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How to Conduct Keyword Research for a Paid Search Campaign

By Blake Smith

Needless to say that when it comes to paid search, keyword research is an integral part of launching a successful campaign.

I’m a huge basketball fan so I tend to think of paid search strategy the same as a game strategy.

If you’re a fan like me, consider this analogy: keyword research is to paid search as a scouting report is to a basketball game – it’s the foundation for the overall strategy.


Defining which keywords to target and also which keywords to exclude will be the foundation of your initiative. Just how basketball teams strategize differently for the team they are up against, digital advertisers should do the same.

Let’s use brand awareness as an example campaign objective.

As a best practice, a strictly brand awareness campaign should steer away from terms surrounding the idea of making a purchase.

However, once interest is assumed through the customer’s action of clicking an ad, a remarketing campaign can be implemented with keywords focused on purchasing a specific product.

So in this example, how do you research the keywords you need to make this campaign successful?

After deciding on the objective, the next step is to make a list of keywords by gathering the terms used to search for your brand and product/service. This research should be focused around your buyer personas and the verbiage they use to search for the solution you provide.

Still having trouble developing buyer personas for your company? Click here for a free persona worksheet.

Once you have a working list, expand that list even further by searching the web for alternatives. We use tools like Google Keyword Planner and

Now here’s where the analysis comes in. The next step is to determine which keywords people are using to find your site. Shed light on this by identifying which keywords your site ranks well for. You can use Google Analytics here. And with that same analysis, determine your low hanging fruit – or the keywords you have the best opportunity to rank for.

A quick note: no matter what industry the product or service is associated with, and no matter how complex, you must understand the functionality and purpose of the product/service – most importantly the terminology associated with it. Understanding the associated terminology will allow you to get inside your consumers’ minds and understand the way they search.

Once the terminology is understood and the related terms are collected, you can start to guide the context of the keywords towards such themes as information gathering, purchasing, comparison, product/service discovery, etc.

After all these steps, you should have keywords that support both the general brand awareness campaign and the product/service-focused campaign I outlined in the objective example.

I hope you were able to use this post to get started with your keyword research. If you have any questions, be sure to leave them in the comments below!

Keyword research and paid search are only two cogs in the entire digital marketing machine.

If you need help determining whether your digital efforts are actually moving the metrics that matter most, sign up for our free digital marketing assessment!