What's in a Keyword?

In the world of PPC advertising, keywords are pretty important. But what are they? And why are they important to an advertising campaign? Well, let’s find out.

Keywords are somewhat self-explanatory. If you take a closer look at the word itself, the definition is almost spelled out for us. Keywords are words that are key to something. Get it?

In general, they’re just important words. Now let’s take this general concept and apply it to the world of search marketing.

Keyword Bidding in PPC

Keyword bids are one of the main factors that determine whether or not your ad shows up as a search result. But it’s important to remember that the top spot on the page doesn’t necessarily go to the highest bidder, a common misconception.

Other factors like your ad’s Quality Score and your ad’s expected impact go into determining where your ad appears. So even though your bid doesn’t decide it all, it’s a big part of the equation.

There are a whole lot of hacks that you can brush up on to improve your PPC campaign, but choosing good keywords is one of the important basics.

Broad Match vs. Exact Match

When using broad match, someone searches for something including the keyword that you’re bidding on, and your ad may come up. There are also exact match keywords, which is when your ad only appears when someone searches for your exact keyword.

For example, imagine yourself as the owner of a successful spatula business. If you’re bidding on the word “spatulas” and using broad match, your ad for spatulas may appear when someone searches for “spatulas” or “spatulas for sale.”

If you were using exact match, someone would have to search for “spatulas” for your ad to have the opportunity to appear.

But it’s not always this simple. It’s important to put thought into the words you choose so that you can bid on the correct keywords, and get the most bang for your buck.

Types of Keywords

Wordstream’s PPC University tells us that there are four main types of keywords to choose from. Because I love a good list, let’s list ‘em off.

1. Brand Terms

Brand terms are keywords that are unique to your individual brand or trademarks. Some brand terms for your spatula company’s advertising campaign would include “Super Superior Spatulas,” “SuperSuperiorSpatulas.com,” or even specific product names, like “Super Spatula 3000.”

Bidding on your own brand terms can be valuable for a whole bunch of reasons. If someone is searching for spatulas and they’re already familiar with your company, they’re more likely to click on your ad. This is why brand terms tend to work for well-known, big name companies.

In addition, CPC for your own branded terms is often cheaper than for other keywords. Who doesn’t love saving money? Brand terms also usually have high CTRs, which will help your Quality Score.

Sounds great, right? But with the increased likelihood of return customers, comes with the decreased likelihood of new customers. It’s unlikely that someone will search for your company’s name if they’ve never heard of it.

2. Competitor Terms

Competitor terms are the brand terms for companies offering similar products or services. For example, some of your competitors in the spatula business might be “Stan’s Spatulas,” “Spatula Emporium,” and “Spatulas by Steven.”

Bidding on competitor terms gives you a jump on the competition, because when people search for the competitor, your ad may appear higher up in the search results than the company’s own links.

It can be expensive to bid on competitor’s brand terms, so this might not be the best option if you have a small budget. The issue of whether or not this is legal is also somewhat up in the air.

You can imagine that some companies wouldn’t take too kindly to the competition bidding on their trademarks, and some have even taken the issue to court. I have many titles, but lawyer is not one of them, so you can read more about whether or not it’s technically legal to use trademarks as keywords here.

3. Generic Terms

These terms are words that describe the products or services that you’re advertising for. Continuing with the spatula example, some generic terms would include “spatulas” or “kitchen utensils.”

Using general terms allows your ads to reach a larger audience. If the keyword you bid on is “spatulas,” people searching for “chrome spatulas” or “plastic spatulas” may still see your ad.

But with a broader audience comes unwanted, irrelevant traffic. For example, someone might be looking for something specific like a “spatula patterned apron” (how fashionable!). They’re not looking to buy spatulas but they’ll see your ad anyway, assuming you’re still bidding on the keyword “spatulas.”

This is unproductive for both you and the customer. Using negative keywords can help you avoid this problem, but I’ll get to that in a minute.

Related terms are like generic terms in that they’re not specific to your brand, but here’s where they differ: related terms don’t directly relate to the products or services that you offer. They’re things that people who might want your product or service would search for. Some examples for spatulas would be “cooking,” “grilling,” or “kitchen supplies.”

The pros and cons of related terms are similar to those of generic terms. Your ads may appear to a bigger audience, which is great if they’re interested in your products or services, but it’s possible that they won’t be.

Getting It Right

As I said earlier, choosing the right keywords isn’t always as easy as we’d like it to be. Broad match is exactly what the name claims: broad.

When choosing keywords, think of what else your keyword could mean and whether or not it has other uses.

Let’s use a different example to talk this one out. Say you’re advertising fish sticks. Of course you know what “fish sticks” is describing, but if you were to choose either “fish” or “stick” as a keyword, you might be in some trouble.

People searching for either of those generic terms could possibly see your ad and be looking for something else, like aquarium fish. This would be that unwanted, irrelevant traffic I mentioned before.

Because “fish” and “stick” are both such broad terms, folks in the market for fish sticks might be searching for the term “fish sticks,” but get other, unrelated ads for things like aquarium fish or glow sticks.

Most brands will have scenarios where they don’t want to show up for a search query the ad platform thinks they would. That’s where negative keywords can be helpful.

If you want to make sure that only those looking for fish sticks see your ads, you can add negative keywords to your campaign. This tells your ad platform not to show your ad for searches containing “aquarium,” for example. Using negative keywords can help you avoid that irrelevant traffic.

Ready, Set, Bid!

Bidding on the right keywords can make your ad campaign super effective, but bidding on the wrong ones can have just as drastic of an impact.

You need to be careful about choosing your keywords, and making sure they are either uniquely relevant to your products or not too relevant to other products.

Put some thought into it, figure out what works for your individual campaign, and you’ll be on the road to keyword bidding success in no time.