9 Surefire Ways to Screw Up PPC Keyword Research

by | Mar 15, 2019 | PPC, Search Engine Marketing

Do you feel like you’re throwing too much money into PPC campaigns that aren’t generating leads? Are you ready to give up on Google Ads altogether? Before you do, you may want to take a look at your keyphrase strategy.
Many times when online advertising fails to generate leads, it’s because of inadequate keyword research. Take some time to educate yourself on effective PPC keyword research and find out if a weak strategy is jeopardizing your search engine marketing campaigns.
Has pay-per-click advertising become your worst nightmare? Before you throw in the towel, find out if any of these common PPC keyword research mistakes are to blame. Share on X

Are You Making These Costly PPC Keyword Research Mistakes?

PPC keyword research may seem relatively easy, but the complexity of the process is often understated. It’s not as simple as choosing a few keywords that describe your products or services and jumping right in. To get the kind of lead generation that will justify the dollars you’ve invested in your Google Ads strategy, you’ll want to dig much deeper. Take a look at the most common PPC keyword research mistakes made by online advertisers – are you guilty too?

  1. No Traffic or Low Volume Keywords
  2. Choosing Unrealistic Keyphrases
  3. Keyphrases Not Relevant to Your Target Audience
  4. Ignoring Buyer Intent
  5. Ignoring Search Trends
  6. Limiting Use of Keyphrases
  7. Using the Wrong Match Type
  8. Forgetting Negative Keywords
  9. Running Keywords too Long without Review

1) You’ve Chosen Keywords with Little to No Search Volume

It doesn’t pay for your ad to be in the first position for terms that aren’t being searched. Online search queries can be much different than you think. Start with your products or services but make sure you are using keyword research tools to find out which phrases most people are using to find them. Keyphrases with little to no search volume will not help you reach buyers with your ads.

2) Your Keywords Have High Search Volume but They’re Unrealistic

One of the biggest mistakes online advertisers make is trying to rank for unrealistic keyphrases. Two of the most common types of keyphrases that fall in this category are: too broad and too competitive.
Broad keywords such as “landscaping” or “real estate” are not specific enough to target buyers with high intent. Instead, try a long tail keyword such as “residential landscaping services in The Woodlands, TX”. Someone searching for the first set of keyphrases is more likely to get information about that topic whereas someone using the long-tail keyphrase will expect to see a list of companies offering residential landscaping services in The Woodlands, TX.
The second type of unrealistic terms to target with your PPC campaigns are highly competitive keyphrases. The more people using the term, the harder it is to compete and your cost per click (CPC) will become way too high to sustain within a practical budget.

3) You’ve Chosen Keywords that are Not Relevant to Your Target Audience

While high volume keyphrases are typically better, not always. If you’re choosing keyphrases with high volume that are less relevant to your campaign, you’re shooting yourself in the foot. Your ads may rank higher in search results and get loads of impressions, but they will not be strong enough to get clicks, thus failing to generate leads. Make sure that you consider both volume, competition, and relevancy when selecting keyphrases.  

4) You Haven’t Chosen High Intent Keywords

What’s better? More clicks or more leads? The answer may seem obvious as you read this blog, but it can be easy when looking at your analytics to see big numbers for impressions and clicks and assume the campaign is working even though you’re not getting emails or calls. If you don’t target high intent keywords, you aren’t reaching the right people with your ads. You want to target people searching for your products that are ready to buy right now. Take some time to learn the difference between search terms with high buyer intent and keywords that target people in the research stage of the buyer’s journey.

5) You’ve Paid No Attention to Search Trend Data

Did you know that many search terms are seasonal? That may seem obvious but are you using this information to optimize your keyword strategy? Search trend data will show you the most popular months for your search terms and the months where they haven’t performed as well. Ignoring these data trends may leave you wondering why your high performing ads seemed to suddenly stop producing leads. Pay attention to historical search trends and adjust your keyphrase strategy accordingly.

6) Your Keywords Aren’t Used Effectively

Using your keywords effectively will show Google and people how relevant your ad is to the search. First, you have to get Google to show your ad, but then you have to get people to want to click on the ad. Use the keywords in your headline, ad copy, and landing page. Your keyword will be bolded in search results which will help it stand out as relevant to the search.

7) You’ve Used the Wrong Match Type for Your Campaign

When choosing keyphrases for your PPC campaign, Google lets you choose how restrictive it should be when matching your ad against search queries. Match types you can select are broad match, modified broad match, phrase match, and exact match. This will allow you to cast your net far and wide, getting a lot of impressions and clicks or narrow your focus to be more specific, which usually brings in fewer impressions and clicks, but increases the quality of both.

ProTip: Many factors should be considered when choosing match type for your targeted PPC keywords and the right choice will vary from industry to industry. Perform A/B testing to find out which match type gets you the desired results.

8) You Forgot to Include Negative Keywords

One advantage paid advertising has over organic is the ability to prevent your ads from being shown to people searching for unrelated terms. This helps you to better qualify your leads and prevents you from wasting your budget. If you’re a Houston realtor targeting luxury home buyers, for instance, you may want to exclude searches for “affordable homes in Houston”. Don’t forget to include negative keywords in your strategy so that your budget isn’t wasted on clicks that won’t produce results.

9) Yikes! How Long Has it Been Since You’ve Reviewed and Updated Your Keyphrase Strategy?

Unfortunately, PPC keyword research is not a “set it and forget it” task. It’s easy as a business owner or executive to get excited about PPC marketing and tackle it as a big project, then get swept away to bigger priorities. But you also want to be sure you’re maximizing your marketing ROI. If online advertising is part of your business marketing strategy, you’ll want to make sure that you develop a process for reviewing and updating your PPC keyword research on a consistent basis. This is one key reason business owners seek out a digital marketing company for PPC management. Outsourcing your online advertising will allow you to focus on operations while your campaigns get the value of ongoing research, analysis, and optimization.


While PPC campaigns can fail for many reasons, ineffective keyword planning is among the top causes. If your search engine marketing efforts are falling short, do a PPC keyword research audit and see if you’ve made any of these common mistakes.
Still learning how to play the PPC game? Join the conversation to learn more about how to improve your keyword list for better results.