I was in the process of performing an overall account-level audit on a client AdWords account; keyword research – or keyword auditing – was an integral part of this process. I am aware that there are a number of posts covering this very topic in a number of different perspectives. But I thought I’d share with you my method when performing keyword research on a fairly mature account. Also, please note that my client operates within a niche B2B market and to a certain extent, within an oligopoly. If the business operates within a fairly specialised sector like my client, then it would be a good idea to get your client involved in the keyword research process as well. This is so that you could tap into their expertise about what they sell, and what keywords matter to them. This is a two way process, so at times, the client may propose keywords that may require your critical analysis and recommendations. For example, what does “asset management” mean? Are you referring to the process of protecting your assets? Or are you referring to “asset management” within the financial industry? If your client’s core competence is in asset protection and security, is it still worth competing for this keyword even though competition will be extremely fierce? Discuss this with your client and decide on next course of action.
The first thing I did was to take printouts of all the keywords separated by ad groups. I also took printouts of the corresponding adverts. This helps to give a clear visual representation of the keywords that we are bidding for and the corresponding adverts we’ve created. Make sure you also have key metrics alongside keywords such as CTRs, conversions, conversion rates, and CPAs (among other metrics that are important to you). Make sure you have at least a year’s worth of data in order to make more of an accurate assessment. This will help you see straight away which keywords and ads are better targeted and matched. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have these same metrics on softcopy; I’d strongly suggest that you also have the softcopy along with the printouts so that you could sift through data that’s important to you. For example, you could see on spreadsheets what keyword has the highest number of clicks, but with the lowest number of conversions, you might want to rethink whether you’d want to still bid for that particular keyword.
Next think about your keywords based on intent and ask yourself if the keywords fall under the following categories. Based on these categories, think about your ad copy and think about which landing pages you’d want to divert traffic to:
Buyer or information seeker?
“Holiday in Asia” sounds like a wish, whereas “hotels in Arugam Bay” looks like a serious quest.
Also, it’s worth pointing out that singular and plural keywords often point to big differences in desired outcome. Someone looking to buy a pet golden retriever, for example, would probably type “golden retriever” rather than “golden retrievers”.
Awareness of the user
Are these users familiar with the industry terms or are they new to the industry? For example, I was looking for bins for the SEOptimise office last week, and was a bit overwhelmed by the host of different sizes and models – at one point I had to describe what I am looking for with hand gestures and facial contortions because I’m not familiar with bin brands, models or even sizes, apart from “big bin for an office?”
For example, someone looking for vacuum cleaner accessories might type in “dust bags”, but someone typing in “s4212 bags” is more market aware. The savvier the user, the more knowledgeable you must appear about the market and product choices.
Problem or solution conscious?
“Get more business” is a problem, whereas “social media monitoring tools” might be a solution to that problem. How do you want your ads to appear when people search via these keywords?
Price or feature shopping?
If someone searches for “Canon pixma MP280 inkjet printer”, you could bet that they are looking for a price, shipping information, and store they can trust. Compare that with a search for “all in one inkjet printer” – which indicates more of an interest in general printer types and price ranges than in specific brands and features.
Does the user need the product now or is it a future need? Based on this understanding, you could send your prospects to a “buy now” page or a “more information” or “sign up for a 30 day trial” page.
Once you have segregated user intent, you could then begin performing a keyword cleanup.
Use your web server and/or AdWords search query reports to find out what exact keywords users typed in to reach your website. You can then decide if you want to include, set as negative keywords, or retire these keywords based on CTRs, conversions, conversion rates and CPAs (in case you haven’t noticed, for me personally, these metrics are the most important when gauging performance). By monitoring the actual phrases that trigger visits to your site, you can eliminate many irrelevant searches by choosing only the keywords that qualified prospects are typing.
Also, of late, I have been using SEMRush which is proving to be an extremely powerful paid tool for gauging the competitiveness of the Search Engine Marketing neighbourhood. Unfortunately, apart from SpyFu and Ahrefs, I am not aware of any other free or at least partially free tools that would provide you with the same insightful stats. If you do know of any, please feel free to pop down to the comments section and share with us any free tools you might be using.
But with SEMRush, you’re able to find figures for some of your most lucrative and important keywords (see below stats for keywords “golden retriever” and “asset management”):
As you could see above, the neighbourhood’s not too competitive and you’d have a decent chance of dominating the ad space. However, compare that with the stats below for “asset management”.
What’s even more interesting is that you can obtain a “related keyword report”, “organic results” and “ads” report. These allow you to gauge who you’re competing with and how competitive the neighbourhood really is, and thereby make better and more informed decisions about either including the keyword to your keyword list, negative keyword list or retiring it.
Related keyword report – this provides you with other keywords that people are looking for which are related to the original keyword. With a less competitive neighbourhood such as “golden retriever”, you’d see similar obvious “related keywords”, but just glance through the “related keyword” list for the keyword “asset management”:
As you could see above, there are some big players that dominate the “related keyword” report, and none of these keywords actually include the terms “asset management”.
Organic search results and paid search results – I find this to be the most useful of all its features, helping me gauge who exactly my competitors are. Once again, having a quick glance at the number of advertisers and the brands that are competing, you can get a reasonable feel for the level of competition and thereby, adjust your strategy (increase bids, lower bids, retire keywords or include keywords). Also with ambiguous keywords such as “asset management”, by glancing at the organic listings you could gauge what Google thinks people are searching for, and by analysing what competitors are advertising, you could make a judgement on whether you’d actually want to bid for those keywords:
Organic listings for “golden retriever”
Ads for the keyword “golden retriever”
Organic listings for the keyword “asset management”
Ads for the keyword “asset management”
When it comes to paid search, keywords are the commodity that you’re purchasing. Making sure your keywords are relevant and fresh is a continuous process. However, in the whole frenzy of managing a large and complex account, it does help to allocate at least a day every six months, in order to have a look at the account with a completely fresh perspective. Putting yourself in the shoes of the user is one of the toughest challenges for search marketers. Hopefully the above tips will help you better evaluate your existing keywords. Obviously this topic can be covered in many different ways, so dear reader, as always, I’m looking forward to hearing your comments, opinions, questions and views in the section below.