Keyword Advertising: what it is and how to do it successfully

For some decades, as a natural consequence of the web explosion, there has also been a change in the way advertising is done.

Old advertising campaigns have been replaced by other forms that are more in tune with the new type of user that the internet world has created.

Today, when we have a doubt or need to search for a service or product, the first thing we do is type on a search engine (which most of the time is Google) our question, need, request, and as a result, we will find on our page a series of sites that should help us.

The massive and daily use of search engines has given rise to a new consumer attitude, and to exploit it, a new advertising tool has emerged. It is called Keyword Advertising.

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What is Keyword Advertising and how does it work?

Keyword Advertising refers to the online advertising of a product or service by purchasing keywords that respond to a specific search intent of the user.

keyword advertising examples

It is, therefore, a tool that represents the most widespread form of digital advertising. The basic mechanism of Keyword Advertising might seem obscure at first glance, but it’s simple.

Have you noticed that every time you type exact keywords on the search engine, along with the results, on your page, there are also some advertising announcements related to what you were looking for?

Keyword advertising materializes in these advertising announcements that are related, precisely, to the keywords you typed.

In addition to the so-called organic results, Google offers you a series of sponsored results, which are inserted for a fee by advertisers who have chosen each word with which they want their ad to appear on the user’s page.

keywords sponsored ads

This way of advertising has its advantages:

  1. Advertising is less intrusive compared to traditional advertising, where the commercial interrupts the user’s “experience” forcefully. With keyword advertising, promotional messages are presented only to interested users, as a response to a specific search they have conducted.
  2. It is targeted and effective as it is directed only at a potential customer who is intercepted while actively seeking information, making them more likely to make a purchase.
  3. It is economically convenient because, if used correctly, it can provide high click-through and conversion rates at a low cost.
  4. It monitors results through data analysis that allows you to control the traffic on your website. By using Google Analytics, you will track and record traffic on your web page. It is a tool that provides statistics on how visitors find you on the web and interact with your site, allowing you to monitor your advertising campaign. This will prevent you from making missteps that could lead to significant financial losses.

Keyword advertising is part of the world of SEA (Search Engine Advertising), which, along with SEO (Search Engine Optimization), constitutes the two ways to conduct SEM (Search Engine Marketing).

search engine advertising

SEA is a type of advertising planned within the advertising circuits present in search engines. It is a method that provides greater visibility to the site following the pay-per-click model (PPC).

PPC is a very advantageous method for publishers because they only pay when the ad appears on the SERP, but only when the user clicks on the ad and “lands” on their site, thus paying only for the results obtained.

How to successfully do Keyword Advertising

Online advertising related to keyword search cannot be improvised, you need to have both a minimum knowledge of the strategies to choose and experience with the available tools.

The first thing to keep in mind to doing successful Keyword advertising is beyond the knowledge of the platform to be used.

This will discuss later, both the choice of keywords to include in your ad and the target audience to which you want to address your advertising.

How to choose keywords

Advertisers using keyword advertising have the option to choose each search term with which they want their ad to appear on search engine pages.

Therefore, to effectively reach their target audience, the choice of keywords to include on their website is a crucial decision.

To make a correct and precise choice, there are some factors to consider:

  • Search volume of the keywords, which is the parameter indicating the average number of monthly searches by users on Google for that specific keyword. While choosing keywords with a high search volume may seem like the logical solution, you also need to consider the other side of the coin—these are highly competitive keywords, making it difficult to achieve a good position on the SERP.
  • Relevance and pertinence of the words in the context of the page of the site you want to promote. To optimize your webpage, you should only include precise and targeted terms that relate specifically to your company’s business. This is because Google, aiming to provide precise answers to its users, ranks web pages that are relevant to the user’s typed query. For example, if you are a hardware store wanting to be noticed online for creating custom paints, the keyword “sale of custom paint” is more relevant than simply “hardware store”.

list of long tail

  • Competition refers to the number of potential sponsored ads from competitors that you will have to outrank on Google for a specific keyword. This factor depends on the competitors’ interest in the keyword you have chosen. Therefore, the solution would be to choose keywords with lower search volumes and, at the same time, less contested.
  • The Long Tail is the parameter referring to the length of the chosen keyword. According to this theory, it is better to choose keywords with more words, as longer-tail keywords have lower search volumes. The natural consequence is that these words have lower competition, resulting in a higher probability of achieving a good position in the SERP and, consequently, higher conversion rates.

words with low competition

How to create the right target audience

Once you understand how to choose the keywords to include in your ad, another step is choosing the target audience, that is, the audience you want to reach with your advertising by creating audience segments.

To optimize an advertising campaign to the fullest, your audience cannot be just anyone, you need to reach specific users.

You can achieve this by creating buyer personas to understand who your users are, their interests, hobbies, habits, what they are actively looking for, or how they have interacted with your business.

In-depth knowledge of these aspects will help you create a message that hits the mark and choose a list of keywords to be included on your site’s page, making it more focused and therefore more effective.creating buyer personas

To reach only your target audience and maximize your advertising campaign, you will need to segment your audience.

The Google Ads platform offers you the possibility to create an effective target audience, thanks to the cookies it collects over time.

However, depending on the type of campaign you choose, the audience targeting you can perform will be different. Remember that Google allows you to insert multiple targeting for each ad group to expand your audience.

The targeting options that Google Ads provides are:

  1. Contextual and keyword targeting: this segmentation type allows you to intercept and reach users who have typed the keywords contained in the pages where you want to publish your ad.
  2. Topics: it allows you to choose specific topics on the pages where you want to display your ad. Google will select all pages that are related to the topics you have chosen to match your ads and expand your audience.
  3. Demographics: the search set for this audience allows you to reach broad segments of the audience with common traits such as gender, age, and relationship.
  4. Placements: the audience targeting setup can decide in which part of the world your ad will appear. It is a targeting that allows you to focus your advertising in areas where you are more likely to find the right users and limit it to others.
  5. Audience Segments: google ads provide this setting to reach your audience in a targeted way and ensure that your ads reach specific groups of people.

audience segments

These audience segments are common to all types of campaigns, search, shopping, display, and video, and include:

  • Affinity Audience Segments: with this type of audience segment, you can reach users who have demonstrated a proven passion for a specific topic.
  • In-Market Audience Segments: identify users who have shown a pressing interest in purchasing specific categories of products. Users at this stage have already researched and are deciding only where to make the purchase. Custom audience segments for intent, typical of display and video campaigns.
  • Remarketing Audience Segments: by setting up this segment, you can reach all users who have already interacted with your site, making your ads visible to them while they browse on Google or its partner sites, reminding them to make a purchase.
  • Customer Match Segments: google ads use information that customers have shared with you, perhaps by filling out a form on your site, and Customer Match directs ads to them.
  • Similar Audience Segments: automatically identified by Google Ads, which updates its audience lists and compares new customers with those you have in remarketing and customer match.

Display and video campaigns, which we will discuss later, have something more than what has been said so far.

choose specific audience

For these two types of campaigns, the Google Ads platform has added other, more specific audience segments. These segments are:

  • Custom Affinity Audience Segments: you can reach the target audience you are interested in using the URLs of the sites they have previously visited.
  • Segments for Important Events: with this segmentation, you can reach those who are experiencing an important moment, such as a move. In this case, you can customize your advertising to the maximum and thus reach the right users at the right time.
  • Segments for Detailed Demographic Data: detailed demographic data allows you to reach broad audience segments that share common traits.
  • Segments for Custom Intent: this audience segment is a sub-category of the in-market segment and allows you to intercept and reach users based on a recent intent to purchase.

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The platform for Keyword Advertising? Google Ads

Keyword advertising is a type of advertising done on advertising networks within search engines. Your ad will appear only on search engines where you have activated the advertising campaign.

You can choose to activate it on Bing (Microsoft-owned search engine used by 4% of users), Yahoo! (which has less than 3%), and then Google, which represents the main search engine used.

That’s why we decided to focus our attention on this search engine and the platform it dedicates to creating advertising campaigns, Google Ads.

google ads specific tool

Google Ads is the specific tool for keyword advertising provided by Google, which until recently was called AdWords.

The first thing you will need to do is create an account on Google Ads. Account creation is free, and the only requirement is to have a Gmail.

To create your profile on the Google Ads platform, simply go to this link, and follow the guided setup process.

Once your account is created, you can unleash your creativity in creating your campaign.

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Types of campaigns on Google Ads

To reach your target audience and ensure that your campaign is truly effective, Google Ads allows you to create different types of campaigns based on your objectives.

select campaign type

Let’s explore them together:

  • Search Network Campaigns or Search Campaigns: your ad, in this case, will appear on the search engine page only to the user searching for that specific service or product by entering the specific keyword. It is a campaign that addresses an existing need in the target audience, suitable for promoting products and services already known to the user.

search campaigns

  • Shopping Campaigns: use this if you have an e-commerce. Sponsored results are presented when the search engine believes the user has an intention to make a purchase. These ads can appear either at the top of the page or on the right side. The retailer’s name and price are indicated below the image.

 shopping campaigns

  • Universal App Campaigns: ideal when you want to promote your ad through an app (for both iOS and Android). In this case, all Google network channels are utilized, including search, display, Google Play, and YouTube.
  • Display Campaigns: your ad will appear as banners (images or videos) on websites hosting advertising space. Unlike search campaigns, the user will see the ad while browsing the internet. It is a type of campaign that captures the user’s attention, useful for brand awareness. The user is targeted based on interests expressed in previous searches and online behavior (such as past purchases or visited sites), intercepting the right customer at the right time. This way, you can profile your audience advancedly and communicate only with users potentially interested in your proposal. We can define it as the online version of a TV commercial.

display campaigns

  • Video Campaigns: they allow you to advertise your ad on the YouTube network and other Google partner sites, selecting the target audience as with Display campaigns.

Display and video campaigns are the most effective for successful keyword advertising, as you will be the one deciding where and when your ad appears based on the characteristics of your ideal audience.

We have already seen that Google, to help you reach your ideal audience, provides you with a series of audience segments.

For display and video campaigns, Big G has introduced an additional segment as a “sub-category” to the in-market audience segment, namely the custom intent audience segments.

However, even though it is the same audience segment for both campaigns, you need to remember that they work differently depending on whether we are talking about the display or video network.


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Custom intent targeting in the display network

Ads from the display campaign are shown to users regardless of whether they have searched for the sponsored product on Google or not.

To create a new custom intent audience segment on the display network, you just need to:

  • Create a new campaign.
  • Click on audience segments and choose, from the left menu, all audience segments.
  • Click on the new custom list, choosing the custom intent option.
  • Enter the name of your group and then enter the specific keywords (at least 15) and URLs (at least 5).
  • Once done, click on Create.

custom intent audience

Users you target by applying this targeting will be more specific than affinity audience segments, as you can choose to use specific keywords or URLs related to products and services actively sought by your audience.

So, if you’re a hardware store looking to launch your line of custom paints, instead of choosing a generic category like “hardware” or “paints,” you could specify more specific terms like “custom paints” or “custom colors for interior painting”.

This way, your ad may appear to those visiting websites containing these keywords.

Targeting for custom intent in video campaigns: YouTube

Video campaign ads allow your advertisements to appear on the YouTube network, which has been owned by Google since 2006 and is the second-largest search engine in the world.

In this case, as well, you will need to create an account on Google Ads. Once on the platform, click on the “create new campaign” button and choose the video mode.

The difference between the custom intent audience segment for display campaigns and video campaigns is that, in this type of advertising, the targeted users are those who have previously performed a search on Google.

Users will see your video ads in one of the various formats you have chosen for the video campaign.

youtube video campaign

This happens simply because they have previously typed the keywords you included in your customized campaign as search terms to create your audience segment.

They will be intercepted based on keywords and their search intent, and they may even be users who have had no interaction with the product or service you are sponsoring.

To create the custom intent audience segment, you must follow the same steps as you have seen above for creating the display campaign audience segment.

The only difference is that for video campaigns, you will need to include keywords that your audience might be searching for on Google.

I recommend initially including at least all the keywords you used when running a Search campaign, and if they are generic words, you may reach more users.

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Whether you want to pursue a career as a consultant in online advertising or you aspire to work in a company as an industry specialist, what you need to know is that a precise strategy is required for advertising on Google.

Google Ads campaigns can be very expensive if not managed properly, but you can have the opportunity to invest limited amounts and achieve high returns. You need to be able to think strategically to plan successful Google Ads campaigns.

Keyword Advertising and SEO

As we have already mentioned, SEM consists of SEA and SEO, but they are two different ways of online advertising. SEA is paid advertising, while SEO is so-called organic advertising, meaning it is free.

The term SEO, which means search engine optimization, is a type of advertising based on keyword research, but it utilizes a series of optimization techniques that will allow you to place your ad for free among the top positions in the SERP.

To optimize your site, you will need to use specific software for analysis and content creation, employing techniques both on-site and off-site, which is why we talk about on-site SEO and off-site SEO.

The results of SEO activities are visible only over a medium to long period, while those of Keyword Advertising are immediate.

However, the results obtained with online advertising disappear as soon as you exhaust the budget allocated for your online campaign, whereas SEO has lasting benefits.


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In light of what you have seen, you can understand that keyword advertising is the main tool for online advertising that is easily usable.

It can be adopted by any business, regardless of its size, as it is a type of advertising that adapts to your needs—conveying your commercial ads to your target audience—and your economic availability.

In the web era, it is an extremely important tool for carrying out online advertising operations effectively and efficiently, so if your company has not yet invested in keyword advertising, it is advisable to start doing so immediately.

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