What are keywords and how should I build my keyword list?

Here are some ideas for building your first keyword list, or for expanding existing lists.

Keywords are the words or phrases searched on when looking for a product or service. For example, keywords could be any of the following:

  • Shoes
  • Boats cruises vacation
  • Tennis lessons in New York

As shown above, a keyword can be just a single word, several words, or even a phrase. In the context of search advertising, all of these are simply referred to as a keyword.

Choosing your keywords

One of the first and most important tasks of running a search marketing campaign is to choose your keywords. Here are some ideas to help you build a quality keyword list:

  • Choose words and phrases that describe your business. How would you describe your business using a short list of key ideas?
  • Use keyword research tools. After you've described your business in your own words, use the keyword planner to get suggestions for more keywords you might not have thought of.
  • Use the keyword planner. The keyword planner can help you conduct keyword research and identify the most effective ad groups and keywords to boost your campaign performance. Learn more
  • Use keyword match types. Keyword match types help Microsoft Advertising determine how closely a search query or other input must match your keyword. Learn more
  • Use common variations. If your keywords have common variations (travel agent, travel agency) or spelling (web site, website), add all of those variations to your keyword list.
  • Avoid duplicate keywords. However, variations you don't want to include are those formed simply by adding punctuation (For example: quotation marks (" ") and exclamation points (!) ). These simply count as duplicates in your list and Microsoft Advertising will automatically remove them. Here's more information about duplicate keywords.
  • Group related keywords into ad groups. If you organize your keywords into groups of highly related keywords, you will be able to better optimize your campaigns for a higher ROI. On a related note, make sure you don't duplicate keywords across ad groups. If you use the same keyword in more than one ad group, you will be competing against yourself for getting ads shown on search results pages for that keyword.
  • Use negative keywords. You can use negative keywords or keyword phrases to help prevent your ad from being displayed when a search query or other input contains your keywords but is irrelevant to your landing page content. Learn more about negative keywords

Keyword rules

As you build that perfect list of keywords, keep in mind Microsoft Advertising policies and the ad and keyword review process. Following these policies will help your keywords and ads go live as soon as possible. You can also fix keywords with a Disapproved or Approved Limited status.

Add your keywords

Ready to add your keywords? Head over to How to add, edit or delete keywords to get started.

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