In today’s world of PPC you need to think about more than keywords and bids. Who are you targeting? How can you increase click through rate? How are your quality scores affecting your bids?
In the previous article we discussed the importance of proper keyword research for SEO. Now we move on to PPC, Pay Per Click, Sponsored Search, Google AdWords, Sponsored Ads or simply speaking “purchased traffic”. All those refer to the same basic technique, when you create an ad for your site, and pay for people clicking on it. What are the benefits of this method? That is beyond the scope of this article, though we will cover it in future articles.
We are going to refer to all of those methods as PPC, as our article is focuses on the importance of keyword research for PPC, and not on the detailed difference between the brands and companies supplying the service. We will however mention examples from the algorithms Google AdWords utilizes, since it is the most common service and many others resemble the features we will discuss.
Keyword Research For PPC
Keywords are what PPC is all about. Your PPC campaign is build of keywords. The ad groups are built around core keywords. Your ads talk about those keywords, and the landing page should also talk about them. Actually, in AdWords campaigns, if your landing page is irrelevant to your keywords, you will get low quality score, pay more for clicks, and can even get your landing page disapproved.
The keywords you specify in your campaign are the search terms you will be competing and paying for. The relevance of your keywords to the ad of their ad group, also affect (in AdWords) your quality score, and your content match themes (The themes pages that are going to display your Content Match ads).
PPC platforms sometimes have a feature called “broad” or “advanced” match (AdWords and Yahoo! Search Marketing are only a few examples). The above mentioned feature will show your ads for keywords that are similar to your keywords. Usually this means long and short tail variations of your keywords, a.k.a adding or cutting words from you search term. Some people think this gives them an excuse to neglect the keywords they’ll get by using the broad match, and not include them in the campaign. “After all, we will get them anyway” they say. This way of thinking is wrong, and in reality, broad match is a very useful tool but requires more keyword research to be done rather than less, as one would expect.
When you appear on the broad match keywords you haven’t specified, the relevant maximum bid of your ad will be the one you’ve entered for your specified keyword. Thus, many times you will pay more then you could have paid for those keywords if you specifically specified them. On the other hand, with proper keyword research, you can use broad match to corner your competition, snatching the better converting keywords with dense ad groups that get high quality rating, and then broad match a wide circle of terms.
So keywords are important for PPC. But why should you invest time and money in keyword research? PPC platforms usually have their built in keyword tools. Actually, the AdWords keyword tool is probably the most widely used tool for keyword research, not only for PPC, but for all keyword related purposes. Turns out those tools are not sufficient, and keyword research is still required. Here are a few simple facts to prove it:
1) Go to: https://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal and type “buy car”, targeting English/US and display average bid in USD up to $100. “buying car” costs about $3 per click average, and has 550,000 global monthly search volume (as of Aug 2009). It ranks high on “sorted by relevance”. On the other hand, type “Honda”. You get 68,000,000 searches for $1.25 average. Thus, advertising for specific cars can be much more efficient over going for the generic niche. The AdWords tool didn’t include “Honda” in its top suggestions, and those who searched “buy car” will miss it.
The bottom line is – the keywords it will give you don’t reflect the efficient strategy of PPC advertising.
2) Built in tools have a high correlation with keyword bid pricing on their respective platform, because those are the keywords people usually get for their campaigns right away. As a result, they have a lot of competition. As we proved in the previous example, this competition doesn’t reflect their usefulness. They just cost more.
3) Some people manage to arbitrage PPC. We are not going to discuss the ethics or details of such practice, but simply point out, that if people manage to buy traffic cheaply and sell it to high paying keywords, while the traffic actually converts, that is, clicks the higher paying ads, then they did their keyword research better than most. Being able to buy traffic on a cheap word, and filter some of it for the costly word, while gaining profit, means they have traffic targeted at the same niches as the traffic the costly ad wants, but they get it cheaper, much cheaper. Arbitrage is a sign of market inefficiency, and it’s possible only because the words people usually use for PPC cost higher than their actual traffic value. The same traffic in conversion terms can be bought for much cheaper, using different keywords.
Next time you see a spammy ad page, know that its creator invested more in keyword research then the average advertiser, and that’s how he makes profit.
4) And finally, even very rare keywords, with only a few searches per month can be useful. 100,000 words with a single search per month each are a total of 100,000 searches per month! They usually cost next to nothing per click, and don’t have any competition.
Built in tools give you only keywords with substantial search volumes. Why? Because those words have more competition and more bidders on them. This means higher prices per click, thus more money for the company that owns the tool. Their interest is not the same as yours. They could give you all of the 100,000 relevant keywords even if they have only one search. But there isn’t even such a feature in those tools to turn on. It’s more profitable for them if you use the shorter list they give.
Built in keyword tools are not sufficient for effective PPC campaigns. Relying solely on them will make the campaign inefficient in cost/return terms. The keywords supplied by these platforms serve the interest of the platform, rather than your interest. Investment in proper keyword research for your PPC campaign will return the investment, because campaigns with better keywords research perform better, and reality shows the difference to be significant.
Free keyword tools will lead to the same results as the built in tools, because your competition already has them. The key to successfully competing in the PPC market, is having keywords your competition does not, and using them in a clever way, instead of just dumping them raw into your campaign.