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7 Step Guide To Keyword List Building In AdWords For Beginners

7 Step Guide To Keyword List Building In AdWords For Beginners

What is a Keyword?

When you go to a restaurant, isn’t it more convenient to just ask the waiter for the available options rather than going through an exhaustive menu and finding eventually that what you want is over? Or better still you could just ask the waiter what soups he or she would recommend. Google’s search results page is like the menu card and keywords are like the waiters, picking out of all the search results things that are most relevant to you.

From the restaurants point of view having good waiters is very critical. The quality of service provided by them directly affects the brand image of the restaurant. Similarly when running Ad campaigns on-line, having good keywords can make or break your campaigns. When someone searches with terms relating to your product or service, keywords match your Ads to their search queries. The better your keywords the more relevant your Ads will be for the people searching.

A good keyword should:

  • Describe your product or service
  • Be tight and relevant
  • Have no spelling mistakes or spacing issues

Quality score is given from 1 to 10 (1 being poorest and 10 being highest) for each keyword to assess how it’s performing. It is given to a keyword based on the number of clicks, relevancy of the Ads and landing pages triggered by that keyword. Quality score should not be less than 4. A high Quality Score will bring down the bid amount and improve the position of your Ad, making it show higher on the search results page. This is why building a really good keyword list for your on-line Ad campaigns is very critical, more so for the Search Network campaigns. You can see the Quality score of each of your keywords by going to the keyword’s tab in your AdWords account and hovering over the speech bubble under the status column.


quality score

Building a Keyword list

1. Research
  • The best place to start building your keywords is your website. By linking Google Analytics to your website you can see what are the most commonly used keywords used by people to find your website.
  • Find what keywords your competitors are using. Spyfu is one such tool that will provide you with all the details, from those keywords that have given them the most number of clicks, to the cost they have paid for them, to how much of their traffic is organic and how much is paid.
  • Talk to customers to find out what terms they would most likely use to find your product or service.
  • Keyword Planner Tool: In case you are stuck and don’t know where to start, or you want to know how the keywords that you want to choose are performing, before making the final call, then Keyword Planner is the tool for you. You can find it under the ‘Tools’ section of your AdWords account.

2. Structure your keywords
  • For Search Network:

Since keywords are a such big part of Search Network campaigns,

    • Do not create the Ad first and then find keywords for it.
    • First, start by creating a campaign for each of your product or service.
    • Then categorize each product or service into themes. Each theme will have its own Ad Group and a keywords list.
    • For example if you sell accessories for women, you could create campaigns as follows:

Campaigns – Hats campaign, Earrings campaign, Necklaces campaign

Ad Groups under Hats campaign – 

search keywords

    • In the Women’s beach hat Ad Group all the keywords are about Women’s beach hat. This is what ‘keeping keywords tight’ means.
    • Once this is done, then go about creating various Ads under each Ad Group.

This may seem like a lot of work, but by keeping your keywords tight, you are showing the most relevant Ads to those who are searching for your products or services, thereby increasing the chances of them clicking your Ad.


  • For Display Network:

On Display Network, your Ads are not matched to people’s search queries. Instead Google finds the right websites and/or apps that match with the keywords specified by you. Your keywords need not be tight but still need to be themed well. So instead of creating a campaign for each of your products or services, you can create an Ad Group for each of them as follows:

display keywords

You could also group them as Gold Accessories, Silver accessories, Artificial jewellry and head gear. As long as all the keywords within an Ad Group have a common theme, you are good to go.

3. Select the right keyword match type

By using match types you can decide how closely someone’s search query matches your keywords. To get more out of your search Network campaigns you can choose which keyword match type suits you the best.

  • Broad match

By default all keywords are broad match and as a result it is the most commonly used match type. In this type, if your key word is women’s hats, people will see your Ad even if they in their search queries make a spelling mistake like woemn’s hats, type singular or plural like woman’s hats, use synonyms like ladies hats or even if the keyword is split like women’s red hats. While using broad match will give your Ads a wide reach, the disadvantage of using just broad match is that your Ads may show up to people who may be looking for something else. For example if someone is looking for ladies cricket caps, a product not sold by you, your Ad will still show up, as ladies is a synonym for women and caps is a synonym for hats.

  • Broad match modifier

In this type you put a + sign in front of the word, which you feel should be there in people’s search queries, for them to see your ad. Rules for the rest of the words remain the same as that of the broad match. For example if you use +buy women’s hats online as your keyword, people will see your Ad even if they type ladies hats to buy online. Your Ad will show, as long as the search query broadly matches your keyword and the word buy is in it. Buy can become buying but the word buy has to be there. You can put + sign in front of more than one word in your keywords.

  • Phrase match

By putting your keyword inside “ ”, for example if you use “women’s hats” then those who search with buy women’s hats, women’s hats for sale, etc., as long as the term women’s hats is in their search query, they will see your ad. However this won’t work if the term is broken, for example women’s blue hats or if there is a spelling mistake in the term or if you change singular to plural or vice versa.

Phrase match is widely used in the travel industry. If someone wants details for Mumbai to Chennai flights, broad match would show Ads for Chennai to Mumbai and Mumbai to Chennai flights. By using phrase match they can be specifically shown only the Ads for Mumbai to Chennai flights.

Add your company’s brand name as a phrase match keyword to your list to avoid competitors from getting leverage from your brand. Even if they use it, your Ad will still rank higher than theirs.

  • Exact match

By putting your keyword inside [ ] for example [women’s hats], only those who search with women’s hats will get to see your Ad. After running few campaigns, you can add the keywords that have worked the best for you, as exact match. However use this type very sparingly as even an addition of a word like buy women’s hats or a change in spelling woman’s hats in their search query, will mean that they will not get to see your Ads.

  • Dynamic keyword insertion (DKI)

In DKI you insert a code into the headline or the description, anywhere within the body of your Ad. It can even be placed within the display URL. The code looks something like this {KeyWord: Default keyword}. What this does is if someone searches with a query that matches any of your keywords, then that keyword is automatically inserted into your Ad depending on where you have placed the code. What’s more is that since you have used a keyword in your Ad body, it will get bolded as well.

For example if you your keywords are Beret, Women’s hats, Party hats, Beach hats, Beanie and you use DKI as follows –


    • If someone searches for Beach hats, your Ad heading will become Buy Beach hats
    • If someone searches for Beanie, your Ad heading will become Buy Beanie
    • And if someone searches with too long a term like, Party glitter paper hats, your Ad heading will use the default keyword specified by you and become Buy Women’s hats

DKI is most helpful for those who have product codes. For example a company selling ink cartridges for printers, can include the code numbers of various printers in their keyword list. So when someone looks for cartridges specific to a printer like so, ink cartridges for printer LJ9875, the Ad will show up with its heading as Buy ink cartridges for LJ9875

Even though DKI sounds cool, be careful when using this type. For one, your keywords won’t be super tight and two if someone makes a spelling mistake in their search query, then the mistake will show up in your Ad as well, which will look very bad.

  • Negative keywords

By putting – sign on front of a keyword, you can exclude the people who use it in their search queries, from seeing your Ad. For example you could use –kid’s as a negative keyword to avoid showing your Ad to people searching for kid’s hats. Use strong negative keywords especially if you have used broad match for the other keywords.

You can also use negative keywords in your display network campaigns to prevent your Ads from being shown on certain types of websites.

4. Edit your Keyword list

Restrict the number of keywords you use per Ad Group to between 5 – 15 keywords, otherwise there would be a risk of losing the relevancy of your Ad.

5. Ensure there are no errors

Make sure that

  • There are no spelling mistakes
  • There are no extra or missing spaces
  • No keyword is repeated twice within the same list. If you are using broad match then ladies hats and women’s hats will count as a keyword being repeated twice.
6. Ensure that the links are relevant

Making sure that all the links are relevant and are working properly is very critical. If all your keywords are about women’s party hats ensure that the Ad as well as the landing page talks about women’s party hats. If your landing page talks about women’s hats in general the Quality Score of your keyword will come down. It will come down further if your landing page talks about necklaces.

7. Keep updating your keyword list

After running your Ads for some time, you can check out the ‘Reports’ section in your AdWords accounts to find out which keywords were most used by the people to find your Ad. If after multiple campaigns, certain keywords are not generating any clicks, then delete those keywords and replace them with others.

Since other on-line advertising platforms such as Yahoo, Bing, etc., work on the same lines as Google AdWords, you can still build your keyword lists on AdWords and then export them to these platforms.

Building keyword lists is a continuous process. Keep at it and eventually you will hit upon the keywords that work the most for you. Happy campaigning!

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