How to build the right search keyword list for your business

Thinking of setting up a new search campaign? Or already in the thick of it? Selecting the right keywords will ensure your ads will appear in front of the right customers.

The keywords you use in your online campaigns are critical. Using the most relevant and right amount, they can draw traffic—and of the relevant kind—straight to your website and increase your conversions from casual encounters to sales. These keywords, usually phrases of two to five words, are what searchers type into search engines to look for information.

Here are some tips to help you find the right keywords to get your search ads in front of the right customers.

1. Think like your customers

When searching for a particular product or service online, not everyone might know the professional term for it. Your keywords should therefore comprise not only general names for your product or service, but also include related words and synonyms.

For example, if someone was searching for ‘exercise bicycles’, some possible keywords you can include are: indoor bicycles, stationary bicycles, gym bikes, etc.

2. Have a mix of general and specific keywords

For campaigns to increase brand awareness, general keywords can help you reach a wider audience. You do need to remember though general keywords can cost more in Google Ads.

Similarly, for campaigns in which you’re targeting only specific customers, specific keywords can be used. For example, a general keyword could be “cupcakes” while the specific keyword could be “wedding cupcakes” or “birthday cupcakes”. These could include brand names.

3. Group similar keywords under ad groups or themes

For successful ad campaigns it is important to categorise your keywords and group them into specific ad groups based on product, service, or other categories you might have on your site. Under Google Ads, this would show you all the ads for all the relevant keywords in that group.

Grouping your keywords under a theme helps beyond ad campaigns. It can also help to boost your website’s SEO and improve search rankings of a particular category page, once you have implemented the relevant keywords into the meta description, body content and image alt tags (text you display if the image doesn't load). Essentially, creating the right set of keywords helps across all aspects of your digital marketing.

4. Use negative keywords so you get only the right people

Negative keywords allow you to exclude search terms from your campaigns. These are similar to your positive keywords, but might be those that cater to customers searching for different products.

Available in ‘negative broad match’, ‘phrase match’ or ‘exact match’ options, you can specify these, effectively narrowing the audience you reach so those that do find your page are quality customers who really are interested in your products or services.

Your Options are generally defined as:

  • Negative broad match: Allows you to exclude your ad when certain keywords are used in a search
  • Phrase match: Your ad will appear when a certain phrase, or close variation, is used in a search
  • Exact match: Your ad will appear when the exact keyword or phrase is used in a search

5. Use the keyword planner

Google’s keyword planner can help you discover new keyword ideas related to your business offerings. It can also provide traffic estimates for these keywords, suggested bid estimates you would need to plan your budget around, as well as historical statistics and future forecasts for related keywords.


  • Include both specific and general keywords related to your business offerings
  • Categorise keywords under the same ad group or themes
  • Use negative keywords to narrow your reach to give you quality results
  • Google’s keyword planner can generate keyword ideas and help you estimate the budget you’ll require