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PPC Campaign Starting Points Article

There are many things a PPC marketer needs to do before setting bids and publishing their ads up on the search results. This includes traditional keyword research, organizing keywords into groups and copywriting the ads. The problem that most marketers face is finding a way to organize all of their research and planning from one place. Gathering data, evaluating your opportunities, and making the right decisions can be difficult when you’re cross-referencing multiple platforms on a daily basis.

SEMrush’s tool suite is built specifically to assist this process. If you’re looking for where to begin, read on for our suggested starting points:

Tools mentioned:

Keyword Research

The first step of any search campaign is keyword research. SEMrush makes this process easy for beginners and experts alike. To start, log in to SEMrush and open your dashboard. The first thing you'll want to do is identify who your top competitors are.

From the search bar, enter a domain - either yours or a competitor. This query will take you to Domain Analytics. In this area, you can gather competitive data about the keywords that a domain is ranking for organically as well as through advertising on Google. So we’ll start by looking at what keywords your top competitors are getting their traffic from.

Keep your domain in the search bar and jump down to the Advertising Research subsection and find the Advertising Competitors report. If your domain has run ads on Google in the past, this is where you’ll see the list of websites that compete with you most on Google’s paid ad blocks.

competitors-reportIf you click on a number from the common keywords column in this report, you will open the Keyword Gap (formerly Domain vs. Domain) tool. This tool compares the keywords of multiple domains in a side by side comparison. With your domain in one of the boxes and your competitor in the other, you'll be able to see which keywords your competitor ranks for with ads that you are not and vice versa. You have the ability to compare common and unique keywords across organic, paid and PLA (Google Shopping) results.

keyword-gapAnother way to use the Keyword Gap is entering your domain twice, once to look at your organic keywords and once for your paid keywords. Choose the "common keywords" filter and sort your organic positions from lowest to highest,  so your best organic rankings are first. This will show you where your ads compete with your top organic results, and therefore, where you may be spending unnecessary money.

After finding those keywords, change the filter to "unique to the first domain's keywords" and sort from highest position to lowest. Now the tool will show you the keywords where your SEO efforts are not paying off and where you could potentially compensate with paid ads. The Keyword Gap tool has a huge amount of potential when prospecting any search marketing campaign, so if you're using SEMrush be sure to include it in your research process.

After using the Keyword Gap, navigate to the Ad History (Domain Analytics) report. There are two reports in the software labeled “Ad History,” one in Domain Analytics and one in Keyword Analytics. In the Domain Analytics Ad History report, you'll be able to see a competitor's advertising strategy over the course of an entire year.


If they ran any seasonal campaigns or stopped advertising on a certain keyword in the middle of the year, you'll be able to see when and what keyword. With that information, you could infer that the keywords pulled from their campaign were not contributing to your competitor's ROI as much as the keywords that remained in their strategy.

If you click on a keyword from this report, you will be directed to the Ad History report in the Keyword Analytics section of the software. From this report, you can analyze the past year's history of domains that advertised on one particular keyword. This report will give you more insight into the seasonality or trends related to a keyword or phrase you’re considering.  


After comparing your site to your competition and analyzing trends of potential keywords, you'll want to go deeper into keyword research. The main keyword research reports you'll want to check out are the Keyword Overview and Keyword Magic Tool. These reports will allow you to evaluate the cost and potential of keywords and look for long tail opportunities.

Enter any keyword into the search bar to generate a Keyword Overview. This is your starting point in SEMrush’s keyword research area. You can see a keyword’s CPC, volume, and competitive density across all of our regional databases.

Long Tail Keywords

Long tail keywords are search phrases that represent a more specific intention from the search engine user. Generally speaking, the longer the keyword, the more specific the search intent. For example, "what is the best electric power washer for home use" is a long tail keyword and much more specific than just "power washer." 

With a more specific intention behind a searcher’s browsing session, searchers are more likely to become a conversion such as a purchase, sign up or download from your landing page. Therefore, finding these keywords in your niche can be excellent additions to your online marketing campaign.

The Keyword Magic Tool features an expanded database of keywords that is perfect for finding specific keywords. Once you identify a long tail keyword using the Keyword Magic Tool, enter that phrase as your seed keyword and use the Related Keywords report to uncover a long list of semantically relevant long tail searches. This process can be perfect for honing in on the specific needs of your target customers.

keyword magic tool

As you use the Keyword Magic Tool, you can send keywords you are interested into the Keyword Analyzer. The Analyzer has an “update metrics” button that provides bonus metrics like Top Competitors, SERP Features and Click Potential for each keyword so you can get a deeper understanding of a keyword’s potential value. From the Analyzer, you can also send a set of keywords directly into the PPC Keyword Tool.

Campaign Planning

After doing all of your keyword research, the next important step is going to be planning the ad groups and keywords of your campaign. The PPC Keyword Tool offers an easy drag-and-drop interface to plan an optimized campaign.

Organize your target keywords into groups and optimize your campaign with single-keyword ad groups, cross-group negatives, and automatic stop-word and duplicate removal.

PPC-keyword-toolEverything that you outline in the PPC Keyword Tool can be exported to files so that you can seamlessly upload your campaign into Google Ads. Just manage your bids in Google Ads and track your conversions. As your campaign continues to run, you can monitor your campaign’s effectiveness in your Google Ads dashboard.

Bonus tip: To follow your competition, set up a Position Tracking campaign with your keywords and track the domains that appear most frequently across the paid results. Just make sure to set your keywords type to “paid” from the Position Tracking dashboard.

But before you can track your campaign’s performance, you’ll need to write your eye-catching ad copy.

Writing Ads

The last step in prepping your campaign is to write your ads. In order to encourage clicks and conversions, your ad copy should offer something unique and relevant to searchers. To get started on SEMrush, launch the Ad Builder - another part of the Projects section.

This tool will sync up with your PPC Keyword Tool to write ads for the groups you’ve created in your PPC Keyword Tool. The Ad Builder shows you how your industry competitors shaped their ad copy and let you alter their ideas to make your own ads all from one window. When you set this up, the tool will suggest a list of your competitors where you can source ideas from. Keep these competitors or delete the ones you aren’t interested in and add a competitor who you think runs effective ads to take an inside look at their strategy. Once you have competitors in this project, you can browse through their advertisements and pick out one of them as a template.

In the Ad research tab, you can generate ideas for your ads in two ways - entering your competitor’s domain or entering a target keyword. Both will generate a list of real ads that were ranked near the top of Google. Just pick out the ad that you want to work off of and hit the “use as template” button.

ads-builderFrom there, you can alter the headlines, description, and deeper parameters such as path, final URL and tracking code. In the bottom left of the pop-up window, you’ll be able to see a preview of how your ad will appear in the results.

Once you’re done writing up your beautiful ads, click the export button and you’ll download your ads and keywords in a .zip folder containing a spreadsheet for your ads and keywords in CSV format. Now you’re ready to upload everything into your Google Ads campaign. In your Google Ads editor, you can import from the top menu Account - Import - From file.

If you need assistance uploading your CSV file of ads, you can reference this Google support article.

Tool Recap

To recap, the tools we suggest starting your PPC campaign around were:

Good luck with your campaigns! Remember you can always reach out to our Customer Success team if you have questions about our software.