How to Research Keywords for Pay Per Click


Keyword research basically boils down to two steps: finding a profitable topic and then using keyword databases and Pay Per Click (PPC) engines to create lists of keywords around that topic.

Your target market is people who are looking to buy/acquire something. Your best chance at getting your prospect to buy something is right before they make a purchase. Therefore you must have an idea of what is the best niche or niches to target.

How to Find Profitable Topics

An easy way to determine the profitability of a topic is to measure it by the ‘PPC metrics’ which are Popularity, Price, and Competition.

When you are looking at topics, you can use the PPC metrics as a means to judge whether a topic is worth pursuing or not, but when you are doing keyword research, make sure that you target those keywords that prospects will be searching for when they are collecting information that will help them make a positive/negative buying decision.


In crude terms, the more popular the topic is the more clicks you will get on your ads and the more chances you will have of converting those prospects into customers. Higher popularity means more profits for you. On the other hand, popular topics are already very competitive (in most cases), so you have to analyze it from all sides.

Low-popularity topics can also turn good profits, so just because a topic does not get 100,000 searches a month does not mean you shouldn’t go near it. The key is to match all three factors – popularity, price and competition – before making a decision to target that market.


The price of the product you are promoting will determine your profit margins. With high-priced products you can afford to spend more money per click, and that’s mainly why you see such outrageous bids for terms like “real estate”, “insurance”, “lawyers” and “pharmaceuticals” they can afford it because making a couple of sales gives them huge profit margins.

On the other hand, with products with a low price point you will have trouble going overboard with your bidding, and you will need to be very careful with what you’re willing to pay. In such a case, keyword research becomes even more important as you absolutely must find those keywords that you can target cheaply.


What is your competition like? Heavy bidding will suggest one of two things either the market is lucrative enough to risk investing so much money or there is someone trying to price their competition out of the market. In either case, you wouldn’t want to spend too much money at the start, so this step will give you an idea of whether you can enter a niche without getting totally burned.

Another point to consider is that if there is low competition for a topic, you have to figure out why that is. Is it because the niche isn’t well known? Are people having trouble ‘selling’ in this market? Or are they targeting the ‘wrong’ market?

How To Do Keyword Research

Once you have a topic, you can run it through the following steps to judge its profitability and create a focused list of keywords:

  • Use the keyword databases to find out if it is popular
  • Research the PPC engines and find out what the top bid prices are
  • Go back to the keyword databases and create a focused list of keywords

Here is a step-by-step way to do keyword research for pay per click with rough examples:

Step 1 – Popularity Check

In your keyword selector tool (e.g. Google AdWords), enter your main keyword in the box and click on ‘Go’. This will give you a list of keywords with search estimates. Copy the top 6-10 keywords in a text file; we will need them for the next step.

Step 2 – Bid Price Check

Most people will tell you to go to the Yahoo Bid Tool and see their numbers to get an idea of what the top bids are. It’s a good idea, but why not go to Google instead and use the tools they provided inside the Google AdWords account? This way we get to see numbers for Google AdWords (where we will be bidding), and not some other PPC engine.

Login to your Google AdWords account ( Within your account, go to Tools > Traffic Estimator to launch Google AdWords’ traffic and bid cost estimation tool.

Enter your keywords (don’t worry about broad, phrase, exact and negative matches for now). These keywords will be the ones you copied off into a text file in the previous step.

Next, select the maximum cost-per-click that you’re willing to pay, as well as your daily budget. Since youwant to get the maximum number of clicks to your website, enter an unreachable budget amount of $500. In that case Google will keep displaying your ad, because your budget will never be reached in 1 day…given the keyword(s) you’ve selected.

Language and location targeting will be set to your default account values, so you can leave them as they are.

Next, enter countries that you want to target. When you’re done, click on ‘Continue’ and you’ll be taken to the next page with the Traffic Estimator’s results.

The next page is very helpful because it will give you a good estimate as to how much the top Adwords bidders are paying “per click” for each of the keywords you entered.

Also, you’ll be able to see roughly how many clicks you can expect to get “per day” if you were in a certain ad position in Google. And finally, you’ll be able to see roughly how much you could expect to pay “per day” for each of the keywords.

When you think about the niche, it will look very, very interesting. You may notice there that most clicks go to a few keywords these are the ones you will be shaping your ad groups around. Adwords is all a numbers game. No your metrics (how much a customer is worth to you) and you’ll be a step ahead of the competition.

Now how can you create focused keyword lists around your topic?

Step 3 – Creating Keyword Lists for Sub-Topics

Once you’ve put together your list, go back to the Keyword Selector tool and enter the second keyword into the search box to generate a new keyword list.

The best strategy to choose keywords here is to start off with your parent term, pick up the top terms from its list, and then ‘drill down’ to find more keywords for those terms.

For example, “home theater system” as your parent term, you may see lots of targeted keywords for this topic; terms like “home theater sound system”, “wireless home theater” or “home theater system design”. They are different from the parent keyword and are subtopics that could be used to create more focused keyword lists. Not only that, they are also getting quite a number of searches themselves, so it’s worth targeting that traffic specifically.

So for each term that is a “subtopic” (you have to use your judgement) and has a lot of searches, you should run it again through the Keyword Selector Tool and create a list for that term as well.

For each sub-topic, create separate lists. You can keep these lists in simple text files – no need for fancy spreadsheets or anything like that.

At the end of this step-by-step process you will probably have around 100-200 strong keywords on 4-5 subtopics (and 1 parent topic). That’s a good number to start with.

You’re now ready to write ads and get the ball rolling. If this is your first time doing keyword research, don’t worry it gets easier with practice, and there are tons of tips and shortcuts you can use to drastically cut down your time.