A few weeks ago I had the privilege of presenting on a panel of SEM experts at the Search Marketing Expo in San Jose. The topic at hand: “Beyond The Google AdWords Tool: Advanced Keyword Research Tactics”. After further reviewing the value that many Adobe customers are getting directly from SearchCenter and SiteCatalyst in doing their keyword research, I decided that I wanted to share with the broader Adobe community a few of the thoughts I presented as part of that SMX panel…
Where to Find Relevant Keyword Research Data
There are numerous ways to expand and/or refine your PPC keyword portfolio, but which are the most effective and can be used on an ongoing basis to provide consistent, measurable uplift to your paid search marketing performance? And which are the most RELEVANT to your business in specific?
Far too often, search marketers rely on generic keyword suggestions tools, such as the one provided by Google AdWords. Yet, as has been made painfully obvious to seasoned search marketers through years of use and experience, these tools are woefully lacking and do as much (if not more) to help drive the search engines’ financial interests as to help advertisers build out meaningful, relevant keyword lists that truly drive business KPIs.
The sad irony of it all is that most search marketers have a veritable goldmine of keyword research data right under their noses and don’t even realize it. The most valuable and relevant sources of keyword expansion/refinement ideas and analysis come from data natively collected by the Adobe Digital Marketing Suite (DMS). The four keyword sources I’d specifically like to touch on here are:
- Paid Search Query Data – the raw query data of the search terms you are already paying for today.
- Organic Search Terms – keyword candidates from the other side of the search engine results page (SERP).
- Internal (On-site) Search Queries – search terms your users are searching for on your site.
- Social Analytics Data – terms and phrases the market is using in conjunction with your brand, products, and services.
Paid Search Queries
To begin with, periodic analysis of paid search query data should be in the fundamentals toolkit of any search marketer. Search term lists and basic pre-click data (impressions, clicks, cost) are available on a small subset of search engine platforms – but to get the complete list of paid search queries coming from all search engines, as well as the actual conversion performance for each of those queries individually, our customers are turning to the DMS and specifically solutions surfaced inside of SearchCenter.
The great part about paid search query mining is that these terms are driving traffic (and conversion) you’re already paying for. You might as well look into making them exact match keywords and increase your chances of paying less (per click) for that same traffic. Adding strong performing search queries directly to your PPC campaigns also allows you to break them out into their own adgroups, allowing for much more refined and targeted messaging through the ad text you pair with those keywords (which should increase your CTR, thus increasing your Quality Score, and ultimately further lowering the CPC you pay for that traffic).
Organic Search Queries
A second source of highly valuable keyword research data native to the DMS comes via the other side of each search engine results page – organic search queries, along with the traffic and conversions they drive. Once again, this data is based on traffic you are already receiving to your website today and actual conversions garnered through your SEO efforts. Dive into it and discover those high performing gems that you have yet to add to your paid search campaigns. This will help you further dominate both sides of each SERP, pushing your competition down the page and capturing incremental site traffic.
Of course there are those who will question, “Why should I bid on a term that is already capturing ‘free’ traffic for me today?” This is a subject that deserves more detailed analysis than I have room for here, but those familiar with research in the SEM industry know of many studies proving out the marginal uplift of showing up in a top position for both organic and sponsored search. (For a more in-depth coverage of this issue, please refer to some of my favorite columnists over at Search Engine Land here and here.)
Internal Search Queries
Perhaps THE most relevant source of keyword research available to search marketers today, internal (on-site) search terms are what your users are searching for on your website. No stray clicks or poorly matching algorithms here. This channel is essential for understanding what visitors expect from your website – the goods, services, and information they truly want to find. In fact, these visitors are so certain that what they’re typing in should be on your site that they’ve overcome the tendency to simply “bounce” back to Bing and have instead directly interacted with your site’s own internal search engine. To not learn directly from this goldmine of user intent would be a travesty indeed.
Of course with all of the sources of keyword research data I’ve outlined so far it’s not just about keyword expansion but also about refining your lists where appropriate. The same is true of internal search. There certainly are those queries that represent goods, services, and/or information that your business simply does not deal in. Those searches often result in a “No Results Found” page. These internal search terms are great opportunities to build out your negative keyword lists so that your paid search initiatives don’t continue to drive misguided traffic that will eventually be disappointed by a poor experience. This save you money and reduces less-than-positive encounters with your brand.
Certainly the fastest growing source of keyword ideas our customers are leveraging today is coming from social media, specifically the terms and data tracked through Adobe SocialAnalytics. By monitoring the “EverythingSphere” (Twitter, Facebook, Google+, blogs, etc.), our platform can help marketers understand the terms and phrases the market (your customers) are using in conjunction with their brands, products, and services – in their own words! Deduplicating these terms with existing PPC keyword lists is an excellent way for search marketers to expand their keyword lists beyond current (often unrealized) boundaries of “proper” associated terminology to the more colloquial phraseology used by the masses.
Of course here too marketers have the opportunity to allow DMS data to help refine their search strategies by identifying those negative sentiment terms that may crop up in association with their brand. Add these to negative keyword lists to prevent wasting ad impressions on brand detractors. After all, not many want to have their paid ads show up when someone searches “[My Brand] SUCKS!”
Don’t Just Run Reports – Take Action
When analyzed in conjunction with site conversion data, search marketers can use these data-rich and company-relevant channels of keyword information to:
- Uncover specific search terms that they are not already purchasing (but are literally proven to lead to conversion) to extend the reach of their paid search marketing efforts, and
- Find and negative match previously unaccounted for search terms that they do not want their ads to be associated with or that have explicit historical data indicating poor performance, and thus reduce wasted ad spend.
The Google AdWords Keyword Tool has its place in search marketing, but it should never be the only – nor even the initial – source search marketers turn to in order to broaden, deepen, and refine their SEM programs.