Google AdWords Workshop – Part 6:
Keyword List Development

The following article is part 6 in our series on running your own pay-per-click advertising campaign with the Google AdWords program. If you are new to AdWords, read the introduction here first.

In this post we dive into the hands-on aspect of developing a keyword list.

If you were to specifically go looking for advice on this part of the job, you’d find there’s as many opinions as there are people ready to comment. Generally speaking however, the process almost always involves a combination of manual brainstorming and the use of automated keyword generation tools. We start here with the manual aspect.

In the post on campaign structure, we talked about developing a draft plan on the basis of the products and services your company offers, and using that as a roadmap to guide the initial development of your keyword list.

You’ll recall that the example I used was our fictitious mountain bike retailer . . .

We also discussed how AdGroups could be broken down further for better targeting, with a caveat about not over complicating campaign management. It’ll pay to keep that caveat in mind when you start thinking about targeting multiple stages of the buying cycle and your keyword match mode strategy.

When you settle on a draft plan, transfer it to a spreadsheet, with a separate worksheet for each AdGroup.

Start your list for each group by asking the following questions:

  • What are Google users thinking when they carry out a search for this product, or topics related to this product?
  • What’s motivating their search?
  • What’s their mission . . . what are they trying to accomplish?
  • What problems do the products, information or services available on your site help solve? People use search terms that describe the problem they want to solve far more than they search using the name of a solution.
  • Users will often enter their search query as a question . . . so think about what questions they are likely to ask.
  • And think about the demographics of who uses your site.Target market characteristics like age, sex etc will often be used as keyword qualifiers . . . ‘small girl’s mountain bike’ for example.

Answers to questions like those will give you insights into how users structure their search queries and get you started.

I like to use the following checklist published by the guys at to help guide this process:

Related words and variations. Misspellings, jargon and abbreviations. Punctuation errors. Use all these cues to prime the pump and you’ll be away.

Be aware however, that the language used by customers to describe your products and services will often be very different from the terminology you’re accustomed to using as an industry insider, especially in retail consumer markets.

Experienced search marketing consultants will tell you that their clients are often amazed to learn what keywords end-user customers really use to find them. Feedback from sources such as customers, suppliers and of course your own sales people can be useful in this respect.

Likewise, the online community that exists around your business niche will offer lots of clues . . . so read blogs and discussion forums to find out what people in your niche are talking about and what language they use.

You’ve probably already thought about analysing your competitors’ web sites for keywords but to get the really good oil, take a look at competitive analysis tools like the one at

Tools like these can help you identify the keywords used by your competitors, their ad copy . . . even their landing pages.

The KeywordSpy service requires a subscription payment, but you can check it out first with a free 30 day trial.

What about competitor names and trademarks, can you bid on those? Maybe . . . it depends on the circumstances.

It’s an issue that’s constantly being tested in courts around the world, so there’s no definitive answer on that one.

What I would say is that you probably want to make sure you’re in the top position for your own brand name, purely as a defensive move.

Okay . . . that should get you started with brainstorming your list. In a later post we’ll take a look at some of the automated tools available.

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