What are PPC Keywords and How to Use Them - Spaceboost Blog
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What are PPC Keywords and How to Use Them

PPC keywords are an essential part of online advertising. Never heard of them? Don’t worry. Here is a quick summary of what a keyword is, how to discover which ones are going to help you, and how to use them to grow your business with Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising.


long short tail 1 - What are PPC Keywords and How to Use Them

This is a key graph to understand the difference between long tail keywords and short tail keywords for paid search advertising! Read on for more…


What is a keyword?


This is a good question and an important one to know the answer to! A keyword (or focus keyword) is the word or phrase that, when it is typed in to any search engine (whether that is Google, Bing, or elsewhere), triggers the content that you are shown. That content includes organic results, featured snippets, and paid advertisements.

Important: keywords are not the same as Search Queries! Search Queries are the words someone types into Google. Keywords are the phrases, words, or combination of words and phrases within those Search Queries that trigger your ads.


search - What are PPC Keywords and How to Use Them


What is a keyword bidding auction?


Each time someone types a Search Query into Google, a bidding auction occurs between all the would-be advertisers who have bid on that keyword, and the winning bidders have their clickable ads displayed (in order). In those milliseconds between the search being made and the resulting pages and ads appearing, Google’s algorithms identify which keywords have been bid on, how relevant the ad is going to be to the searcher, and how much each advertiser has bid to appear for that keyword.  

There is a whole world of best practices you can take advantage of to make sure that the money you invest on paid search advertising is driving the value your business needs. Here is our guide to which Google Ads appear, where, and why?


What are the different types of keyword?


There are four different types of keywords you are going to need to know about. Each type of keyword allows you to tell Google (or whichever search engine you are using) how specific it should be when matching up your ads to the searches that they are triggered by. There are four keyword match types you can choose. In ascending order of how specific the Search Query-Keyword match needs to be to to trigger your ads, they are:


Broad Match

Broad Match Modifier

Phrase Match

Exact Match


Each of these types can be useful for your online advertising, depending on the results you want to achieve. Here is our full guide to the different match types and how to use them to create online ads to respond to different types of searches on Google, Bing, or Amazon.


Generic vs Long tail keywords


Within each of these keyword types, there is also an important distinction to be made: generic keywords and long tail keywords. This is not an option that you select on Google Ads or Spaceboost, it all depends on how you compose and select your different keywords.


Generic keywords


Generic keywords are – as you would expect – broader, shorter, and … more generic words or groups of terms. If you were selling sporting equipment, “Running shoes” would be a generic keyword, for example. Taking that example, if you bid on searches that include a keyword as generic as ‘”Running shoes”, you will see a lot of traffic for that search, but the quality of those searches will not be as high as a more specific search that includes, for example, the type of shoe, the brand, the price, etc. Here are some of the essential characteristics of generic keywords in PPC advertising:


  • They can drive a lot of traffic, although at a high price.
  • You may attract a lot of traffic that is not specific
  • They are highly competitive
  • They are useful to drive brand recognition
  • Their performance is easy to analyze due to large amounts of data


Long tail keywords


Long tail keywords are – again, naturally enough – a little longer. Any keyword made up of over 3 or 4 phrases or terms is usually defined as long tail. A long tail keyword is indicative of a more specific search, and as such, is more valuable to the advertiser, although it occurs less often. Let’s continue the example above – “Buy Cheap Men’s Running Shoes Puma” – would be a long tail keyword. Here are some of the essential characteristics of long tail keywords in PPC advertising:


  • Their conversion statistics are spread out, complicating the analysis.
  • They tend to have much higher conversion percentages.
  • They facilitate higher Quality Scores
  • They require more time to manage effectively.
  • They are less competitive, and therefore have lower Cost-Per-Clicks (CPCs).
  • There is a risk of low search volume.


Now that you know the basics, it’s time to start organizing your ad campaigns! The ideal paid media strategy will include both generic and long tail keywords. For more help on how to identify, distribute, group, and use a comprehensive range of keywords for your brand’s online ad strategy, here’s our PPC expert, Pablo Molins, on how to create an ideal Search structure. Or if you want more basic online marketing training, you can always sign up to our Academy! Happy advertising!

Maria Donadeu
Head of SAAS Acquisition, Spaceboost.
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