Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising and Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) are two different branches of marketing, yet both can influence and support one another. By using both together, websites can see an increase in traffic, better brand recognition, and an overall more effective marketing strategy.
In this guide, I’ll be taking a look at the data available through PPC platforms like Google Ads and Microsoft Advertising and how you can make the most of these to improve website content, increase search engine rankings, and gain more traffic.
Google Ads and Microsoft Advertising (for Bing) both have their own free keyword research tools. Though you can find similar tools specifically for SEO, using the ads tools means that you can analyse the behaviour and interests of a slightly different – but equally relevant – audience.
All you need is a free account to gain access to a plethora of useful keyword information. You don’t even have to run any actual ads!
It’s worth signing up to both Google and Microsoft as, although some of the data will be the same, you will also see some interesting differences that you can use to inform your SEO strategy. The two search platforms do have different audiences so you can work out which one might be best for you and use the relevant keyword research tool.
Keyword Planner: Discover New Keywords
On both platforms, the keyword planner tool is found in the top menu, under Tools and settings > Keyword planner. Start by entering a keyword that you think is relevant to you. For example, a business delivering fresh flowers could enter the keyword send flowers.
If you already have a website, you can enter the URL to help focus your search. This is particularly useful if the starter keyword could apply to different types of businesses (using the keyword Brecon Beacons could refer to accommodation, activities, geography, etc.). However, try a search both with and without your URL, as you might be surprised at what comes up.
Depending on the platform, the keyword search function will have different filters that you can tweak to suit your business. In particular, you may want to change the location from the default United States to the United Kingdom.
Hit search and generate a list of possible keywords.
This list provides a number of phrases related to your starter keyword, along with the average number of monthly searches and how many other businesses are targeting that phrase (under the Competition column). Google also lets you know recent growth or decline in popularity, which provides useful information about seasonal interest and current trends.
Look through the list of suggested keywords and make a note of any that might be relevant to your business. Filter out those that mention another brand.
You can repeat this process with as many starter keywords as you like, but it’s best to begin with just two or three important ones so that you don’t become overwhelmed.
Search Term Reports: Identify Successful Keywords
Search term reports are only available if you are currently running ads (or have done in the past). This report tells you the searches that have triggered your ads.
When Google or Microsoft choose to serve your ads in search, they are basing the decision on a vast database of information about user behaviour and the kind of websites they are looking for. If users are seeing – and clicking on – your ads for particular searches, then the associated keywords are already proven to work!
In Google, find the report on the left menu under Keywords > Search Terms. In Microsoft, navigate to All campaigns > Keywords > Search terms.
Take a look through the list of search terms and see what comes up. Google and Microsoft aren’t perfect, so you will see some keywords that aren’t relevant to your business. Of those that are, look for a high interaction rate or click through rate (CTR), and a low average cost. These figures help you pick out the most successful keywords.
PPC Keywords to Inform Your SEO Strategy
Once you have a list of relevant keywords, it’s time to start working them into your SEO strategy. Whether you’re creating a brand new website or giving your current site a refresh, using your PPC keywords can help you shape the content and layout of your site.
Competition and Selecting the Right Keywords
Once you’ve narrowed down all the irrelevant keywords from your research, you’ll likely still have a long list of options. So how do you pick just a few keywords to focus on?
Competition score (high, medium or low) tells you how many other companies are targeting that specific keyword. Although this information relates specifically to ads, it’s likely to be similar across organic search. You need to find a balance between high-volume and high-competition keywords.
If lots of people are searching cheap flowers delivered, but there are also lots of other businesses targeting that keyword, it will be harder to be seen in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages).
On the other hand, if you target a keyword that has low or no competition, like online balloon bouquet delivery, you may have next to no competition. However, it’s likely that few people will find you because there aren’t many searching for that phrase. The ideal is a high-volume keyword with low competition, but you will usually have to find somewhere in between.
Striking the right balance will take time. Analysing the performance of your keywords over several months with a tool like Google Search Console will help you see whether your keywords are bringing the results you need.
You can target an audience more specifically by creating pages on your website that fill a particular need. That’s not to say you require a separate page for every single searched phrase, but you can group related keywords and build a page around them. This helps users more easily find what they need.
There is a high level of search for mother’s day delivery flowers, birthday flowers delivery, and christmas flowers delivered. This tells you that there is significant interest in flowers for specific events. It would make sense to create a page for special occasions, and this could potentially be split into further sub-pages for Christmas, Mother’s Day and birthdays. Don’t go too over-the-top with the number of pages. Using sub-pages is only worthwhile if you have enough content or products.
If your website makes use of a filtering system (the kind you see on sites like Amazon and eBay), use these keywords to inform what options are available. In this instance, it would make sense to allow users to filter by occasion.
Website Content and Copy
The content of your website tells search engines the kind of people they should be sending your way. So, to receive the right kind of traffic, your content needs to align with user needs.
Taking related keywords from your search and using them directly in your website copy (text) can help improve your rankings. Remember to include them naturally: don’t list keywords, overstuff, or write poorly just to get them in. Read my guide on writing good website copy for more tips.
Research can also help you check that your services are clearly advertised on your website. The starter keyword send flowers reveals related keywords such as next day delivery flowers and same day delivery flowers. Both these have very high average monthly searches, so if you offer this service, you need to make sure you say so, and say it loud and clear. Again, use the specific keywords (or close variants) to help your search rankings.
If your business serves a specific region, try using a starter keyword that includes a place name: send flowers Manchester. Be aware that the search volume for these related keywords will be significantly lower. In fact, they may be so low that they bring no results. However, if you do see results, then you have more highly-targeted information to utilise in the same ways as outlined above.
Remember: people in your local area might be searching for slightly different information than the average person across the UK. This is where local keyword research comes in handy.
In many cases, you will find that paid audiences and organic audiences are different. By using PPC keyword research tools, you have a better chance of reaching a wider audience, increasing traffic to your website and improving turnover. Some tools are only available if you’re running ads (or have done in the past), but others only require you to set up a free ads account, with no ads running. Doing so can open up a vast amount of additional useful data that can then be used to improve your organic search performance.