Marketing Insights
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Posts Tagged ‘keyword optimization’

Farnell element14 Realizes Impressive Results with Marin Software

By October 8th, 2013

Farnell element 14, PPC, SEM, Marin Software, online advertisingFarnell element14 is a high-service distributor of technology products and solutions for electronic system design, maintenance and repair in Europe, the Americas and Asia Pacific. We are happy to have their business, and thank Farnell element14 for allowing us to share their story in one of our newest case studies.

Farnell element14 stocks over 500,000 products from over 3,000 industry leading suppliers. It also operates in 30 European markets with 27 different language campaigns. Managing their search campaign at this sort of scale presented many challenges including a huge number of keywords and difficulty increasing spend while maintaining ROAS.

Since choosing Marin Software, Farnell element14 has taken advantage of Marin Dimensions to “tag” campaign elements for segmentation and analysis; this ability provides key insight right down to the keyword level. The team also uses Marin’s predictive bidding algorithm to automate keyword level bidding, maximizing financial performance while still maintaining ROAS. Farnell element14 has seen great results including a 29% increase in revenue, 66% increase in CTR, and 38% increase in conversion rates. To learn more and read the full case study, click here.

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.

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.

How to Make SEO Keyword Research and Analysis Work with SEM

By September 12th, 2012

SEM SEO High FiveYesterday, I shared a story I commonly refer to whenever I talk about how SEM managers using keyword research and analysis can help their SEO counterparts.  As I discussed, the knowledge share of mutually beneficial keywords is typically absent not because there’s a shortage of keywords, but rather because the value of sharing isn’t often realized. As part of my Roundtable Forum discussion at SES San Francisco last month, I’ll continue exploring the importance of communicating the findings between SEM and SEO managers during keyword research and analysis.

What Does SEO Offer SEM?

Natural search query reports provide an incredible amount of insight into the keywords that result in natural search clicks and conversions. Typically, since short tail keywords across a website are already leveraged within an SEM program, the keywords of interest within these reports are longer tailed. And in the spirit of storytelling, I’d like to share another one about my experiences working with a pet supply retailer.

Due to an expanded monthly budget, I was tasked with building out an extensive list of keywords that had to hit an aggressive return-on-investment (ROI) goal. Working with my SEO manager, and reviewing extensive natural search query reports, we discovered several keywords that drove an incredible amount of natural search traffic and conversions to a product page embedded deep within the website. Based on our findings, I decided to add these keywords into my SEM campaign. Because SEM competition already existed on these keywords and the cost-per-click was relatively low, the heavy influx of paid clicks and conversions was entirely incremental and highly profitable. In other words, after turning on these new keywords there was no decline in natural search performance, and I was able to hit my monthly ROI goal.

Keywords like the ones I’ve described above often fly under the radar of even the most disciplined SEM manager. Keep in mind SEO managers are constantly working within natural search query reports as well as analyzing high volume and top performing landing pages. To continue moving the needle, SEM managers need to integrate these SEO reports and insights into their keyword research and analysis.

More Feedback

As with any mutually beneficial relationship, positive feedback is critical in promoting continuous success. If a new SEO keyword is found to perform well for SEM, it’s important that the performance metrics and analyzes are shared with the SEO manager. Don’t be afraid to proactively seek out feedback. Keep in mind that keyword research and analysis is just one of the many mutualistic strategies that SEM and SEO managers can engage in. Keeping the lines of communication open and providing positive feedback can lead to more aggressive but mutually beneficial strategies, like leveraging SEM keywords to drive traffic to SEO-challenge landing pages.

Why SEM and SEO Keyword Research and Analysis Work Better Together

By September 11th, 2012

SEM and SEO Manager HandshakeLast month at SES San Francisco, I was posed a question during my Roundtable Forum discussion about the sometimes non-existent relationship between search engine marketing (SEM) and search engine optimization (SEO) managers. In the case of keyword research and analysis, this is often the case. However, the knowledge share of mutually beneficial keywords is absent not because there’s a shortage of keywords, but rather because the value of sharing isn’t often realized. Today and tomorrow, as part of that roundtable discussion, I’ll be exploring the importance of communicating the findings between SEM and SEO managers during keyword research and analysis.

What Does SEM Offer SEO?

About three years ago I was managing the SEM program of a large motorcycle retailer and actively bidding on the keywords “dirt bikes” and “motocross bikes”. For SEO purposes, the landing page I was leveraging for SEM had been optimized for the keyword “motocross bikes”, since motocross was how this retailer described this particular type of motorcycle. After a couple months of keyword research and analysis, I discovered that the keyword “dirt bikes” received over twice as many paid clicks and conversions than the keyword “motocross bikes”. As a result of my findings, I submitted a keyword report to the SEO manager in an attempt to shift the SEO strategy on the “motocross bikes” landing page.

To generate more natural traffic and conversions on their “motocross” landing page, the SEO manager needed to leverage the more popular keyword, “dirt bikes”, throughout the page tags and content. Prior to implementation, this landing page had never appeared within the first five pages of natural search results for the query “dirt bikes”. A couple months after implementation, it was appearing within the top three positions on the first page of natural search results. As a consequence, natural search traffic and conversions drastically increased across this landing page.

I commonly refer to this story whenever I talk about how SEM managers can help their SEO counterparts. Sometimes SEO strategies can be limited by how businesses think about their own products (i.e. motocross bikes), rather than how customers think about their products (i.e. dirt bikes). The ability to continuously implement and test new keywords for volume and profitability enables SEM managers to discover SEO worthy keywords. When leveraged correctly, these insights allow SEO managers to increase natural traffic and acquire more revenue.

Positive Feedback

As with any mutually beneficial relationship, positive feedback is critical in promoting continuous success. If a new SEM keyword is found to perform well for SEO, it’s important that the performance metrics and analyzes are shared with the SEM manager. And don’t be afraid to proactively seek out feedback. Keep in mind that keyword research and analysis is just one of the many mutualistic strategies that SEM and SEO managers can engage in. Keeping the lines of communication open and providing positive feedback can lead to more aggressive, but mutually beneficial strategies like using SEO to absorb the cost of expensive SEM keywords. Tomorrow we’ll take a look at how SEM managers can benefit from the keyword research and analysis conducted by their SEO counterparts.

One Metric You Haven’t Considered for Creative Optimization

By June 20th, 2012

As keyword lists expand, they sometimes out-grow the groups that were initially created to contain them. For example, a group may have started out with a single keyword, “running shoes”. However, after some time and a little keyword expansion, that same group now contains the keywords “running shoes”, “womens running shoes”, “jogging shoes” and “black running shoes”, among others. The original creative that were generated to match “running shoes” queries are now less relevant to the newly expanded keywords. As a result, the overall click-through rate (CTR) of this group has declined. This decline in group CTR, as keyword count increases, leads to a useful metric that should be considered when optimizing creative: keywords per group.

Groups with a higher number of keywords often have lower CTRs and lower Quality Scores than groups with a concise and focused set of keywords. This is because the creative within densely populated groups can only leverage a subset of its keyword’s tokens for maintaining relevance. In our example above, the creative leveraged the token “running” rather than “jogging” to maintain relevance to “running shoes” queries.

To identify and prioritize groups for creative optimization, generate a data table containing the number of keywords, CTR and cost of each group in the account.

Keywords Per Group Data Table







Then create a bubble chart to plot the relationship between the three metrics.

Keywords Per Group Bubble Chart













Take note of the larger circles in the lower right hand corner of the bubble chart. These groups should be prioritized for optimization. Locate and break out less relevant keywords within these groups into new groups that contain more relevant creative. In our example, “jogging shoes” should be split out into a Jogging Shoes group with creative that utilize the term “jogging” rather than “running”. Executing on these best practices will lead to improvements in CTR and Quality Score.

Keep in mind that Quality Score will reset for the keywords that are split out into new groups. Allow an initial burn-in period for these new keywords to establish their own Quality Score before evaluating performance. As a best practice, check the status of each keyword and ensure that its bid is set above the first page minimum. Give these bids an initial boost to increase ad position. A higher ad position promotes a higher CTR, which remains a significant factor in improving Quality Score.

To help generate the data table and bubble chart above, Marin users can leverage the Active Keywords metric under the Advanced group column category. Be sure to tag the split keywords and affected groups with Dimensions to monitor performance. Finally, don’t forget to optimize the newly created groups; setting appropriate keyword bids, generating relevant creative and researching negative keywords are just a few strategies to in mind.

Adjusting Bids for Seasonality [Video]

By June 11th, 2012

If your paid search program experiences an increase in volume over a seasonal period, how much should you increase your bids by to maximize performance? Sam Wilcke, PhD and Director of Analytics at Marin, talks through how to do this and dispels a common misconception.

You, Google and the Display Network, Part 2: Making the Most of Next-Gen Keyword Contextual Targeting

By May 24th, 2012

Historically, a group’s theme—drawn from the keywords within the group—defined how a creative matched to similarly themed webpages across the Google display network (GDN). As a result of this keyword aggregation, cost and conversion metrics were reported on and optimized at the group level. Back in March of this year, Google announced their “biggest enhancement ever” to the display network. Combining the reach of display with the precision of search, Google’s Next-Gen Keyword Contextual Targeting enabled advertisers to begin optimizing the performance of their contextually targeted display campaigns at the keyword level.

In a post last year, we explored a few best practices for managing and optimizing campaigns across the GDN—tightening group themes to increase creative relevance, continuously optimizing creative language and excluding poor performing placements. Today, in light of the recent changes to contextual targeting, we’ll revisit this discussion and review additional best practices for managing and optimizing campaigns across the GDN.

Breakdown Keyword Performance

The method by which Google attributes keyword-level performance differs between the GDN and Google search. Keep in mind that all keywords are considered broad match on the GDN. From there, the new algorithm selects individual keywords from the group and determines the contextual relevance of each to a given web page. The keyword that is most relevant is attributed with the impression and subsequent click and cost metrics. The contextual relevance of a keyword is determined by how strongly it matches with the web page’s text, language, link and page structure, as well as other factors.

Access to keyword-performance data enables search marketers to better optimize their campaigns across the GDN. However, separating search and display campaigns is highly recommended in order to fully leverage this level of granularity. Although keyword performance can be reported on separately, keyword bids (within campaigns targeting search and display) affect both networks. Only with separate campaigns can marketers set separate search and display bids.

Leverage Keyword Insertion

Using dynamic keyword insertion within creative is a quick and effective way to increase relevancy. Inserting {Keyword:default text} into the headline, description line or display URL dynamically populates creative to include the contextually relevant keyword that triggered the creative. However, keep in mind that not all keywords make grammatical sense when inserted. Simple keyword variations can result in an awkward-sounding creative. (For example, add the keyword “snowboard pants” rather than “snowboard pant”.) Granular and organized groups with well-written creative will benefit most from dynamic keyword insertion and result in increasing click-through-rates and Quality Scores.

Review Bidding Hierarchy

When setting keyword bids for GDN campaigns, the most specific bid available will always be used. The general order of bids, from most to least specific, is outlined below:

  • Individual placement bid
  • Managed placements bid
  • Display Network bid
  • Individual keyword bid
  • Default bid

As a result of this hierarchy, when setting keyword-level bids, don’t set a Display Network bid as Google will ignore the individual keyword bid that was set. Similarly, if no placement bids, Display Network bids or individual keyword bids have been set, the default group bid will be leveraged. As a best practice, only set individual keyword-level bids and default group bids when optimizing bids for GDN campaigns.

Mind the Gaps, Maintain Parity: An Introduction to Publisher and Match Type Keyword Parity

By April 25th, 2012

In a post late last year, we briefly explored the importance of match type parity—expanding broad match keywords to phrase and exact match—to not only improve keyword efficiency, but lower CPCs. Today, we’ll broaden our discussion to review additional strategies for maintaining keyword parity across match types and publishers. This post will help identify where potential keyword gaps reside and provide the necessary tools for filling them.

What’s Great for Google is Good for Bing

As campaigns mature, keywords evolve from experiments to proven revenue drivers. These proven revenue drivers often perform similarly across publishers. If a newly added Google keyword achieved 100 clicks with a 5% conversion rate at a 200% ROI over the last two weeks, it makes sense to test the same keyword on Bing. Unfortunately, many advertisers fail to maintain keyword parity across publishers, even when the failure to do so can result in missed revenue opportunities.

Identifying where these keyword gaps reside can prove to be a daunting task. To promote engine parity, implement tracking when engaging in keyword expansion. (Third-party solutions, like Marin Software, can help track and report on these changes at scale.) Take detailed notes on where, when and why these keywords were added to the account. These notes are not only essential to analyzing performance, but are critical when copying top performing keywords across publishers. To retroactively assess parity, download a sorted keyword performance report and apply an Excel vlookup to compare publisher keyword sets. Take note of where the gaps are for top performing keywords.

Bring the Whole Family

Copying exact and phrase match keywords to broad match type is a simple strategy for reaching a larger audience and discovering additional keyword opportunities. However, an increase in traffic doesn’t always correspond to an increase in performance. When introducing broad match keywords, be relentless in your efforts to find appropriate negative keywords.

Driving improvements in keyword efficiency often requires the use of phrase and exact match keywords. Expanding broad match keywords to phrase and exact allows for effective segmentation of keyword traffic and performance metrics. A keyword on broad match only captures the traffic for its phrase and exact match counterparts. Consequently, the clicks and conversions are aggregated to a single keyword. With the same keyword on broad, phrase and exact match, clicks and conversions can be segmented based on match type and precise optimization strategies can be implemented for each keyword.

But Remember to Silo

Consider the following dilemma. A keyword running on Google across all three match types has a broad match bid that exceeds the phrase and exact match bids. As a result, the broad match keyword cannibalizes traffic that should otherwise be captured by the phrase or exact match keywords. To effectively expand keywords from broad to phrase to exact match types, and segment performance based on match type, you must implement match type silos.

Match Type Silos










Match type silos not only promote match type parity but, with appropriate negative keywords, guarantee proper query-to-keyword matching. (For more on match type silos, read our whitepaper on managing negative keywords.)

Be mindful of publisher and match type gaps. Once these keyword gaps have been filled, remember to optimize. Researching negative keywords, setting appropriate keyword bids and generating relevant ad creative are just a few tasks to keep in mind. Implement these strategies and share your results with us.