Are You Using the Right Keywords in Your Search Engine Marketing Program?

August 2, 2016 Peter Nason

One of the most important search engine marketing strategies is choosing the right keywords. Are you using these important SEM tools properly?

As a search engine marketing pro, you’ve hopefully done your homework on keywords. But are you doing enough on a day-to-day basis? Come to think of it, can you ever do enough when it comes to keywords, because keywords can be oh so fickle? One day they’re your best friends and the next day, they won’t even speak to you. 

That’s why all search engine marketers worth their salt are organized and diligent when it comes to minding the keyword farm. To help you with your bumper crop of keywords, here are a few best practices to keep in mind for your day-to-day marketing campaign management.
Start with good keywords

Maybe you inherited a list of keywords or your current list has grown stale. Build a list of good keywords that include branded, competitor, cross-related terms, long-tail keywords and more.
Check your search triggers

Most people spend more time on positive keywords than negative ones—to the detriment of their campaign’s or program’s profit. Negative keywords make sure you aren’t paying to show your ad to an uninterested audience. If you’re only selling women’s shoes, please add “men’s shoes” and “kids shoes” as negative keywords. You get the picture.   
Lift ideas from competitors

While I’m not advocating literally stealing from your competitors, I am recommending that you do a little detective work to make sure you’re not missing out on the next big keyword thing. (Yes, sometimes competitors get lucky and have a better idea than you.) Look at the data on how much competitors are bidding, and on which keywords. Also, check out your main competitors’ search queries. 
Know your deltas

One of the most efficient ways to keep your eye on your keywords is to check your deltas — that is, changes from the norm — on your keyword report. For keywords with a negative percentage change over time, look both upstream and downstream to find the answer. For example, look at the campaign. Are there many keywords underperforming in one particular campaign or ad group? Maybe there’s a problem with some new creative. And don’t forget to check the positive deltas while you’re at it. You can put more resources behind keywords that are improving in performance to increase revenue.

Here’s an example: imagine you’re a retailer looking to sell more gardening supplies. You’re optimizing for the following keywords: “electric lawnmower,” (which we’ll call keyword 1) “organic fertilizer” (keyword 2) and “self-watering hanging planter” (keyword 3). If all you do is check out the occasional snapshot of your data every month or quarter or so, you might not be getting all the information you need to make the best revenue decisions. Here’s an example:

This monthly snapshot makes things seem like all is well: keyword 1, your big-ticket keyword to sell pricey electric lawnmowers, appears to be outpacing the others, as it should. But what happens when we start getting more granular with our timeframes and examine our keyword performance week-by-week?

You’ll notice that keyword 1, “electric lawnmower,” is actually on a revenue downtrend and going from bad to worse in a hurry. It’s probably time to revise your keyword tactics for this important keyword, or at the very least, check out what’s going on! You’ll also notice that your bizarre, long-tail keyword “self-watering hanging planter” is on the rise in a big way. Which brings us to...
Find the needle in the haystack

Look for terms that are high-value for your business, but not so much to other companies. Yes, I know, these are few and far between, but believe me, they are worth the effort. Often these will be highly specific, long-tail keywords that signal purchase intent. (To find out more about long-tail keywords, read this blog by Brian Bird.) How will you know if you’ve found a high-value keyword? For that, you need to test…

Test, test, test

Testing is the “eat well, get plenty of exercise, go to bed on time” of PPC optimization. It’s good for you and you know it, but you don’t like to do it. Get disciplined and start testing regularly. It will blow your mind. Here’s one example: use A/B testing to help you determine which geo locations respond better to which keywords. Another example is multi-device. Some keywords do better on tablet, some do better on mobile and some do better on desktop. (You are optimizing for tablet versus mobile versus desktop for Google Enhanced Campaigns, right? Please check out this report for more details on why that’s important.) Testing can help you with such insights.
Take advantage of data and automation

Many SEM professionals aren’t evaluating keywords as frequently or thoroughly as they should. I get that. In the world of paid search optimization, reevaluating your keywords is a very involved, time-consuming process. But did you know there’s help? There are lots of free tools that give you third-party data. But the real deal is a predictive advertising management platform that does the number crunching and analysis for you. You get granular analytics and reporting that can help you eliminate wasted spend on underperforming keywords, optimize profit by not underbidding on successful keywords and identify high-value keywords by geo, device, time of day, and much more. 
A final word on keywords

You know by now that the terms “no-brainer” and “successful keyword” are mutually exclusive. Payoffs come from consistently challenging the status quo. And the big payoff is why you do what you do: to drive more revenue.

About the Author

Peter Nason

Peter Nason is a customer success manager at QuanticMind where he oversees professional services for clients’ digital advertising programs. Previously, Peter worked for Verizon as a project leader, successfully developing processes that improved workflow efficiency, elevated customer retention rates and streamlined employee training programs. Peter uses his bachelor’s degree in economics and philosophy from Columbia University to help clients fine-tune their campaigns and maximize their revenue.

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