Paid Search: Tools for Finding the Right Keywords

Kelly CurrieMarket Research, Marketing Strategy, PPC

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Heading into the holiday season, online visibility is top of mind for store owners. Consumers are expected to do their gift buying mostly online this year, so it will be all the more important to tune into user search behavior for any paid search campaign.

Keyword Research is the first step to an effective paid search campaign, signified here by a magnifying glass.

Do your research.

We have several tools that we use here at Shift to research common keyword terminology, and they vary in technicality. Most times, we use more than one to ensure there aren’t any holes in our keyword strategy.

  • Competitive AnalysisSpyfu, a keyword research and competitive analysis tool, can tell you what keywords your competitors are bidding on, about how much their monthly ad spend is, and more.
  • MozThis company specializes in SEO, but also offers tools for researching search terms, related terms, terms using synonyms of the one you’re searching, etc. This can really help bolster your paid search keyword strategy.
  • Google Ads – if your paid search campaign is going to run in Google, you may find it best to simply use the keyword explorer tool in Google Ads Manager. Navigate to Tools & Settings > Keyword Planner. From there you can use either “Discover new keywords” to get keyword ideas, or if you have a curated list already go for “Get search volume and forecasts” to see an estimate on how they will perform.

A low tech method that is worth adding to your toolkit: Do an organic search yourself! Enter a common keyword in a search engine to see results first-hand. Not only will the results most likely show you competitor’s ads, but you’ll also find related articles in the organic results, which can suggest additional keywords for you to consider.

At the bottom of the SERP (search engine results page) in Google, you’ll see a list of related searches, as shown above for the search “local bakery”. We recommend researching the terms you find in whatever keyword research tool you’re using, but it’s good inspiration.


Knowing how users search for your product or service takes research, and can help you choose the right keywords to bid on in your paid search campaign.

Think like a consumer.

Another way to conjure up search terms is to explain the product or service’s value proposition to someone who has never heard of it before. See what phrasing resonates with them. When we’re forced to simplify something for others, we find alternative ways of explaining. Those other words and phrases might be how people are searching on the web. 

Consider how YOU use search engines. Sometimes you may use a long-tail keyword with many qualifiers. Other times you might type in a question: “what’s the difference between jelly and jam?” for example.

How people phrase their search terms can help tell us their location in the sales funnel. What can we infer about this user? We can assume that they are researching (or hungry). We don’t, however, know that they are interested in buying jam or jelly. 

If you were a small preserves company hoping to gain brand awareness, you might want to consider including this keyword in your paid search campaign to get it in front of those in your interest part of the marketing funnel

More often than not, though, companies only want to pay to advertise on search terms that they can assume are in-market for their specific offer. 

For example, a website hosting company might want to bid on “buy WordPress hosting” rather than “what is web hosting?” We can assume intent with these types of queries. 

The right keywords to include in your paid search strategy are ones that give you qualified clicks that are well supported by data.

Thinking like a consumer can take lots of research. And sometimes, it challenges our assumptions. The right keywords to include in your paid search strategy are those that give you qualified clicks that are well supported by data.  And remember, you can always course-correct as you go, and as seasonality and online behavior changes. 


Interested in improving your keyword strategy, or getting started with paid search? We can help! 

Shift is a brand agency in Pittsburgh, PA that specializes in helping businesses and nonprofits solve marketing and communications challenges. We believe that clear communication connects with people, sustains organizations, and builds a better world.