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.