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Advertising on Google Part 2: AdWords keyword research and the buying cycle

Hedley Swann

Hedley Swann

Co-Founder at Dash
Hedley Swann

Hedley Swann

Co-Founder at Dash

It’s time for part two of our video series on Google AdWords for small business. In this video, we go in depth on how understanding both our target audience and their position in the buying cycle affects how we structure our ad campaigns and the keyword phrases we target.

Other videos in this series

Have you missed a previous episode in this series, or want to go back and refresh your memory on something we covered? Here’s some quick links.

Part 1: Understanding Google AdWords

What’s in the video?

In this episode, we cover:

  • Decisions we need to make before doing any keyword research, or creating our campaigns.
  • The different stages of the buying cycle, as it relates to AdWords advertising.
  • Understanding who our target market is, and what stage of the buying cycle they’re currently in.
  • How our customer’s behaviour changes based on the buying cycle.
  • How you can shape your targeted keywords and ad strategy to match a specific stage of the buying cycle.
  • Strategies for generating qualified conversions that are specific to different stages in the buying cycle.

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Full Video Transcript

Hello ladies and gentlemen. Welcome along to this, part 2, of our ongoing video series on advertising on Google, a small business, Pay-Per-Click strategy guide. Today we’re going to have a look at keywords and the buying cycle.

Now, I know in last weeks video I laid out a 4-part series and said, “Hey, this is what we’re going to do in week 1, we’re going to understand AdWords, in week 2 we’re going to look at keyword research, but the more I dive into each of these parts of the series, the more I realize that each one deserves more attention. We need to break things down a little bit more so that you guy, the small business owners, who are listening to this are able to get the most out of them and understand what’s going on so when you go to implement AdWords advertising in your business, you understand exactly what’s going on.

A little bit of a change then. Today we’re going to look at the buying cycle and how our keywords relate to that.

This is me, Hedley Swann. I’m the cofounder of Dash Media and I love all things web design and online marketing and I’ll be taking you through this series. If you’ve listened to part 1 then you’ll be familiar with me, if not, hello and welcome to part 1. If you’re not familiar with AdWords I recommend that you go back and watch part 1 and get a really good primer on exactly what Google AdWords is and how we can use it in our small business.

What’s on today?

Today we’re going to look at the importance of targeting our keywords, our ads and our call to action, to match our target audience. If you’ve been in business for a while or done some marketing in the past, you’re probably familiar with creating a customer persona and getting into the situation where we know that, we have product A and we want to sell it to customer B and so we work who customer B is, we create a persona for them, and then we match our marketing so that it especially appeals to this persona that we’ve created.

What I want to do from the point of view of AdWords and our keyword research and how we’re setting up our advertising strategy, is look at, once we’ve identified our target audience, how does the point in the buying cycle that our audience is at, influence how our ads should appear? How does it influence our strategy? What should we be doing differently and should we be making a conscious choice about what stage in the buying cycle we’re actually targeting our marketing to our ads too? That’s what we’re going to look at today.

Before we do anything

Before we start generating lists of keywords, before we start brainstorming, before we start writing any sort of ad copy or creating our Calls To Action, there are some fundamental things that we really need to nail down, that we really need to make good decisions on.

Just like we were talking about, we need to understand who our market is, who are we advertising to, who is our target market, whether we’ve created personas to figure out who that is, or we have an idea of who needs our products, our service, who are we advertising to. We need to identify that target market. The key to today’s presentation is, “what is the phase of the buying cycle that we are actually targeting?” We’ll talk about what the different phases are from the point of view of our AdWords campaigns and we’ll see that depending on where we decide to target people along the cycle, is going to heavily influence the strategy that we put in place, the types of keywords that we’re targeting.

This is all coming back to keyword research, but it’s really the things that we need to do before we start actually generating any keyword ideas, to make sure that we are generating the right ideas, that we’re coming up with the right sort of keyword phrases to target, so that they appeal to our target audience at the stage in the buying cycle that they’re currently at.

A good way to begin with this is to think about what the terms and the phrases are that these people use to find our product or service, and we’ll have a look at what some of these phrases are that you can use, that identify where somebody is at during that buying cycle. Are they researching, trying to find a solution to their problem, or are they actively trying to buy a product or service, to buy a solution to their problem? Because depending on where they are in that buying cycle, obviously, the sorts of phrases that they’re going to use to look for a solution, to look for our product or service, they’re going to be quite different. We want to understand the differences so that we can make sure that they keyword phrases that we’re targeting match the stage in the buying cycle that our audience is currently in and the stage that we want to target with our advertising.

We also need to make some decisions about what is the goal of our advertising campaign? What are we trying to do? What is it in our business that we’re trying to improve or accomplish through doing our AdWords campaign? What do we consider a conversion? What is the action that our audience at this stage in the buying cycle can take, that represents value to our business? We’ll have a look at what some of those could potentially be, a bit later in today’s presentation.

Bringing all of this back to our keyword research, if we know who our target audience is, the goal of our advertising, what we consider a conversion, then we need to make sure the keyword phrases that we’re targeting, our ad copy, our landing page, and our call to action, match the target audience that we’re going after at the point in the buying stage that we’d like to communicate with them at. Does that make sense? Let’s move on.


Let’s have a look at the different stages of the buying cycle. What I’ve done here is broken them down into three different stages. You can get a lot more complex with looking at the sale cycle and the buying cycle and consumer behavior, but for our purposes here I want to break it down into awareness, research, and buying, actually making a purchasing decision. We’re gonna look at these three different areas and see how the language, the searches, the behavior of our audience, changes throughout these three phases of the buying cycle and what we should be doing to make sure that our ads are highly relevant and targeted to people in these different phases.

First off, let’s have a look at awareness. If our audience is in awareness, then they probably don’t have a pressing need for a product or service. They’re just browsing, they’re looking around. If you are targeting people or targeting your audience when they’re at this awareness stage in the buying cycle, then it’s highly likely that it’s impressions that are going to be valuable to you, it’s just the number of eyeballs that have been exposed to your product or service, it’s really just an awareness campaign. Because people that are in the awareness phase, they’re not researching for a particular solution for a problem, they’re not looking to buy a product or service to fix a particular problem because they don’t actually have an issue at the moment, they’re just browsing, they’re just window shopping.

Awareness is not generally a point in the buying cycle that we tend to see small businesses and local business actually target in their campaigns but I wanted you to be aware that this is actually a stage in the buying cycle, and it’s really just about generating awareness, if you are targeting ads at this point.


Where are we going to probably want to start with advertising and what is the first stage in that buying cycle where our eyes, as a small business marketers, light up and go, “Right, here’s a strategic point for me to get some advertising, some messaging, in front of my target audience.” Research is actually a brilliant place to start doing this because, let’s think about it. Where are small businesses going to want to spend their advertising dollars, where are they going to want to put those messages? They’re probably going to wait for the buying phase. They’re like, “I want to wait until somebody’s completely ready to make a purchasing decision, then I’m going to put my ads in front of them and they’re going to buy my product.” Well, that’s true, that is a valid strategy, but everybody else is going to do that as well, aren’t they? Everybody else is going to have that same thought mentality. There’s actually value in specifically targeting advertising through Google AdWords that is very useful to your target audience, when they’re researching.

What is research, what is the research phase all about? It’s really about people who have identified that they have a problem that they want to fix and they’re looking for the best solution. At this point they’re not necessarily aware of your product or service, they don’t know what the solution is, but they know they have a problem and they’re looking for a way to fix it and they’re looking for the best way to fix it, the best solution. This is where we’ll actually see people start to put some modifying words into their search queries when they’re looking for a solution that gives us a clue that this person is in research mode. They’re going to look for things like reviews, they’re going to look for ratings and comparisons and reports and guides and all these bits of information that can help them to make a decision about “what is the best solution to my problem?” That can be very useful to us. If we know that we want to target our audience when they’re in this research mode, we should be providing this type of information to them. We’ll have more of a look a bit later, about how we can actually do that.


The last stage in the buying cycle that I want to look at today, is buying. This is for people in our target audience, who are at that point where they’ve completed their research, they know what the best solution to our problem is, and they’re looking to take action and they’re looking to make a purchasing decision.

They’ll start to use keyword phrases to search for a product or service that show purchasing intent, that show buying intent. This is where they’ll start to look for specific products and brands. Remember, they’ve done their research, they know what’s out there, they might actually look for your specific product, they might look for model numbers or makes of products, be interested in offers or sales and prices. These things are now important to them because they’re at that point in the buying cycle where this becomes and issue, this becomes a consideration. Who’s got the best deal? They’ll also use modifying keywords or buying intent keywords like “Buy” or “Purchase” or “Order”. These words will appear in the search queries that they put into Google to try and find a product or service.

The other thing that they’ll do as well, is start to include geographic areas, because let’s think about it, particularly with services, if you’re in Darwin, in Northern Australia, which is where I’m sitting at the moment, and I’m looking for a gardener to come and mow the lawns at my house or business, I am not going to be interesting in a gardener that only services Townsville in Queensland or Sydney or anywhere else in Australia or anywhere else in the world. I’m going to be interested in gardening businesses that exist in Darwin. So I’m going to start to use the word Darwin in my searches to narrow things down.

Now we have a really good idea of these different phases of the buying cycle. Let’s take a look at why this is important to us when it comes to establishing our advertising strategy and looking at the keywords that we are going to target in our campaigns.

Why this is important

Why is this important? Let’s take the example of somebody who’s in research mode. Why would we chose to target someone who is in research mode rather than skipping right to the end and only putting our advertising in front of them when they’re ready to buy. In research mode, we have a fantastic opportunity to provide value and demonstrate our authority in our industry. We are then able to position our business really well so that when that person actually transitions from research mode into buying mode, into the buying phase of the cycle, we’re already in a position where we’ve provided value to that potential customer, so we’re more likely to be their choice to actually make a purchase from. I’m sure we’ve all had this experience that you might not be ready to buy just yet, but you’ve talked to particular vendor or supplier or service provider and they give you some really good insight, they give you a lot of knowledge, they’re the ones that provide value. How much more likely are you to then make your purchase from them? I’d say that it improves their chances of getting your business quite significantly.

How do we do this? How do we make it valuable for our business to target people who are in research mode? What we really need to do is provide an offer that is valuable to them in terms of helping them make their decision. Remember, this person’s in research mode, they don’t know what the solution to their problem is, but if we’re the business that says, “Hey, have you thought about this…? Here’s some information for you that will help you make a decision.” Then that ticks these boxes of providing value and demonstrating our authority in our industry. It’s really good. In terms of our offer, let’s always think that it should be there to help our target audience who is in research mode, to make the decision. Let’s look at an example.

Let’s say that we’re a boot camp business. We run outdoor exercise programs where everybody comes together and we’re going to put them through their paces and help everyone get healthy in the great outdoors. One of the keyword phrases in our AdWords campaign is “How to get fit without going to the gym” Doesn’t that sound like something that somebody who doesn’t know what they solution to their problem is would type into Google? It sounds like a research phrase doesn’t it? “How to”, very similar to “Reviews” or “Ratings” or “Comparisons”, this is somebody who is looking for information, “How to get fit without going to the gym”. This person doesn’t know that they need a boot camp, they haven’t necessarily considered boot camps as a solution to this problem, but all they know is that they don’t want to go to a gym, but they still want to get fit.

If somebody typed this into Google and then we presented them with an ad that offers a report that highlights the benefits of doing outdoor boot camps versus gym-based exercise, and of course the report, the way it’s put together is going to show, “Hey, there are actually some benefits to doing your exercise outdoors in a boot camp environment versus going to the gym and doing it in an air-conditioned environment by yourself.” Then that offer, that product, that information-based product that we are providing to our target audience is valuable to them and it helps them make a decision about “what is the best solution to my problem?” In this case they’re very much poised to go, “Oh, well I want to get fit without going to the gym. Boot camp seems like a really good way to do that and it was this particular business that gave me this information.” You can see how we’re positioning our boot camp business really nicely so that this person makes a buying decision or they’re likely to join our boot camp program aren’t they.

What’s our CTA?

We’ve got our offer, we know what’s going on there, we know what’s going on there, we know that, “okay well, an offer let’s us establish our authority and provide value. What’s our Call To Action? How do we get value out of providing this information to our audience in research mode?” Remember these people aren’t ready to buy, they’re not in that buying mindset, they are still researching.

We’ve checked a couple of boxes so far, our offer has provided value and established our authority, what we then need is a way to have future touch points with this person, once they’ve come through our advertising, hit our landing page, our Call To Action then in this case is going to be “get their details”. That’s what we want to do, we want to retrieve from them a way to contact them in the future to put our products and services in front of them.

The most common way of doing this is some sort of signup form, some sort of newsletter signup form. The way we’re going to do this is, on the Google search results page you’ve got your ad that talks about your offer. A person clicks the ad and is then presented with your landing page, just like we talked about in part1. Then what we’re going to say to them is, “You can get your report that talks about the benefits of doing outdoor boot camps versus gym-based exercise, just give us your name and email address and we’ll send that report straight through to you.

That name and email address, then go on to a database so that in the future, we can send our direct marketing to that person because remember, this person is in research mode, they’re not going to stay there forever, if they’re serious about making a purchasing decision, at some point soon, they’re going to make that decision and be ready to buy, they’re gong to move across, into the buying stage.

If we’re the business that has provided value during research, we’ve given them the information they need to make their decision, and then 3 days later they get some email correspondence from us talking about how we’ve got new boot camp programs starting, “Well hey, I’ve done my research, I’ve identified that boot camps are the best solution to my problem, and here’s this same vendor, again giving me the answer, ‘here’s the boot camp you should join.’” You can see that there are a lot of benefits to actually targeting your audience when they’re in the research phase of the buying cycle.

What’s happening here

Let’s just run down exactly what’s happening here, because we’ve talked about a lot of stuff. We’ve talked about the buying cycle and the benefits, and providing offers in our Call To Action. Let’s just lay it all out in a linear fashion so we can see what’s going on. From the left to the right, this is the cycle that somebody is going to go through.

Our person, a member of our target audience, who is in research mode, is going to do a Google search and find our ad and here our ad is going to be surrounded by our competitor’s ads. This is where having a good offer really comes in handy because it makes our ad far more likely to be clicked than our competitor’s. We definitely want to make those offers solid. The more relevant, the more useful we can make that offer to our target audience in research mode, the better.

So they click on our ad and then they end up on our landing page and this is where we present our offer and our Call To Action. The two are linked, remember that, “okay just give us your name and email address and we’ll shoot through our offer to your inbox straight away and you’ll have that information instantly.” Sounds fair, people do it, and we’ve now set ourselves up in this nice position where we’ve provided value and established authority over our industry. We’re the ones that have become the trusted resource for this member of our target audience, because we’re providing this free information that helps them make a decision. When we do put our direct marketing materials in front of them and say, “Hey, well, have you actually considered joining our boot camp program?” they’re far more likely to choose our boot camp program rather than our competitors because we’ve established that value and our authority over our industry. This is the path of what’s happening here. Targeting your audience in research mode is actually a fantastic strategy.


We need to look at buying. I want to target my ads to my audience when they’re ready to make that purchasing decision. Just like we saw with the research mode, there are keyword phrases we need to consider that show purchasing intent, words like “Buy” and “Order” and “Purchase”. They might be looking for specific product names, brands, model numbers, geographic locations. We talked a little bit about this before, that people are going to get more specific and show that buying intent in their search queries when they’re ready to make that purchasing decision.

Let’s jump back to our boot camp material and let’s take it a step further now so that we can talk about geographic locations and let’s say that our boot camp business is based in Darwin. It’s here and I want to advertise my boot camp programs to people who are looking for boot camp programs in my geographic location, in the area that I service in my business, which is Darwin. Suddenly, my campaigns are going to be based around targeting people who are searching for phrases like, “Boot camps Darwin”, “Darwin boot camps”, “Buy boot camp membership Darwin”, “morning boot camps Darwin”, “afternoon boot camps Darwin”. We’re looking at people who are looking for boot camps in the morning and in the afternoon, we service both times of the day, so let’s make sure that we’re targeting both search phrases, because we’re going to have members of our audience who can only go to one or the other. It’s really important because they’re going to get super specific, so we need to be super specific as well.

Brand names—What if our boot camp was called Ace Boot Camps? Well it makes sense that people are going to be talking about our boot camps, our current customers are going to talk to their friends about boot camps and they’re going to say, “Hey, I go along to the Ace Boot Camp sessions every morning, you guys should come along.” They’re going to say that to their friends and their friends are going to jump on Google and type in “Ace Boot Camps”. Great, that’s a perfect opportunity to put a targeted ad in front of that person, because they are showing a high level of buying intent. They’re specifically looking for your brand.

Of course things like “Sign up to boot camp Darwin”. Somebody who types in “Sign up to boot camp in Darwin” obviously, they have a very high level of purchasing intent. They are looking to take action right now. We can see how this differs in the buying stage of the cycle to the research stage of the buying cycle, where they’re looking for reviews and ratings, they’re looking for solutions, these members of our target audience, who are in the buying phase of the cycle are looking to take action right now, so we need to give them the ability to do so.

We talked about offers in research mode. Offers are still really good in the buying stage as well, but the nature of the offer is going to change. What we saw in research mode that we’re offering reviews and ratings and reports or white papers or guides, things to help them make a decision, here in the buying stage we’re giving them reasons to engage our business, to make a purchasing decision with our business over our competitors, things like free trials, discounts or specials or price reductions that we’re running at the moment.

Let’s take our boot camp example. Maybe we’ll run an offer to accompany our ad where somebody can bring a friend along to boot camp and receive half price off that month’s membership, or whatever we put together. Remember, price is going to be something people are looking for, so anything we can do to make our business more appealing there is going to be better.

Free shipping, well if we’re selling products online, if we have an ecommerce business, doesn’t it make sense that I would probably want to buy my product from somewhere that isn’t going to charge me for shipping versus someone who is. We all hate paying shipping costs, right? That can be a really good offer to accompany your buying intent ad.

If you’re a service based business you can offer free quotes or consultations to get your foot in the door there, to say, “Hey, we’re here to help you, we’re here to provide value, and this is how we can do it straight out of the gate, no risk to you Mr. Customer. We can tell you how much our service is going to cost, we can sit down with you and plan out how you can use our service to further your business or achieve whatever goal you’re trying to do through a free consultation.”

Offers are good at any stage of this buying cycle. It’s just about tailoring the offer specifically to where your audience is at in that buying cycle.

What’s our CTA?

We need to look at our Call To Action when it comes to the buying stage of the purchasing cycle and here we need to do just that. We should be telling them, on our landing page, “Hey, this is exactly what you’re about to purchase” and we need to make it super easy to do so. Big “Buy Now” buttons, have an excellent shopping cart experience if you’re selling those sorts of goods or services.

Perhaps if you’re selling a service and it’s not something that you buy online, this is where the Call To Action needs to be based around making a really qualified, solid lead come through from your landing page. Maybe you’re requesting a call-back or booking a consultation or a quote request, basically we want to get those details from someone, get that inquiry, generate that lead, create that online purchase, whatever it is our Call To Action needs to be based around, “How can I help this person to take action right now, because they’ve identified themselves as being in the buying stage of this cycle? So, I want to capitalize on that.”

One of the other things we want to do with our Calls To Action at the buying phase, is let people opt in to our newsletter or our database so that we can provide new information and new marketing materials to them in the future. Because if somebody’s been willing to complete our Call To Action, they’re highly qualified, provided that we’ve targeted the right keywords, we’ve presented a good ad, they’ve got to our landing page, identified “this is what I want.” Now they’re making some sort of purchasing decision, whether it’s buying the product, or sending an online inquiry, or generating a quote request, whatever it is, they’ve qualified themselves a lot to say, “Hey, I’m a real potential prospect here, I am ready to go, I’m ready to part with money for your product or service.” Chances are, if they’re willing to do that, that later on down the line, they’re probably going to need your product or service again, or they’re going to be interested in new offers that you have. The other thing that you can do with this information then is provide extra value to your current customers by providing tips and tricks on how to use your product or service, you can provide updates and news about what’s going on in your, and have these continuous touch points with your current customers and with your qualified leads so that whenever they do need your product or service again, they come straight to you.

Relevancy of keywords (and everything) is key

What have we covered today? Really we’ve looked at the way that our keywords, our ad copy, our landing page, and our Call To Action, all need to be highly relevant and targeted not only to our target audience, but to where that audience is across the awareness, research, and buying stages of the sale cycle. From the beginning of the presentation, we identified the terms that our target audience is likely to use to find our target audience at the targeted point inn the buying cycle. That’s the most important part here.

We saw that if our audience is in the research phase of the buying cycle, that they’re looking to find a solution to their problem. They’re looking for reviews and how-to’s and reports and any information they can get, to help make a decision. It’s really important that we keep that in mind, at the targeted point in our buying cycle.

Then we moved on to having a look at how our ad and our offer need to be highly relevant to our target market at the targeted point in the buying cycle—there’s that phrase again “at the targeted point in the buying cycle”—because we saw that the offer and the ad and the messaging that we put in front of somebody who’s in research mode is very different to the offer and messaging that we put in front of somebody who’s in the buying phase of the cycle. Even though they’re both members of our target audience, they both fall into that category, the strategy that we’re going to use to target them, is very different based on where they’re at in that buying cycle.

Then we had a look at presenting a Call To Action that is highly relevant to our target market at the targeted point in the buying cycle. Again, this is the point that I want you to really ram into your brains and take home with you that “at the targeted point in the buying cycle” is key. We know that who our target audience is, let’s go even further than that and identify, “What’s the strategy that I’m going to use to get the right messaging, offers, and Call To Actions, in front of people, at these specific points in the buying cycle?” That’s how we can get the best return on investment, which is why we’re doing AdWords advertising.

These are the things that we’ve looked at today and I hope you can see now why I wanted to drill down even further, into this keyword research topic, so we can understand the thinks that we need to take into consideration when we’re choosing the keywords that we’re going to target and the strategies that we’re going to use before we’re going to use before we start generating keyword ideas.

Next time…

Next time, I promise, we will look at keyword research. “Where do I get ideas? Where do I find keywords?” Because we’ve got the foundation now, we’ve identified, “This particular campaign is going to be targeted to my audience when they’re in research mode. “How do I start generating ideas for what keyword phrases to target my ads to?”

The other things that we’ll have a look at are negative keywords. To give you a bit of a preview, negative keywords are keywords we can include in our campaigns that will not show our ads. They’re the opposite of our keyword phrases. To give you a quick example, say we sell premium office furniture. We might want to include negative keywords like, “Cheap” or “Free” or “Giveaway” or anything like that, that is going to likely be typed into the Google search engine by somebody who is not right for our product or service, who is not part of our target audience. It’s a really powerful tool to make sure that we’re only showing our ads to people who are qualified, potential customers.

That’s what happening next time, keyword research, where to get ideas and find keywords, now that we understand why we’re choosing them and how to choose them. We’ll have a look at negative keywords as well.

Questions? Ask us on social media?

We’ve reached the end of our presentation today and I’d like to give a big shout out to you guys for sticking with me all the way to the end. I really appreciate it and I hope the reason you’ve done it is because you’re getting a lot out of these videocasts and you’ve got a lot of information, so that you can start to implement these strategies in your own small business.

If you have any questions about the content that I covered today, or in any other parts of this video series, then jump on social media and ask those questions. You can reach us Facebook, Twitter, or you can visit our Google+ page.




If you need any help with any of these topics or in improving the way that your small business uses online marketing, then please feel free to contact us through our website.


Thank you very much for watching today. We will see you next week for part 3 on generating keyword ideas and research.


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