The following excerpt is from Perry Marshall, Mike Rhodes and Bryan Todd’s book Ultimate Guide to Google AdWords. Buy it now from Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | IndieBound Keywords are the heart and soul of Google AdWords. Get the right keywords in place from the beginning and everything that follows becomes that much easier.

After you’ve created your initial list of keywords, you can use Google‘s Keyword Planner to add a few more and then begin the refining process. To get started, you need an AdWords account. If you haven’t opened one yet, now’s the time.

The advantage of the Keyword Planner comes from Google’s massive storehouse of data that it uses to find new keywords for you and to predict their cost and value.

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Find the Keyword Planner under “Tools” at the very top of the AdWords page. On the front end, the Keyword Planner presents you with five options to begin your research:

  1. Search for new keywords using a phrase, website or category. Enter a keyword or a URL, and Google will give you a whole bunch of ideas to get you started.
  2. Get search volume data and trends. If you type in any of the keywords from your existing list, Google will give you an estimate of the number of people who are searching on each of these phrases each month.
  3. Multiply keyword lists to get new keywords. This feature takes two distinct types of keyword lists and combines them into one master list. For example, you could have one list of your products and a second list of all the various colors in which your products are available.

This may seem like a clever feature, but it’s not a particularly useful one. The master list you end up with will contain scores of obscure keyword combinations that will receive little or no traffic. Google could penalize you for this by showing your ads less frequently or requiring you to bid more for your keywords.

The other two options help you plan your budgets and forecast spend, but you can safely ignore those now.

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Let’s focus on “Search for new keywords using a phrase, website or category.” Begin with a single, broad phrase or word that describes your primary product, or simply enter your URL. (Try your competitor’s URL, too.) You have the option to select a category, but this isn’t strictly necessary at this stage.

Finally, click the “Get Ideas” button.

Google will respond with an avalanche of “Ad group ideas,” each themed around a specific set of keywords. For example, if you entered “bed” as your keyword, you can expect to see one ad group for bunk beds, another ad group for queen beds, another for children’s beds and so on.

The default view at this point is “Ad group ideas,” but after performing your search, you’ll see an alternate tab titled “Keyword ideas.” Click on this, and you’ll receive a wealth of additional information on each suggested keyword. You’ll also see a couple of features on the left-hand side, one called “Targeting” and the other called “Customize your search.” We’re going to use these to get Google’s seemingly endless list of suggestions down to a manageable number.

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Start out by using the “Targeting” options to refine your search:

  • Location. If you only service a specific country or region, then this is where you specify that. If you adjust this option, you’ll notice that the statistics Google has provided on areas such as “Average monthly searches” and “Suggested bid” will change accordingly.
  • Languages. This is self-explanatory and is usually set to “All languages” by default.
  • Network. Do you want your ads to be shown only for searches on Google, or also on Google’s search partner sites? When you’re starting out, err on the side of choosing the simplest options and then expand as you grow in experience and confidence.
  • Negative keywords. Enter a keyword here and Google’s suggestions will no longer contain that search term.

How many keywords do you need?

Once you’ve finished refining your list, you can either download the keywords to add to your existing list or import Google’s list directly into a campaign. The choice is yours. Either way, you may still want to do some additional trimming.

PPC beginners frequently fall into the trap of assuming that keywords are all about volume and they try to hit every possible angle. In practice, having too many keywords is worse than not having enough. You want to find that “Goldilocks zone” where you have enough keywords to give you results but not so many that you dilute your efforts and end up with overload.

If you’re starting out, go for a minimum of 50 keywords and an absolute maximum of 250. (You can certainly have more than these, but let’s keep things simple at first.)

So what do you cut, and what do you keep?

Imagine that you’re an archer looking at your target. The bull’s-eye represents the keywords that are right on the money and a near-perfect match for what you’re offering. The ring just outside the bull’s-eye represents keywords that are still closely matched but not quite as exact. The next ring out contains keywords that are still good but are bringing you more shoppers and comparison searchers than buyers.

When creating your first keyword shortlist, start with the bullseye and work your way out from there. The resulting list will provide you with an excellent starting point from which you will be able to run your first profitable campaigns.

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