You’re ready to jump into the pay per click arena and set up your first AdWords campaign or are you?

It’s tempting to click on the Create Your First Campaign button, assign it a name, select all of the settings, and write your headline and ad copy. But before you do, it’s important to do some keyword research and discovery work so you can set up an effective campaign and launch your first test ads.

You’ve come up with a great idea for a product or service, and you’re positive there’s a market for it.  But before you start spending money, spend some time to make sure your assumptions are correct.

Market Discovery

Before you dive into keyword research, take a few minutes to validate your basic assumptions about the size of your opportunity. Start the process at and enter one of the keywords you think someone searching for your business or organization would use. Google personalizes results base on individual search behavior, so it’s a good idea to turn off personalization settings in your search profile to get a better idea of what the landscape looks like.

You’re looking for three things:

  •  Is anyone advertising for your keywords? – Make sure there are at least three relevant (and real) competitive ads. If there are no paid ads, chances are great that no one has found a way to make this keyword profitable in a ppc campaign.
  • Are there related organic results for your product or service? – Let’s say you sell paper tablets. If you do a search on the word tablet; the search results are dominated by Nooks, Kindles, iPads, and other electronic devices. You quickly know that “tablet” would not be a good keyword for you to include in a campaign and you won’t waste any time or money on something that would bring you no results.
  • What sort of keyword does Google think it is? – Are the results local listings, reference sites (like Wikapedia), or shopping results? Google keeps track of the type of content that people most often interact with for a search term and serve it up first.

I’m still hoping to go on a Caribbean vacation someday, so I’ll use this as an opportunity to do a little research and dreaming. I turned off the personal settings in Google and searched on “affordable Caribbean vacations.” It’s a good example of a keyword that would be worth doing further research if I owned a travel agency instead of spending my time reading about search engine optimization.

Search Engine Results Page - Keyword Validation


Now that you’ve validated your basic assumptions, it’s time to start your keyword research using the free Google keyword tool within your AdWords account.  You’ll access the tool from the drop down menu under “Tools and Analysis.”

AdWords Menu_Keyword Tool

First we’re going to use the tool to identify search terms you may want to bid on. Enter one of more keyword phrases into the “word or phrase” box and click search.  You’ll want to start with general or broad keywords to get an initial take on the landscape.

AdWords Keyword Box_Keyword Research


Google displays a list of the top keywords that include the keywords you entered.  They’re sorted by relevance and include useful information about trends for each term.  For now let’s focus on creating a list of keywords.  Go through the list with one question in mind, “Would a person searching on this term be a potential customer?”  and make a “yes” or potential keyword list and a “no” or negative keyword list. How to use “negative keywords” will be discussed in a later post.

An example of a negative keyword from my Caribbean vacation research is the phrase “Cruises Royal Caribbean.”  If my company doesn’t sell Royal Caribbean cruise packages, the answer to the question – “Would a person searching on this term be a potential customer?” is no and I’d jot the term down on my negative keyword list

Google Adwords Broad Match Results_Keyword Research

One thing to keep in mind is that the results in this example are broad match and useful for understanding the size of the entire market. There are strategies behind when to use an exact-match or a broad-match which will be reviewed in a future post.

In addition to the keyword research tool within your AdWords account there are other good resources such as Google Trends, Google Insights for Search, and don’t forget about Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.  You may also want to check out Google Trends to understand general and seasonal trends for a keyword and to identify fads.

AdWords is a great tool for running quick and inexpensive tests to determine how to make the most of your pay per click campaign. Whether your internet marketing strategy is intended to generate leads or to sell products directly from your website, you can use AdWords to answer the following questions:

  1. Is there enough search interest in my products?
  2. How should I structure my AdWords campaign?
  3. Does my website have content that is relevant and engaging?
  4. Is my website easy to navigate?
  5. Can AdWords be profitable for me?

Up next – Establishing Keyword Buckets and jumping in with both feet!

What is your favorite tool for conducting keyword research?  Share tips and advice on what works and what doesn’t.