Marketing Insights

Archive for ‘Keyword Management’

5 Ways the Smart SEM Manager Prepares for the Holidays

By September 30th, 2015

This is a guest post from Dionte Pounds, Account Manager at
3Q Digital.

Businesses kick their marketing efforts into high gear during the holiday season – which is technically from Thanksgiving until the New Year, even though I’ve seen people hanging Christmas lights from their windows before others start carving pumpkins. Many times, businesses depend on strong sales during the holidays to take them from the red to the black. As such, there’s extra pressure on the online marketer with e-commerce clients to drive the strongest performances of the year during this time.

Without strategic planning and execution, delivering on these expectations can be next to impossible. But by following these five outlined tips, you’ll be primed for success.

1. Establish Budgets Early

This should be a no-brainer. Use the performance history of the account as well as current trends to determine what a realistic budget for the holiday season should be. Work with your client to come up with a total budget and stick to that number. If you think the budget will be insufficient, try to create a plan to move spend from one or more low-performing campaigns into a high-performing campaign.

2. Determine KPIs

Imagine it’s January 2016 and you’re looking back at Q4. How will you determine success? Of course it’s important to hit established goals, but if there’s an opportunity to make a push for greater revenue and sales, would a possible increase in CPA be acceptable? Speak with your client before the season kicks off to figure out where you can be most flexible and what targets can’t be sacrificed.

3. Plan Promotions in Advance

Way in advance. Seriously.

The fewer last-minute adjustments that need to be made to accommodate promotional messaging in search ads, sitelinks, or Merchant Center Promotions, the better. Request a promotional calendar from your clients. Review all promotion details about a week or so in advance with your client if possible, just to iron out the details. When it comes to launching promotional creatives, use automated rules whenever possible to schedule future actions and remove any chance for human error.

4. Thoroughly Review Merchant Center and Shopping Campaigns

Because the last thing you want to see before the start of a big seasonal push is a high percentage of disapproved Shopping products, do a quick review of your Merchant Center account and make sure all feeds are in excellent condition. Review your feed schedule. And, make sure your Shopping campaigns are structured in a way that makes sense for your business.

Remember: An item placed in the High, Medium, and Low Priority campaigns will automatically revert to the bid set at the High Priority Level. This is true regardless of whether the bids set in the Medium or Low Priority campaigns are higher.

5. Use Auction Insights

Auction Insights won’t tell you how much a competitor may be bidding for a select term. But frequently examining Auction Insights will tell you if any competitors are creeping up on you (or beating you) in Google’s auctions. One of the more overlooked features is being able to segment Auction Insights by device type. This provides a useful look at who the key players are in your auctions and where you could be getting the most pressure – on desktop, mobile devices, or tablets.

Bonus: Add in Targets with No Set Bid Adjustment

Because this can’t hurt and you may come away with some real learnings to report to your client, try adding in new targeting criteria, such as average household income, to your campaigns with no set bid adjustment before the holiday season kicks off. As time progresses, periodically check in on these new targets and see how they perform. At worst, you’ll have no real actionable data and can simply remove the new targets if performance merits. But at best, you’ll have a better understanding of a new target audience and the ability to increase or decrease marketing efforts to that audience by applying bid modifiers.

DKI – A Good or Bad Thing?

By September 29th, 2015

Depending on who you ask, some search marketers will tell you that dynamic keyword insertion (DKI) hurts conversions. DKI is designed to be an advanced feature, one that can help you dynamically modify parts of your ads to include the keywords that trigger the ad in question. Still, according to the general feeling out there, marketers who rely on DKI end up detracting audiences with irrelevant ads, generic messaging, and keyword misspellings and capitalization errors.

However, very rarely is something universally good
 or bad in search marketing. Depending on campaign goals, customer segment, historical performance, and several other factors, SEM tactics usually perform differently depending on the context. Boost Media has tested DKI extensively across every vertical, and on nearly every type of campaign. Here’s what we learned.

DKI Works Best in Long-Tail Ad Groups

In an intensive analysis of retail advertisers, Boost found that long-tail ad groups tend to derive both click-through rate (CTR) and conversions-per-impression (CPI) lifts by using DKI, while head-term ad groups tend to see a drop in CPI. This is likely because head-term ad groups are optimized more frequently, and typically have a high degree of textual relevance. Long-tail ad groups are neglected and have more to gain from dynamic insertion.

DKI Works Best on Exact Match Keywords

DKI inserts the triggering keyword into the ad, not the query typed by the customer. As a search marketer, you’ve probably seen your fair share of funky search queries matching to broad keywords. Inserting broad keywords into the ad often doesn’t make your ad more relatable to the user. Sometimes it simply creates ads that don’t make sense.

DKI Can Increase Volume

Time and time again, we’ve seen that using DKI increases the impression volume of an ad. Direct response search marketers might argue that increased impression volume is a bad thing because it doesn’t necessarily lead to more revenue. But, consider this: an impression is not generated just because the search engine enters the ad into the auction. An ad has to win the auction to gain an impression. If the ad loses, no other ads are entered into that particular auction. As a result, using DKI to win more auctions and gain more impressions might be what you need to improve the bottom line by increasing volume.

It’s unfair to say that DKI is universally good or bad. When used in the right context, it can help you gain impressions you might not otherwise win, improve your user experience and quality score in ad groups you don’t have time to optimize, and lead to performance gains.


About the Author

sarahSarah manages Content Marketing at Boost Media and leads a team of marketing professionals to drive revenue through complex B2B marketing campaigns in the ad tech industry. Prior to joining Boost, Sarah developed marketing and sales strategy at BNY Mellon, a top 10 private wealth management firm. In a former life, Sarah worked in journalism writing for magazines including Boston Magazine, The Improper Bostonian, and Luxury Travel. When she’s not writing engaging content, Sarah enjoys cooking, running, and yoga.

About Boost Media

Boost Media increases advertiser profitability by using a combination of humans and a proprietary software platform to drive increased ad relevance at scale. The Boost marketplace comprises over 1,000 expert copywriters and image optimizers who compete to provide a diverse array of perspectives. Boost’s proprietary software identifies opportunities for creative optimization and drives performance using a combination of workflow tools and algorithms. Headquartered in San Francisco, the Boost Media optimization platform provides fresh, performance-driven creative in 12 localized languages worldwide.

Click here to schedule a free demo of the Creative Optimization platform today.

8 PPC Campaign Optimizations Brands Should Do Now from US Search Awards Judges

By July 8th, 2015

Each year, the US Search Awards recognizes the best and brightest brands among the world’s leading search and digital agencies and professionals. We compiled advice from eight of this year’s judges on what every brand should do to optimize their PPC campaigns.

This year’s awards will take place at Paris Las Vegas on Wednesday, October 7th. For more information and to enter, visit the US Search Awards website.


Diane Pease

Inbound Marketing Manager, Cisco Systems | @DPease

Monitor Your Extension Performance

With all the hype around ad extensions, we can sometimes get caught up in “extension excitement” – putting site links, callouts, and location extensions on our ads to provide a better user experience. But it’s important to monitor the performance of your extensions, to ensure they’re really working for you in the way you want them to. Create a reminder – and check on a bi-weekly basis. If you have an extension that’s not performing, make adjustments or try removing it. Extensions are a great way to expand your ad, but they need to be monitored.


Matt McGowan

Head of Strategy for America’s Advertising, Google | @Matt_Mcgowan

RLSA. Do it. It amazes me how many clients don’t add the tag to their sites. For free, you can bring together intent, context, and audience to help your business drive sales and leads with great ROI. With remarketing lists for search ads, you can modify bids, ads, and keywords for past site visitors. For example, people visit your sports apparel site to check out available styles, and look at the shoe section of the site. You could add these shoppers to a “Shoe category” list. Then, the next time they search for running shoes on Google you could bid more for them. More here.


Richard Gregory

UK Industry Expert | @Smartrich

You absolutely have to be leveraging Gmail Sponsored Promotions (GSP) these days. At a recent SAScon event, Larry Kim highlighted the low CPCs that early adopters of the format have benefited from. One great tip is to run a campaign targeting Gmail accounts containing newsletters from your competitors, remembering to negative your own keywords to avoid upsetting existing customers.


Jim Banks

Global Head of Biddable Media | @Jimbanks

Anticipate the device your users will be on and have ads that reflect that context. If someone is on mobile, then having the CTA as “Call” or “Tap” will get higher CTR (TTR – Tap Through Rate) than “Click”. Dayparting is now a 168-hour a week function, and device, location, and time of day/day of week will help or hurt more than keyword, bid, or ad.


Lisa Williams

Digital Marketing Strategist, Author, Speaker, Networker, and Columnist; Sustainable Digital Marketing | @SEOPllyAnna

Look at the performance of high-volume, general PPC ads and test the content for titles and meta descriptions. For example, the shipping message “same day shipping” performed better in Paid than the message “fast shipping”. Test the better performing message CTR and conversion to see if you get lift in Organic Search the same way you did in Paid Search.


Matt Umbro

Senior Account Manager, Hanapin Marketing; Founder of #PPCChat | @Matt_Umbro

In order to quickly find keywords that are costing too much and not providing enough (or any) conversions, create an automated rule. I’ll generally create a rule that runs weekly and looks at the last 30 days’ worth of data. I’ll set the rule to identify all keywords that have seen at least 50 clicks and zero conversions. I’ll have these keywords emailed to me so I can choose whether to change my bids, pay particularly close attention to the search queries, and/or pause the keywords all together. You can adjust the filter as you see fit, but this rule helps to easily find poor performing keywords.


John Gagnon

Bing Ads Evangelist | @Jmgagnon

To bid or not to bid? Bid. And, there’s finally concrete data. Bing Ads completed a study measuring the number of clicks a brand received when they were the top organic spot alone, versus the top organic spot plus the top paid ad.

After looking at three million impressions on brand searches for retail during 2014, the study found advertisers saw an incremental 31 clicks for every 100 brand searches when a paid search ad was used in combination with the top organic result. That’s huge!

Only 11 of those clicks would have been received anyways. Adjust your CPA lower by about 18% to account for the overlap – and you have a concrete strategy for bidding on your brand terms.


Jonathan Beeston

Owner, Beetsonomics | @Beeston

If you’re a retailer, then of course you’re running Shopping campaigns. But your campaigns will only be as good as the product or inventory feed that powers them. Spend as much time optimizing your feed as you would any other part of the campaign, making sure you have the right imagery and search-friendly titles. As you can use the feed with Bing Shopping Campaigns (now in beta), Facebook Product Ads, and Google Shopping, the optimization will pay off more than once.

The deadline for submitting an entry to one of the 22 categories in the US Search Awards is the 17th of July, so download the entry form today and you could be a worthy winner at the glittering Las Vegas event in October during Pubcon!

Dos and Don’ts for Contextual Keyword Targeting, Part 2

By August 19th, 2013

display2This is a guest post by Jana Fung of MixRank.

In my first post in this series, we looked at the 5 biggest don’ts when it comes to contextual keywords. Now let’s consider a few things you can do to make your ads a success:

  • Do: Experiment with lower bidding strategies. When you’re testing out campaigns, it is usually recommended to start with a large budget and optimize as you go. However, clicks on the GDN can be up to 75% cheaper than paid search clicks. So don’t be afraid to start a test campaign with a small budget. If you find that you’re continuously missing out on impressions due to budget constraints, increase your budget incrementally and optimize your keywords and placements as you go.
  • Do: Try targeting keywords that are outside your current product offering. Although counter-intuitive, this actually expands your reach to the right audience. For example, if you’re selling luggage, your target audience includes travelers and you would use travel-related keywords. However, you may also want to use the keyword “airport security rules.” Although not included in your product offering, this keyword will reach an audience that is new to travelling and in need of luggage. Targeting keywords that are outside your product offering works well because keyword targeting on the GDN is not like paid search where you try to match intent. On the GDN, keyword targeting and ads should be created to reach new audiences, and should focus less on exact match product offerings.
  • Do: Spy on your competitors’ contextual keywords and scale your own keywords accordingly, by using free competitive intelligence tools like MixRank. As mentioned in Part 1 of this blog series, you shouldn’t be using a thesaurus to identify relevant keywords for your target audience. Free competitive intelligence tools like MixRank provide instant access to your competitors’ top performing contextual keywords and give you relevant keyword suggestions that you can test with your own campaigns.
  • Do: Add other layers of targeting in conjunction with keyword targeting. In addition to keyword targeting, the GDN offers placement targeting, interest targeting, topic targeting and re-marketing. With the exception of re-marketing, you should add at least one layer of targeting to increase precision for your intended audience. Keep in mind that if you add too many layers of targeting, volume may significantly decrease, so be sure to check the estimated display reach within your Display Network tab.
  • Do: Limit the number of keywords per ad group to 3-6 to increase precision, relevancy and Quality Score (QS). Because keyword targeting on the GDN only allows for broad match, it doesn’t make sense to add variations of the same keyword as you would in paid search for exact and phrase match targeting. If you’re targeting too many broad match keywords that aren’t thematically related within a single ad group, your QS may suffer and hurt campaign performance.

While this is just a starter list of what you should consider when building out your contextual keywords and ad campaigns, it is imperative to understand the differences between the Search network and the Display network. Display advertisers are creating ads and keyword targets to reach specific audiences, while search advertisers are creating ads and keyword targets to reach specific intentions.

What contextual keyword dos or don’ts have you had success with in the past? Share them with us in the comments section below.

About the Author
Jana Fung, guest author of this post, is the Marketing Manager of MixRank. She has managed successful demand generation programs for over 6 years. is a spy tool for contextual and display ads. With MixRank you can see exactly where your competitors are buying traffic and which ad copy is performing best for them across over 100,000 sites. If you’re a MixRank fan or just want to say hi, Jana is interested in connecting with you! Follow her on Twitter @jana_fung.

Dos and Don’ts for Contextual Keyword Targeting, Part 1

By August 16th, 2013

google display network keywords contextualThis is a guest post by Jana Fung with MixRank.

Contextual advertising on the Google Display Network (GDN) is often an overlooked strategy to gain additional traffic at a low cost. Although willing to test out campaigns, advertisers have had little success optimizing them due to the vast difference between contextual keyword targeting and paid search keyword targeting. With high expectations for contextual ads, advertisers are often disappointed and shocked when the ads do not perform similarly to paid search campaigns.

In this series, I’ll discuss some dos and don’ts when it comes to testing contextual keywords on the GDN. Let’s start with some watch-outs:

  • Don’t: Copy and paste your best performing long tail keywords from paid search campaigns into new contextual ad groups. The GDN only offers broad match keyword targeting, so lengthy, descriptive keywords are more likely to harm your campaigns than to help them.
  • Don’t: Group keywords the same way you would group them for paid search campaigns. Consider using shorter and broader keyword terms that you can thematically group together.
  • Don’t: Add negative keywords as an optimization strategy. Since you’re using a variety of websites to reach as many relevant audiences as possible, you’re better off noting what sites your ads are performing poorly on and excluding those from your campaign using negative placements.
  • Don’t: Expect contextual keyword performance to have similar or comparable outcomes to your paid search keywords. Even though you’re using the same ad platform, Google AdWords, this does not mean the ad channels are equal or that they should they be measured in the same way.
  • Don’t: Rely on a thesaurus to expand your contextual keyword targets and scale quickly. A thesaurus helps with paid search campaigns where you aim to expand your reach to every query that’s synonymous with your product offering. However, for contextual keyword targeting, the main goal is to reach your target audience on different websites. Therefore, instead of focusing on synonymous keywords, focus on keywords that will help you reach similar audiences. In the next post, we’ll discuss some strategies to help you expand and scale on contextual keywords.

Now that you know what not to do, join us next week with Part 2 of this series where will discuss what contextual keyword strategies to implement and how to create precise targeting for your campaigns.

About the Author
Jana Fung, guest author of this post, is the Marketing Manager of MixRank. She has managed successful demand generation programs for over 6 years. is a spy tool for contextual and display ads. With MixRank you can see exactly where your competitors are buying traffic and which ad copy is performing best for them across over 100,000 sites. If you’re a MixRank fan or just want to say hi, Jana is interested in connecting with you! Follow her on Twitter @jana_fung.

Introducing the BoostCTR Account Performance Grader – Optimize Your Campaigns Today

By April 2nd, 2013

BoostCTR Account Performance GraderFor many search marketers, identifying opportunities for optimization within paid search campaigns is challenging. Monitoring and maintaining top performing ad groups, keywords, and ads is a standard best practice; but as campaigns grow, keyword lists expand, and creative tests multiply, this approach fails to scale and provide incremental improvements in paid search performance. With so many optimization opportunities hidden in an ocean of data, how can search marketers give the required attention each campaign deserves? Where do you even start?

To help search marketers answer these questions, Marin Software is thrilled to announce our partnership with BoostCTR to offer a free paid search diagnostics tool that not only provides insight into account performance, but also opportunities for optimization. The Account Performance Grader is designed to analyze historical performance across keywords, ads, quality scores, and ad groups for AdWords and Bing Ads campaigns. Simply sign up and enter the required information to receive your customized report.

Among other best practice recommendations, this report will provide actionable insights for pausing poor performing keywords and ads, as well as reveal quality score trends that identify areas where keyword relevance can be improved. With the Account Performance Grader, search marketers can remove the guesswork out of campaign optimization and focus their time on more strategic, high impact tasks.

Sign up here and start optimizing your campaigns today!

Historical Quality Score and Why It Matters To Search Marketers

By February 5th, 2013

Of all the search publisher metrics available, Quality Score seems to always receive the most attention; yet search marketers have the least amount of visibility into how to effectively improve it and its impact on performance. What we do know is that every time a user conducts a search that triggers ads, a Quality Score is calculated based on a number of factors, including:

  • The keyword’s past click-through rate (CTR)
  • The display URL’s past CTR
  • The account history
  • The quality of the landing page
  • The keyword/ad relevance
  • The keyword/search relevance

Notice that the first three factors on Google’s list reference performance history, even though the history of a keyword’s Quality Score is unavailable within the AdWords interface. Instead, rather than showing different Quality Scores across time, Google displays a single Quality Score that provides an estimate of that keyword’s overall quality.

For the most part this is adequate—search marketers analyze Quality Score at individual moments in time to understand keyword relevance and performance issues. However, this one-off-style approach to analyzing Quality Score fails to provide insight into how search marketers’ continuous efforts to optimize campaigns impact Quality Score, either positively or negatively.

Whether it’s testing brand new creative or introducing additional negative keywords, improving a keyword’s Quality Score can lead to a lower cost-per-click (CPC) and a higher ad position. Changes in these two metrics can subsequently impact, among other things: CTR, costs, and return on investment (ROI). Unfortunately, the influence each of those best practices has on keyword Quality Score is frequently lost with time, especially within larger accounts. Imagine having to record the daily Quality Score for two million keywords affected by new creative messaging.

Marin Historical Quality Score Chart

To understand the impact of optimization efforts on Quality Score, search marketers need the ability to trend historical Quality Score, against other performance metrics, over time.

For example, by trending Quality Score and average CPC over a 3 month period, search marketers can understand the exact impact on cost that comes from an increase in Quality Score from 6 to 8. Trends that include other metrics like ROI and conversion rate highlight the indirect impact that Quality Score has on conversion and revenue goals. Though the concept of trending Quality Score over time appears basic, many search marketers are unable to do so.

To see a demo of historical Quality Score and other advance metrics in action, please contact Marin.

5 Quick Ways to Increase Paid Search CTR without Breaking a Sweat

By January 28th, 2013

Mouse ClickBefore writing this post, I performed a few web searches to scout out my competition. Based on that research, there appears to be one thing that everyone agrees upon about increasing paid search click-through-rate (CTR), the benefits:

  • Increased Quality Score
  • Increased ad position
  • Lower cost-per-click

However, given the title of this post, I figured just about everyone has their quick ways for increasing CTR—and I was right. There’s about 20 “quick” ways to increase your CTR, but not all of them are quick. Create granular keyword groupings? Restructuring campaigns and resetting Quality Score is a long term strategy. Give something away for free? Let’s choose to ignore that one. Look for assisted conversions? I personally don’t enjoy swimming in an ocean of data. Include pricing? And if prices change, it’ll be a fun week. Though all of these tactics and more do plenty to increase CTR, my goal today is to present five ways search marketers can increase CTR without breaking a sweat.

1. Implement Ad Sitelinks

This is unanimously the number one way to quickly increase CTR. Sitelinks provides up to six additional deep links to specific and highly relevant content on your site. These links not only expand your search engine results page (SERP) real estate, but they also enable search marketers to point users towards high-value landing pages, such as form fills and store locators. Keep in mind that up to six links can be added per campaign, which was increased from four in 2011. So if you haven’t touched your sitelinks in a while, it’s time to go back and ensure you have six updated links available.

Google Ad Sitelinks Example

For more information on sitelinks and how to enable them, click here.

2. Pause Poor Performing Creative

Remember that creative test you were running way back when? Well it’s still running, and one or more of those creative is hurting the entire ad group. As you prioritize ad groups for CTR optimization, be sure to evaluate the performance of existing creative. Though some poor performing creative will be easier to spot than others, be sure to reach some level of statistical significance before cutting ties and pausing those creative. It’s important to remember that poor performing creative represent an opportunity cost. By weeding them out of your account, you can drive more traffic through more relevant and engaging creative.

For additional best practices on creative testing and optimization, click here.

3. Leverage Differentiating Text

There are so many elements search marketers can test when it comes to differentiating their creative from their competitors. Let’s use a short list with simple explanations:

  • Call-to-Action: a staple for all advertisers, a simple, yet strong call-to-action encourages users to engage with a purpose. For example, “Register for free today!” or “Shop early and save”.
  • Unique Selling Point: incorporating free shipping, price match guarantees, promotions, and other unique selling points into creative not only sets you apart from competitors, but makes your creative that much more compelling.
  • Numbers and Figures: to break the repetitiveness of words and sentences, use numbers and figures (i.e. &, ®, ™) as an effective way to bring attention to creative.
  • Display URLs: there are a number of ways to arrange your display URL and incorporate keywords into them to increase relevance. For example, “” or “”. However, keep in mind that some users copy and paste display URLs into the navigation bar, so be prepared with a redirect or an effective 404 page.

4. Mine for Negative Keywords

Most search marketers know how to mine for negative keywords, but the tune changes when discussing how often. Generating a search query report is simple; with some enterprise class solutions generating them automatically. Identify keywords that have received impressions, but very few clicks. But also take note of irrelevant tokens that appear often in queries. For example, tokens like “free”, “reviews”, and “used” often appear alongside relevant keywords. Add these and those irrelevant keywords to eliminate unwanted impressions and clicks.

Negative Keywords Create A Virtuous Cycle

For more information on developing an effective negative keyword strategy, click here.

5. Use High Volume Tokens

Keyword tokens within creative will appear in bold whenever they match or closely match a user’s search query. To improve the relevancy of your creative to the keywords within an ad group, include tokens with high impression share within creative text. For example, if users are more likely to include “clothing” in their query, rather than “apparel”, generate creative that includes the token “clothing”, even if both tokens appear in multiple keywords within the same ad group. Using the most relevant tokens within your creative will increase the relevance for a larger share of impressions and help increase CTR.
Incrementally increasing CTR takes testing and continuous optimization of keywords and creative. This involves using both short term and long term strategies. Hopefully, with the tactics I’ve imparted, you can begin increasing your CTR today…quickly and sweatband-free.

Will Ferrell Sweatband

Shaping Paid Search Traffic with 3 Effective Keyword Expansion Techniques

By November 16th, 2012

Keyword expansion can take many forms. Larger paid search programs that lean heavily on click volume tend to expand on and add keywords in bulk, favoring scale over micro-managing. For smaller programs, or when expanding keywords based on a prioritized list, taking a more methodical approach often makes more sense. To ensure effective keyword expansion and proper search query matching, search marketers should leverage modified broad match keywords, create separate ad groups, and implement a focused negative keyword strategy.

1. Limit Irrelevant Queries with Modified Broad Match

For the longest time, search marketers relied on broad match keywords to capture converting traffic from long tail queries. Historically, this was how a keyword like “hiking shoe” would lead to expanded keywords like “mens hiker shoes” or “black shoes for hiking”. Then Google introduced modified broad match, which provides search marketers with the control of phrase match and the reach of broad match. You can now maintain keyword relevance and scale negative keyword research, without sacrificing the ability to drive conversions through longer tail queries.
Modified Broad Match Type ChartTo leverage modified broad match, add the modifier (+) to your broad match keywords*. As a result, each keyword token that uses this modifier must appear in the search query exactly or as a close variant; this includes misspellings, plurals, abbreviations and acronyms. Though click and conversion volume may dip slightly compared the same keyword on broad match, clickthrough-rate (CTR) should drastically improve. Furthermore, spend due to irrelevant clicks will decrease as Google will stop matching your keywords to synonyms and “relevant” searches. As always, continue to generate and mine publisher search query reports for irrelevant queries and add them as negative keywords. With modified broad match keywords, you should notice a significant drop in the number of irrelevant queries found in these reports.

*As a best practice, when adding modified broad match keywords, pause existing broad match keywords (rather than delete) and create new modified broad match versions. This will allow you to maintain historical Quality Scores should you need to revert back to broad match in the future.

2. Improve Quality Score with a Separate Ad Group

As you discover new longer-tail, converting queries, add them to new ad groups. For example, if the modified broad keyword “+hiking +shoe” expands to “mens hiker shoes”, add the new keyword on exact match type to a new “Mens Hiker Shoes” ad group. This allows you to generate ad creative specific to men’s hiker shoes, rather than relying on the fairly generic hiking shoes ad creative. Always generate new ad creative and incorporate the keyword into the ad as much as possible. If a higher quality landing page exists, be sure to leverage that as well to improve Quality Score. Introduce new keywords with an aggressive initial bid. A high average position and CTR will go a long way in establishing a strong Quality Score.
Modified Broad Match Expansion ExampleAs more keywords convert, and are expanded upon and placed into their own ad groups, the original modified broad match keyword will become less and less profitable. Keep this in mind as part of your bidding strategy. Set appropriate goals for these modified broad keywords and continue to leverage them more for keyword expansion rather than hitting business targets.

3. Shape Traffic with Exact Match Negative Keywords

The most critical step when adding expanded keywords to a new ad group is remembering to add the exact match negative of that same keyword to the original ad group. In our example above, the new exact match keyword “mens hiker shoes” was added to the new “Mens Hiker Shoes” ad group. As a result, the exact match negative keyword “-mens hiker shoes” should be added to the original “Hiking Shoes” ad group. This forces Google to match the query to the exact match keyword, rather than the modified broad match keyword. In other words, a search for “mens hiker shoes” will match to the “mens hiker shoes” exact match keyword, and not “+hiking +shoe”. If the exact match negative keyword isn’t added to the old ad group, it’s possible that Google will incorrectly match queries to modified broad keywords based on a number of factors, including max cost-per-click (CPC) or Quality Score.

For additional best practices on keyword expansion and how to maximize keyword opportunities, click here.

For an introduction to competitive keyword analysis, click here.

Making SEM and SEO Work Together, Beyond Keyword Research

By October 30th, 2012

SEM SEO TeamworkLast month I highlighted the importance for SEM and SEO managers to communicate their findings to one another during keyword research and analysis. By keeping the lines of communication open and providing positive feedback, both teams can benefit from more aggressive, but mutually beneficial, strategies. When implemented correctly and optimized effectively, the two strategies that I mentioned—leveraging SEM keywords to drive traffic to SEO-challenged landing pages and using SEO to absorb the cost of expensive SEM keywords—can pay big dividends.

Addressing SEO-Challenged Landing Pages

For certain pages on a website, like product pages or conversion pages, even the most die-hard attempts at SEO fail to drive traffic. For example, deeply buried product pages, which often lack linking and original content, are notoriously difficult to deliver organic traffic. However, with the proper paid keywords and ads, SEM managers can help their SEO mangers drive their target audience to these pages. Not only does this increase traffic, but allows both managers to capitalize on the increased relevancy and higher conversion rates associated with landing customers on product pages. Furthermore, the ability to report on and analyze performance provides SEM and SEO managers with the transparency needed to fine-tune keyword lists, polish ad creative, and optimize campaigns to achieve business goals and objectives.

To begin building out a list of potential SEM keywords, generate an on-site search report. This analytics report is a quick and easy way to begin discovering SEO-challenged landing pages. In many cases, an on-site search report can reveal the pages your customers are searching for that they couldn’t find either through a search engine or your website’s navigation. Keep in mind that any new keywords added to your SEM campaigns should have an appropriate and specific landing page—the goal here isn’t necessarily to find new keywords, but to drive additional traffic to the deeper and less visible pages of your website.

Subsidizing Expensive SEM Keywords

Expensive SEM keywords are typically characterized by high competition and heavy search volume. These are the popular keywords that everyone wants to rank organically on and are more than likely already a part of your SEO strategy. However, there are plenty of SEM keywords out there that consistently generate clicks and conversions, but at an unprofitable cost per click (CPC). These keywords should be presented to SEO managers as secondary, or “nice to have”, keywords within the overall SEO strategy. It’s important to back up each keyword suggestion with performance metrics, such as impressions, clicks, average position, average CPC, conversion rate, and revenue per click. Keywords with higher values should be prioritized for SEO.

But let’s be honest, ranking on the first page for these “nice to have” keywords is easier said than done and is fairly difficult without the SEO machine supporting them at 100% capacity. However, if optimizing only a handful of keywords results in an increase in organic traffic, both SEM and SEO managers benefit. As increases in organic clicks occur, more SEM budget is freed up to purchase less expensive keywords or test new ones. When leveraged appropriately, these previously unprofitable SEM keywords will allow SEO managers to increase organic traffic and acquire more revenue.


As I mentioned last month, SEM and SEO managers must continuously provide results and feedback on recommendations to remain successful. Don’t be afraid to proactively seek out feedback. Understanding what works and what doesn’t will help limit losses and open the door to capitalize on opportunities. When implemented correctly and optimized effectively, the two strategies I presented here can pay big dividends and enable SEM and SEO managers to acquire more revenue.


Find us on Facebook