If you’re like me, Keyword Expansion is a task that is done frequently. Being relatively new to the SEM world, the idea of these expansions was a bit overwhelming. I was never really sure where to start or certain that I was heading in the right direction. I thought there was a set procedure for this task that if followed correctly, would give me the perfect set of new keywords. Now that I have a few dozen keyword expansions under my belt, I know that there is no one right way to do this. There are many different ways to approach a keyword expansion. It depends on a series of different factors including the client, the campaign you are trying to expand, and what the client is looking for.  In case you’re in need of some research tools, here are some of the tools I use when working on a keyword expansion.

1.     Keyword Planner

Recently, Google consolidated the different keyword tools it offered into one tool – The Keyword Planner. Before, you had the option of using the Keyword Tool and the Traffic Estimator tool. Under the new Keyword Planner, you can do all of the functions that were available under the other tools.  For the purpose of a keyword expansion I only use the first option – “Search for keyword and ad group ideas”.  Depending on how granular you want to be, there are lots of filters you can include in your keyword search like interests, geo/language targeting, and metric requirements.  With any of Google’s tools, there is the option to add these keywords straight into your account. While this is very convenient, I don’t recommend doing this so early on in the process. Google’s keyword suggestions usually require a bit of clean up, whether because they are too general or not completely relevant to your goal.

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 2.     Display Planner

The Display Planner is set up very similarly to the Keyword Planner Tool.  You are given similar levels of granularity with options to include geo/location targeting, and your landing page.  Despite being meant for Display campaigns, I think this tool can be very helpful for getting a start on search keyword ideas. It will also recommend interests, topics, and placements that you might need as the building process progresses.

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3.     SEM Rush

 Another great way to get keyword ideas is to use a third party tool like SEMRush that gathers SEO data on competitors. SEMRush can be used for much more than competitor research, but I’ve found this aspect extremely helpful with keyword expansions. All you have to do is enter in the domain of your competitor and then you can download an excel file with the complete list of their paid search keywords. There is another tool offered called Domain vs. Domain. With this, you are able to enter your domain and domains of your competitors to see how they compare. You can see keywords that all domains have in common or keywords unique to you or your competitor.

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 4.     Landing Page

Sometimes, great keywords can be found by simply scanning the landing page where they will be sent to. Google’s tools are great at generating lots of keyword ideas, but they still require some refinement. When you take out the middle man of Google’s algorithms, you can get back to basics and make sure that the keywords you are suggesting are exactly what you’re looking for. Depending on the client and what they are selling, going straight to the landing page can be a great place to start.

There isn’t a set procedure to follow that will guarantee a successful keyword expansion. The broad nature of this task can be overwhelming, but just remember that there are lots of tools available that can provide a great foundation.  You can create a process that works for you and your client, and that can be customized to each expansion.

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Megan Gritzke
Megan Gritzke joined 3Q Digital in November 2012 after graduating from Loyola University Chicago with a Marketing degree (including a digital marketing class that piqued her interest in the field). Despite being a St. Louis native, Megan loves living in the city of Chicago. She loves exploring the city with her friends, watching lots of television, and using Twitter to stay up to date on the latest news.