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:

  1. Paid Search Query Data – the raw query data of the search terms you are already pay­ing for today.
  2. Organic Search Terms – key­word can­di­dates from the other side of the search engine results page (SERP).
  3. Inter­nal (On-site) Search Queries – search terms your users are search­ing for on your site.
  4. 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.

Social­An­a­lyt­ics Data

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.


You are 100% right about utilizing targeted Ad copy and keyword structure - we have a client in the automotive tires/rims business and it is mostly about long tail for them with specific radius and wheel width sizes doing really well in aggregate. If you'd like me to look at your account and brainstorm some suggestions email me at simon.b@resultsdriven.org or we can setup a quick call if you prefer phone 256-398-3835