Do your own keyword research

Bring some creativity to your keyword research or run the risk of burning your budget on bidding wars.

Recently I gave a presentation where I set up an example Adwords account and then walked the audience through my process. This was a lead gen campaign in a VERY heavily contested vertical, so I thought, “No need to start from first principles. I’ll mine competitor keywords to get my head start.”

During the presentation, I got the question about keyword research.

“Oh, I just used competitors’ keywords.”


“Because I know that it works for them, so it should work for us, too.”


And then I realized I’d been an idiot.

  • I guaranteed myself a bidding war from day 1
  • I neglected to dig for any number of keyword phrases or even whole themes competitors overlooked
  • I ran the risk of discovering idiosyncrasies that, for whatever reason, worked for them but wouldn’t work for me
  • I relied (by extension) on whatever keyword tools the competitors used, without adding any of my own.
  • Worst, I demonstrated to my audience a total lack of original thinking. This is the most embarrassing part. (If you claim to be an Adwords ninja and your entire keyword list comes from your competitors, then my friend you need some truly kick-ass ads and targeting schemes and etc. otherwise you’re no better than the two-bit offshore digital agencies that cold-call every small business in America 20 times a week.)

In hindsight I should’ve spent some time working on a keyword list that reached in different directions, that took some risks, maybe targeting prospects earlier in the sales cycle. Because the keyword part of my presentation was just a big mishmash of stuff the competition was trying, without additional insights.

Don’t make this mistake. Bring some creativity to your keyword research or run the risk of burning your budget on bidding wars instead of exploring whole new potentially-lucrative traffic sources.

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