How To: Create Awesome Keywords for Your Paid Search Campaign

Search advertising keyword tips for SMBs

For most local businesses, building a search engine advertising campaign that performs well is an important online marketing goal. And understanding what types of keywords and search queries work best for your type of business is key to getting the most value from your advertising budget. And one of our goals at ReachLocal is to create paid search campaigns that perform well for our clients. Here are a few search advertising keyword tips we’ve learned from setting up and managing keywords for tens of thousands of campaigns.

1. Avoid Ambiguous Keywords

One of the common mistakes we see local businesses make is using search advertising keywords that are ambiguous or too general. For example, a professional carpet cleaning service might think it would be good to use a broad keyword like “carpet cleaner” in order to capture interest from a variety of searchers. But, if your keywords are too broad, you may pay for traffic that won’t convert because it drives people who are looking for a product or service you don’t offer. For example, some people using that keyword might be looking for a machine, while others are looking for a service. You only want people who are looking for what you offer to click on your ad. So, it is important to use the right combinations of keyword variations, match types, and negative keywords in order to target only the searchers that are looking for your types of products and services.

When creating keyword lists, you need to focus not only on the search traffic you do want, but you also want to anticipate what traffic you will need to avoid. So, for the example above, the professional carpet cleaning service would need to use appropriate negative keywords, such as product(s), equipment, formula(s), and other types of terms that would indicate a consumer who isn’t looking for a service, such as consumers seeking a do-it-yourself solution. Adding extensive custom negative keywords lists for all of your campaigns will help you weed out as much unwanted traffic as possible. For our carpet cleaning service clients at ReachLocal, we have a list of hundreds of negative keywords that we add to every campaign at the time of setup. We also use keyword variations and match types to help us spend our clients’ budgets only on the clicks that are most likely to convert into a contact, like a call or email, from the very beginning.

There are countless examples of ambiguous and general keywords used for every type of product or service. But be on the lookout for potential issues when setting up your keyword lists and check the search query logs in Google Adwords and Bing periodically to find and mitigate keyword issues as your campaign is running.

2. Focus on the Searcher’s Intent & Location

Sometimes, even the slightest keyword variations make all the difference in performance. For example, there is a surprising difference in intent between a consumer searching the keywords “roof repair” or “repair roof” and/or “repairing roof.”

Location keywords chart

As you can see, the keyword “roof repair” performs well, while “repair roof” performs just OK on its own. But, the keywords “repair roof” and “repairing roof” both perform very well for a professional roofer service when combined with a geographic location, such as a city name. In fact, when we add that location keyword to “repairing roof,” it shows a shift in searcher intent from looking for DIY tips and instructions to looking for a professional roofer in their local area. At ReachLocal, we’ve seen the ROI on these service and location keywords increase tremendously for some clients! So, you need to add location keywords to your core keyword list to increase traffic from your local audience.

You can also change match type, add negative keywords, and make other adjustments to further control your clicks and site traffic. For example, home services campaigns need to keep an eye on words that indicate DIY intent, which often include verbs and gerunds such as fix roof, repair roof, repairing roof, etc. While some variations perform well, others are typically searched by Do it Yourselfers, so they don’t convert as well for the service providers we serve. That’s why it’s so important to understand the intent of your potential customers so you can narrow down your keyword lists to best fit your business and location. 

3: Get Creative with Your Keywords

Speaking of home services keywords, here is a surprising fact: “plummer” is a higher ROI keyword for some of our clients than “plumber.” Yes, “plummer” is an intentional misspelling that we deliberately add keyword variations for to our campaigns. “Plumber” itself is a great keyword, bringing in a high ROI when used correctly. But at ReachLocal, our data shows that “plummer” has a 50% higher ROI on average for our clients! What this means for other business types is that a common misspelling can be a valuable keyword variation for your business, too.  That’s because it drives high quality traffic with far less competition, which means the bids may be less expensive. Often, these variation keywords perform even better over time as competition for the more commonly-searched keywords gets more expensive.

Of course, keyword misspellings can be detrimental when not used in moderation. It can actually hurt your campaign if you’re bidding on too many misspellings, so stick to a few common misspellings and see how they perform.

These are just a few ways you can modify your keyword approach to boost your search advertising performance and lower your cost per contact. What other keyword research tips have you found that work well for your paid search campaigns?

To learn more, or to find out what impact choosing the right keywords has had on some of our client’s campaigns, check out our ReachLocal reviews.

Devon Anderson

Devon Anderson is a search engine marketing and online advertising expert who is passionate about helping small and medium businesses gain customers online. Devon currently serves as the Vice President of Media Delivery Solutions for ReachLocal, where she oversees the teams responsible for SEM campaign strategy, campaign setup, and publisher operations.

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