Keyword Relevance Versus Search Intent

Everybody knows the importance of keyword research when launching any new PPC campaign. But there’s one huge mistake that I have seen time and time again regarding selection. Lots of folks try to determine whether or not a keyword is relevant to their products before they add it to their campaign. That’s fine, but you also need to get behind the relevance to find the search intent behind the keyword.

Here’s an example. Let’s say you’re launching a new e-commerce store that sells luxury fountain pens. You put the term “fountain pens” into the Google Keyword Tool and get a list of keywords back. You follow Google’s suggestions and dump the entire keyword list into a new AdWords campaign. You’re done, right? Hell no!

If you were to follow that exact scenario, you’d probably waste a lot of money before you figured out that some of those suggested keywords weren’t going to give you a good return on ad spend. Sure, those keywords are relevant to the subject of “fountain pens,” but they’re probably not focused enough to represent your target customer’s search intent.

Let’s back that up a bit. Once you get your keyword suggestions from whatever research tool you’re using, you should do a sanity check on each keyword to see if it’s truly relevant to what you offer. Not just generally relevant to your product, but specifically relevant to your target customer’s situation, demographics, and budget. If you run a Google Keyword Tool report for “fountain pens,” you’ll get the following suggestions (among many others):

fountain pens
fine writing instruments

These are ordered in terms of search volume, highest to lowest.

The first term, “pens” is definitely relevant to the subject of “luxury fountain pens”. But, someone using this search term could be looking for cheap ballpoint pens for office supplies, promotional pens for giveaways, or even pens for livestock. It’s generally relevant and gets a lot of traffic, but you’re going to have a hard time converting this broad traffic for your niche product.

The term “fountain pens” is better, but still a little broad. This term narrows the search intent down to only people who are looking for a specific type of pen, but they could still be looking for cheap pens for calligraphy. You could probably get away with using this word as a main traffic driver, but your cost per conversion is likely to be high due to the still-ambiguous search intent and the potentially high traffic.

Finally, “fine writing instruments” is spot on. Someone who uses this term is looking for quality. Heck, they’re looking for something so fancy that it no longer qualifies as a pen – it’s a “writing instrument.” This keyword has the lowest search volume of the three, but it’s the term that is most closely relevant to a consumer of luxury fountain pens. They want quality, and they are willing to pay for it – that’s the subtext behind this keyword.

If your’e still unsure about whether a keyword matches your customer’s search intent or not, it’s easy to get an estimate – just use Google. Type in that query in Google and see what shows up in both the paid and organic results. If your competitors are showing paid search ads for that term, they could be making money on it – that shows that you could too. The organic results are going to give you a better idea of search intent. Google takes into account user-driven factors like click-through rate in their organic search ranking, so if a lot of people click on a search result that has specific meaning when it could mean other things, chances are most people in the search landscape have that specific meaning in mind when they were searching. For example, searching for “pens” on Google delivers a mixture of search results relevant to office supply pens, promotional pens, and fine writing instruments. But, the top result (at the time of this writing) is a seller of promotional pens and most of the paid search results deal with promotional pens as well. Chances are this is what most people are looking for when they search for “pens” on Google.

Digging in to search intent takes some extra work, but it will really help you get a better ROI out of new PPC campaigns. It’s better to do your homework at the outset than waste your budget over the first few weeks of your campaign.

Posted in Google AdWords, Keywords, PPC Basics, Search Engines, SEO | Comments Off

Going Beyond Standard PPC Metrics

Impressions. Clicks. CTR. Conversions. CPA. CPC. If you’ve done any amount of PPC, there’s no doubt you’re familiar with these basic metrics. And there’s nothing wrong with building your PPC strategy around them. But once you have an account that is running optimally based on these metrics, you may find that you need to step up your metrics game in order to figure out your weak spots and opportunities within your account. Here are a few advanced PPC metrics that aren’t included in your standard PPC account, but you should really be paying attention to.

Production Cost Per Conversion – If you’re running a PPC account, you definitely need to have some revenue attribution tied in to your conversions. Fortunately, AdWords and Bing Ads both have standard options for this within their conversion tracking offerings. What they don’t offer, though, is a way to track your total production costs per conversion. This can be a tricky thing to calculate depending on what your conversion event is. Companies focused on lead generation will have to figure in sales team salaries spent working the lead. E-commerce companies need to figure the wholesale cost of their items, or the materials cost of what they manufacture. Without this number, it’s difficult to figure out the next non-standard metric…

Profit Per Conversion – Having a decent CPA is cool, but if you’re just looking at your return on ad spend then you might be miscalculating how much money your company actually makes on PPC. To figure out profit per conversion, you’ll need to take your total revenue, then subtract your production costs and ad spend. This will give you your true return on ad spend. Without knowing your real profit per conversion, you could be optimizing your CPA toward a false target that actually causes you to lose money on each transaction.

Value Per Impression/Value Per Click – You can find this metric by dividing your total revenue or your total profit by your total number of impressions or total number of clicks. Make revenue your “value” if you want to grow total revenues, and choose profit as your “value” if you want to make overall profitability your goal. Tracking this metric helps you bid more efficiently. If you know your value per click, then you can look at your average CPC and adjust bids so that average CPC becomes lower than your value per click. You may even find that some keywords that looked good at first are actually unprofitable. If you’re running display or remarketing campaigns, you can use value per impression in a similar way to adjust your CPM bids, if you use that instead of CPC.

Lifetime Value – Lifetime value (LTV) is an estimation of the total revenue that you’ll earn from a customer over the course of their business relationship with your company. There are very few businesses that only ever do one transaction with a customer – repeat business is a very valuable thing. Knowing a customer’s lifetime value helps you decide if you can be more aggressive with your initial acquisition costs of a customer, since you know that they’ll become a repeat customer. If you’ve ever entered into a PPC auction and found that your competitors seemed willing to tolerate a much higher CPA than you were, you might be contending with companies that are bidding toward lifetime value. If you have a much higher LTV than what you earn on your initial conversion value, then knowing your customer’s lifetime value can drastically alter your bidding and CPA strategy within your PPC account.

The overall lesson here is that you don’t have to rely on the stock metrics that PPC networks define as “success.” Think carefully about what your business defines as success and use metrics that will help you achieve that. Relying on others to make this definition for you only limits your business’s potential.

Posted in Analytics, Keyword Bids | Comments Off

Optimizing AdWords Product Listing Ads

In case you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m kind of in love with AdWords Product Listing ads. Right now, you can get a pretty decent cost per conversion at a much lower CPC than what you’ll normally get on the search network. All it takes is a thorough data feed and a little ingenuity. But, due to the newness of the product, there aren’t a lot of levers you can pull to optimize your product listing ads. In this post, I’ll cover some of the things you can do to tweak your Product Listing Ad performance.

Before you get started, I’ll assume that you’ve done the following things:

  1. Your Product Listing Ads (PLAs) are in a separate campaign from your search and display network campaigns.
  2. Each product category in the PLAs is in a separate ad group within the campaign.
  3. Ensured that each of the entries in your data feed has accurate, up-to-date data.

If you didn’t do either of those, go back and start over.

Once you have a decent structure set up with quality data in the feed, let ‘er rip and gather some data. Once you have about a week or two of data, you can optimize based on the data you gathered. Your best tool for this is going to be the good old Search Query report out of AdWords. Search Query Reports – they’re not just for keywords anymore!

To run a search query report for your PLA campaign, go through the same path that you would for any other campaign:

1. Select your campaign and click on the “Keywords” tab.

Product Listing Ads Keywords Tab

2. Click on the “Keyword Details” drop-down and select “All” under the Search Terms header.

Product Listing Ads Search Query Report

Once you complete these two simple steps, you’ll have a wealth of keyword data. You can then use this keyword data to in a variety of ways, such as:

  • Adjusting your ad group level bids based on cost, conversion, and average position data you get in the search query report
  • Adding negative keywords to filter out queries that are driving cost, but not conversions.
  • Removing entries from your data feed that are not converting
  • Adding entries for under-served queries that are converting, but do not appear in your product feeds.

There’s a lot you can do with this data, so be sure to run your search query reports frequently!

Aside from the search query reports, you can also do some data optimization within your feeds. Look for your most popular terms in your search query report and do some searches on Google Shopping for competitive analysis. Take a look at the information your competitors have in their ads. Do they have a nice picture? An attractive price point? A compelling description? If your PLA sucks in comparison, you probably need to fix the data in your feed. It’s easy to dismiss data feeds as being boring and tedious, but there really is a lot of opportunity to spice them up. Don’t just do a lot of bulk copy and paste – look at each individual entry to make sure it is as good as it can be for that particular product or keyword. If you can look a lot better than your lazy competition in the PLAs, you’re going to be much more likely to get that customer.

I’m sure there will be more developments in the PLA space as Google continues to improve this new product. Stay tuned for more updates on how to optimize your AdWords Product Listing Ads.

Posted in Google AdWords, Product Listing Ads, Search Engines | Comments Off

5 Reasons To Hire A Professional PPC Consultant

This week, we have a special guest post from Andy Morley, a PPC consultant based in the UK.

The decision to outsource PPC efforts is fairly simple; if you aren’t getting the targeted traffic your business needs, the call for help should be placed. PPC consultants are highly specialized experts who can turn around a failing ad campaign or redirect overall profits in an upward direction. Just thinking about hiring a PPC consultant is probably a good indication that the business needs one, here’s why.

1. Focus. Doing it all on your own ties up too much time, burns you out quickly and causes other areas of the business to suffer. Most especially for the start-up; hiring a PPC consultant will free up time and energy that needs to be spent on other areas of a developing business. Even well-established companies need PPC handled efficiently by the experts, so that they can cultivate and cater to customers and other areas of operations.

2. Immediate results. A good PPC consultant can turn things around quickly and effectively, perhaps even recovering some of the revenue already poured into the PPC campaign. With sharp expertise and a keen sense of what works, they will instantly recognize why things aren’t going well and be able to get PPC efforts moving in the right direction.

3. The learning curve can cost you everything. Someone may think PPC is such a straightforward marketing method that they can quickly master it themselves. While this may be true in rare cases, most often the business owner who tries to take it all on himself will be wasting time, energy and other valuable company resources. Somebody else already knows how to do this and do it well; why risk the loss, mistakes and potential customers along the way? The time you spend in the PPC classroom could be much better spent elsewhere.

4. Experience. Most business owners or managers don’t have the time to become AdWords Qualified and keep on top of every SEO update that could result in penalties from Google and literally dissolve all of the hard-earned success fought for. Farming out the PPC responsibilities to other employees will compromise their ability not only to get regular duties met, but also the PPC efforts themselves, given the workload and multiple proficiencies required.

5. Long-term stability. Having a PPC consultant on board means 24/7 access to an environment that is constantly changing and presenting new challenges. Unless you are an idle business owner or have employees sitting around just waiting for problems to emerge, you can’t keep on top of PPC efforts constantly and devote the necessary time to keep it successful. The highly skilled PPC consultant is always up-to-date and ready for anything. That gives a business a predictably stable marketing foundation for the future.

Online marketing campaigns are literally flooding the internet; if a business hasn’t equipped themselves with the tools necessary for success, they will most likely fail. It goes above and beyond survival of the fittest out here: a business needs every single advantage it can get and a PPC consultant is one of them.

Andy morley is a professional PPC consultant based in the east Midlands in the UK.

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PPC Takeaways From PubCon 2012

Well, I’m back from another PubCon and excited about all the new stuff I learned and the new connections I made. This was my first time around as a speaker, and I really enjoyed being on the other side of the podium. Special thanks to Brett Tabke and the PubCon programming team for giving me the opportunity to present, my excellent co-panelists Kevin Lee, Jeff Lancaster, and Mona Ellesily, and to Ben Cook for his top-notch moderation. I just uploaded my presentation on launching international PPC accounts to my PPC Presentations page, so check it out.

Personal horn-tooting aside, I had a great time at the conference. I personally think that PubCon is the best of the bunch based on both the quantity and quality of the sessions offered, as well as the caliber of people who attend it. I found that some of my best insights came from impromptu conversations with my PPC peers at the lunch table or in the hallways between sessions (not to mention the happy hours…). But, the presentations aren’t too shabby either. Here are a few things I learned.

I’ve been hearing a lot of talk lately about bidding to the value per impression or value per click. Brad Geddes dropped some value-per-impression knowledge during his presentation in the Hardcore PPC Tactics panel. Brad suggests that when making bid decisions, you should first determine the value per impression (revenue/impressions) of each keyword to help inform your bidding. If you have a negative value per impression, you should think about reducing your bid. If you have a positive one, you should think about increasing your bid gradually to capitalize on profitable traffic, and eventually figure out the sweet spot between your average position, average CPC, and value per impression. The degree in which you’re further from zero in your value-per-impression metric should determine how aggressively you adjust your bid. As an aside, Brad is a consistently good presenter who appears at a lot of conferences, so if you get a chance to check out his speaking gigs, you totally should.

Another really interesting strategy I picked up revolves around Facebook PPC. In the Facebook Today panel, Marty Weintraub showed off his strategy of using Facebook ads targeted at specific company employees or journalists in order to gain public relations traction and link. He created a provocative blog post about GM ditching Facebook ads, then pushed out an ad promoting that post to both GM employees and journalists at certain publications. This resulted in not only a lot of referral traffic, but in some additional links and blog posts that helped gain SEO traction for the post itself. Brilliant!

PubCon Las Vegas was great, and I’m pleased to announce that I’ve also been accepted as a speaker at PubCon New Orleans in April 2013. I definitely recommend that you come out to attend (and not just because I’ll be speaking there). See you in New Orleans!

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