Building Long-Tail PPC Ad Groups

You’ve probably heard a lot of buzz about traffic on the “long tail.” For the uninitiated, this is merely a description of the traffic that occurs on a wide variety of uncommonly used keywords. Think of obscure queries like “find a ppc freelancer in austin texas.” These kinds of queries are likely to only be used by someone once or twice a year (and perhaps never again). But taken in the aggregate, queries like this compose the bulk of web search traffic.

The long tail can be a valuable thing for PPC practitioners to target, but building out lists of thousands of obscure keywords isn’t exactly an easy task. For this reason, many folks just don’t bother with targeting the long tail. Fortunately, there is a simple trick that can really speed up the creation of long-tail ad groups.

That simple trick is the magic of concatenation. Concatenation takes elements from different keyword “buckets,” and combines them in different orders to create a longer search query. For example, if you concatenate the phrases “freelance,” “ppc” and “austin,” you could generate the phrases “freelance ppc austin,” “austin freelance ppc,” and “ppc freelance austin.”

You can do concatenation in Excel via the Concatenate function. Just enter the keywords you want to combine in different cells, then create a =CONCATENATE formula in a new cell to combine the keywords. With a little creativity, you can create a spreadsheet that will generate all sorts of combinations.

Alternately, you could use this handy PPC concatenation tool put together by the good folks at Found. They’ve already done all the hard formula-making for you, so all you have to do is add in the elements of the long-tail keyword phrases you want to target, select which permutations you want to make, then cut and paste the output into a new ad group in your PPC bulk editor of choice. I just used this tool last week to create a couple dozen long tail ad groups for our t-shirt site Dress United, and I was really pleased with how well it worked.

Once you have the keywords built out, don’t forget about your ads. You’ll want to have a headline or description line that specifically mentions your long-tail target in order to really get that searcher’s attention. As long as you’re using phrase or exact match, you can do dynamic keyword insertion ads. Try a headline that dynamically inserts the user’s long-tail keyword (if it will fit) and you won’t have to worry about manually choosing a relevant keyword. You can find out more about dynamic keyword insertion in AdWords here, and on Bing Ads here.

The beauty of long-tail ad group creation is that you don’t need to look up individual keyword search volume or competition before you create the ad groups. You’re going to have lots of hits and misses, so it’s best to just cover all the possible permutations of a relevant keyword phrase to make sure that you’re covering every possible search query for that subject. The great thing about long-tail keywords is that even though they individually don’t get much traffic, they are very likely to convert due to the specificity of the query. If someone types in “buy custom marching band tee shirts” and you have an ad pop up saying that sell custom marching band tee shirts, you’re much more likely to close that sale instead of someone who is relying on broader queries and more generic ad text. Sure, you’ll probably only get one click a year, but if that click costs you pennies due to the lack of competition on that specific keyword, and it leads to one conversion (100% conversion rate!), that’s going to do some really nice things to your cost per conversion.

But, long-tail only works if you do a lot of it. “A lot” as in “thousands of keywords.” Use concatenation tools to speed up the creation process, and you’ll be one step ahead of your lazy competition.

About Shawn Livengood

Shawn Livengood is a search engine marketing professional based in Austin, Texas. He has extensive experience managing pay-per-click ad campaigns for clients in various industries, from small home-based businesses to large international companies. You can connect with Shawn on Google+.
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