How to build the best keyword list

Selecting the right keyword list for your campaign can help you show your ads to the customers you want as they search for specific terms or visit certain websites. Your keywords should match the terms your potential customers would use to find your products or services.

Basic tips: Choosing and organizing your keywords

1. Think like a customer when you create your list.

Write down the main categories of your business and the terms or phrases that might fall under each of those categories. Include terms or phrases your customers would use to describe your products or services.


If you sell men's athletic footwear, you might start off with some basic categories that customers would use, like men's sports shoes. You can also add men's sneakers, or men's tennis shoes, if you find out these are commonly used terms for your products. Expand your list further by including your brand and product names.

2. Select more general or specific keywords depending on your goal.

If you want to get the most bang for your buck, select specific keywords that directly relate to your ad's theme. Using more specific keywords would mean that your ad only appears for terms that apply to your business. But keep in mind that if the keywords are too specific, you might not be able to reach as many people as you'd like.

If you'd prefer to reach as many people as possible, choose more general keywords. In most cases, adding very general keywords might make it difficult to reach potential customers because your ad could appear for searches that aren't always related to your business. Also, more general keywords can be more competitive and may require higher bid amounts.

You should try testing out more and less specific keywords and then decide which ones give you better results. No matter how general or specific your keywords are, they should always be as relevant to your ads and website as possible. Note that it's a good practice to avoid having duplicate keywords in your account as Google shows only one ad per advertiser on a particular keyword.


If you sell men's athletic footwear, you might choose specific keywords like men's basketball shoes, a type of shoe you offer. That way, for example, your ad would be eligible to appear when someone searches for these types of shoes or visits a website about basketball.

If you're a large shoe retail store, you might choose a general keyword like shoes. That way, for example, your ad would be eligible to appear when someone searches for a wide variety of shoes or visits websites about fashion.

3. Group similar keywords into themes.

If you add all your keywords and ads to one ad group, a customer searching for women's evening shoes may see your ad about men's tennis shoes.

To show more relevant ads to potential customers, try grouping your keywords and ads into ad groups based on your products, services, or other categories. Additionally, you can keep your account better organized if your keywords are grouped into themes.


If own a shoe store, you can create two ad groups, one for running shoes and one for evening shoes. Your ad group for running shoes would include keywords like running shoes and running sneakers and ads tailored to people looking for running shoes. Your ad group for evening shoes would include keywords like evening shoes and dress shoes and ads tailored to people looking for evening shoes.

That way, we can show potential customers your ad about evening shoes when they search for one of the keywords in that ad group, such as dress shoes.

4. Pick the right number of keywords.

Most advertisers find it useful to have somewhere between five and 20 keywords per ad group, although you can have more than 20 keywords in an ad group. Remember, each ad group that you create should contain keywords that directly relate to that group's theme. You don't need to include other variations of your keywords, like possible misspellings or plural versions. Keywords of two or three words (a phrase) tend to work most effectively.

You can have up to 20,000 individual targeting items (including keywords) per ad group and as many as 5 million individual targeting items in your account. However, most advertisers find that a handful of well-targeted keywords will likely deliver the majority of their relevant clicks.


If your ad group contained the broad match type keyword tennis shoes, your ad would be eligible to appear when someone searched for that keyword or any variation of the keyword, like tennis shoes, buy tennis shoes, running shoes, or tennis sneakers.

Intermediate tips: Using the Keyword Planner, negative keywords, and the search terms report

1. Use the Keyword Planner to find and select new keywords.

You can get keyword ideas and traffic estimates to help you build a Search Network campaign by using the Keyword Planner. This tool will also show you how a list of keywords might perform and the average number of times people searched for those terms. This can help you decide which keywords can help drive traffic to your website and increase awareness of your product, for example.


If you enter the phrase running shoe in the Keyword Planner, it might show you discount running shoes or motion control running shoes as additional keywords to consider. For each keyword idea, you'll get statistics, like how competitive the keyword is or the average number of times people searched for that term worldwide. You can use these statistics to help you decide which keywords to add to your list.

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2. Improve your clickthrough rate with negative keywords.

In some cases, you'll want to prevent your ad from showing for terms that aren't relevant to your product or service. Try adding negative keywords to help you reduce costs and make your ad appear only for the search terms you want.


Let's say the running shoe store you own sells only men's shoes. You might consider adding women and girls as negative keywords to prevent your ad from showing when people search for women's shoes or girls' shoes.

3. Use the search terms report to further improve your keyword list.

The search terms report gives you information on what people were searching for when they saw your ad and clicked on it. This information can help you remove poorly performing keywords or add new ones. You can also use the search terms report to help you identify negative keywords.

Advanced tips: Using keyword match types and choosing keywords for the Display Network

1. Use keyword match types to better control who sees your ads.

Keyword match types give you greater control over who sees your ads. For example, with the exact match option, you can make your ad eligible to show up only when someone searches for that exact keyword or close variations of that exact keyword - like misspellings or plural versions - and nothing else.

Keywords aren't case-sensitive - they're matched without regard to uppercase or lowercase letters. For example, you don't need to enter running shoes and Running Shoes as keywords - just running shoes will cover both.

For app install campaigns, AdWords may extend the scope of some of your keyword match types in ways that are specific to apps. Here's how this can work:

  • For exact and phrase keywords: AdWords may make small changes (like adding or removing the word ‘app’) to search terms to better match with your targeted keywords.
  • For broad match keywords: Adwords may use app category information to improve both your targeting precision and reach.


If you want to show your ad only to people interested in buying men's running shoes, you might want to add terms like men's running shoes and running shoes for men as exact match keywords.

That way, your ad will be eligible to show when people search for those exact terms or close variations of them, like mens running shoes. Your ad won't show when people search for terms like best running shoes for men because that phrase includes the term best, which isn't part of your exact match keyword or a close variation of it.

2. Choose keywords that relate to the websites or apps your customers see.

On the Display Network, your keyword list helps us show your ads on relevant websites or apps that your customers visit. Try choosing keywords that are related to each other and are related to the content your customers browse. For apps, AdWords can extend the scope of your keywords in order to match your ads to more relevant search terms. Learn more about choosing keywords for Display Network campaigns.

Since we match your ads to relevant websites using your keywords, all keywords used for Display Network campaigns are considered broad match. You can fine-tune your keywords by excluding certain keywords from ad groups that target the Display Network.


Let's say you create a keyword list that includes terms related to boots. Websites about boots would be targeted by the keywords on your list. You could also exclude the terms ski and snowboard to prevent your ads from appearing on sites about winter sports.

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