Pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns have become an integral part of online advertising strategies for businesses of all sizes. They allow advertisers to place their ads on search engine result pages but only pay when a user clicks on their ad. This targeted approach ensures that businesses can reach those potential customers who are actively searching for products or services related to their industry. To make the most of a PPC campaign, it is crucial to choose the right keywords that will effectively attract the desired audience.

Why exactly are they important?

Inadequate keyword selection can lead to wasted ad spend, missed opportunities, and ineffective targeting. Keyword selection affects your campaign in several ways, and none of those should be neglected:

  • Targeted reach. Selecting the appropriate keywords ensures that your ads are shown to users who are actively searching for what you offer. By targeting specific keywords, you can reach a highly relevant audience, increasing the chances of generating qualified leads and conversions.
  • Cost efficiency. Effective keyword selection helps optimize your budget by ensuring that you’re investing in keywords that are relevant and have a reasonable search volume. Choosing highly relevant keywords with lower competition can reduce the cost per click and increase the return on investment (ROI) of your PPC campaign.
  • Ad relevance. When your ads are closely aligned with the keywords you target, they become more relevant to users. Relevance improves the user experience and increases the likelihood of users clicking on your ads. Thus, choosing the right keywords improves the click-through rate (CTR) of your ads.
  • Ad positioning. Search engines consider the relevance and quality of your ads when determining their position on the search results page. By selecting highly relevant keywords, you increase the chances of your ads appearing at the top positions, where they are more likely to be noticed and clicked on.

Understanding keyword research

Keyword research is the foundation of a PPC campaign. It involves identifying the keywords that potential customers are most likely to use when searching for products or services similar to what your business offers. Effective keyword research helps you optimize your campaign, increase its visibility, and achieve higher conversion rates.

Start by brainstorming a list of terms that are relevant to your business or industry. Put yourself in the shoes of your target audience and think about the words they would use to find your products or services. Additionally, consider the various synonyms and related terms that might also be used. This list will serve as a starting point for further research.

There are several tools available to assist in keyword research. Google’s Keyword Planner, for instance, provides insights into search volume, competition, and related keywords.

Other popular tools include Moz, SEMrush, and Serpstat, which can be used for SEO and PPC campaigns, and those specifically designed for PPC, like Promonavi. While both types can help you identify high-volume keywords, assess competition, and discover new keyword opportunities, they have more features for different purposes. Thus, Moz has tools for inspecting your site for flaws and analyzing link metrics, and Promonavi helps manage and automate multiple campaigns and focuses more on keyword planning and competitor analysis for PPC.

Identifying relevant keywords

Once you have a list of potential keywords, it’s important to narrow it down to the most relevant ones for your business. Relevance is crucial because it ensures that your ads are shown to the right audience. Consider the following factors:

  • Relevance to your business. Choose keywords that directly relate to your products, services, or industry. For example, if you sell running shoes, relevant keywords could include “athletic shoes,” “running footwear,” or “sports shoes.”
  • Search volume. Look for keywords with a significant search volume. While highly competitive keywords may generate more traffic, they can also be more expensive. Strike a balance by targeting keywords with a good search volume and reasonable competition.
  • Competition. Evaluate the competition for your chosen keywords. High competition means that many advertisers are bidding for the same keywords, which can drive up costs. Consider targeting long-tail keywords (more specific and less competitive phrases) to optimize your budget and increase the chances of conversion.

Keyword match types

Keyword match types are basic rules set for keywords that determine how closely a search term needs to match with your chosen keyword for your ad to be triggered. For each keyword individually, a suitable match type can be set, thus flexibly controlling the relevance of the ads. The match types include:

Broad match

In this case, your ad will be shown when the search query includes any variation, synonym, or term related to your keyword. Broad match offers the widest reach but may lead to less targeted traffic. If variations of your keywords include a high proportion of irrelevant queries, the clickability of the ad will be low. And most users who will still go to the site will also leave it quickly because they won’t find what they are looking for. As a consequence, the quality of ads will decrease, and so will the position in the advertising output. This is a common situation, especially if the keyword phrase can have multiple meanings.

You can also set more precise rules for displaying ads by using a broad match modifier, which is basically a “+” sign. It must be placed before one or more words to be fixed. This allows you to only get displays for queries that contain the word you specified with the modifier.

For example, if we add “+blue +shirt” to the key phrase, ads may be shown for the following queries: “blue shirt for women,” “cheap blue shirt for women,” etc., and not for the query “blue women’s polo.”

With the modifier, you can improve the relevance of displays, and thus get a higher CTR and conversion rate.
Using broad match makes sense when:

  • You have no opportunity or time for detailed selection and elaboration of the semantics, and the campaign needs to be launched quickly. In this case, set basic keywords and run the ads. Importantly, do not forget to review the daily reports on search queries to screen off the trash and irrelevant phrases.
  • You are working in a narrow niche, where there is little semantics or most queries are low-frequency. Here, a broad match will help you find new semantics and reach more audiences.

A broad match will not work:

  • If the basic keyword’s meaning changes depending on the words it’s used with or the keyword itself has multiple meanings. This is a common story if a query consists of a single word – almost always that word can match different queries, with different meanings or focus. For example, the word “primer” can mean a makeup item, a preparatory coating for surface painting, or an elementary textbook for children. Most displays for such queries will be irrelevant, and the quality of ads will drop.
  • If you want to get a high CTR. In this case, an exact match will work best.

Phrase match

It is used when ads must only be shown for queries that include the keyword. If the keyword has two or more words, the word order is also taken into account. This match type allows for some flexibility and can reach a broader audience.

For example, a campaign has the keyword “running shoes,” for which we set a phrase match. In this case, ads will be shown for queries containing the phrase in the given form (there may be other words in the custom query) and won’t be shown for queries with different word order or containing other words between the words of the phrase. Displays may also appear for close variants of a keyword: abbreviations and acronyms, queries with typos or errors, singular/plural form changes, and words with the same root.

Phrase matching is good for:

  • Optimal balance between reach and targeted traffic.
  • Higher CTR. Displays are driven by more relevant and accurate queries, so the clickability will be higher than with a broad match.

Phrase matching will not work:

  • If you need to get displays strictly for certain keywords. If you know exactly how your target audience searches for the products or services you are promoting, you’re better off using an exact match.
  • If the goal is to increase your reach. Use a broad match for maximum reach.

Exact match

When using exact match, your ad will only appear when the search query perfectly matches your keyword or its close variants. This match type provides the most precise targeting and maximum CTR but may limit your ad’s reach.

Ads will only appear in two cases:

  • The user entered a query exactly as you set the key phrase (exactly the same words, in the same order and form);
  • The query is a close variant of the keyword.
  • For example, if the user wants to buy tennis rackets, they can use various wording: “tennis rackets” or “rackets for tennis.” Both phrases have the same meaning, so the ad will be shown in both cases.

Close variants are:

  • singular or plural forms (“garden ladder” and “garden ladders”);
  • homonyms;
  • queries with errors or typos;
  • the same words in a different order (“men’s winter jacket” and “winter jacket for men”);
  • key phrases with or without articles, prepositions, conjunctions, etc.: “hostels in London” and “hostels London”;
  • implied words: “apple smartphone” and “iphone”;
  • synonyms and paraphrases;
  • match by search purpose: “music without royalties” and “music without copyright.”

Negative keywords

By adding negative keywords, you can prevent your ad from being triggered by certain unwanted search queries. This match type allows you to exclude irrelevant searches and reduce wasted ad spend.

Let’s take, for example, an online shop that sells children’s bicycles. To prevent ads from being shown to people looking for mountain bikes, sports bikes, or other types of bikes for adults, the advertiser is advised to add negative words: –mountain bike, –sports bike, –urban bike, etc.

You can also specify the type of match for negative keywords: broad, phrase, or exact match.

It’s important to find and update negative keywords regularly. After the start of the campaign, this should be done daily for several weeks.

Also, closely monitor which queries you are screening out and what type of match you assign to them. If you add too many negative keywords with a broad match, your reach may narrow too much and you may miss out on some of your target audience.

Choosing the appropriate match type for your keywords depends on your campaign goals and the level of control you want over your ad’s visibility. It’s often recommended to start with phrase match or broad match to gather data, identify search patterns, and refine your keyword list over time.

Keyword optimization

When you’ve chosen the keywords, optimization comes forward. Here are some key techniques to consider:

  • Quality Score improvement. Quality Score is a metric used by search engines to assess the relevance and quality of your ads and landing pages. A higher Quality Score can result in better ad positions and lower costs. To improve it, ensure that your keywords are highly relevant to your ad text and landing page, optimize your landing page experience, and enhance the overall user experience.
  • Ad copy and landing page alignment. Craft compelling ad copy that aligns with your chosen keywords. Ensure that your landing page provides the information and experience promised in your ad. Consistency between keywords, ad copy, and landing page increases user satisfaction and improves conversion rates.
  • Regular review and updates. PPC campaigns require ongoing monitoring and optimization. Regularly review your keyword performance, identify low-performing keywords, and replace them with new ones. Test out different variations and expand your keyword list based on the insights gained from campaign data.


Effective keyword research allows you to identify relevant keywords, assess competition, and refine your targeting. Understanding the different match types enables you to control the visibility of your ads and optimize your budget. By optimizing your chosen keywords and regularly reviewing and updating your campaign, you can improve your Quality Score, increase conversion rates, and achieve better ROI. With careful planning and ongoing optimization, your PPC campaign can effectively reach your target audience and drive results for your business.