Pop Up Pizza had a website, but no Google juice.

But the new catering company couldn’t afford to pay $9-$10 per click for catering keywords, says Iain Dooley, the founder of Decal Marketing and author of Your First Three Months on AdWords.

So instead, Iain “found that ‘party ideas’ was a niche on which they could afford to buy enough clicks to…sell the product without breaking the bank,” he says. Soon Pop Up Pizza started converting those clicks into sales, and eventually they started getting more leads than they could handle.

“Now we’re not talking about thundering off the hook at 100 people a day calling you,” says Iain, “but in terms of getting those first few sales, and those first few leads across the door, and then starting to generate some word of mouth, this process is incredibly valuable, particularly for new businesses starting up.”

In his Mixergy course, Iain shows you the step-by-step process he uses to find keywords that convert. Here are three highlights from the course:

1. Take a Gamble

Chances are, you won’t sell your product on day one.

“You’re going to get traffic and people are just going to bounce,” says Iain. “You’re going to have to figure out what the most profitable keywords are.”

But most startups can’t afford to spend $10 to $20 a click testing a landing page. “[You’ll] spend $12,000 before [you] get any real information, and [you] don’t have $12,000,” he says.

So how do you find your target keywords on a shoestring budget?

Make a bet you can afford to lose

Spend a small amount of money on an affordable niche.

“The goal here is that you want to find an AdWords niche where you can afford to fail,” says Iain. “What that means is that you can afford to spend a little bit of money until you learn how to sell your product.”

So how much should you spend? “It depends on your business,” he says. “It depends on your area. I find that for people looking to spend about $2 a click and get about 10 clicks a day, that yields quite a good result.”

2. Train Yourself to Let Go

A lucky few will do keyword research and “see this excellent list of keywords,” says Iain. “You’d dump it into AdWords and you’d go.”

But it’s rarely that easy. More often you’ll “look for your thing [and] you can’t find anything that you can afford,” says Iain. “Either that or people just aren’t looking for what you’re doing. Which is going to be the case for a lot of tech startups.”

So what do you do when your dream keyword is out of reach?

Get creative with keywords

Don’t get hung up on one dream keyword. “Don’t think, ‘okay, I’m doing sales management training, therefore I can only [use the keyword] sales management training,’” says Iain.

Instead, Iain uses the Google Keyword tool to generate keywords based off of a keyword like “sales management training” to find new lists of keywords. “Each time I’m just going back to my list of keywords and I’m thinking of new opportunities and trying out different things,” he says.

For instance, in the “sales management training” example, Iain found that the related keyword “buying leads” was affordable and had sufficient search volume. “If you think about people who are looking to buy leads, they obviously have a sales team,” says Iain. But they “might not realize that they have a sales problem.”

So Iain says to move “further back in the funnel” and hook them with something like “an ebook about the top 10 mistakes you make when buying leads, or like seven deadly sins of buying leads that will ruin your business,” he says.

3. Avoid the Competition

Most people are psyched when they start a new blog. But when it’s time to write content, the crickets start chirping.

“That’s the most common thing that happens,” says Iain. “They don’t have any ideas, and they don’t write anything.”

Or sometimes people just start writing about things they know about, but they don’t rank for anything. “They may or may not get traffic, and they might have to invest a lot of time in doing outreach,” he says. “You might not have time to do that.”

So what should you do to find topics and rise in the Google ranks?

Look for low competition

Create blog posts around keywords that have low competition and get maybe “ten searches a month…really uncompetitive,” says Iain.

Then, use those keywords as blog headlines and write content for each post.

Your posts probably won’t go viral, but they will get people to visit your site. “You can put a pop-up to advertise an ebook,” he says. “You can have a sidebar that has a subscribe thing. You can put them onto an AdRoll retargeting list, so you can show them display ads around the web. And it just creates this low hum of steady traffic that will grow as your site gains in ranking…because you’ve produced this sort of bedrock of low-level, longtail articles.”

Written by April Dykman. Production notes by Jeremy Weisz.