In this post I’ll be discussing the following topics:
- The evolution of keyword advertising,
- The relationship between search queries, keywords, ad copy and landing pages
- Optomizing keywords for maximum ROI
- Myths about keyword tools
The evolution of keyword advertising
Gone are the days when you could load hundreds, even thousands of keywords into a campaign and allow them to sit idle, waiting for that rare instance when that unique group of words appeared as a user’s search query. Those were the days before Google went public and became accountable to Wall Street. You see, those keywords consumed valuable hard-drive and CPU resources.
But perhaps more important is the realization that back then, it was all about aquiring new advertisers and making Google AdWords as easy to use as possible. Today at Google, it’s about cutting costs and increasing profits. How can Google force more advertisers to compete for those precious “top spots”, let alone the first page of search results!
The harsh reality of search engine advertising is that you must know what your prospects are searching for, the search vocabulary of your market and how it relates to what you offer. For example, if you describe your product as “tissues” and prospects are searching for “Kleenex”, you won’t be successful with search engine advertising! Also, you may offer the greatest product or service every conceived, but if no one is searching for it, you won’t be successful.
As advertisers, we can’t control what prospects search for. We can only try to influence what they see when they perform a search. It does little good to optimize your website or build an AdWords campaign for terms prospects don’t use or don’t use often enough. Therefore, our first task is to identify what users search for, how often and then match that to what you want to promote. Creating a successful campaign requires research, testing and adjusting or as I refer to as, fine-tuning. How all that actually gets done is not trivial.
The relationship between search queries, keywords, ad copy and landing pages
In a perfect world, the words you use to describe your product or service are exactly what prospects would be searching for. Your landing pages and website would be optimized for those terms and you would structure the visitor experience to accommodate prospects who were delivered to your website from your AdWords ad, based on the search query they used. As you know, that isn’t always the case, but the reality is, that is what Google demands if you are playing by their rules. Therefore, don’t be surprised if I suggest changes to your website to comply with this reality.
If you had the benefit of hindsight, you would first perform the necessary research to know how prospects searched for your product or service, the search vocabulary of your market. Then you would describe your product or service using those words and then you would build your ad groups, ad copy, landing pages and website all around those words.
Unfortunately, what usually happens is just the opposite. You build your website and then you decide to use search engine marketing (AdWords) to advertise your product or service. It’s then you discover that one or more of the following occurs:
- The most popular search queries, keywords and ad groups don’t align very well with your landing pages or website design.
- Google’s quality score algorithm gives you a low grade for “landing page or ad copy relevance” and your CPC is higher than you like.
- Your Impression Share is lower than you like because your CTR and quality score are low.
- Your conversion rate is not as good as it could be because you don’t talk about what the prospect was searching for.
At this point you have two options, either live with this sub-optimal situation with regard to CPC and conversion rates or do something to improve your landing pages. See the page on my website titled AdWords optimized website design.
Now that you have an appreciation for the importance of knowing how prospects search for your product or service, it’s time to take that knowledge and mold it into campaigns, ad groups, keywords with appropriate matching-options and relevant ad copy that you carefully split-test to optimize performance.
When I review a prospect’s account for the first time, one characteristic I notice pretty much every time, is that the advertiser does not understand keyword matching options. This is so important and often is the source of considerable waste and missed opportunity. Proper use of keyword matching options separates the novice from the professional.
Keyword matching-options have a lot to do with how you spend your daily budget or how aggressive you want your campaign to be. Broader keywords and matching-options will bring in more visitors, but may not have the best ROI. There will always be more traffic out there than you can afford to buy (clicks), but having the right account design will allow you to control where that fine line is between the who sees your ad and who doesn’t. See my post titled Who should see your ad.
But wait, we’re not finished. It’s time to return to Google’s need to conserve resources and maximize their profits. That’s because even if you have the most comprehensive list of highly relevant keywords, with carefully configured matching options, tied to the best ad copy, you are still at the mercy of the dreaded Low Search Volume keyword status. That’s right, if by the grace of Google’s infinite wisdom, your keyword doesn’t get enough searches, it will not trigger your ad to be displayed, even if a user types that phrase exactly as you defined it.
In that case, the only way to increase (not guarantee) the chance your ad will display for a specific, low-volume keyword, is to use a broader keyword that encompasses the keyword you want. The downside is that you will also be receiving additional impressions and clicks from other search queries you may not want. This is where negative keywords can really help. For some additional insights on the topic of keyword matching options, especially broad-matched keywords, see my article titled Remnant keyword impressions.
The last point I’d like to make is that every search query is a market unto itself. Actually, Google calls every search query an ad auction. If you’d like to have a better understand of how the auction works, watch this great 9-minute video by Hal Varian, Google’s Chief Economist titled Introduction to the Google Ad Auction. It’s very well done.
Optomizing keywords for maximum ROI
Having a truly optimized AdWords campaign comes down to ROI. There will always be more traffic available than you can afford to buy so the question becomes, where is that fine line between traffic that consistently produces a good visitor and traffic that doesn’t? This is a judgment call. Making the right call requires knowledge of the market, your product or service, how Google’s algorithm works and some knowledge of statistics.
In the beginning, I will usually give the client the opportunity to make some decisions and they usually error on the side of receiving more traffic. However, after we have gathered enough statistically significant data, I will make decisions regarding keywords, matching options and negative keywords based on what I believe will deliver the best ROI for the client. Of course, you have the final say.
Myths regarding keyword tools
- Don’t be fooled into thinking that if you only knew what keywords and ad copy your competitors used, you hold the key to success. There are many important unknown elements such as; keyword matching options, negative keywords, landing pages, offers, visitor experience and much more. There is no substitute for actual conversion data in your account based on prospects that have seen your ad, visited your landing page and taken your offer and converted!
- While keyword tools can be helpful, they only provide estimates for broad phrases of what everyone searches for. The data in your server logs or your search query reports only tell you what people who clicked on your ad searched for. Conversion tracking data tells you which of those visitors actually took action.
- Having the best set of keywords will only allow a prospect see your ad. Having the best ad copy only allows the prospect to see your landing page. Once a prospect reaches your web site, the website must do the selling! It must convince the visitor to take the action you want, whether that means filling out a form, sending a message, calling you on the phone or perhaps making a purchase. By limiting your selling to the written word, you lose 93% of your communications muscle. You give up body language, touch and gesture, facial expressions, and tone of voice. And that leaves you with only the meaning of the words themselves, which is 7% of the impact of a full human communication.
In summary, having a successful campaign requires meticulous research, a deep understanding of Google’s algorithm, creative ad copy, a relevant, compelling landing page and a commitment to the fine-tuning process. Nobody ever gets it exactly right when a campaign is first launched and markets are always changing. Google’s policies and algorithm change, competitors come and go, and most advertisers regularly manipulate their bids.