Getting Started with Google Search Ad Keywords


May, 2020

If you want to use Google’s search ad platform to its full potential, the first step is always selecting the right keywords. The keywords you pick and the match types you select affect how often your ads are shown, how much you pay to show them, and whether your ad or your competitor’s ad is at the top of the page.

 Keywords, simply put, are the words or phrases that people search for on Google. They are words that describe products, services, or content. When you create a Google search ad, you pick which keywords will trigger your ads to show. They are also the “building blocks” of your ads, because the most effective, attention-grabbing ads have keywords right in the text. So, picking the right keywords ensures that you are sharing the right message with the right person, at the right time, and at the best possible price.


Your first step after making your Google Ads account is opening up the Keyword Planner tool. You’ll find it within the Google Ads platform itself. This tool allows you to test keywords and keyword phrases and to see how many times users search for it.


Before you just start testing random phrases (which is pretty fun), look at your geographic settings. By default, it’s probably set to the entire United States. Depending on your business’s size and your industry, this may be what you want, but you can narrow your search down to a specific town, broaden it to multiple countries, or set it anywhere in-between. Sometimes, regional variations can make huge differences in which keywords people use, and that could lead to you picking the wrong keywords.

Next, try to think like your customer. This is the golden rule of keyword selection. Ask yourself questions, like these, about your ideal customer:


  • What would they type in the search bar when looking for my product or service?
  • What will they search for when they want to buy my product right now?
  • What will they search for when they are shopping around, comparing my business with my competitors?
  • What types of words would they use to describe my product or service? Do they use my industry’s jargon, or do they use more common language?


That list is not exhaustive, but it should get you started. The point of this exercise is to show your ad to people that have the intent to do business with you, and to not waste your ad spend on people searching for a Wikipedia page.

“Sometimes, regional variations can make huge differences in which keywords people use, and that could lead to you picking the wrong keywords.”

Let’s try an example. You own a professional cheese sculpting business. Everyone that has seen your work raves about you to their friends and family; you are to Marble Jack as Michelangelo was to marble. Up until now, word-of-mouth business referrals have been enough, but you want to keep growing, and to do that, you need more customers. You’ve decided to try Google search ads. After making your account, you open the Keyword Planner tool. You deliver your Stilton statues within the Central Minnesota region around St. Cloud, but to make sure you have enough data, you decide to set your geographic settings to the entire state of Minnesota.


You think about your ideal customer. Most of the time, your customer is hosting a party or an event, and they want to impress their guests with something unique and memorable. A custom-made Brie bust with crackers fits the bill. But some other customers are patrons of the local art scene, and some are just really into uniquely shaped cheeses.


You begin testing keywords like “cheese sculptors,” and “event caterers.” You don’t bother with “cheese art,” or “cheddar sculpting.” You want someone looking for a sculptor or a caterer, not for pictures of cheese art or a how-to article on cheddar sculpting techniques. You absolutely avoid broad terms like “art,” “food art,” and “Camembert” because that person is searching for general information about the topic and not someone looking to buy your Mozzarella masterpieces.


Where you do go from here? Check out the next post about narrowing down your keyword list into the strongest and most cost-effective keywords.

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