9 Tips To Build a Killing Google Ads Keyword List

Keywords are the core of your search campaign. The more keywords, the bigger your reach will be. Yet, some advertisers only add a handful of keywords to their campaigns.

Creating a great keyword list is a great starting point to make your campaigns profitable and maximise conversions.

Now, this doesn’t mean you should just blindly expand your keyword list just for the sake of it. The key is relevancy, so you only want to add keywords that are relevant to the products or services you are trying to sell.

However, even with relevant keywords, you can often create a large list. Most businesses are able to build a keyword list with a few thousand keywords.

Here are some tips to get you started building a killing Google Ads keyword list.

  1. Use the Keyword Tool.
  2. Google yourself!
  3. Use plurals and alternate spellings.
  4. Combine the words.
  5. Use (almost) all keyword match types
  6. Analyse existing data from your account.
  7. Use local keywords.
  8. Split out in relevant ad groups.
  9. Optimise your keyword list.

First, let’s have a look at the different match types within Google Ads.

The goal is to only show your ad for relevant search queries. The match types will give you control over which search queries will trigger your ads to eliminate irrelevant clicks.

There are 4 different match types in Google Ads:

  • Broad match. Triggers all search queries closely related to the keyword.

  • Phrase match. Triggers all search queries that have the keyword as a phrase within them.

  • Exact match. Triggers search queries that exactly match the keyword, plus all close variants.

  • Negative match. Prevents your ad from being shown for search queries that contain this keyword.

Broad match

Standard all of your keywords are added as broad match within your campaigns.

Broad match means that your ad will be triggered for all search queries that are closely related to the keywords. Although this will give you a wide reach, there’s a big chance your ad will be shown for a lot of irrelevant search queries as well.


Keyword: plumbing service.

Triggers your ad for search queries like: plumbing service, plumber emergency service, plumbing tips, how to become a plumber, plumbing courses, repair my toilet.

As an experienced Google Ads specialist, I would highly recommend not using broad match keywords in your account.

Using broad match keywords either blow out your budget on irrelevant clicks or has a negative effect on your account’s Quality Score.

Phrase match

Phrase match means that your keyword needs to be within the search query for your ads being triggered.

You will still need to make sure you have a large negative keyword list to limit your irrelevant clicks.


Keyword: “plumbing service”

Triggers your ad for: plumbing service, plumbing service near me.

Doesn’t trigger your ad for: plumbing emergency service.

Update: Google took away Broad Match Modifier and incoporated this with Phrase match. 

It means that all phrase match keywords, need to be exactly like that in the search query for your ad to be triggered. They can be in a different order tho, as well have additional words in-front, in-between, or behind them.


Keyword: plumbing service

Triggers your ad for: plumbing service, plumbing emergency service

Doesn’t trigger your ad for: repair my toilet, plumbing tips.

Exact match

Exact match keywords will give you the most control over when your ads get triggered.

It’s highly recommended to create a large keyword list with as much as possible exact match keywords.


Keyword: [plumbing service]

Triggers your ad for: plumbing service.

Doesn’t trigger your ad for: plumbing service near me.

Close variants

It’s good to keep in mind that Google will show your ad for close variants.

These could include plurals, misspellings and function words. This is not a setting (anymore) so there’s no way you could turn this off.

If you don’t want your ad to show for certain plurals or misspellings, you could create a negative keyword list with these and add them to your ad group or campaign.

Negative keywords

Negative keywords will prevent your ad from being triggered.

It’s very important that you build a large negative keyword list, especially if you’re using a lot of broad match and negative keywords.

For your negative keywords, you can use similar match types as with the normal keywords, so broad, phrase and exact.

Image that shows how negative keywords works within Google Ads.

Alright, let’s dive into the tips to create a killing Google Ads keyword list.

Tip #1: Use the Keyword Planner Tool

The built-in Google Ads Keyword Planner Tool is the best tool to use when you start building your first keyword list.

Screenshot of Google Ads keyword planner tool.

You can find the tool in your Google Ads account and it’s free! By typing in a keyword, Google will give you keyword suggestions. Also, it will give you the average monthly searches, the average cost-per-click of each of the keywords and the competition of other advertisers.

Alternatively, you can also put in your website address and Google will give you suggestions based on this.

Tip #2: Google yourself!

Ever wondered what your customers type into Google? Why don’t you try and find out yourself!

Google is great with giving suggestions once people start typing something into the search engine. Did you notice the suggestion box that pops up as soon as you start searching?

Most likely, these will contain some keywords that you can use within your campaigns.

Screenshot of Google search suggestions box in search engine.

Tip #3: Use plurals and different spellings

True, Google will automatically show your ad for any plurals, misspelling or closely related keywords.

However, wouldn’t it be great to stay in full control yourself and be able to adjust your bids for any plurals or related keywords? From experience, I know there could be a big difference in performance for a keyword like “locksmith” vs “locksmiths. So it’s worth the extra effort to split these out in your campaigns as well.

Tip #4: Combine the words

People type things into Google in all different orders. As an advertiser, you want to make sure you capture all of these. Therefore, you will have to add all of them to your campaigns.

So, this means you will add the keyword “locksmith sydney” as well as “sydney locksmith” to your campaigns.

There are some great keyword combining tools online that you can use to make this easier for you.

Tip #5: Use (almost) all keyword match types

Keyword match types are great. When used correctly, they will be able to give you full control for which search queries your ad will be shown.

To do this, make sure you use a mix of broad match modifier, phrase, exact and negative keywords.

Noticed that one of the match types is missing? Correct, don’t use broad match keywords. They’re for lazy people. Instead, build out your keyword list with long tail keywords to make sure you capture the most relevant search queries for your business.

Tip #6: Analyse existing data

Ah, you already been running your Google Ads campaigns for a while? Great, there’s probably loads of data within your account. Let’s use this to your advantage.

The Search Terms report in your Google Ads account is one of the most useful reports for you to use. You can find the Search Terms report in the keyword tab of your account.

Screenshot of search terms report in Google Ads.

Previously, this was called the search query report. It shows all the search queries that lead to a click on your ads. A great starting point to expand your keyword lists or negatives.

The Added/Excluded column shows if the search query is currently added as a keyword to your account. If not, it will show “None”. These are potential new keywords that you can add to your account.

But, don’t rely on your match types to be triggered for these keywords. Instead, you can have more control by adding them directly to your account. You will be able to change your bids, create different ad copies and landing pages etc.

Tip #7: Use local keywords

Adding local keywords to your account is a great way to expand your reach with relevant keywords.

For example, you can add “australia”, “sydney”, or even suburb keywords to your list and combine it with your amin keywords.

Are you running a local business? Have a look at our previous article with Google Ads tips for local businesses.

Tip #8: Split out in relevant ad groups

Don’t just add all of your keywords into a single ad group.

Instead, make sure you split them out. There’s no limit in the number of ad groups and campaigns you can add. So, make sure you create (at least) multiple ad groups.

The main reason why you would want to split it out is so that it’s easier to manage for yourself. Also, you will be able to write more relevant ad copies for each of your ad groups. A win-win situation.

Tip #9: Optimise your keyword list

It doesn’t stop when you launch your campaigns. Your keyword list should not be a set-and-forget thing. By analysing the data, you should constantly tweak your campaigns.

Based on the data, you can pause underperforming keywords. Also, you should keep an eye on keywords with a low click-through rate or Quality Score. By using the Search Term report (see tip 6) you can identify new keyword opportunities and add these to your campaigns.


Setting up an extensive and relevant keyword list is the most important thing when setting up your Google Ads campaigns. This decides if your campaigns will be successful in the long run.

Then, after you launched your campaigns you will constantly tweak your keyword list. You should be pausing underperforming keywords and add new once based on the data that is available.

That way you will constantly improve your campaigns and will be able to squeeze more conversions out of the budget.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Google Ads?

Google Ads is Google’s pay per click (PPC) advertising platform, formerly known as Google AdWords. By using Google Ads you can reach potential customers on the Google Search and Display Network.

What is the Google Quality Score?

The Quality Score is a number from 1 to 10 that shows how relevant your keyword to a particular search query. A low Quality Score shows that your keyword is totally irrelevant, while a high Quality Score means that it’s spot on and that you’re offering exactly what visitors are looking for.

How does the Google ad auction work?

Google uses hundreds of factors to decide the ad ranking and this is being re-calculated for each search query. In general, Google looks at the bid and the relevancy of each advertiser for a particular keyword.

How can I improve my Quality Score?

If you can increase the relevance of your campaign, you will get higher Quality Scores. This will significantly decrease your cost per click so that you can squeeze more clicks and conversions out of your budget.

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By Jeroen

Having worked as a PPC freelancer for many years, Jeroen helps businesses to get more results out of their online advertising budgets.

He is the founder of Vazooky Digital, a Google Ads agency in Sydney, Australia.

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