The success of your Google Ads campaign strategy is dependent on well-researched and properly used keywords.

Keywords are words and phrases that help Google identify when you want your ads to trigger. When users search for something, your keywords will let Google know that you are advertising something that could be exactly what your customer is searching for.


Your keyword choices define whether your pay-per-click strategy will be a huge success or a failure that will drain your resources and not achieve the results you want.

This process starts with keyword research but you also need to understand how you can benefit from smart keyword grouping and constantly testing keywords and optimizing your keyword targeting.

This short guide will cover the important steps when working with keywords and answer some of the most common questions people ask when getting started with Google Ads.

You will learn which tools can help you with keyword research. Then we’ll dive into the process of keyword and ad group structuring. You will also learn more about Google’s keyword modifier options, and finally, as a bonus, I’ll show you how you can test and optimize your keywords and ad groups.

Keywords research tools

Solid keyword strategy is the backbone of your Google Ads campaign success. Good quality keywords will bring you high-quality clicks that are more likely to turn into a customer.

Poor quality keywords will attract useless traffic, create irrelevant clicks and waste your budget by generating no results whatsoever.

So it all begins with keyword research. How do you find keywords that will work for your products and services?

How to find keywords with Google Ads Keyword Planner

When searching for keywords you have a variety of tools available to help you.

The most obvious choice is Google’s Keyword Planner. This is Google's very own keyword suggestion tool, really convenient to use. Just type in your seed keywords, the words, and phrases that define your products and services, and Google will hit you with tons of other keyword options it thinks are relevant to the seed keywords.

Keyword Planner demonstrates all the important analysis metrics for the keywords you may choose to add to your campaign including search frequency.

Keyword Planner monthly search frequency

High-frequency keywords and phrases are a great choice for Google Display Network ad campaigns, while keywords with lower search frequency can be a better fit for Search campaigns because they will bring you the most qualified traffic.

The main problem with this tool is that it will only show an estimated keyword search frequency. However, under certain circumstances, you are still able to see a fairly accurate frequency.

Unfortunately, Google’s Keyword Planner might not show some of the most valuable long-tail keywords. However, these words may pop up in Google’s suggestions when you type in your seed words and phrases in the search engine directly.

So it might be a good idea to consider additional keywords research tools.

Free and paid third-party research tools

There are many more free keyword finders to choose from that pull data out of Google’s suggested search queries, Keyword Shitter, for example.

Keyword Shitter doing work

They can either generate lots of underperforming keywords or become a source of inspiration for new keyword experiments. Use them at your own risk and be mindful that scanning and testing all of them may cost you a lot in terms of time — and time is money so be careful when using them and select the keywords you are most confident about.

There are also paid solutions for keyword research to choose from, such as Ahrefs or SEMrush.

These tools let you take a glimpse into your competitors' keywords and see what search queries they are ranking for. This will allow you to outpace other players in the market by benchmarking the best resulting keywords.

Paid tools also have huge databases for long-tail keywords that we discussed earlier. Long-tail keywords are phrases that have more than 3 words in them.

Usually, they have lower competition and result in great lead quality, this is a great reason to hunt for these keywords.

What are negative keywords and how to find them?

Negative keywords are important. They are a crucial part of your keyword strategy and a defining factor between making and losing money.

Basically, a negative keyword is a type of keyword that will prevent Google from triggering your ad when a search includes that specific phrase or word. It’s easy to see why negative keywords are important in the examples below.

Say, you are selling iPhones in New York City. iPhone 8 to be precise. Using keyword buy iPhone might trigger your ads to search queries like buy iPhone x la. So you want to avoid this by adding negative keywords to your ad groups.

So, how do you find them? There are a few tools at your disposal.

You can start your negative keyword research with a basic tool like Google Ads Keyword Planner (it is a good resource for widely used keywords). Unfortunately, as we have previously discussed, it is not the best tool when looking for long-tail keywords.

When you feel like you need more detailed information on your long-tail keywords you can, once again, use paid tools such as Ahrefs or SEMrush. They will show you the best possible options with detailed results

Basic campaign set up can be done with Google tools such as the Keyword Planner. Expand the list of your negative keywords after you gather enough statistics on your existing keyword performance.

How to group keywords in your Google Ads campaigns

The keywords that you have found should then be added to relevant ad groups next. Basically, ad groups are groups of ads that will get triggered based upon certain keywords that you use in these groups.

You can structure them to include different ad copy and landing pages but the key difference between ad groups is the keywords that are used. There are different ways you can structure your ad groups.

Single keyword ad groups

You can use single keyword ad groups (a.k.a. SKAGs) or compile multiple keywords in one group. There are different nuances you need to be aware of.

Even though SKAGs structure allows you to focus on a single keyword and maximize your ad relevance (and thus increase your click-through rate), it becomes a chore to manage campaigns with hundreds of ad groups in them.

Certain industries, car repairs, for instance, may need lots of ad groups with multiple keywords as is, let alone creating an ad group for every keyword.

In addition, some of the keywords you decide to use in SKAGs may have way too little impressions to even trigger an ad.

Use them smartly though, only when you are 100% sure that certain keywords will bring you many conversions.

To find out whether certain keywords will bring you conversions you need to constantly monitor and optimize your campaign performance.

Multiple keywords ad groups

Obviously, the keywords you use in a particular group and an ad they trigger should be as relevant to their search intent as possible.

Different types of products and keywords require different ad copy and ad relevance is one of the key metrics in an ad’s quality score determination.

You can learn more about Google Ad Quality Score in this article.

Long-tail keywords (those that have 3 or more words in them) tend to convert better they are very specific to certain search intent. They are very detailed in explaining what an actual user is trying to find.

Broader keywords can be good for a certain type of goods and services however using them will require careful negative keyword research.

Ad group and keyword management requires a lot of constant optimization so don’t forget to update your ad groups with more relevant keywords and stop irrelevant traffic by using negative keywords.

Keyword match type modifiers overview

Google Ads provides different options for how to trigger your keywords, based on so-called modifiers. There are broad match, phrase match and exact modifier options.

Broad match

Broad match is a default option for the keywords you add. This modifier will trigger your ads when someone types in a combination of words that includes keywords you use and their close variants in your ad groups.

Broad match and modified broad match example

So for example, a keyword such as running shoes will trigger for red mens shoes for running or even synonyms of your words, such as sneakers.

It has certain advantages as it can give you some insight on what search queries Google deems relevant to your keywords, giving you a hint at new keyword ideas to add to your campaign.

However, using broad match keywords can also possibly expose you to irrelevant traffic that is impossible to convert.

By adding + in front of your keywords you will make sure that this particular word will be reflected in a search query in this particular form. This is called Broad Match Modifier.

Phrase match

Phrase match will trigger for any query that uses the keyword phrase you selected plus any other word that somebody has typed in. Be careful about the order of the words you are using because it will define whether your keywords trigger ad impressions or not.

Google will trigger your ads if someone adds additional words before or after your keyword phrase but won’t break your phrase up or change the order.

Phrase match example

Exact match

Exact match, as the name suggests, will make Google trigger your ads for queries containing the (almost) exact form of the keyword you choose. However, it will also trigger for very close variants and forms of the words you used, so be aware of that.

Exact match example

Ad group and keyword optimization and testing

To create an optimal and efficient ad campaign, it is advisable to use a combination of keywords and modifiers and then test their performance in order to identify the most efficient ones.

This is how you can perform such an optimization test.

This is a bonus step to take to optimize your Ad campaigns, find the best performing keywords and drive the most relevant traffic.

This method, however, is somewhat time-consuming and requires a lot of monitoring so it is probably best used by more advanced users, but it is possible to master it if you have such resources at your disposal.

This optimization method was originally called the Peel and Stick method.

First of all, you will need to launch your campaigns using broad match modifiers for your keywords. You need to do this to gather enough statistics and data to identify false search queries.

After some time you will have enough information on what search queries don’t suit your products or services. You can find detailed reports on search queries that have triggered your ads in Google Ads campaign interface. Find those keywords that drive irrelevant traffic and exclude them as negative keywords.

The most important thing to look at is the words that actually bring you conversions. Save them.

Secondly, create different campaigns using the single keyword ad group principle. Use the same settings as before but this time you should take your best performing keywords and use exact match modifiers on them.

Going forward, you can ensure that these particular campaigns are performing better.

Now reevaluate your bidding strategy. You might want to bid more on high conversion keywords to make them more visible for your potential customers.

Don’t forget to add these words as negative keywords in their exact modified version in the original campaigns so your own ads won’t compete against each other.

Check out our full step-by-step guide on ad campaign optimization. We covered more details on the topic in one of our previous blogs.

Now you know the basics of Google Ads keyword research, use and optimization

There you have it.

We have covered some of the most important steps of working with keywords in your Google Ads campaigns.

Now you know how to conduct keyword research, how to organize them into ad groups and how to optimize their performance in your ad campaigns.

Make sure that you always keep your hand on the pulse of your overall keyword performance. Once again, your keywords decide whether your potential clients are going to see your ads and products online or if you will simply blow your budget on irrelevant traffic.

Let us know what you think about keyword research and strategy in the comments.

eLama, PPC Marketing Specialist and Brand Evangelist