Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising is a great way of targeting specific people, in specific locations, at specific times of day. However, your carefully considered marketing budget can quickly dwindle if not properly utilised; it is estimated small businesses are wasting 25% of their PPC budget due to poor strategy - a clearly unacceptable  level of wastage.

We’ve already covered some best practices for ad copy and bidding strategies based on seasonality. In this post, I’ll focus on another common pitfall: keywords.

1. Keyword match types

Being aware of the differences among the various keyword match types can seem confusing at first, but incorrect use of any of them can be catastrophic to your PPC budget. We’ve all done it – intending to reach a specific audience with exact match, and accidentally broadcast to seemingly the entire world using broad.

See our handy guide below on the various keyword match types.

An effective use of all three keyword match types can yield the best results (ignore “broad”; it’s outdated and not widely used anymore). The best practice is to make sure you have all three match types for each ad in your campaign.

However, you can also have three separate campaigns which use only one of the match types in each; this will let you predict the intentions of customers as they search, and will allow you to tailor your ads to fit their objectives (this works especially well for brand campaigns).

2. Neglecting negative keywords

Most PPC experts agree adding negative keywords to your campaigns can be just as important as adding regular ones. The need to prevent some people from seeing your ad should be just as important to you as getting your ad in front of people who want to buy from you.

The use of broad and phrase match keywords means it’s not unusual to see ads showing for drastically unrelated searches. For example, I’ve seen ads selling televisions showing when the phrase, “what’s on the tele tonight?” is searched; this is not something you want to be paying for!

Fortunately, effective use of negative keyword lists can eliminate many of these irrelevant ad placements. Adding words such as ‘free’, ‘review’, ‘pictures of’, ‘how to’, etc is generally considered good practice when setting up your campaign. Remember, it’s important to constantly update your negative keyword lists throughout the duration of the ad’s lifespan. Using the search term report is a fantastic way of seeing what searches are triggering your ads.

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3. Competitive keywords

If you are a smaller company with a PPC budget to match, you might want to steer clear of the more competitive keywords. The cost of some can reach dizzying heights; for example, the keywords ‘insurance’, ‘mortgage’, and ‘attorney’ have all costed more than £40 per click in the past. Bidding on such costly keywords, coupled with a limited budget, can mean your ads stop showing before most people have finished their breakfast!

'Dallas truck accident lawyer" is also quite expensive...

'Dallas truck accident lawyer" is also quite expensive...

We suggest adding some long-tailed keywords as they are easier to rank for and often have a higher conversion rate. For example, ‘television’ might be too competitive on its own, but ‘Samsung smart television’ may see your ads rank more often, and improve click-through rate.

However, caution is advised. Using keywords which are too specific may result in your campaigns generating little or no traffic whatsoever, as they are so precise the chances of someone searching for them are low. Using Google’s keyword planner is a great way of identifying phrases and words with the right balance of high traffic and low cost.

To conclude

It’s important to be constantly checking and re-checking your keywords to ensure they are performing for you (and not wasting too much budget). Analysing the levels of traffic they’re receiving, and how that correlates with the amount of revenue they generate, is something which any account manager should be doing regularly.

This regular analysis, coupled with the effective use of the various match types available and negative keywords, as well as an effective strategy, is an excellent way of ensuring it’s never your keywords that keep you up at night.

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