Keyword building is at the core of both SEO and SEM, although each field presents a different set of challenges to marketers. In this blog I’ll talk about choosing the right keywords for SEM ads and how a marketer’s choice of keywords affects how well an ad will reach the right customers.

Seek Out the Searcher

Any SEM marketer works within a budget. That being said, marketers can’t just bid exorbitant amounts on every keyword they can come up with. The sharp marketer chooses keywords that will incite the best click-through rates and most value per action. Those keywords may not be the most obvious.

When choosing keywords, you want to play to your audience. Don’t ask, “How do I intend to define my product.” Instead ask, “What’s the intent of the person doing the searching?” Use keywords that target the searcher. Search is a consumer-driven field; because of this you need to modify search terms in order to suit the consumer. You have to choose keywords according to what people are looking for. You have to consider what your customers are thinking about.

Think about who your target customers are. If you want to market Adobe Acrobat, for example, you know that many of your target customers are IT professionals. IT professionals may not search for Adobe Acrobat by name, but they may be looking for a product that allows them to “securely sign PDFs”—so they’d type those keywords into a search engine. Thus, the savvy marketer expands the scope of keywords to include terms that the customer is using.

Expand the Keyword Scope

Using keywords that target your consumers is one way of expanding your keyword scope, but you shouldn’t only try to reach the customers who are explicitly searching for you or your product. Expand your keyword scope so that you can find and reach new potential customers. SEM offers a great opportunity to advertise outside of your typical range. You can choose which keywords to bid on and how much you want to bid. The keywords you choose do not have to correlate directly to your product or its features.

One way to expand your keyword scope it to step outside of the keyword product box. What does this mean? It means using keywords besides those would likely be featured directly on your product’s box. It also means using keywords that may be implicitly associated with your product, keywords that your target demographic may be searching for when they are not searching for your product. As a marketer you want to show customers relevant products. Although search is consumer driven, it’s still possible to actively advertise your product. You can still put your product in front of the right people, even when those people are not explicitly seeking out your product.

A searcher may use the keywords “travel to NYC” to find travel deals to New York City. That searcher will likely receive a bunch of ads offering cheap airfare, bus tickets, and other offers for traveling to Gotham. (These ads will vary depending on location data and other information.) A savvy marketer knows that someone who is traveling to NYC may also want to have something to do once they get there. So within the flood of flight ads, there will also be ads for restaurants, tour buses, and other attractions. Although these things are not directly correlated with “travel to NYC,” they are implicitly associated with travelers and tourism in the city. Expanding keyword scope helps you find the right customers and allows those customers to find you.