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3 Best Practices for Selecting PPC Keywords

Selecting PPC Keywords

In the digital marketing world, the more targeted you can be with messaging towards your desired audience the better. 

This rule holds especially true in the realm of Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising. Strategic keyword selection and targeting are two of the most important PPC optimization factors. If keywords are irrelevant or too generic, money spent on clicks is destined to be wasted. 

So, to help you get on the right track for selecting relevant keywords I’ll cover three of the most important things you can do to ensure your PPC keywords are effectively targeted towards prospective patients. 

1. Focus on Services + Location

Focusing keywords on the various types of services your practice can provide such as “cosmetic dentistry,” “oral surgery,” or “orthodontics” is a logical strategy. Simply consider what services your practice offers to patients as well as what terms patients use (in other words, not medical terminology) and you’ll come up with some good keywords.

Often forgotten, though, is that people don’t like traveling for dental-related care. Prospective patients want to find a provider in their town or city, if possible. In large cities they may even want their provider to be in their neighborhood so minimal travel time is needed to get there. 

How does that translate to keyword selection? For non-brand terms make sure you’re including your practice’s location in keywords. 

Here are some applicable examples that include the location instead of just the service alone: 

“Dentist in Seattle”

“Orthodontist in Raleigh, NC” 

“Periodontist in Chicago, IL” 

If your practice is located in a REALLY large city like New York, consider being even more targeted and build keywords around the part of the city such as: 

“Oral Surgeon in Brooklyn, NY” 

As a reminder, ads and platform targeting will also need to be geographically targeted. 

2. DO Include Brand Keywords

Some businesses and marketers are hesitant to spend advertising dollars on people searching for their name because they believe “if they’re searching for us they’ll of course click on our search result.” That assumption is incorrect. 

Because of competition and the ever-evolving nature of search results, brand search clicks always landing on your practice’s result is not a given. That’s why it’s important to also have keywords focused on your practice’s name. If your practice is named “Happy Dental,” make sure and have a brand campaign containing keywords around that name. 

Creating keywords that push ads for your name will not only make it easier for prospective patients to find your practice but it will also help keep traffic away from competitors if they’re trying to show up in search results for keywords with your name in them. 

Because search engines like Google and Bing favor brands in their PPC algorithms the price you pay per click is very low for brand terms relative to non-brand terms. It’s not uncommon for brand terms to be 50% of the cost or less on a per-click basis relative to non-brand terms. 

3. Match Type Matters

Keyword match type provides a measure of how targeted (or not targeted) a given term needs to be in order for an ad to display within a search query. For Google and Bing there are 3 levels of granularity. 

The most granular is “exact match.” With exact match,  only the exact term or close variations of the term will trigger an ad. For example, if the term is “dentist in San Diego” only that precise term and very similar terms (for example, “dentists in San Diego”) will trigger the ad. 

Thereafter, “phrase match” terms are triggered when a phrase is used in a search query. In using the same example, “dentist in San Diego” would need to be used BUT any other terms could also be thrown into the query and still trigger an ad. 

The least targeted match type is “broad match.” Broad match allows anything even remotely relevant to a search term to trigger the ad. To use our existing example, hypothetical searches like “dental news in San Diego” or “San Diego dentist’s organization”  could very well trigger ads for this term. To take a step back, you can make broad match a bit more targeted by adding anchor terms, meaning terms that must appear within a search query in order for the ad to trigger. By adding “+Dentist +in +San +Diego” you would require each of those words to be included in someone’s search query in order for the ad to trigger. Still, this is a less precise bidding option than exact and phrase offer. 

The overview of match types now begs the question of where should you begin? It’s wise to start with exact match. People looking for the exact terms you’re targeting are most likely to hold higher customer intent levels than the more general traffic offered by the other match types. Obviously, the higher the traffic intent the greater the volume of prospective patients will reach your website. 

If you have additional ad budget after testing all relevant terms via exact match, expand to phrase and modified broad match. DO NOT use broad match on its own unless you still have budget to spend after testing the other match types with your keywords. Broad match terms are certain to generate a lot of visibility but also clicks from people who are unlikely to become patients.


By keeping keywords targeted towards services your practice provides and your physical location you can target prospective customers effectively. Adding in brand terms will increase the volume of relevant traffic you’re receiving and if you focus keyword match type primarily on exact you can limit the volume of irrelevant clicks coming into your website from PPC traffic. 

If you have any questions or related needs please feel free to reach out to us! 


—Mike Fitterer, Sr. Marketing Manager II, Sesame Communications

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Sesame is an industry leader in integrated, cloud-based marketing and patient-engagement solution designed exclusively for your practice. We know that effective patient communication is vital to the success of your practice and the efficiency of your team. With Sesame, you can take your practice to the next level, allowing you to concentrate on what’s really important – your patients!