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22 Great Ways To Find PPC Keyword Ideas & Grow Your Wins [2024]

Picking relevant keywords is essential to paid advertising, but there's more to them than just search volumes. Here's everything you need to know about PPC keywords.

Octavia Drexler
By Octavia Drexler
Natalie Stenge
Edited by Natalie Stenge

Updated November 20, 2023.

22 Great Ways To Find PPC Keyword Ideas & Grow Your Wins [{year}] main image

Imagine you're on Google, looking for the best sports shoes, and several Nike and Adidas ads pop out of nowhere. And then, as you scroll down on Insta, more ads for the same brands pop up.

What's going on? Is the internet reading your mind? Is someone watching you?

Nope, it all lies in good ad targeting - and a lot of that has to do with the keywords you use. Picking relevant keywords is so essential to paid advertising that it can make or break your entire campaign.

In this post, we break down the types of keywords you should use for your PPC campaigns and expert tips on finding the best ones (and optimizing as you go).

Let’s dive into it.

Types of PPC keywords

PPC keywords can be divided into several categories, depending on how they are used and what their purpose is:

  • Branded: These words contain the name of a product, service, or company. For example, “Chevrolet car” or “Nike shoes" are branded keywords.
  • Generic: These words are not related to any brand or company name. Instead, they are general words people might use when searching for a product or service. For example, “running shoes” or “personal trainer" are generic keywords.
  • Transactional: These words have a high intent to buy, as they are often used in searches for specific products or services. For example, “buy running shoes” or “personal trainer near me." would fall into this category.
  • Informational: These words are used when people are researching a product or service. They don’t have a specific intent to buy but instead want more information. For instance, "how to start jogging" would be an informational keyword.
  • Navigational: These words are used when people know exactly what they’re looking for. They often include the name of a website, such as “Amazon" or "eBay" along with their search. For instance, they might search for "running shoes Amazon."
  • Locational: These words contain a location, and are used when people want to find something specific in their area. For example, “personal trainer Toronto.”
  • Long-tail: These words are longer and more specific than most. Relevant long-tail keywords are used when people want to find something very specific, such as “best running shoes for flat feet” or “cheap personal trainer Toronto."

Keywords across the buyer's journey

People rarely just search for something on Google and buy it right away. Unless their search starts with a high-intent keyword (which means they want to make a purchase), most people go through the traditional buyer's journey when researching something to buy.

The main stages of the buyer's journey are:

  • Awareness: People are just starting to research and learn about a product or service. They're looking for content that will help them.
  • Consideration: At this stage, people have identified their problems or needs and are now looking at different solutions. They want to know more about the benefits of each solution.
  • Decision: This is when the buyer has narrowed down their options and is ready to buy. They are looking for specifics about the product or service, such as pricing information.

Some marketers also add retention and advocacy to the buyer's journey. However, since these are stages that happen after a purchase, most PPC and SEO keywords will be used during the first three stages.

It's important to use a mix of different kinds of keywords throughout the buyer journey, so you support the entire funnel - rather than focusing on just one stage.

Types of keyword targeting

In pay-per-click advertising (particularly in Google Search Ads), there are different types of keyword targeting. Here are the basics you need to know about each keyword match type:

Broad match

Broad match is the default setting for keyword targeting in Google Ads (previously Google AdWords). It includes any search term that contains all the words in your keyword, regardless of order or proximity.

For example, if your keyword is “running shoes” and you select broad match targeting, your ad might show for searches like "best running shoes," or "cheap running shoes." This type of targeting is best for people who want to cast a wide net and reach as many potential customers as possible (so it will be more suitable for awareness campaigns).

Phrase match

Phrase match targeting is slightly more specific than broad match. It includes any search that contains the exact phrase of your keyword, or a close variation of it. For instance, if your keyword is "running shoes" and you select phrase match targeting, your ad will show for "jogging shoes" too.

The best types of campaigns for phrase match keywords are awareness and consideration campaigns since they can help you target more specific searches.

Exact match

Exact match targeting is the most specific type of keyword targeting in PPC. It only includes searches exactly like your keyword phrase, with no other words added. So if your keyword is “running shoes,” and you select exact match targeting, your ad will only show for searches of "running shoes" and nothing else.

Exact match keyword targeting is best for consideration and decision campaigns since it allows you to target customers who are close to making a purchase.


Establish the goals of your campaign

It’s not enough to know which keywords and types of targeting to use. To make sure your PPC efforts are successful, you should also set clear business goals for your campaigns. There are two major types of campaign goals you can choose from:

  • Conversion goals, which refer to the action you want your audience to take (e.g., visit your site, download an eBook, etc.)
  • Metric goals, which refer to the specific numbers you want to achieve (e.g., number of conversions, number of clicks, etc.)

Do some brainstorming

You know your business best, so start with some of the bottom-of-the-funnel keywords, and work your way up. What do your customers search for when they're looking to buy your product or service?

Remember that marketing and advertising shouldn't be about aggressive selling. They should be about helping people find what they need. Once you start thinking in terms of customer needs, it'll be much easier to come up with relevant keywords that have a good search volume and can improve your conversion rates.

You can also get someone with an outside perspective, like a PPC consultant, to brainstorm with your team and see what new ideas they could come up with.

Use a keyword tool

There are a lot of keyword research tools you can use in your research process. These tools can help you find high-intent as well as broad keywords much faster. Here are some of the best tools you should use.

Free keyword research tools

Some free keyword research tools can help you develop new ideas, and understand your competition. A few of the most popular ones are:


Paid keyword research tools

Paid keyword research tools usually come with more features, such as access to more data, the option to save and structure your research, and so on. Here are some of the best paid research tools you can use for your PPC campaigns:

  • Semrush: a powerful tool for keyword research and competitive analysis
  • Ahrefs: an advanced tool that also provides insights into your competitors' most used keywords (they also have a great Chrome extension)
  • KWFinder: a great tool for finding long-tail keywords
  • MOZ: a useful tool for finding helpful keywords in just a few clicks

Go all in on the long-tail

Long-tail keywords are the best way to target specific audiences. They're longer, more specific search terms that are easier to rank for and have lower cost-per-click. While they may not have a very high search volume, it's important to know that these keywords are high-intent, so they're likely to generate more conversions.

Don't forget about negative keywords

Negative keywords are just as important so make sure to add them to your campaigns. They help you exclude searches that aren't relevant to your PPC campaign, so you can reduce wasted ad spend.

For example, if you sell high-end running shoes, you might add "cheap" as a negative keyword, so your ad won’t show for searches like “cheap running shoes."

Conduct competitor research

Like it or not, your business doesn't exist in a vacuum - you need to know how your competitors are doing. The best way to do this is by systematically conducting your competitor's research. Don't just look at your competition's blog posts but at the entirety of the marketing efforts they're running.

Identify their most successful campaigns, and see if you can glean something from them. Maybe they’re using a keyword you haven't thought of, or maybe they're combining their PPC efforts with content marketing to double down on specific keywords.

Do this regularly too. If you look at your competition only when you remember to do it, you might end up missing out on things. Set up a goal for yourself to check in on your competition on a regular basis - such as every month, two months, or quarter.

Also, keep in mind there are tools you can use to run competitor research on PPC, such as SpyFu, and Semrush. These tools can help you find out which keywords your competitors are bidding on, as well as give you an insight into the ad copy they’re using.

Listen to your target audience

Your target audience is your best resource for running successful PPC campaigns. Use social media, online communities, forums, and groups to learn what your target audience is into. For example, if your audience is likely to spend time on Reddit, being there and listening to what they have to say can help you come up with great new keyword opportunities.

Take advantage of Google

Don't dismiss the power of Google to show you what people are interested in. For instance, Google Trends and Google's autocomplete feature can be great resources for keyword research. Just type in a few keywords to get an idea of what people are looking for and which topics they're interested in.

Uncover search questions with AnswerThePublic

Likewise, tools like Answerthepublic and AlsoAsked can be incredibly useful for finding keywords related to your niche (particularly when you're looking for long-tail keywords, but not only.) These tools have free versions for a limited number of searches every day/ month, so you can take advantage of that, especially when you don't know where to start.

Look for synonyms

When it comes to looking for keywords, synonyms can help you broaden your search. For example, if you're selling t-shirts online, you shouldn't use just "t-shirts" as your keyword, but also "tops," "tees," "shirts," and so on.

Use a concatenation tool

Concatenation tools (like help you generate keyword ideas quickly. All you have to do is insert the relevant words, and it'll give you a list of keywords, so you can use them in your campaigns.

The Best PPC Keywords Don't Come Easy

The best PPC keywords don't come easy. It takes a lot of research and planning to choose the right ones, so don't beat yourself up if you haven't found the best keywords for your business right away. PPC, like most other marketing channels, requires trial and error to work - and yes, keyword research is part of the process.

Need help with your PPC keyword research (or PPC efforts in general)? At Mayple, we've got you covered. Our PPC experts have a proven track record of success in running pay-per-click campaigns that deliver actual results - and they can help you research, plan and execute a successful PPC campaign as part of our broader digital marketing and PPC agency services. Contact us to learn more!


What are PPC keywords?

PPC keywords are at the foundation of search pay per click campaigns. They help you define where your ads appear, in what searches, and for which types user intent. To be successful with PPC, you absolutely have to have a very solid understanding of how PPC keywords work - and how to research the best ones.

How do I find keywords for PPC?

Follow this process to find the best keywords for your PPC campaigns:

  1. Set your PPC advertising campaign goals.
  2. Use a keyword research tool.
  3. Analyze keyword metrics.
  4. Analyze what's already working (run SERP analysis, competitor analysis, etc.)
  5. Choose your type of targeting
  6. Set up your campaigns
  7. Analyze your results and adjust accordingly

What are the 4 types of keywords?

The 4 main types of keywords are:

  • Short-tail
  • Long-tail
  • Questions
  • Intent-targeting

Are SEO and PPC keywords the same?

SEO and PPC keywords are the same, but they focus on different goals. The difference is that search engine optimization (SEO) focuses on getting organic traffic, while PPC (pay per click) aims to get traffic from paid search, social media, and sites on the display network.

Why are keywords important in PPC?

Keywords are important in PPC because they allow you to target people actively searching for what you offer. They also help you control your budget and focus on only the most relevant searches for your business.

How do I optimize PPC keywords?

To optimize PPC keywords, you should:

  • Check the performance of your keyword list regularly
  • Update it accordingly
  • Create and adjust your landing pages to fit your target keyword
  • Use ad extensions
  • Develop remarketing strategies
  • Run A/B tests
  • Use persuasion techniques (such as FOMO - the fear of missing out)
  • Start with high-intent keywords
  • Optimize relevant long-tail keywords first then go broader

What are keywords examples?

Keywords are phrases people type into search engines to find something. For instance, if you're looking to buy sports shoes, you might type "sports shoes" into Google, Amazon, or on your favorite eCommerce website.

That's a search query (or keyword). Some keyword examples are longer (they're called long-tail keywords), while others are shorter. Some have a powerful buyer intent ("cheap running shoes"), while others are more informational ("how to buy running shoes").