Digital marketing: Keyword research for tech businesses using Google Ads

PPC Keyword Strategy For Tech Companies

Technology is the lifeblood of innovation.

There are constantly new and exciting tech brands emerging to make our lives easier and push humanity forward. But which of those companies break through and become game-changing, household names is all down to effective marketing.

These days, more and more companies are realising the power of PPC advertising. But keywords for paid search in the tech space are becoming ever more competitive and therefore expensive!

Paid search and PPC campaigns more broadly are one of the most effective and reliable methods for promoting any tech business. Whether you’re a consumer technology brand, a green tech startup, a SaaS platform, B2B or B2C, PPC ads can get you in front of your target audience who are looking for what you offer at that very moment.

In this article, we’ll be focussing on the ‘Big Daddy’ of the PPC world, Google Ads! As an agency, we do work across others like Facebook & the Bing search engine, but ultimately none of them offer the scalability of Google.

One of, if not THE most important parts of a robust PPC strategy is the keywords. So in this article, we’ll go into detail on the best way to approach keyword research specifically for the technology industry.

If you’re still in the very early stages of setting up your tech business and digital marketing plan, then we actually have a great video on a “Pre-launch checklist for paid ads” to make sure you have everything set up correctly before you begin.

Understanding Google Ads Keywords

Keyword research for your ppc campaign.

There are many types of keywords that all differ in how they act and that all suit different situations/goals. They’ve also changed in a big way over the years too…

Google’s Definition Of What A Keyword Is

Keywords are words or phrases that are used to match your ads with the terms that people are searching for.

Selecting high-quality, relevant keywords for your advertising campaign can help you reach the customers that you want, when you want.

Our Version Of It

A keyword is a combination of words set together that Google or other search engines use as parameters to find content online relevant to what a user is looking for.

If you type into Google ‘Elon Musk Flamethrower’, this is just a search with multiple words in it. 

If you were to set “Elon Musk Flamethrower” into Google Ads as a keyword using quotation marks, you would likely be added into the auction system for that search against all others, to potentially be shown to the user and get the chance to have them click through to your landing page.

There are also various ‘keyword match types’ that you can choose from. These each have differing rules they follow. The main ones to remember are broad, phrase and exact match.

A simple way to understand the difference is to imagine a fishing net. Broad throws out the widest net possible around the keyword set. Phrase a little smaller of a net. Exact, the smallest net possible.

Broad Match Keywords

Google’s Definition

A keyword match type allows your ad to show on searches that are related to the meaning of your keyword, which can include searches that don’t contain the keyword terms. This allows you to reach more searches than with exact and phrase matches.

Our Version Of It

A broad keyword is the widest net you can cast. It gives Google the widest scope to look for any words or searches that are even somewhat related to the intent behind the user’s search. 

Using ‘Elon Musk Flamethrower’ as a broad match, for example, could throw you in front of Steve Jobs, Musk Cologne or a fancy new backyard BBQ set! 

It just needs any kind of relation to the meaning of the keyword.

One positive of broad keywords is that you will get more volume of people seeing your ad compared to the other keyword types, but you will likely need to be very hot on your negative keyword management to avoid wasted clicks and cash.

Phrase Match Keywords

Google's Definition

A keyword match type that allows you to show your ads on searches that include the meaning of your keyword. The meaning of the keyword can be implied, and user searches can be a more specific form of the meaning. This allows you to reach more searches than with exact match and fewer searches than with broad match.

Our Version Of It

Phrase match is a less wide (But still pretty wide!) net that you can cast. 

When using phrase match type, you will see “(Close variant)” in your search terms all over the place. This is where Google has registered another search that had the same meaning as your keyword. So while you may have set “Elon Musk Flamethrower” as the keyword, you could also show up for say “Musk’s Fire Gun”. This makes sense as while the user has used different words, they are very likely looking for the same thing.

It does often go further than that though beyond what you might think of as the same meaning. For example, you might also show up for “Elon Musk Space X Tshirt”. These slightly ‘off’ searches that you might show up on may still work out ok for you, but they can also just be people with completely incorrect buying intent still.

Phrase match can be a happy medium between volume, and keeping a degree more control. Negative keyword management will still be vital here too though

Exact Match Keywords

Google's Definition

A keyword match type that allows you to show your ads on searches that have the same meaning or same intent as your keyword. Exact match gives you the most control over who sees your ad, but reaches fewer searches than both borad and phrase match. This allows you to reach only users who make searches with the same meaning as your keywords, including:

Misspellings, Singular or plural forms, Stemmings (for example, floor and flooring), Abbreviations, and Accents.

Our Version Of It

Exact match type is the tightest net you can cast (and is honestly our favourite option).

This is the strictest you can be with Google ads to say that you only want the closest possible versions of the word or set of words you’ve put into your phrase match.

Your “Elon Musk Flamethrower” will still let you show up for “Musks Flamethrower” or “Elon Musk Flamethrowers”, but it likely won’t show up for say “Elon Musk SpaceX Tshirt”.

This gives the smallest volume of the match types so the least waste often too. However, it’s most likely to hit you with the ‘low search volume’ warning as there are just not enough searches to have Google accept it. 

It is worth noting that, as of the time of writing this mid-2022, even the ‘middle-ground’ option of phrase match types Google seems to be making more and more broad. Meaning more often than not, if the search volume is there, an exact match is the best option for getting in front of high-quality traffic.

The Best Keyword Match Type? The Right Mix For Tech

PPC keyword research for Tech. PPC Search engine marketing.

A big part of running Google Ads is balancing between being as tight as you can be with your targeting so that you show up for the most optimal searches possible, while still remaining broad enough to actually have enough impressions and clicks available to use the budget you’re working with.

The tech industry can often have a higher average cost per click than say eCommerce or other B2C industries due to the fact it often also has such a higher lifetime value per customer.

So even a moderately sized ad budget can be spread thin pretty fast. So airing on the side of too tight is likely a smarter starting point.

However, each keyword is unique in terms of the volume it has available. “Buy an Elon Musk Flamethrower” is an example of what you call long-tail keywords, and so naturally will have low volume. So to get enough volume at all to avoid having the ‘low search volume’ warning, you’ll need to likely use a phrase or broad even.

However “Buy Flamethrower”, is a lot shorter and likely has a higher search volume so you may be able to use an exact match and still have plenty of volume.

If your niche within technology is especially narrow like some crazy new machine learning algorithm, or a green tech operation helping in the fight against climate change, then all search volumes may be low naturally and so you might need to lean on broad more often in your PPC campaigns.

But, if you’re building the next business management tool to change the world for example then there are huge volumes likely behind that. So you will need to either have longer keywords with more words, or lean more towards exact or phrase match.

PPC Keyword Research For Tech Companies

The most important thing to get right when it comes to keywords (beyond match type) is the actual words themselves.

You’re trying to understand the intent behind a user’s search to make sure that it matches up as closely as possible to the problem that you solve – whilst still having enough volume for the keywords to avoid ‘low search volume’ and, across all of your keywords combined, to have enough volume to spend the budget you’re aiming to use.

There are countless digital marketing tools for a technology company to use to try to research keywords, and we all know how much tech founders love a fancy new tool! 

In this case though, your own brain (plus in-built Google ads tools) is more than enough.

Open up a Google Doc and just start spamming out ideas with your team on all of any ways someone might google to solve the problem your business solves. Everyone uses search engines. So there’s no special degree needed to know how to do this. 

You can also use the auto-fill feature within Search engines to help inform your PPC keyword strategy.

For example, you could type “Elon Musk Flame”. This then shows you loads of ideas, some of which might be good keywords to target when selling a flamethrower, like “Elon Musk Flame Gun”.

Use the auto fill feature within Search engines to help inform your ppc keyword strategy.

Another great tool is Google Ads’ own keywords planner. You can find this by going into Google Ads, tools & settings → planning → Keyword planner. 

You’re then able to add your own website in to find new ideas, type in more base keywords, and lots of other options to build up more ideas.

Find PPC keywords for your tech brand using Google's own planner.

Once you’ve finished working through this process, you’ll first want to group them into ad groups that have the same user intent.

“Elon Musk Flamethrower” and “Elon Musk Flame Gun” for example could likely go in the same ad group as the user is looking for the same thing. However for “Elon Musk Flame Tshirt”, the user has a different intent with that search and so a separate ad group is needed to create an advert correctly in line.

Then finally, you want to drop down to only the very best collection of ad groups and keywords that are most likely in your eyes to get you conversions. How many are needed really does vary greatly from business to business to give a number. But just consider how big your budget is and how much volume there is behind each word/phrase.

Start on the edge of too tight with your targeting and then work backwards.

What Budget Do You Need For Your Keyword Strategy In The Technology Industry?

Budgets for long tail keywords and short keywords.

As already mentioned, technology can be a higher cost per click on average due to the higher value behind each conversion. So budgets get used up faster. 

Beyond that, it is important to adjust your keywords themselves and the match types to be the right-sized net to fit your desired spend.

What a small or large budget would count as depends massively on the niche within technology you’re in and also you and your business.

To give a starting point for this article though we can say a small expected spend would be between £500 – £2,000. A larger spend is anything up from there.

For the keywords themselves, if they include only 1 or 2 words and/or are words that are commonly used, the volume will be high. If the keyword has 3, 4 or 5 words and/or the words are less commonly used in it then the volume will be low.

For the keyword match type, the broad type is high volume, phrase is mid-volume, and exact is low volume. 

These are the two levers available to you to adjust the fire hose for tech-hungry users to be put in front of. 

The goal is to be as tight as you can be while, just about, spending your budget.

Should You Bid On Competitors In Tech

Competitor ghosting is a popular strategy. In fact, we did a video on just that topic:

For technology companies, it is actually quite common that it will occur and even be used as a key strategy. 

For example, by googling ‘Trello’ right now (a popular task management tool), we see multiple competitors bidding with direct copy made to make the user second guess their decision.

PPC (pay per click) search query in google search

So it can work for tech brands.

The negatives are that your quality scores will often be 1-3/10 for any keywords targeting your competitors as Google knows you’re not what the user is really looking for.

The positives are that, if the competitors are direct competition and your solution really does fix the same problem and maybe even does it better, that user intent is perfect for you! 

It’s searches that you will naturally likely show up for if you’re using phrase or broad match keywords as Google sees competitors as close variants. 

So we often will leave competitor searches initially for a period to see their reaction, then if we see legs in them set them up in their own ad group. 

If we don’t see conversions though we’ll then just set those competitors’ names as negatives.

Speaking of negatives…

Negative Keywords For The Tech Industry

ppc long tail keywords for google search.

Google's Definition

Negative keywords let you exclude search terms from your campaigns and help you focus on only the keywords that matter to your customers. Better targeting can put your ad in front of interested users and increase your return on investment (ROI).

Our Version Of It

With any type of keyword, especially in the more open-ended Google ads world we live in today, we will show up on many searches that are just not customers looking to solve the problem we satisfy.

Every time we show up on a search that is incorrect, the user likely chooses not to click on us, and this means your click-through rate (CTR) drops. As CTR is just how many clicks we get per total impressions. 10 clicks from 100 impressions is a 10% CTR.

CTR is arguably the most important factor for improving quality scores and so making efficient cost-effective campaigns. So avoiding showing up on bad searches is key.

Some users also may still click on your ad and head to your landing page. But if you don’t solve their problem then you have paid part of your monthly budget on a worthless click. These wasted clicks add up and can easily waste all your money if left unchecked.

One great way to get some quick wins is to just type in the different keywords you’ve set to target into Google. Look at the autofill and see which are not relevant to your search. 

Looking at our previous example, maybe you’d want to set tweet, jre and Putin as negatives as these are clearly not someone looking to buy a flamethrower and instead hear about the story or see the Joe Rogan episode.

Beyond this, negative keywords are a fine art, and you do need to be careful not to go too aggressive as once a negative is in place, you will never know what you’re missing.

So please do reach out if you’re looking for more personal advice for your niche. We’re always happy to help! Why not drop me an email @ max@snowballcreations.com

Conclusion

There’s a reason PPC strategy plays such a huge role in so many Tech companies’ digital marketing plans, and keywords are one of the biggest things to get right when trying to execute on Google Ads.

Ultimately, you’re trying to find keywords that are the most in line with user intent into the problem you solve whilst keeping the fire hydrant open enough to have enough volume to actually use your budget.

The technology industry is highly competitive, and usually the products and services have a higher price point, so naturally PPC ads can be more expensive and competitive in the tech world. Also, unlike a lot of other industries, the tech space is full of innovation and products the world has never seen before, so keep that in mind when deciding if there is search volume and the demand for the keywords you’re choosing if you’re presenting a completely new innovation solution people might not have heard of or know they need. 

Have you already got keywords in place and would like a second opinion? We’re always happy to chat and look over your account for free so just click here to book a call now for an audit ⬇️

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