Keywords are the lifeblood to any PPC campaign. You can have a good account structure or really creative ad text, but if your ads are not being shown to your target audience then your campaign is pointless. These keyword research tips will help any digital marketer improve account performance.

1. AdWords Keyword Planner – And I Mean REALLY Use It

The most common used keyword tool PPC advertisers use is Google’s own Keyword Planner. Google will give you reporting on monthly, estimated search traffic results. Also, the advertiser can use certain filters such as location, language, search partners, bid amounts, impression share, negative keywords and others to get more specific results. But I want you to expand on your use of this tool. There is so much more than typing in a potential keyword, getting your results and exporting them. Here are some out of the box ways you can use the Keyword Planner tool to find different  options.

  • Type in the URLs of every important landing page to the “Your landing page” field to see what Google thinks your page is already about. You’ll also get suggestions on new keywords.
  • Use the same landing page field to look up your competitors’ pages. You’ll get the results of what Google thinks your competitors’ pages are about.
  • If your company’s/client’s industry is very specific, find the related Wikipedia page of that industry and type that into the landing page field to see which keywords come up.
  • Find white papers, case studies or other articles related to your industry and test those landing pages in the Keyword Planner.

There are more examples like this, but I hope it gives you the idea of different, unique ways you can generate new keyword ideas with Google’s free tool.

2. Actual Search Queries in AdWords

Unless you are using exact match types for all of your keywords, you are not going to match a user’s intent 100%. Keep in mind our keywords are triggered when they relate to a user’s search query. Our keywords are not the search query themselves. Google gives us the option to see which search queries triggered our keywords. We can monitor these queries when performing negative keyword research.  And this same tactic should be used to find new keyword possibilities. Under the keywords tab in Adwords, click on the details tab. Under SEARCH TERMS select “All.”

ppc search queries

Now you will be able to see the actual search queries that triggered  your ads. Now I have two recommendations. First, go under columns and add the keywords column so you can see which keyword was associated with each search query. Second, sort by conversions. That way you can see which search queries led to goal conversions. Take those new, converting queries and add them to your account. These keywords have already shown they are valuable so take advantage of it!

3. Google Webmaster Tools

I’ve already mentioned how SEO can benefit PPC. The “not provided” world of SEO has removed access to most of organic search queries in Google’s reporting…but not all. In Google Webmaster Tools, you can see a small percent of keywords that come to your site within the past 90 days. To find this go under Search Traffic and then Search Queries (assuming your site is verified already). You can then sort by Query, Impressions, Clicks, CTR and Avg. Position.

webmaster tools search queries

It is important to note that the 90 day window Google gives us is a rolling time frame from the current date. So once you are past that 90 day threshold, you cannot get the past search queries ever again. They are gone from reporting forever! It’s a quick and easy best practice to export these once a month. That way you won’t miss any reporting. There will be some great keywords in here that you never have seen before.

4. Utilize Google’s Autocomplete

Autocomplete serves many benefits to users on Google. It helps people find what they are looking for faster, it can correct spelling errors and can remember past search queries if a user has been logged into his/her account. But these features can also help search engine marketers find new keywords that might not show up in the Keyword Planner.Working with a lot of B2B clients can bring up a lot of services that I’m not familiar with. So looking for keyword variations beyond the client’s help can be challenging. Using autocomplete results has allowed me to find ideas for new keywords and ad group breakout ideas. Take a look…


This particular client’s goal was to improve the aluminum bus bar part of their business. It was the most profitable and fastest growing marketing for them. So I did my standard Keyword Planner, competitor research, etc., but it wasn’t enough for me. I typed in “aluminum bus bar” in my browser and got the results you see above. I then took those results and plugged them into the Keyword Planner. Here’s what I got back from Google…

adwords keyword ideas

Almost all of these new keyword ideas had reported search traffic. This allowed us to create new landing pages that fit each of these new keyword groups and reach a bigger audience who never heard of this client before. Now some of the autocomplete results you plug into the Keyword Planner might not have any reported search traffic. However it doesn’t mean users are never searching for these terms…just not enough quantity to make it worthwhile for Google to report on. If it’s important enough for Google to show to a user in autocomplete, then it is safe to say that there is some reported worth in Google’s eyes to show it to users.

5. Third Party Tools

Without going into great detail about individual products, there are a lot of non-Google options out there that provide different value depending on what you need. Take Ubersuggest for example, where a user can type in a keyword phrase and the site will come back with keyword variants based on every letter of the English alphabet. Here’s a snippet from when I searched “garage doors.”

ubersuggest example

Here are some other third party keyword tools you can use. All come with grains of salt but can provide big returns depending on whether you’re looking for new keyword ideas or looking to see what your competitors are ranking for.

These are some of the tactics I use to build upon my campaign performance. Sometimes these small finds can produce big results. Do you use any of these tactics already? What different keyword research strategies do you use? I’d love to hear them. Leave examples in the comments!