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Posted on May 18, 2008

Framework: Keyword Selection

Framework: Keyword Selection
Posted on May 18, 2008

Understanding Keywords

Our PPC Managers use this 2×2 Matrix for categorizing keywords. The matrix and keyword categories provide a framework for selecting the right keywords for each type of Pay Per Click campaign according to each campaign’s specific economic condition.

Pay Per Click Keyword Matrix

Choosing General, Tangential Keywords is just one of the ways to lose your shirt in pay per click advertising. Some advertisers can afford Hi-Traffic Keywords, and for some PPC campaigns, we purposefully pursue a Tangential advertising approach, which involves selecting Related Keywords. For most campaigns, sticking with just the Core Keywords, comprised of Specific, Essential Keywords is the way to go.

In applying the Pay Per Click Keyword Matrix, it’s important to remember that relevancy and specificity are relative terms. We evaluate keywords along two spectrums, not as a pair of binary categories as might be implied in the Matrix.

Essential Versus Tangential Keywords

Essential Keywords are those which describe your Web Offer. They are by definition highly relevant, so they typically outperform Tangential Keywords as measured by quality score, CTR and conversion rate.

Tangential Keywords are those which do not describe your Web Offer, but are otherwise related in some way to: a) your Web Offer; or b) your target visitors. In some circumstances, Tangential Keywords can generate significantly higher traffic than Essential Keywords. Sometimes circumstances warrant pursuing a tangential advertising approach, but more often, we avoid using tangential keywords.

Since keyword phrases can be either Tangential or Essential by degrees, it’s helpful to think of a spectrum with Tangential and Essential representing relative qualities.

Specific / General

Unless you’re General Motors, or feeling like Nelson Rockefeller, then you probably shouldn’t be bidding on “General Keywords.”

The most common misstep made by PPC novices is to bid on keyword phrases which are just too general. If you’re just getting started, take a critical look at your keyword lists to identify keywords which do not specifically describe your web offers. In terms of fear and greed, don’t think about all the juicy traffic General Keywords may attract, but rather about all the punishingly expensive irrelevant searches which they typically generate.

Specific Keywords are generally longer than General Keywords. While this may seem obvious, the point is that you can often identify keywords which are too general by sorting them from shortest to longest. Learn more about Optimal Keyword Length and how to manage PPC, by reading the Denver PPC Blog.

Core Keywords -> Specific Essential Keywords

We call Specific, Essential Keywords “Core Keywords.” Unless you have a compelling reason to pursue an alternative approach, you should generally avoid bidding on any keywords other than Core Keywords.

Do you understand the traffic potential of your Core Keywords? If you need help with this give us a call. The fact is, most advertisers start out with a shotgun approach to setting up a new PPC account, without ever understanding the relationship between potential traffic and their own ad budget. As a result, they end up bidding on Core Keywords as well as other keywords and the other keywords steal ad budget away from the Core Keywords. This approach can significantly denigrate an advertiser’s Return on Ad Spending (ROAS).

Related Keywords -> Specific Tangential Keywords

Deploying a Tangential Keyword approach involves displaying ads suggesting a service or product which is indirectly related to the search query. We purposefully pursue a tangential keyword approach when we advertise a new or rather obscure product or service. In such cases, our Essential Keywords generate too few searches to make PPC advertising worthwhile, so we suggest our products or services to users searching for related products or services.

Some tangential campaigns perform quite well, so we don’t dismiss this approach out of hand. However, since tangential keywords often earn poor quality scores, we generally explore this approach when Essential Keywords

Hi Traffic Keywords -> General Essential Keywords

Got a lot of dough? Plan to dominate big ad spaces? Then you may be able to compete for Hi Traffic General keywords. Just because a keyword phrase is hi traffic doesn’t necessarily mean that it is not specific. We classify keywords as being too broad when they result in your ads being served for a mix of related and unrelated search queries. Sometimes General Essential Keywords can be profitable, particularly when used with a thoughtfully researched, thorough list of negative keywords.

If you’ve used Google’s free Jumpstart setup, then it’s like that you’re familiar with Hi Traffic Keywords. Google has to sell these to somebody, and so it might as well be to free setup clients. Is it obvious that we are cynical about Hi Traffic kewords?

While Google Jumpstarters love Broad Match General Keywords, we typically lean towards tight match long-tail keywords. However, if we were the ones having to maintain the hard-drives and processors to serve up our 5,000 long-tail keywords for an account, then we might think more like Google, and bid on just 50 general terms. Still, maybe not; too much is lost in the statistics generated by just 50 keywords. Bidding on more specific keywords offers a more precise picture of what is converting, and what may be wasteful.

There are two quick ways to identify possible “Hi Traffic Keywords:”

  1. sort your keywords by impressions hi to lo. Chances are, those at the top are relatively more general. Should you pause them? Not necessarily . . . how are they performing? What are their quality scores? CTR’s? Online Conversion rates? If they are performing, then keep them. If not, then you now know the reason they shouldn’t have been selected.
  2. sort your kewords by length, hi to low (Excel hint: =len(c5)). Generally, I’m suspicious of short keywords, especially acronyms. Chances are your shortest keywords are too General. I’m not saying short keywords deserve to be binned, just that they deserve a little extra scrutiny.

Lose Your Shirt Keywords

Last week I found an advertiser bidding on the keyword “sandwich.” The advertiser didn’t sell sandwiches, but felt that someone searching for a sandwich might be a likely client. Another advertiser suggested that we bid on “outlook.” I couldn’t make the connection, but it was clear to him. We found another prospective client bidding on “systems.” These are not particularly unusual in terms of absurdity. I mean, they are certainly absurd keywords for almost any advertiser, just not unusually so.

So many companies claimed to have tried PPC and found it to be wasteful, and that is no surprise when we look at the incredibly stupid choices being made by the average Joe, in bidding for Lose Your Shirt Keywords.

Here are 10 Clues that you may be bidding on Lose Your Shirt Keywords:

10) Your ad budget is spent by 8:15 everyday.
9) You spend hundreds on ads, but your phone never rings.
8 ) You’re bidding on a term which is not included in your latest advertising flier.
7) 90% of your advertising budget is being spent on 10 or fewer keywords.
6) You can’t include the keyword phrase in your ad, and reasonably believe a prospect will click on the ad to find you.
5) You can’t imagine someone phoning you, and using the keyword to inquire about your web offer.
4) When you type the keyword into Google, you can’t find your Geo Competitors in the search results.
3) Your minimum bid for the keyword is increasing daily.
2) You’re spending your ad budget, but your phone isn’t ringing.
1) You’ve tried PPC advertising, and concluded that it doesn’t work for you.

Follow Your Bread Crumbs

Have you lost your way in selecting keywords? Google helps you find your way (of course, it will cost you). If your keywords are tangential or general, then you’ll likely earn a low CTR and quality score for those. Over time, and often after spending $10 to $100 in ad budget for each mistake, Google will mark your general and tangential keywords as inactive, and those keywords will quit serving your ads. If you’re feeling stubborn, you can keep displaying your ads for those terms, by increasing your bids. Just remember when you’re wondering into tangential ad spaces, that you are paying more per click than those who actually belong in the ad space. If this applies to you, then why don’t you improve your quality scores before you lose your shirt?

PPC Keywords Versus SEO Keywords

Selecting keywords for pay per click generally involves building a comprehensive list of Essential & Specific Keywords. If you’re applying a long-tail approach, this can often result in thousands of keywords. The process of selecting keywords for SEO is somewhat different, because SEO techniques require focusing on much shorter keyword lists.

Aside from categorizing keywords according to our matrix parameters, we also break them into keyword elements . . . for more about this, read Keyword Elements.