How to Build a Keyword List in Google AdWords

In Brief...

Keywords form the core of your AdWords campaign. They set the entire advertising process in motion. Thus, building a strong keyword strategy is a vital process. Here are some guidelines for building your keyword strategy.


  1. Product/brand association: Understand the correlation between products/services which you offer and how others will associate with them (e.g., "bleach" the product vs. "bleach" the Japanese cartoon series). Good keywords should accurately map your products and services with your ideal customer profile.
  2. Read your prospect's mind: Keywords are your customers' intentions expressed in their own words. Find keywords which will answer your customers' queries (e.g., if you are a plumber then you might want your ad to show up for keywords such as basement flooding, low shower pressure, etc.).
  3. Organize your keywords into buckets: Before looking for actual keywords, identify different themes for your keywords. Each theme could represent a variation of your focus.

Keyword Discovery

The first step in this process is to come up with as many keywords as you can think of that relate to your products/services. Before you seek help from keyword tools, it is recommended that you build your own keyword list using an Excel file. A good keyword discovery process is as follows:

  1. Build a high-level list of your products and services by looking at the content available on your website.
  2. Examine your print collateral or content available in your marketing emails and identify specific keywords.
  3. Review the websites of your competition and try to identify those elements which distinguish your products/services from your competition.
  4. Look at the keywords report in your Google Analytics account (highly recommended).
  5. If you have an internal site search tool on your website, examine the keywords typed in your internal site search. Google Analytics has dedicated reports to analyze internal keywords.

Keyword Research

There are various tools offered by Google and third parties which will aid your keyword research and help you build your keyword list. Here is a list of some keyword tools:

  1. Google Keyword Planner Tool
  2. Google Insights for Search

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Author: Margaux Judge

Margaux Judge has worked as an e-learning editor and instructional designer for over ten years, writing and editing a wide variety of courses, from technical topics to soft skills. She has a Bachelor's degree in English and Textual Studies from Syracuse University and a Master's degree in Television Writing from Boston University.