There has been some debate recently about which end of the keyword spectrum converts in terms of money and time.
In my experience, apart from most company names, long tail PPC terms offer the cheapest ROI in many industries. And this may apply to organic terms as well. It takes more work to develop the right terms, but the rewards are worth the effort.
Using the one- or two-word phrases that summarize an industry, and allowing Google and the other engines to broad match (and by extension expanded match, which grabs synonyms and any words they feel match up – be it because people go from that search to something similar), generally costs more both in money and time.
The work it takes to develop an extensive negative keyword list to remove the wasted spend – costing money until it's done – requires more time than starting with a long tail list. Aaron Wall wrote, earlier this week, about another benefit this approach has when applied to organic optimization:"Longtail keywords are easier to rank for. If you can pick off mid-tier phrases and rank at the top of the search results then you can build a revenue stream from them, which can be reinvested to further buy marketshare and distribution."
While he was discussing his approach to optimizing a new site for organic results, the words can also be applied to the methodology used for PPC.
Wall went on to explain that it's easier to rank for long tail terms through good on-page optimization and a small handful of inbound links – compared to the need for major link building for the more competitive keywords.
Many tools can help you set up a PPC long tail keyword list. Google's Keyword Suggestion Tool is a good starting point. Then use a competitor analysis tool, such as SpyFu or Compete, to get an idea of the terms others use in your space.
Doing this helps you gather words to use for both efforts and helps you start building the negative list you'll need when you add more competitive terms into the mix.
Lets look at an example.
A search for "winter vacations" using Google's tool turns up 142 keywords. Included in the list are good potential long tail terms – e.g., "cheap winter family vacations," "best winter family vacation," "all inclusive winter vacation," "winter vacation hot spots," and others with specific destinations combined with the keywords.
There are examples of words to exclude – e.g., "pokemon winter vacation" and "pikachu winter vacation," or "warm winter vacations" if you're concentrating on skiing. The broader terms really show negatives because Google suggests such terms as "hiking vacations," "camping vacations," and many more which should be added to the negative list.
You will also come across good synonyms to use in your content and title tags, such as "packages" and "getaways." Test some of these to see who is appearing in the PPC and what pages are in the organic results.
Look at your competitors' deeper pages that rank for these terms to get an idea about how to strengthen your effort. If the home pages are showing up it will be even easier to bump them down with specific content and a little effort.
Use the returns on these efforts to go for the major keywords and you will find the earlier work that included those terms with qualifiers will even help with that.