3 PPC Keyword Research Strategies to Break Free From Organic

September 6th, 2011 by Search Influence Alumni

ppc keyword research strategies

Battle for the Planets? The Difference is more Power Rangers.

Organic and paid search are both, at the core, about the search queries. These queries are, of course, sought by optimizing for or bidding on certain keywords. These keywords, found using keyword research tools such as Google’s or Wordstream’s and then turned into a comprehensive list using your favorite keyword expansion tool.

Organic keyword research focuses on traffic, looking for quality descriptors for the products, service, or content offered to the visitor. These descriptors are filtered for the search phrases that are the best fitting and for “low-hanging fruit,” ones with low competition and high value to the business.

However, strategies for paid research must be different, because the mediums are used in a different way. In addition to search traffic, competition and metrics that might be overlooked or generalized, like average CPC, must be included in the research. Furthermore, these three additional discovery strategies can help create a more robust keyword profile.

Three Keyword Discovery Strategies


Unlike in organic search, general keywords play a central role. Organic keywords, especially for businesses, tend to be of the general pattern *geographic area* *keyword*. However, because a paid search campaign can geotarget its ads, any search using the non-geomodified keyword from the targeted area would also trigger the ad. Thus, someone in Montana searching {window cleaner} will see ads targeted to Montana Window Cleaner.

General keywords focusing on the domain name and business name are also useful for brand marketing. There is a bit of a debate over whether PPC clicks cannibalize organic clicks for this kind of keyword. A few theories and strategies have arisen, with of course the best answer being “What’s best for you,” though problems can arise with attribution.


Long-tail keywords, searches like {cost of criminal lawyer} or {home security free installation}, while relatively low traffic, are specific searches that strengthen the depth of the research. This way, deep searches you wouldn’t optimize for organic search can be explored and taken advantage of. These deep searches are largely of two types, researching and buying. Phrases like {cost of …}, {buy …},  or client-specific long-tail terms like car models can be used to serve ads leveraging the search intent of the viewer.

Match Types

The three match types are Broad, [Exact], and “Phrase.” These three types are even more important to the research than for organic search, as it can affect CPC.

Broad keywords would trigger on longer-tail searches, synonyms, common misspellings, and word reversals. The broad keyword Criminal Lawyer would show ads on the queries {criminal law}, {attorney for criminal case}, or {criminal lawyer new orleans}.

To save on CPC, [Exact] keywords will run ads on the keywords only in that order, so [criminal lawyer] would trigger on the searches {cost of criminal lawyer} but not {lawyer for criminal case}.

“Phrase” Keywords display ads solely on the phrase entered. The keyword “criminal lawyer new orleans” would show solely on that term, and none others. This one is less necessary for PPC research.

Facebook and Display

The final addendum for any PPC keyword research is that you have to take into account for display ads, whether through Adsense or social media platforms. These ads, though not for paid search, are the bread and butter for retargeting and remarketing or brand awareness. Approaching this match types as keywords may not yield much, but treating broad keywords as categories or thinking laterally and approaching the keywords from demographics and related interests could solidify a bland targeting spectrum.

With the “reimagining” of Keyword Research strategies focused around these three concepts (and one quick point), your ROI will skyrocket from the CTR and quality score increases that come with a well-curated keyword list. What tricks have you used to get the most out of your keywords?