Before 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:
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.
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:
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.
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.
With January underway, most search marketers have already made their personal New Year resolutions. Whether it’s better health, spending more time with friends and family, or helping out in the community, we all have high hopes for 2013. For me, and many other search marketers, the motivation to do better each year defines the strategies I hope to execute on in 2013. It all starts with planning and creativity. After analyzing this past year’s performance and factoring in the objectives that have been set, three additional New Year resolutions made it on my list. The following are what I hope to do more of for my paid search program in 2013 and how I plan to get there.
1. Test More of Everything
My testing plans tend to go through cycles of high activity and mild dormancy. Building a test, analyzing results, implement the findings, and building the next test takes time and often loses steam when coupled with a busy schedule. This year, I’m going to test more and test often. This will include not just search landing pages, but also ad creative, conversion pages, and display banners. I’m working with my design team to create an optimization calendar that fits their bandwidth and allows me to prioritize tests across our multiple marketing channels. Testing more will be especially be critical this year as I look to grow leads incrementally without expanding budgets.
2. Re-Organize Messy Campaigns
Though this resolution is much more time consuming and has more long term than short term implications, I believe that it will pay big dividends during critical seasonal periods of 2013. Many times search campaigns are built out with a structure that makes sense at that time. However, as campaigns mature and outgrow that structure, they no longer perform at optimal levels. Aggressive keyword expansion can lead to less relevant creative; and less aggressive negative keyword expansion can result in unwanted clicks. On top of that, as Google and Bing come out with new features and functionality, the account structure may become dated and less productive.
This year, I’m reviewing the structure of my campaigns and groups. Groups that achieved lower than average click-through rates (CTR) in 2012 will be split out into more granular ones. Since keywords under this new structure will vary less within any one group, I can then generate highly relevant creative and leverage more specific landing pages in hopes of increasing Quality Score, CTR, and conversion rate.
3. Prioritize Creative Optimization
I’ve talked about this particular resolution in my previous articles, yet it always seems to fall lower in the pecking order of my daily optimization efforts. Especially among small to medium sized businesses where budgets are tight, creative testing and optimization is critical to incremental growth and improvements in overall paid search performance. In fact, all three of my resolutions for 2013 fall into the category of maximizing performance without increasing budgets. Splitting keywords out into more granular groups will require continuous testing to increase relevance and improve creative performance. To capitalize on the largest revenue opportunities, I’ll prioritize my optimization efforts to groups with high traffic volume, but poor performance. This is likely where I’ll get the most return on my time spent optimizing creative.
The key this New Year is building on the momentum from 2012. There are plenty of new publisher features and tools like remarketing and Product Listing Ads out there to try. Regardless, I’ve decided to rely on these three basic optimization strategies—aligning them with my marketing objectives—to improve my paid search program and increase conversions in 2013.
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.
To 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.
As 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
Whether you’re just starting out in paid search or have fully built out search campaigns, in order to be successful, you’ll want to know how to implement negative-keywords within your campaigns. Why? Actively managing negatives is possibly the single most impactful tool marketers have to increase revenues and lower costs. The virtuous circle of lowering costs while simultaneously increasing quality and position results in a win-win for the advertiser: increased revenue and ROI. Given the benefits, negative keywords should always be a top consideration for advertisers looking to optimize paid search.
In a recent white paper, Marin Software reviews the benefits of successful negatives strategies and presents a variety of best practices for deploying and managing negatives. Some of these best practices include:
Gain a complete understanding of how to leverage negatives to maximize revenue and performance for online advertising programs. More importantly, become equipped with the techniques necessary to make a strategic implementation of negatives a reality.
Download the free white paper here.
And, join our free webcast on Thursday, March 15 at 10am PST (1pm EST).
Looking for ways to bolster your retargeting campaigns? Consider how your segmenting your audiences. More info here: bit.ly/1AOC2Kj