to optimize ad campaigns and efficient branding. Her stories shed light on the functioning of the industry in all its subtleties. As a reporter at The Chronicle since 2014, she has also covered the worse crisis, the dot-com rise and fall, and the many ways one can improve as marketers.

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