Do Google Ads Keyword Research in a Fraction of the Time

There is no denying it, Google Ads keywords research can be tedious if you have a huge range of products or services, but it doesn’t have to be that way!

I know that there are already lots of good guides out their that have covered almost every keyword research method possible, but this guide is different, I’m only going to show you the 2 keyword research tools that you need to build a comprehensive list of keywords in the fastest possible amount of time.

To do this we will be mainly using 2 Adwords keyword research tools, Adwords keyword planner and SEMrush.

You will also need an Excel spreadsheet to keep all of your keywords organised.

You will notice that apart from for competition research tools we don’t use many tools for keyword research unlike some guides that suggest sign 10 or 20 or more. The reasons for this is that for paid search traffic Google Adwords Keyword Planner (when use effectively) will allow you to build a very comprehensive keyword list of head and mid tail keywords and the few that you miss you will find through your search query reports within a matter of days of the account going live.

Choosing the right AdWords keywords

Branded keywords

Branded keywords are keywords that contain your brand name. Branded keywords generally have the highest conversion rate within your account because people are already familiar with your brand and trust you.

There is a large amount of debate as to whether these should be included which you can read about here. However from our own data we have found that advertisers generate more profit overall by bidding on their own branded terms even if they rank number 1 on Google so ensure that all campaigns contain these.

Competitor keywords

Competitor keywords are the names of your competitors. These used to be a goldmine, however with Google tightening up their Quality Score algorithm these terms are becoming increasingly costly. If you have a large budget to spend or are trying to make inroads against a strong competitor then these may be an avenue to explore, but are generally not recommended.

Ted Ives also wrote a good piece for SearchEngineLand on competitor bidding best practices and the regulations around trademarks which you can read here.

Non-Branded terms

There are 4 different sub categories of non-branded terms, Buy now keywords, Product keywords, informational keywords and tire kicker keywords. Each of which I have talked about in more detail in the next section on choosing keywords based on intent.

Choosing Adwords keywords based on Commercial Intent

One big mistake that I often see advertisers making is that they don’t choose keywords based on intent.

People give away what stage in the buying cycle they are based on what they are searching for. Different keywords represent different levels of intent. Some search terms will be used by people who are close to converting and others will not.

Commercial intent is probably the most important thing to look for within a keyword, it is significantly more important than the search volume that the keyword gets.

Here is an diagram showing the different types of keywords and their differing levels of intention, this model is slightly different in the fact that it breaks down the product / keyword category into several different sub categories, such as substitute product term, complementary product terms and audience terms.

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Click to enlarge, image source: Kissmetrics

Brian Dean at Backlinko breaks down commercial intent into 4 different keyword classes.

Class 1. Buy now keywords

Buy now keywords have the highest commercial intent and contain words that users will search directly before making a purchase with you. The examples that Brian gives in his post are:

  • Buy now
  • Shop now
  • Discount
  • Deal
  • Sale

These words should be utilised within your account, however will not make up the bulk of your keywords. What these keywords lack in search volume they make up for in high conversions rates.

Here are some real world examples of these keywords “buy Nikon SLR camera” or “Nikon SLR 453 Sale”

Class 2. Product keywords / category

Product keywords appeal to people within the comparison stage of the buying cycle. This is where they are looking to compare different models and find the one that they want before they make a purchase. Product / category keywords will make up the bulk of your keywords and will relate to either a specific product such as an “Niko SLR 453 Camera” or a category for example “black Nikon SLR Cameras”. Here are some examples given by Brian of product / category keywords.

  • Review
  • Best
  • Cheap
  • Top 10
  • Affordable
  • Specific product name (e.g. Nikon SLR 453 Camera)
  • specific brand name (e.g. Nikon)
  • specific category name (e.g. Black Nikon SLR Cameras)

These keywords tend to convert very well and will make up the bulk of the keywords within your account. Here are a few examples of how they may be used in a real life example. “Black Nikon SLR Camera reviews” or “Cheap SLR Cameras”.

Class 3. Informational keywords

Informational keywords are ones where people are looking to find more information on something as opposed to looking to buy from you. Here are the examples that Brian gave:

  • How to
  • What is
  • Where is
  • Ways to
  • I need to
  • When is

All of these keywords will attract people looking for free information, so if your selling a product the chances of selling to people searching for these terms is relatively low.

The exception would be if you are advertising a free ebook for example or webinar otherwise this type of keyword should generally not appear within your campaigns.

Class 4. Tired Kicker keywords 

Tire kicker keywords are ones that attract people who are very unlikely to ever purchase from you. Here are some examples that Brian gives

  • Free
  • For Free
  • Torent

You want to avoid these within your campaigns and consider adding them as negative keywords within your account.

AdWords Keyword length and commercial intent

Another great indicator of commercial intent is the length and how specific the search term is. For example short keywords such as “camera” generally represent people who are very early in the buying cycle. They don’t yet know what type of camera they need yet, they just know they need one.

Then come more specific terms as people start to move into the comparison stage where they are deciding what type of camera that they want.

Generally adverts that contain features will also attract more of this audience. At this stage searchers may know what type of camera that they want but they are comparing different models so will search for terms such as “best black SLR camera” or “compare black SLR cameras” to choose which camera is right for them.

The final stage in the buying cycle where users are ready to buy. Here users will be searching for very specific search terms such as “cannon eos mark III camera”. where they know the exact model that they want and are looking for the best price. These users are the most likely ones to purchase from you.

Generally within an account you should have all three different types of keywords but the bulk of your keywords should be within the 3-4 word length range. From our research we have found that it is not advantageous to add keywords that are 5 or more words in length as at this point you get diminishing returns on your time optimising accounts and don’t allow for maximum ROI.

Here is a good diagram explaining the different stages in the buying cycle.

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So to conclude this section

  • Make sure you always included branded keywords within your campaigns
  • Avoid competitive terms unless you are trying to break a strong competitor
  • Stick to high commercial intent non branded keywords that are between 3-4 words in length with the bulk of your keywords within the product / category bucket and a smaller proportion in the buy now bucket.

The Optimal AdWords Keyword Research Train

Section 1. Creating a seed keyword list

The first thing that you need to do is create an excel spreadsheet where you are going to store all of the keywords that you find in a logical order, so that you can find them when it comes to building your campaigns.

When you are doing this it is key to mirror the structure of the website that you are building a keyword list for to make sure that you don’t miss any potentially profitable keywords.

STEP 1. In the second cell down in the first column A2 enter the word category and then in A3 the word sub category. As shown in the screenshot below.

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STEP 2. Now mirror your website structure within this spreadsheet. For example here is Barrington Sports website who stock a large number of different sporting Goods.

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In your spreadsheet you will want to add Hockey as the category and then add sticks as the first category in column B and then in column C you should add Hockey as the category and then shoes as the sub category. Once you have done this for all of the different hockey sub categories move on to the cricket categories and sub categories,then the rugby ones and so on.

Here is how your spreadsheet should look like now.

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STEP 3. Now you need to do a quick brainstorm and think of some seed keywords that people might search for to find these categories. At this point don’t go to in-depth just think about variations of the category name. Here is an example of a few that I have done.

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Once you have created a seed list for all of your categories and sub categories then you can move on to the next step where you are going to use Google Keyword Planner to expand these lists further.

Section 2. Expanding your seed keyword list with Adwords Keyword Planner

Although it is a fairly basic tool, every time your research keywords for a campaign you should use Google Keyword planner as it gives you information such as the volume of impressions each keyword gets, that you can’t generally find in other tools.

For a much more detailed overview of how you can use the Google Keyword planner to create a comprehensive list of Keywords I would suggest reading How to use the Google Ads Keywords Planner.

In this guide we will just quickly cover the exact points you need to use, however if you are interested in learning more then this is a great guide!

Here is how you should use Google keyword planner to expand you seed AdWords keyword list into a much more comprehensive one. The aim here is to mainly find variations of keywords that you would not find with other tools. For example “Bifolding doors” can be written in several different ways for example “bi fold doors” “bi-folding doors” “bifold doors” which the match types will not necessarily pick up as close match variants.

STEP 1. Copy the keywords that you have in the first column of your seed list, which in our case will be “hockey sticks”.

STEP 2. Within the Google Adwords Keyword Planner select the first option which is search for new keywords using, a phrase a website or a category and then paste the seed keywords into the box where you are prompted to enter your product or service as shown in the screenshot below.

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STEP 3. Set the target locations that your campaign will be displayed to, we have choose UK here.

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STEP 4. This is the step that most advertisers miss, but Adwords allows you to filter the keyword suggestions that it gives you. There are two that we suggest using the help you refine your searches so that you a) don’t waste time on keywords that don’t have enough search volume and b) don’t get lots of generic suggestions around the topic that you will waste your time working though.

In the “customise your search section” you should set it so that is only brings back keywords that have 10 or more searches per month as shown in the screenshot below.

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The next filter that you want to setup relates to the matching options. We suggest that you select “only show ideas closely rate to my search terms” and turn off the other three options to avoid adding keywords that you already have or already have in your plan. Advertisers selling Adult products should however enable the last suggestion.

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Once you have done this click “get suggestions” and Google will return a list of keywords that are closely related to your search terms that have more than 10 impressions.

STEP 5. Now navigate to the keywords ideas tab and you should get a large number of suggestions that are very closely related to your search terms.  As you will see below almost all of the keywords contain the word “hockey sticks”

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STEP 6. At this point you will want to download all of the keyword suggestion using the download button as shown below. Then make sure that you have selected excel format.

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STEP 7. Now copy and paste the list into your keyword spreadsheet and go down the list and remove any keywords that don’t look relevant. We have now generated around 250 highly relevant keyword suggestions for “hockey sticks” within a few 2-3 minutes and tidied up the list to remove any irrelevant keywords. Note – make sure that you also remove any informational and tyre kicker keywords.

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Section 3. Multiplying keywords to generate comprehensive AdWords keyword lists

One of the best ways to build a comprehensive keyword list if you are building an Adwords account for an eCommerce website is to use the keywords multiplier tool that can be found within the Adwords keyword planner interface.

This is generally a good way to expand your keyword list at category level by creating more detailed variants based on the filters within the category. Let me explain with an example.

So here is the results page for the hockey sticks at Barrington sports. You will notice that there is a huge range of different filters you can apply to refine the results.

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You are now going to add all of the values within one of the filters to each multiplier box and multiply them together to make variants. Here is how it works

STEP 1. Go to Adwords keyword planner and then select the third option down “Multiply keywords together to get new keywords” as shown in the screenshot below.

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In the first list paste your seed list of keywords, plus any that you might have found when researching using the Adwords keyword planner and Ubersuggest. I have just added a few for this example.

STEP 2. In the second list you need to enter all of the values from one of the filters on your website. So for example here are all of the values that are in the brand filter that can be found on Barrington Sports website.

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I have then entered all of these values into the second column within the Adwords keywords planner multiplier tool as shown in the screenshot below.

STEP 3. Now select a third filter, for example I have chosen the gender filter and have then entered all of the values from this filter into the Adwords Keyword multiplier tools.

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STEP 4. Now select the location that your advertising campaign will be targeted at to ensure that the search volumes that are being displayed are accurate. Here I have selected to target the UK only.

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STEP 5. Now select “get search volumes”. At this point you may find that none of the keywords that you have generated have enough search volume, if this is the case remove one of the multiplier columns. If not click on the average monthly searches column header so that the arrow is pointing downwards. This will sort all of the keywords that you have generated by search volume as shown below.

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STEP 6. Once you have done this then you have the option to download your keyword list as shown below. Do this and then save the keyword list to somewhere safe on your computer as shown below.

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STEP 7. Now copy all of the keywords that have 10 ore move impressions as shown below.

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Any keywords that have less than 10 average monthly searches should generally be discarded as they will just end up as low search volume keywords that will clutter your Adwords account and make it more difficult to manage, they will also waste a large amount of your time when it comes to grouping and creating new ads.

STEP 8. Paste these into your spreadsheet in the first column with the rest of the “hockey stick” keywords that you have found.

Section 4. Product level Adwords keywords

For eCommerce accounts one of the most overlooked area is product level keywords and adverts, however this can be hugely profitable as users searching for these keywords are very late on in the buying cycle and are ready to buy.

STEP 1. The first thing that you need to do is download you product inventory feed into an excel spreadsheet. It should look something similar to the example below.

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There is no point creating product ads fro every single one of your products as a large number of the products will not have enough search volume and they will just clutter your account with “low search volume keywords”. Not only this but you will waste a lot of time creating ads that will never be displayed. Instead you need to use the Google keyword planner to validate if the product will be a good fit for creating an advert and keyword for it.

STEP 2. Copy all of the product names from your product list feed sheet and then open up Google Adwords keyword planner. This time we are going to be using the second tab called “get search volume data and trends”. Here you are going to paste all of the product names into the box as shown below. Wherever possible it is worth removing any unnecessary words such as the word hockey stick at the end of each of the product names as this will give you more chance of their being enough search volume.

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STEP 3. Set your targeting to the location that the campaigns will be run in, for example here I have chosen the United Kingdom and then click the “Get suggests” at the bottom of the page.

STEP 4. Select the keywords suggestions tab and then order the keywords by number of searches with the keywords with the largest number of searchers as the top of the page. At this point you are likely to find some real gems. You will be able to see below that there are two product names that work well which have CPCs as low as £0.21. That is not bad considering that you are selling £200 hockey sticks and that product level keywords generally convert at 5-10% giving you a cost per conversion of somewhere in the region of £4.

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STEP 5. Once you have done this use the download option and copy and paste all of the keywords that have at leas 10 monthly searchers into your keyword spreadsheet. You will need to create a new column called product names to keep everything organised.

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That concludes the three main ways that you can use Google Keyword planner to create comprehensive lists of new keywords for your product or service.

Section 5. Refining your keyword list using competition based keyword tools (optional)

There are a number of tools that allow you to download a list of the keywords that your competitors are using. Here are a couple of the best known ones that you can try. I will not go into too much details as to which keyword tool is the best but we prefer to use SEMrush.

  • SEMrush
  • Spyfu

For me competitive keyword research tools are a bit of a love hate relationship. There are a few things that I would like to point out:

  • You can gauge if the word has a high commercial intent from Adwords Keywords Planner which is considerably more accurate that 3rd party tools such as SEMrush and Spyfu. Which brings me on nicely to my second point.
  • Even the best tools are generally quite inaccurate when it comes to finding keywords for Adwords. I tried the tool with a handful of our PPC accounts and here and for several of the accounts we were only able to identify 10-20 keywords from some of our accounts that contain over 1000 keywords.
  • Finally if you want to analyse a big competitors account you have to analyse each page individually if you want a chance of keeping your keywords organised, which generally results in their being no data for the page. In this case you generally have to trawl through the thousands of keywords for the whole domain (many of which are generally unrelated if they have a larger product range or more services) which takes up a large amount of time.

Competitive research tools are can however still be useful for finding a few last gems once you have finished with Adwords Keywords Planner by exporting a list of keywords for your competitors and then comparing this to the list that you already have to find Adwords keywords that you might have overlooked.

STEP 1. Either use spyfu or SEMrush to search for your competitors keywords. To do this using SEMrush type in the URL of the company that you are going to analyse into the top bar and select “advertising research”. Then make sure that you select the target country that your campaigns are going to be displayed in as shown in the example below.

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For this example I have analyse Barrington Sports website to see how we did with regards to finding keywords related to their hockey sticks as I’ve shown in the examples so far.

STEP 2. Down the left hand side menu select “positions” from the the advertising research tab as shown below.

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STEP 3. If you want to find keywords related to a certain page using keyword filters will allow you to only see keywords that contain a certain phrase. For example I have added the word “hockey” so I will only see suggestions that contain the word “hockey”.

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STEP 4. Now in the right hand corner of the screen you should see a box that says “export” this will allow you to download all of the keyword suggestions for that domain.

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Make sure that you select export all to download all of your keywords and that they are in an Excel format so you can easily compare them to the keywords that you already have found. We did however only find a limited amount containing the keyword “hockey” compared the thousands that we found using Adwords Keywords Planner.

STEP 5. Open the Excel spreadsheet with the keywords that you have downloaded and copy all of the keywords that your competitor is using.

STEP 6. Paste them into your keyword organiser sheet along with the rest of the keywords that you have found for hockey equipment.

STEP 7. You now need to compare the two lists to find keywords that you have not yet found. This can be done fairly easily within excel. If you are unsure of how to do this then I would suggest reading the post: “Compare to lists in excel” which will walk you step by step through what you need to do to find keywords that you have not already got in your list you created using Adwords Keyword Planner.

Conclusion

Building a comprehensive list of Adwords keywords and organising them effectively is one of the key skills of any good PPC account manager. This guide will hopefully have given you several advanced keyword research strategies that will help you generate comprehensive lists of keywords using both the Adwords Keyword Planner and SEMrush.

The key takeaway from this guide would be to focus on commercial intent. You can have a website that generates 100,000 visits per month and make £500 per month if you select the wrong keywords. Focus on finding keywords with strong commercial intent between 1-4 words long.

Another takeaway from this guide is that you need to start using filters when it comes to researching keywords. By only viewing keywords that are very similar you can save a huge amount of time and build massively targeted keyword lists very quickly. However when you are using this strategy make sure that you have a comprehensive list of seed keyword, otherwise you are likely to miss potential opportunities.

When it comes to finding keywords for ecommerce accounts nothing beats using the keyword multiplier that is built into Adwords Keyword Planner. It is a really quick way to build huge lists of mid tail keywords between 3-4 keywords in length. Your product names will also make great keyword opportunities so its worth adding these as keywords provided that you check their search volume first to save you time.

Finally competitor keyword research tools can be an effective way to find additional keywords that you may have missed, however from past experience these seem to be quite limited in the keywords that they find and I very rarely find new keywords using these tools that I have not already found in Adwords Keywords Planner so the 5th section is optional and should only really be used when you can find a huge list of keyword for a competitor using competitive research tools.

By Ed Leake

Ed Leake is a seasoned professional with decades of experience in the world of internet and advertising. He was one of the earliest adopters of domain ownership and website monetization. Ed built his first website in 1996 and has since managed over $250 million in ad spend. He is an agency owner, SaaS product owner, Ad Tech builder, PPC specialist, investor, and mentor. He has been running his agency, Midas Media, for over 13 years and acquired Adboozter in 2018. Ed also built AdEvolver, a tool to automate Google Ads accounts at scale. He uses his expertise to help businesses grow from small to large, leveraging Google Ads and Analytics, along with a significant focus on conversion optimization. Despite being a self-confessed workaholic, coffeeholic, and motorsportholic, Ed is not currently taking on new clients due to high demand.