Searching Beyond the Paid

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Can You Have Too Many PPC Keywords?

As many of you know, I started doing PPC in 2002, right at the beginning of Google Adwords. A couple years into the game, around 2004, the concept of the long tail was all the rage. Articles on Search Engine Land and Search Engine Watch extol the virtues of the long tail.

I agree that PPC accounts should not be filled with 1 and 2 keyword phrases (commonly considered "short tail" terms. However, is it really all that important to find every possible variation of a search phrase and fill your PPC account with them?

In my experience, the answer is no. There really is such a thing as too many keywords.

Case in point: 2 years ago, we inherited a large PPC account from another agency. The account had over 20,000 keywords in it - all set to broad match. Granted, the client has a broad base and a lot of campaigns and ad groups. That said, the number of keywords was virtually un-manageable, and performance was lackluster (thus leading to the agency switch). To get a grip on things, I started digging into account stats.

What I found was this: over 90% of the keywords had generated 0 impressions in the previous 90 days. Furthermore, about 98% of the client's conversions were coming from about 2% of the keywords. Yes folks, the vast majority of conversions were coming from just 400 keyphrases.

The lesson here is, you can indeed have too many keywords - especially if you're using broad or phrase match. What Google (and Yahoo and Bing) ends up doing is finding the keyphrase that is both relevant AND makes the PPC engine the most money per click. Usually this is a head or torso term. The keyword matching technology sends most or all of the impressions to this handful of phrases - and 0 to all of your lovely long-tail terms.

Does this mean that keyword research is a waste of time? Absolutely not. There are always new gems out there that you probably didn't think of, and that your initial research didn't reveal - you should always add these phrases to your account and see what happens. This is especially important if you're using primarily exact match, since your ads won't show on related searches.

What is a waste of time, though, is adding tens of thousands of broad-match, long-tail terms to your account. It's just not worth it.

Instead, I recommend finding the most relevant keywords, and using broad match (or phrase match, depending on the situation) at the outset - and then watch performance like a hawk. Review your search query report data - which most of you know you can access right in the Adwords interface. Be ruthless in adding negative keywords, and adjusting match types if you're getting too many irrelevant queries. Don't hesitate to kill keywords that just don't perform. Lather, rinse, repeat.

With this process, you'll ultimately find the handful of phrases that generate the bulk of your conversions, and save yourself a TON of account management time in the process.


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Online Marketing Integration FTW

I've written extensively about integrating PPC with other channels, and using it to kick up your online marketing results FTW. I'm probably most proud of the success we've had at Fluency Media with integrated marketing for Travel Michigan.

Travel Michigan is the official marketing arm for tourism for the State of Michigan. Their website,, has been the #1 state tourism website for 3 years running. Fully 75% of their traffic comes from search.

Most of the search traffic is organic - and we handle SEO for this client. However, we've been able to successfully use PPC to inform our SEO efforts, focusing on the keywords that are most likely not only to drive traffic, but to drive conversions.

Michigan also holds the #1 spot for social media, according to a study by Gammet Interactive. Guess what? We also handle all the social media for Travel Michigan. Again, we make sure all the bases are covered - so if someone sees an event or a destination on Facebook, and then later turns to search to find it again, it's there.

Integration sounds complicated, but it doesn't have to be. What's key, though, is communication between marketing teams. We have monthly "All-Agency" meetings with Travel Michigan marketing staff, Fluency, Travel Michigan's PR team, and McCann Erickson, Travel Michigan's traditional media agency (who, by the way, created the award-winning Pure Michigan TV ads). At the meetings, we discuss what's going on - events, marketing efforts, new ad campaigns, whatever. No item is unimportant - what one group may think is a small thing might turn out to be big if promoted in another channel or channels.

We're really proud of the success we've had with this client. What integration efforts are you proud of?

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Thursday, May 13, 2010

New Stuff From Google Adwords

The innovative team at Google Adwords has been busy of late. This week's announcement of Modified Broad Match has SEMs pretty excited. For a detailed-as-always rundown, check out Andrew Goodman's post on Traffick.

Google recently rolled out another feature in the Content Network that's had surprisingly little fanfare: Interest-Based Advertising. We've been testing this successfully for a few weeks now, and so far, we're seeing great impression volume and conversion rates. I wrote about this in today's Search Engine Watch Experts column.

What do you think of these?

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