Google Ads: Keyword strategy in 2020

With artificial intelligence, smart marketing and targeting, there are countless other ways to get your ads to the right users at the right time. How does keyword research work in 2020? What do you have to consider and what has changed? 

Keyword research has nothing to do with keywords anymore

Yes, all the hours we spent brooding before never ending keyword tables and coming up with synonyms were in vain. Because Google has never really found keywords sparkling. For many years, however, they were the only way to give the machine what humans are looking for. And that’s what it’s really about: What needs does the user have, which page is he looking for and how can we ensure that he finds exactly the solution for his concern? We as PPC marketers stood on the sidelines and tried to present our solutions to the most suitable keywords. Google explains why this is nonsense in this support article:

The ways people search are constantly changing: roughly 15% of the searches we see every day are new. With so many new queries, there?s a good chance people are searching for your products or services with terms you haven?t discovered.

Take deodorant, for example. Last year, we saw people search for deodorant in more than 150,000 unique ways. That’s a lot of different ways to say the same thing. But you shouldn’t have to manage an exhaustive list of keywords to reach these hygiene-conscious consumers.

The keyword search was not really satisfactory. Because we could not directly identify which user interests are behind a search query. The user could only search for individual keywords, and Google’s best option was to spit out pages that revolved around exactly those keywords. And we could only place ads based on these keywords – just simple search processes. Today there are AI, natural speech recognition, voice search and comprehensive targeting. And that requires rethinking keyword research.

No more keywords? Why Google works differently today

Have you ever wondered why Google has renamed its PPC service? In mid-2018, Google Adwords became Google Ads. And there are good reasons for this: the keywords no longer play an overwhelming role. You can tell that from the fact that Google is increasingly weakening control over keyword options. Smart bidding and AI-based targeting is in the foreground today when you start a PPC campaign. Instead of keyword research, you have to define a target group and guess your users’ search intent. Dynamic Search Ads (DSA), Smart Campaigns, Local Search and Shopping Ads now do without keywords. In the future, this should apply to even more campaign types.

Small example: With an online shop, it has always been your concern to guide potential customers interested in buying to your website. If you sell football equipment, the search term ?FIFA shoes? will not be of much use to you. This could also be purely informative search queries from users who do not want to spend any money at all. So it would be a waste to show your ads to these people. The situation is different with the keyword “studded shoes” – even without a clear purchase signal, the detailed search term indicates a shop search. Nevertheless, the selection of the keywords is always associated with a little residual risk and guesswork.

What tools are there to do sensible keyword research in 2019?

Today we would not build a pure PPC campaign based on exact keywords. Rather, it is about the Needs and thoughts behind a search query to understand and play out the most suitable content. How it works? By coordinating users’ expectations and your offers. The search for the keywords is only the second or even third step in order to meet exactly these expectations.

Google Keyword Planner

Oldie, but Goldie: Nobody can avoid the Google Ads keyword planner who wants to place advertisements on the Internet. Google’s own tool comes before ad planning and supports you in determining suitable click prices and search areas,

Answer the public

The super cool look is not the only aspect that speaks for AnswerThePublic. The animated landing page takes you on a journey through all conceivable topics related to your main keywords. AnswerThePublic not only generates related search queries, but also all conceivable W-questions related to the subject area. The tool for keyword research in the English-speaking area is particularly effective. It still has its problems with the German language – but shorttail keywords in particular get a comprehensive analysis here.

The keyword tool uses the features of Google Autocomplete and compiles the results as a clear list. Not only can you browse through the normal Google SERPs and get suggestions, but you can also simulate search queries on YouTube, Amazon, Bing, Instagram or Twitter.

Google autosuggest

You are also very familiar with this ?tool?: Simply enter your ideas on Google and let yourself be inspired by the proposed search queries! The big advantage: The suggestions are based on actual search queries from real users. The perfect basis to further refine these new inspirations with the Keyword Planner or another tool.

The alternative: target group research and user intention

So, keywords are out. How can we still address the right customers at the right time?

By creating landing pages for customer problems rather than keyword landing pages, The difference is clear: if we know the pain points of our customers, we can present a suitable solution. Google then makes sure that people with this problem see our solution. To do this, we no longer have to create keyword lists that may, perhaps, luckily search the right search queries. Some people don’t even know exactly what they’re looking for when you tap a query in the window. It would be nonsense to expect these customers to choose exactly the keywords that we anticipate and then convert. Google recognises what users mean – not what they type.

However, this also makes PPC targeting more complex. Some processes are no longer easy to understand and only work if artificial intelligence takes care of them. Anyone who previously used keywords radically will now be opposed to Google’s automatic selection. We have to rethink in the SEA area: away from the view that keywords are raw data, towards one radically customer-centric approach. What is the search intention behind a keyword?

Keywords as search intent: This is how you categorize search queries

Alway ask what the user wants.

There is often the problem that website operators are so caught up in the vortex of keywords and SEO measures that they lose sight of the basics: Which problem do you solve for your customer? This is the starting point for the following keyword research. Actually, the term search volume research now fits much better.

You no longer try to find out which keywords potential customers could type in, but who these people are. Where do they live, what interests them, what do they worry about? You want to understand the customer and serve his needs.

That brings us to the search intent.

Today traffic can be roughly divided into two groups:

  • Hot traffic who is already deep in the funnel, are informed about the topic and is about to make a purchase decision.
  • Cold traffic, which is still at the beginning of the customer journey and must first be activated.

Both groups have radically different needs and are looking for different things. The trick is to correctly classify the searches and send them to the corresponding pages. Hot Traffic gets the great landing page with the special offers in front of it, Cold Traffic gets exactly the information you need. Specific objectives (such as with the SMART Goals) and a well-thought-out conversion framework help you set priorities and create a good PPC campaign. This is how you manage to fully meet the expectations of the users, instead of luring them to a page they don’t want to see at all.

Conclusion: What do you need for a successful PPC campaign?

Machine learning does a lot of work for us. Instead of manually searching for thousands of keywords and manually categorizing them into groups, our focus should be strategy That means: We identify the very human and personal thoughts that concern a potential customer. Google (or other tools) will then do the keyword research. What looks like we giving up control is actually a step forward: we can use our time better and meet users’ expectations with pinpoint accuracy.


  • Instead of cold, technical keyword analysis, you should do a target group analysis today to understand the pain points of your customers.
  • The intention behind a search query is more important than the terms that someone types into the search field.
  • Only then does the actual keyword research, which involves much more than the possible traffic, follows.
  • You should view keywords as search intentions and classify them accordingly in the funnel (cold traffic, hot traffic).
  • Not only the keywords should be right: in the end you have to direct the user to a landing page, which picks up and deepens the content of the ad.

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