Keyword Research Beyond the Basics: 16 Ways to Find New Terms

Keyword research is the foundation of pay-per-click advertising. It’s impossible to run a PPC campaign if you have no terms to target. Thus, growing a keyword list is the first step to launching new campaigns or expanding existing ones. If you’re looking for new keywords to target, the following ideas will help you find a variety of potential terms.

Do Keyword Research from Your Own Site’s Traffic

The initial place to look for keywords isn’t in some keyword-generating tool but rather right on your own site. Any terms you discover while reviewing your site’s current traffic will be the most promising of all terms, for they’re already generating a little traffic and you can mine the date for more detailed information. There are several ways to glean keywords from your site’s current traffic.

Using Current PPC Campaigns and a Thesaurus

To get new keyword ideas from your current PPC campaigns, simply look over the campaigns with a thesaurus in hand. What terms are used in the ads, and what are you bidding on? Write down the successful terms you come across and then, open the thesaurus. You might come across some related terms you haven’t previously thought of.

Using a thesaurus may seem like an antiquated way to do keyword research in today’s era of online tools, but it’s the uniqueness of this tactic that makes it useful. With a thesaurus in front of you rather than a keyword tool, you’re forced to focus on the terms rather than the metrics. You’re freer to brainstorm, and you can always later check the viability of terms that you find.

Checking Google Analytics for Occasional Ideas

Ever since Google made SSL Search its default mode back in 2011, Google Analytics has not been the goldmine of keywords that it once was. Nevertheless, it’s still possible to find a few keywords through analytics.

To garner what ideas Google Analytics can provide, check the Organic Search section of Channels. You’ll see how many visitors are finding your site organically, and below the chart there’s a list of the keywords that visitors are searching for when they click on your site’s listing in the search engine results. The vast majority (likely more than 95 percent) of terms will be “(not provided).” You may see a few terms that are visible, though.

Any terms you see are potentially viable keywords, for at least one person found your site through organic search by using the terms. If they work for search engine optimization, there’s a decent chance they’ll also work for PPC marketing.

Looking Up Search Terms in Google Webmaster Tools

Google’s Search Console (formerly Webmaster Tools) is a much richer source of potential keywords. The data is aggregated from multiple users, so privacy is less of a concern and Google displays lots of terms on the platform’s reports.

In the Search Analytics section, you can view what terms are generating impressions for your site. There are also reports for positions, clicks and click-through rates, and you can filter by search type, device and/or country.

This information is widely used by SEO specialists (and there are page reports that are particularly helpful to SEOs). The Queries reports that show the aforementioned details, however, are also useful in PPC planning. Any terms that are generating high impressions or clicks might be worth building PPC campaigns around.

Asking Your Customer Service Representatives

If you run a site that receives lots of customer inquiries, the people who respond to these inquiries may be valuable sources of keyword ideas. They’ll know what customers are asking about and what terms they’re using in their questions. If you ask, customer service representatives will be happy to share this information.

Most of the questions that customer service reps field won’t be directly related to sales, so you’ll hear lots of responses that aren’t appropriate for PPC. Any questions or terms that are related to your marketing funnel might be good for PPC ads, though.

Should you come across a pre-purchase inquiry that people are asking a lot, you might even be able to use some of the customer service department’s budget to create a resource and campaign around the question. If people are able to easily find the answer on your website through a PPC ad and associated landing page, the company may save labor by reducing the number of questions that customers ask.

Discover Terms Your Competitors Are Using

After going through your own website, the next place to turn is your competitors’ sites. There are a few quick ways to see what keywords they’re targeting. Any term that a competitor is targeting is probably one you should be targeting too. Check out our ultimate SEM playbook for competitor research.

Seeing Competitors’ PPC Ads

Anytime you come across a competitors PPC ad, that’s an obvious time to check for keywords that they’re running a campaign around. How you find the targeted term depends on why the ad is appearing:

  • For search ads, check the search term you used
  • For contextualized on-page ads, check the content of the page
  • For retargeted ads, check the copy used in the ad itself

You don’t want to go searching for these ads, as there’s no efficient way to discover all competitor PPC campaigns by just using the internet. Whenever an ad appears, though, take note.

Finding Out Competitors’ Tags

Some basic sleuthing on competitors’ websites will reveal what keywords each individual page is designed for.

You can open the HTML source code of any page on a competitor’s website, generally by right-clicking and selecting “page source.” Among the HTML elements revealed, you’ll find the headers (including H1, H2 and others), page title, meta description, keywords tag, image title tags and image alt tags.

Not every site uses all of this schema, but any terms you discover might be worth running a PPC campaign. Terms can be especially promising if the competitor isn’t currently running a paid campaign for them.

Researching Competitors’ Keyword Ideas

After you’ve completed some initial research on your competitors, take their URLs over to Keyword Planner. Input the URLs into the “Find New Keywords” function, and you’ll soon have a list of possible terms, including the traffic they generate and how competitive they are.

You’ll likely already have campaigns running for many of the terms shown, and manually filtering through duplicates is time-consuming. To efficiently discover new ideas, download the report generated as a spreadsheet. Then, copy-paste the terms you’re currently targeting into the spreadsheet and remove duplicates. You’ll soon have a list of potential keyword ideas that you aren’t currently targeting.

Utilizing Third-Party Tools

There are also a number of third-party tools you can use to discover what keywords your competitors are targeting. Some are paid and others are free. One popular tool is SEMrush, which shows paid and organic details along with other information.

Get Ideas from Other Tools and Platforms

Once you’ve reviewed what’s working for your own site and those of your competitors, it’s finally time to begin using other tools and platforms that can give you brand new ideas.

Perusing Keyword Planner

Already mentioned, Keyword Planner is a powerful tool that can do much more than merely show you ideas based on competitors’ websites. You’ve likely already used the tool if you’re currently running PPC campaigns through Google. If it’s been a while since you looked for ideas in Keyword Planner have been using another advertising platform thus far, spending some time perusing the tool might be helpful. Put a few ideas in and see what terms are generated.

Getting Terms from UberSuggest

UberSuggest is a go-to tool for long tail keywords. Enter a keyword or phrase, and the tool will soon suggest a plethora of related multi-word terms. Each term comes with volume and seasonal trend information, along with a Keyword Difficulty that’s helpful with SEO and a Competitive Intelligence that’ll help you determine how expensive PPC campaigns will be. The Competitive Intelligence section even shows you the ad copy competitors are using for selected terms.

Shopping on Amazon

To glean potential keywords from a different perspective, head over to Amazon. Amazon has grown from the company’s initial days as an online retailer into the largest search engine for product-related searches.

Amazon doesn’t have the same keyword-finding tools as Google does, although the company’s tools are growing as Amazon Ads develops. The real usefulness of Amazon, however, lies in its abundance of creative phrases and ideas for terms.

To find creative keywords, search for products related to your website’s focus. See what terms people are using both in their listings and discussions of products. What are the book (and Kindle) titles and subtitles? What’s being used in the product descriptions and reviews? Any of these terms might help you incorporate more creative phrases into your current PPC keyword profile.

A similar tactic can be used on Ebay, although Amazon is now the larger of the two companies.

Searching with Soovle

Soovle is unique among keyword research tools because it’s not limited to any one platform. Instead, Soovle aggregates data from Google, Yahoo, Answers.om, Bing, Amazon, Ebay, Overstock.com, Buy.com, YouTube and Wikipedia. Don’t expect the same level of detail as you get from Keyword Planner or UberSuggest, or by personally reviewing a site like Amazon. If you want a selection of results from a number of sources, however, this is an excellent tool.

Because Soovle combines several sources and provides basic information, you might want to use it early on in your research. Conducting a cursory search via Soovle might yield a few terms that you can look further into via the other tools. Also, don’t be afraid to take words found on one platform (e.g. Wikipedia) and see if a PPC campaign on a search engine will work.

Reading on Quora and Yahoo Answers

Content strategists sometimes go to question-and-answer sites, like Quora and Yahoo Answers, when they need ideas for pieces. These sites are occasionally also useful for conducting keyword research.

Don’t expect to find specific terms on Q&A sites, as they aren’t easy to search for keyword ideas and normally don’t have optimized text. Instead, look around to see if there are any completely new ideas you can create PPC campaigns around. A long line of comments around a product or service your website offers might be the spark for an entirely new PPC campaign that has several ads. Once you get a few ideas, you can return to the other tools to refine the exact terms that should be targeted.

Monitoring Hashtags on Social Media

Hashtags are largely confined to social media, but there are some instances where hashtags that first grow on social platforms may be useful to SEMs planning PPC campaigns. Any hashtag that becomes popular on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or another platform might be incorporated as a new keyword in a PPC ad.

To see how you might capitalize on a trendy hashtag, assume #exampletoo was trending on social media. You could:

  • Create a PPC campaign for the term with the hashtag in it (e.g. “#exampletoo)
  • Create a PPC campaign for the term without the hashtag in it (e.g. “exampletoo”)
  • Create a PPC campaign for the term with spaces between the words (e.g. “example too”)
  • Include the hashtag in your ad copy to make a statement or draw attention

This tactic can’t be your only keyword research strategy, since you never know when a hashtag related to your website will start trending. Should this good fortune strike, though, being able to quickly execute a PPC campaign could provide a good return on investment. Hashtags aren’t regularly targeted by SEMs, so PPC costs for these terms is often lower — especially when the hashtag is kept as a single phrase without spaces. The site that can put out a quick ad might see a nice and low-cost boost in traffic.

Stay Familiar with Your Industry’s Developments

Finally, just staying up-to-date with developments in your site’s industry is a great and natural way to discover new terms without actually doing keyword research. There’s no better way to learn technical jargon than by reading industry publications and talking with professionals in the field, after all.

Staying Current on Industry News

Keep up with industry news so that you know what’s going on and learn new terms as soon as people start using them. Any news that’s at least indirectly related to your industry may provide low-cost PPC terms that generate traffic. If a topic is fresh, people will be searching for it and SEMs won’t yet have discovered it.

If you do include news-related terms in your PPC campaigns, carefully monitor them on an ongoing basis. News has a lifecycle, and the return on these terms will change as the news progresses. Once more SEMs start running campaigns, costs-per-click will go up. Once the news is passed over, campaigns will generate less traffic.

Reading Trade Publications

Reading trade publications will show you how people are using your industry’s technical jargon, and you’ll see new terms as soon as it’s coined. Any new term or slang that you read is definitely worth investigating further as a potential keyword, and just the act of reading will help you use terms more naturally in ad copy.

Items published in trade journals sometimes have a lifecycle, but their lifecycles tend to be longer than what the general news reports. You’ll, thus, want to monitor any campaigns centered on terms that come from journals or other trade publications. You don’t necessarily need to watch them as closely, though.

Use All Sorts of Resources in Your Keyword Research

Just remember that there are lots of resources available to help you with keyword research. When you need new terms, look to:

  • Your own site (through existing PPC campaigns, Analytics, Webmaster Tools and the customer service department)
  • Competitors’ sites (through PPC ads, tags, Keyword Planner and other tools)
  • Tools and Platforms (through Keyword Planner, UberSuggest, Amazon, Q&A sites and hashtags)
  • Industry Developments (through news and trade publications)

Use a variety of these resources, and you’ll have a rich and varied list of new keywords that can form the foundation of growing PPC campaigns.

Lynn Langmade

Lynn Langmade is an award-winning digital marketing leader who creates valuable content that drives demand, increases brand awareness, and inspires advocacy for B2B brands and then uses science to measure, test, and leverage what works for predictable revenue.