SEO, Thought Leaders

How to Create a Comprehensive Keyword List for Search Campaigns

January 13, 2021

by Paige Dickey

Search & Social Advertising Analyst

Having a useful keyword list is more than throwing together the first few words or phrases that come to mind; it takes research, planning, and building to complete a list of relevant and refined keywords. Here are some steps to making sure your campaign’s keyword list is the best that it can be.

One of the most important steps when devising a search campaign is creating a comprehensive keyword list. This list works to capture all of the possible relevant searches users make that can turn them into a sale or a lead on your website.

Creating a useful keyword list is more than throwing together the first few words or phrases that come to mind; it takes research, planning, and building to complete a list of relevant and refined keywords. Here are some steps to making sure your campaign’s keyword list is the best that it can be.

Step 1: Research Product, Service, or Idea You’re Advertising

The very first step when developing a comprehensive keyword list is having a deep understanding of the space you’re advertising in. Start by talking internally with experts on the products or services and getting their input on what the core aspects are. 

You can also look through the website of the product or service in question and examine the language used around it. 

Find phrases or terms that are used often in product titles and descriptions, as well as adjectives or descriptors that are used. Take notes as you canvass the web pages and talk to others, as these will be very helpful in the next steps. 

Some key questions to ask yourself or the client could be:

  • What are the main categories of products/services you offer?
  • What products/services are of the highest priority (if any)?
  • What are some common terms used within the industry that are used by customers?
  • What variations or options are included for your products or services?

After you’ve done this extensive research, document your ideas to proceed to the next step.

Step 2: Identify Categories of Keywords for Each Campaign Objective

When creating keyword lists, it’s important to keep in mind the structure of search campaigns. Campaigns should be based on a common goal or product category, and ad groups should reflect the segmentation of keywords that you’ll target. 

Consider the category of the products or services and how they might be searched for. For example, “bags’’ is one category of products, but the searches that are made for bags can include many different terms, such as “purses,” “backpacks” or “totes.” 

Because of this, you will want to segment out your keyword lists to be focused on those specific areas. Here’s an example of how a campaign for “Bags” might be broken down:

Keyword research list and segments

Refining these categories by ad group will help organize your ideas and create structures for your keyword plans.

Step 3: Create A Keyword Structure and Concatenate

Once you’ve segmented out ad groups based on some core keywords, it’s time to create a keyword structure document. A keyword structure starts with a list of primary terms that are the core of the keyword list and will be used in every keyword. For the ad group “Backpacks”, this would be something like “backpacks,” “bookbags,” “knapsack.”

A great way to find terms that are closely matched is by researching common synonyms. Google’s keyword planner tool is a great place to start to find similar terms and what the search volume is for those terms.

Google Ads Keyword Suggestions

Next, make a list of secondary terms that narrow down the search. This could be a list of colors that are offered, sizes, styles, and features. These terms should be grouped by a common theme and have separate lists.

Another list of terms to create is modifiers. These terms help shape a keyword into common phrases that a searcher may use that are relevant to the products or services. For the “bags” example, some modifiers could be ”for kids,” “on sale,” “high quality,” or “durable.” 

After coming up with primary, secondary, and modifier terms, you should have a structure that looks similar to this:

campaign ad groups with primary, secondary, and modifier terms 
 
The final step is concatenation, which is the process of forming your terms into full keywords using a spreadsheet and exploring different keyword combinations. 

There are formulas in software like Excel or Google Sheets to easily concatenate your keywords. Combining terms for the “bags” example will lead you to keywords like “high-quality leather bookbags,” “canvas backpacks,” “durable vinyl knapsack,” and so many more. 

Make sure to use both short keywords that are simpler along with keywords that contain secondary terms and modifiers. This creates a list of keywords to be most efficiently matched with the searches that users make.

Step 4: Upload Keywords and Match Types

Once you’ve made your keyword lists for your ad groups, you will want to format them in a way that is easy to upload to advertising platforms like Google Ads Editor. 

An easy way to do this is to create a spreadsheet listing the campaign name, ad group name, keyword, and match type as columns and filling out the rows accordingly.

The match type column should contain either “phrase,” “exact,” or “broad.” This means that each keyword should be in a spreadsheet three times: once in each corresponding match type row. It’s also a good idea to use a broad-match modifier tool to add “+” before each word of your broad match keywords to avoid getting too many irrelevant searches.

Once your list is all ready, it is easy to upload into Google Ads Editor and the keywords will automatically be separated into the associated campaigns and ad groups. 

Here’s what a list of keywords should look like before you upload.

Keyword list with match typeUse this format to make sure your keywords can upload without losing any data before starting your campaign.

Step 5: Keep Up With Search Terms and Negative Keywords Regularly

Once your keywords are uploaded and your ads are live, you may get a number of irrelevant searches at first. You can manage this by adding negative keywords to the ad groups. 

Negative keywords are phrases or words you add that will essentially blacklist your ads so that you don’t get clicks for searches that are not relevant to your offerings.

For example, if your focus was on backpacks that are only in adult sizes, you would want to add phrases like “for kids” or “toddler” to your negative term list. 

As time goes on, make sure to check the “search terms” tab of your account often. This is where you will find the occasional search slip through that is not relevant to your campaign. It’s simple to exclude the term and add it to your negative keywords lists. Over time, as your negative list grows, the number of irrelevant searches will drastically decrease.

Follow These Steps for a Comprehensive Keyword List

Creating a thorough and comprehensive keyword list for your campaign can feel daunting, but following these steps and taking the time to strategically target searches relevant to your goals makes it a lot simpler. Putting in the effort to have a solid keyword build can lead to real results.

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