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How to Conduct Keyword Research

9:00 am in Keyword Research, PPC Marketing Blog by brad

Keyword research is essential to creating and managing your paid search campaigns. Keywords are the lifeblood of the PPC industry. If you want to drive traffic to your site from specific keywords, then you must have them inside your account. However, there’s more to the process than just adding words to your account; you first must understand what a good keyword is before you start your research.

What is a Good Keyword?

A good keyword is a word that brings you both traffic and conversions. If a keyword brings in lots of traffic but no conversions, then that keyword is just costing you money without any returns – and is not a good keyword.

If a keyword is bringing in sales and profits, then it is a good keyword.

Generally, the more specific the keyword is the better it will perform. Picking specific keywords that describe both your industry and have a clear user intent is essential to ensuring that your PPC campaigns are profitable.

For instance, the keyword ‘shoes’ has 450,000 monthly searches in the United States. It has volume, but what does the word mean? Does it mean women’s, men’s, running, dress, tennis or shoe repair? This word is so ambiguous; it will rarely be a good keyword.

The keyword ‘running shoes’ has 74,000 queries per month. While there are more searches, it is a bit more specific as it includes a type of shoe. However, one of the first steps to selling shoes is to understand the gender of the shopper as men and women do not wear the same shoes.

The keyword ‘best running shoes for women’ has only 6,600 monthly searches, however, it is specific to both a gender and a type of shoe.

The keyword ‘New Balance running shoes for women’ has only 720 searches per month, but is very specific to a gender, brand, and type of shoe.

It is common to see more specific words have lower search volume than more ambiguous terms, which does not mean you should exclude them. What often happens is that keywords become more specific the click through rate and conversion rate increases.

Let’s assume (and it’s unlikely, but this assumption is good enough for a quick illustration) all of these keywords have the same cost per click, and average revenue per sale. The biggest difference will be the conversion rates and click through rates. This is an example of how these keywords could affect your PPC profits.

 

Keyword Searches CTR Clicks Cost Conversion Rate Sales Revenue Profit
Shoes 450,000 0.5% 2,250 $2,250 0.10% 2 225 -$2025
Running Shoes 74,000 1% 740 740 1% 7 740 $0
Best running shoes for women 6,600 3.5% 231 231 3% 7 $693 $462
New Balance running shoes for women 720 8% 58 $58 9% 5 $518 $460

In this case, ‘New Balance Running shoes for women’ and ‘Best running shoes for women’ have the two lowest search amounts by far. However, they are the two most profitable keywords as the words are much more specific which means the click through rates and conversion rates will often increase.

We could get into an entire discussion about balancing your goals with costs and how high volume, low converting words can help build brand awareness that can increase your overall CTRs and conversion rates; however, that’s some pretty advanced math for another time.

Now that you’ve seen an illustration of how more specific keywords can be better than more general keywords, even if they have less total searches, it is time to look at the steps to conducting keyword research.

Keyword Research Step-By-Step

Keyword research can be a very methodical process that can be grouped into a set of steps:

  1. Brainstorm
  2. Create your themes
  3. Write an ad copy
  4. Research Your Ad Groups
  5. Review
  6. Put the keywords live
  7. View search queries
  8. Refine and repeat

We will examine each of these steps individually.

Brainstorm

The first step to keyword research is to start brainstorming for various themes. You do not have to even look at keywords yet. Your goal here is to determine the overall categories where you want to conduct keyword research. Often, these themes will mirror your sites navigation.

Take a look at your website, analytics, search queries if you have internal search, and use tools like the AdWords keyword tool to start by creating a list of words. This phase does not have to be exhaustive. Just jot down the areas where you want to do more intensive research.

Create Your Themes

The next step is to take all of your research and list out your themes.  If you are new to PPC, try finding just 10-30 themes. If you have been doing this for a while, you might end up with thousands of themes.

A theme can be a different service you offer such as an accountant might have tax preparation, tax relief, business taxes, personal taxes, daily bookkeeping services, expense reporting, etc. Each of these themes is different because the user intent is different. If someone searched for ‘tax relief’ they want to see information about tax relief and not a general accounting page that lists all of your possible services.

If you do sell shoes, your themes might be: women’s running shoes, men’s running shoes, running shoes, women’s dress shoes, men’s dress shoes, etc. Each of these themes will be considered an ad group within your PPC account.

Write an Ad Copy

For each of your themes, write an ad copy and choose a landing page. This is an organization step that will help you in the next phase of keyword research.

Research Your Ad Groups

Now it’s time to get to work. For each of your themes, start looking for specific keywords that fit into the theme. The keyword should match the theme of the ad group, be described by the ad copy, and have information about it on the landing page. If any of those three do not apply to the keyword, then either put it aside as a keyword you might use in the future, or create a new theme for that keyword.

Review

Next, review your work. If you find that you have themes with hundreds of keyword in them, the theme is probably too general. Rarely will you have more than 50 keywords in a theme. It’s ok to have just one keyword within an ad group. However, if you have too many keywords in an ad group what often happens is your ad copy or landing page does not accurately describe all of those keywords and some keywords will underperform.

Put the Keyword Live

Inside your PPC account, create an ad group for every theme and add your keywords. Set your account live and start collecting the data.

View Search Queries

Once you have some data, it’s time to examine it. Unless you use all exact match keyword, then your ads will show for keywords that are not inside your account. Read through the queries to find words:

  • Words that are spending money but have no conversions
  • Words that are making money but are not in your account
  • Potential new themes

It is amazing what you can learn by examining the actual words people use to search. If you are ever stuck for keyword inspiration, take a look through the actual queries consumers used to find you.

Refine & Repeat

Examine the words that have been spending money but do not have any conversions. These words might need different ads, landing pages, or to be removed from your account. If there is a pattern to the underperforming words, then you can use negative keywords to block your ads from ever showing on those words again.

If you find keywords that are doing well, but are not in your account, then add them to your account.

Finally, take the potential new themes and do some brainstorming to find yet more keywords to add to your account.

Conclusion

Keyword research is not overly difficult. There are many good tools out there to help you along. The most time consuming aspect of managing keywords is the organization of the keywords with related ads and landing pages.

Therefore, make sure you have a solid list of themes with appropriate ads and landing pages so you can group the keywords into tightly themed ad groups. When you have good ad group organization,  every time someone searches for a keyword you did choose, they will see a related ad copy that takes them to a related page on your website.

When the keywords, ads and landing pages are all related – that’s when PPC starts to work very well. And when PPC is working, it is a wonderful source of new customers.

What your CEO Needs to Know about Paid Search: Creating a Narrative

9:00 am in AdWords Keyword Tool, Analytics, Keyword Research, PPC Marketing Blog by Mike Nelson

I’ve lost a lot of clients in the past. Most of the time, this ties back to the fact that we’re not typically dealing directly with decision-makers on a day-to-day basis. And although (as an agency) we’d like to think that delivering great numbers is more than enough to keep our clients happy at all levels, that’s certainly not always the case.

The reason for the disconnect between the account manager and the decision-makers is lack of clear narrative (defined as “what we do, why we do it, and why it’s optimal”) concerning the paid search approach. To make the best use of the time we do get with C-levels, it’s imperative that paid search account managers….

Develop a clear narrative that supports the CEO’s goals.

At a high level, all CEOs have one objective: grow the business. In some instances, this means improving profit margins; in others, you need to increase revenue or some other growth metric. It’s imperative that everything done in the SEM account supports this objective, so you need intimate knowledge of every client’s top-level paid search goal. When the time comes to support the decisions made in the paid search account, it’s important for you to have the ability to tie an action back to the ultimate objective. With that being said, it’s best to be proactive about addressing these items, as opposed to waiting around for C-levels to ask these questions themselves, which is where the narrative comes into place.

The narrative is easier to create if the account is structured in a way that allows reliable, clearly validated reporting of metrics. So, in order to support the narrative with more reliable data, you must…

Structure the account in a manner that results in the most reliable data.

Just how to do this varies from account to account, but one commonality I believe that they should generally share is forced mappings to high-volume queries. If you are able to also create single-keyword exact match ad groups, Google’s “ad group impression share” will actually provide query-level impression share. This clean data really helps show the true reach of the account’s known high-volume queries, and it allows you to create an ‘opportunity report.’ At that point, the C-levels should have a pretty good understanding that economics (budget) have resulted in the ad positions they’re seeing on the SERPs. And, since that is now rather clear, the only two variables remaining to optimize/sculpt known high-volume queries are:

1)      Ad copy testing

2)      Conversion rate improvement (landing page and funnel optimization)

Not coincidently, these two variables are mostly tied to user behavior – which is why they require ongoing testing.

When the structure results in enough data to really reduce the variables down to these two, you’re in the catbird seat!

The ‘opportunity report’ should appease just about every C-level executive, but the required structure isn’t incredibly scalable. And though it addresses the question of ‘query optimization and sculpting,’ it doesn’t give you ‘query capture.’ So, your narrative must also address this question:

Are you capturing all the relevant queries?

It should be rather simple to show whether an account is optimizing the high-volume queries that have some record in the Search Query Report, but this doesn’t answer the question of query capture itself. As far as you’re concerned, this primarily equates to keyword coverage.

Unfortunately, there aren’t nearly as many tools and/or metrics to prove keyword coverage as would be ideal, but the Google keyword tool, SpyFu, and SEMRush are some of the tools available to help build out robust keywords lists.

None of this, however, should be the crux of the narrative’s portion concerning query capturing/keyword building. Instead, I think it’s important to establish that Google’s objective of late has been to minimize the number of auctions. What this means is that the vehicles for query capture (keywords) are doing their job pretty well! So, if we’re selling ‘+widgets’, the cream will rather quickly rise to the top as seen in the Search Query Report (or, at least, high-volume queries would become known). So, with the SQR, our broad match and modified broad match keywords would do the heavy lifting for us to find the high- volume queries with a relatively small set of keywords. At that point, it’s your job to get the most volume out of these queries via precise bidding, customization of ads, and landing page optimization.

This is, of course, arguing that the long tail is dead. Now, this doesn’t mean that people don’t still search with multi-token phrases; it’s just that getting into the long-tail auctions isn’t all that hard any longer.  Google has made it easier for advertisers to get into every auction that’s relevant to their business by introducing ‘fuzzy’ match types for exact and phrase keywords and modified broad match and greatly improving the reach of regular broad match over the years.

So, what does my CEO need to know again?

Overall, proving to a C-level that an account is best of breed is done with a robust narrative that is simple enough that a non-expert can follow the PPC logic clearly. This narrative must….

1)      Create consensus on an initial query capture strategy that is finite. This keeps ‘keyword expansion’ from becoming a never-ending series of questions that start with “Did we buy the keyword….?” All people involved should feel comfortable with the account’s keyword reach. Keyword expansion can also be done as a recurring task, but it needs to be created as a calendar item so that it does not continue indefinitely.

2)      Focus on query (exact match keyword) sculpting for known high-volume queries. Once high volume queries are identified, structure them in a way that reduces the optimization variables to only ad copy and landing page testing. The structure should support the idea that the bid isn’t necessarily a paid search skill, it’s a result of the profitability constraint, and is simply mathematics. The structure should lead to each and every metric being valid and precise.

3)      Set up processes that proactively reduce unnecessary spending. This primarily means addressing the question of negative keywords. (My preferred thoughts on this approach can be found here.)

Again, what you want to do with your narrative is simplify and limit the variables (i.e. questions that a CEO would have) to ad copy testing and conversion rate improvements. Bids are a function of goals, and goals are set by C-levels with your guidance and input, so they should not be under scrutiny. If they are, Google provides plenty of data that can do the talking.

For the most part, the narrative is rather simple and doesn’t address things like Quality Score. However, all of these questions will eventually be either bucketed into ‘query capture’ or ‘query sculpting.’ For example, if the question of Quality Score improvement arises, the answer is very tidy: “CTR is the main influencer of QS. Improving CTR is also a primary goal of query sculpting, which means we should do quite a bit of ad testing. Other factors of Quality Score include landing page relevancy, which aligns with a conversion rate best practice, something we also work on with diligence.”

This begs the question of whether creating such a simple narrative trivializes paid search and commoditizes PPC management. In general, I would argue that it does, BUT that in order to ensure job security you need to live outside the AdWords UI. This means you need knowledge of landing page optimization, multiple channels (i.e. ability to manage the “wide tail”), and tracking to tie all these channels together. Additionally, the question of ‘query capture’ is dynamic in that Google is always coming out with new enhancements. So, keeping abreast of these updates, and creating the logic of how to integrate the new enhancements into PPC narrative, is plenty to keep you occupied. Lastly, as most of us know, the act of ad copy testing is infinite, so there is always more to be done on that front!

So, the next time your CEO says something like “Are we getting the most out of paid search?”, hopefully the answer is “Absolutely, we did 10 landing page tests and 20 ad copy tests last month!”, which completely answers the question.

Mike Nelson (@mikenelsonppca), Senior SEM Manager at PPC Associates and a math teacher in a former professional life, has extensive PPC experience with ecommerce, B2B, and lead gen clients.

 
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Certified Knowledge. If you would like to write for Certified Knowledge, please let us know.
 

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Priceless Keyword Research Data You Already Have – But Never Use

8:52 am in Keyword Research, PPC Marketing Blog by brad

This is my latest Search Engine Land Article that originally appeared here.

One of the best sources for keyword research is your customer’s own words.

It is easy to lose sight of your customers when doing keyword research by relying on tools. These tools are not going to spend money with your company; tools just show you the most popular phrases regardless if your customer’s actually use these words or not.

There are a few simple ways to conduct research by just examining your customer’s information.

Gathering the Data

The first step is to gather the data in a single place so that you can analyze this information. There are generally a few places where you can find your actual customer’s words.

Email Communications

Every day you receive communications from your customers. These come in the forms of contact emails, support requests, request for services, etc. These communications contain the customer’s actual words.

Most companies use either forms or direct email on their website. These form fills or emails are sent to a CRM system or directly to someone’s inbox. Pulling data out of an email inbox is not an easy task. Instead, use a form system that saves the data to a database, and then forwards the information to the appropriate CRM or inbox. By taking this simple step, you can start to collect all of your customer’s communications in a single place.

Blog Comments

If you have a blog on your site, then you are logging comments to a database. It is a simple process to export the comments from your database. For most blogging platforms, just go to your host control panel and use the phpMyAdmin interface to export the comments.

Product Reviews

Many ecommerce sites allow their customers to post reviews about individual products. In general, I find reviews useful to examine, however, the words your customer’s use to name the product is often heavily skewed towards the name you gave the product on the product page. Each system has a different method for exporting reviews, so you will want to examine how the reviews are being saved in your system.

Social Mentions

Many social sites contain comments from your customer’s about your products. However, they do not always have an easy way to gather the data. If you are using a social monitoring tool, there may be a simple way to export the data.

If you are not using such a tool, then the low tech approach is to use Google alerts. Set up alerts for your brand names, products, etc and then save all of those emails in a single place. You can even have those emails auto-forwarded to a database system so they are easily aggregated into a single place.

Of course, you can always just go to Twitter or another social search tool and conduct a search for your brand name and then copy and paste the results into a file.

Forums

If you have forums on your site, this is another great place to mine for keywords. Forums are generally more free flowing words than product reviews, and are often longer than blog comments, which make them a great place to mine your site for keywords.

If you are using a free forum system, then you should be able to export the forums from your hosting control panel. Otherwise, examine how the forums are stored to export the data.

Analyzing the Data

Now that you have a structured lists of your customer’s own words, it is time to analyze the data. There are a two easy ways you can use to extract keywords from this data.

Keyword Density Analyzer

The simplest way to analyze the data is to use a keyword density analyzer. Plug your customer’s words into a tool and it will show you the most common words and phrases that your customers are using. Mine this list for new keywords.

Since this data may contain sensitive information that you do not want to use on a website, you might want to download a density analyzer that is run on your local machine to maintain the privacy of your users. In that case, Textanz is a good option.

AdWords Keyword Tool

Copy your list from your keyword density analyzer and paste it into the AdWords keyword tool. You can quickly find search volume, competition, and average CPC for all of your customer’s words so you can decide if you want to use the keyword for your paid search campaign.

The AdWords keyword tool can be used to spider your site. This is an easy way to find new keywords.

If you have forums, reviews, or blog posts that you were having a hard time exporting to structured data, you can instead have the AdWords tool spider those pages for keyword suggestions.

In addition, you can spider a social site to receive keyword suggestions. Twitter does not allow their search results to be spidered, and Google’s keyword tool respects the robots.txt file, so you need to get around this limitation to spider Tweets. An easy way is to first search on Tweetscan for your keywords, and then have Google spider the Tweetscan search results page.

Another way to find keywords among your customer’s data is to temporarily publish the data to the web and then use the AdWords keyword tool to spider that data for new keyword suggestions. Be careful what you temporarily publish. It is recommended you remove any personal customer data before uploading it to the web where a spider can find it.

Conclusion

When you use your customer’s actual words as keywords, you no longer have to guess at what words someone might use to find your products or describe your services. Your customers give you data every single day.

The first step to analyzing your customer’s words is to save it in a structured manner.

The second step is to analyze the data.

The third step is to add it to your paid search account and measure the results.

The steps are simple.

However, if your customer’s communications are not captured and stored in a manner that makes it easy to examine for keywords, then each day you are losing a valuable opportunity to find new keywords.

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Out Of Keyword Ideas? These 7 Tools Will Help

7:43 am in Keyword Research, PPC Marketing Blog by brad

My latest search engine land column is out titled Out Of Keyword Ideas? These 7 Tools Will Help.

It takes a look at some tools which can help jumpstart your thought processes about keyword research.

The tools covered are:

  • Microsoft adCenter labs search funnels
  • Xenu Link Sleuth
  • Google & Microsoft Search Query Reports
  • Search Based Keyword Tool
  • The thesaurus
  • Web Seer
  • Wordtracker Labs: Keyword Questions

My two favorite ways to jumpstart keyword research before going down to these tools are:

When those two methods fail me, then the above tools take over to help get me started on new ideas.

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Strike Keyword Gold By Writing A Simple Story

5:50 am in Keyword Research, PPC Marketing Blog by brad

My latest Search Engine Land article is now published title:  Strike Keyword Gold By Writing A Simple Story.

Most keyword research is done upon existing words by using keyword tools. However, there are other ways to discover completely new keywords that involves creating use case scenarios for your products and services.

By either writing these cases or using your product teams use cases, you can find entirely new themes of keywords.

This technique will also let you discover the various types of keywords that exist:

  • Explicit keywords: Directly describe a product
  • Problems keywords: Describes the conditions a product solves
  • Symptoms keywords: Describes a problem
  • Product names and part numbers: An actual product name and/or part numbers

I hope you enjoy Strike Keyword Gold By Writing A Simple Story.

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Keyword Research & Refinement in 3 Easy Steps

11:15 am in Keyword Research, PPC Marketing Blog by brad

I recently wrote an article for RSS Ray promoting the podcast I’ll be on later today called: Keyword Research & Refinement in 3 Easy Steps.

It’s looks a simplistic process for:

  • Finding keywords
  • Grouping keywords
  • Refining keywords

While more advanced readers will want to user more tools and processes than outlined in this article; it’s an easy way to get started with your keyword research and refinement.

Full article on RSS Ray Blog: Keyword Research & Refinement in 3 Easy Steps.

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Everything you need to know about Google's SK Tool via Video Tutorials

7:08 am in Google AdWords, Keyword Research, PPC Marketing Blog by brad

Google launched the SK Tool (search based keyword tool) in November 2008. This tool uses Google’s crawler information and combines it with AdWords data to suggest keywords for your website. You can examine the results about any domain via the SK Tool. If you access the SK Tool while logged into a Google account that is associated with an AdWords account that buys traffic to a domain, then you can see some associated data points with the suggested keywords.

Google is excellent at making helpful videos about their products. What they aren’t great at is putting the videos in useful formats and marketing their own videos.  Some of these videos have under 300 total views, and most are under 1000. Considering how beneficial these videos are (and how many people conduct keyword research); those numbers should have a couple more 0s after it.

I’ve taken the videos that Google has produced and created some custom playlists so that you can view Google’s information is an easy-to-follow manner.

SK Tool Introduction & First Steps

This first playlists consists of 9 videos:

  • Video 1: Product intro (3:49)
  • Video 2: Getting started (4:06)
  • Video 3: Navigating the interface (6:23)
  • Video 4: Refining results (6:27)
  • Video 5 & 6: Exporting the information (7:49)
  • Video 7 – 9: Tracking the results (3:52)

It will take just over 30 minutes to watch all of the videos. However, as these videos do play in the correct order, you can leave and come back and jump to the next video you wish to view.

 

SK Tool Opportunities

The next playlist is a set of six short videos totaling around 15 minutes of ways to use the SK Tool to identify missed opportunities.

SK Tool – Other Videos

The last two videos are:

  • Using the tool to promote new part of your website (2:22)
  • Identifying how well your active keywords are doing (2:39)

More Google Videos

Google has quite a few channels and videos that they maintain. If you would like to see all of the official Google channels, you can view our subscription list or subscribe to our YouTube channel.

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Have You Tried WordStream’s Free Keyword Tool Yet?

6:43 am in Keyword Research, PPC Info, PPC Marketing Blog by brad

Every time I talk to someone at WordStream, or read their blog, the more impressed I am with the people. There are some smart, and very curious people who are trying to solve some interesting issues around keywords. If you’re looking to streamline keyword expansion and gain some insight into your keywords (both SEO and PPC), it’s worth testing out their product.

They recently launched a free keyword tool. Here’s a demonstration video:

You can also follow WordStream on Twitter. Their main accounts are: http://twitter.com/quality_score and http://twitter.com/wordstream; however, there are quite a few other Twitters at the company.

The best part of this post? It’s not a paid review. I never take money for posts nor endorse anything that I don’t believe in. It’s a product that deserves some attention; and the entry point of free is pretty easy to test.

If you’d like to see more good videos, subscribe to our YouTube channel

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