Keyword Selection for Paid Search

It often seems like a race to keep up with the escalating complexity of paid search. From an agency perspective, changes to process, technology and training are frequently necessary in order to accommodate the evolution. Many of these changes enable us to move the needle here and there on leveraging performance, but the core of a solid paid search campaign hasn’t really changed that much.

Paid search is fundamentally about presenting a relevant ad to someone who enters a keyword in a search engine. Every month, 60% of the searches on Google are brand new. With the keyword list being the pillar of the paid search campaign, keyword selection is essential. Technology now exists to scrape a page and cull a list, but the fundamental strategies for effective keyword selection remain the same now as they have been for years. Here are some of the basic keyword selection tactics that apply to the retail vertical.

Top Sellers: Site analytics can determine the top selling products through direct load and natural search. These words should be part of the paid search campaign.

Top Searched Products on the Site: Site analytics can inform what people are searching for on the site, and these words should be included in the paid search campaign. Products being searched for but not sold by the merchant should be given to the merchandising team to potentially expand the product line.

Research Tools: Hitwise, comScore Marketer, Compete and Keyword Spy are all great sources to identify not only the top keywords driving traffic to a competitor’s site, but also to identify the top keywords driving natural traffic to the company for whom the paid search keyword list is being developed. Keyword coverage in both paid and natural search ultimately adds up to more revenue for the advertiser as it creates additional real estate for the advertiser on the search engine.

Website: It’s a laborious process, but making sure all products on the website have relevant keywords is essential as is ensuring that category terms make the list, as well. It is the category terms that will drive the most volume and the product-specific terms that will yield the best conversion rate.

Catalog:  If the paid search advertiser also has a catalog, ensure that there is maximum keyword coverage on products featured in the catalog as well as ensuring that best sellers have maximum exposure.

Datafeed:  Most merchants have a datafeed that’s used for various purposes. Identifying new items in the feed is a great way to ensure that new products don’t slip through the cracks. Additionally, active keywords for products that are no longer in the feed should be paused.

Search Engine Tools: The search engines make lots of free resources available for recommending like keywords to the base word that was input.

Plurals:  For the life of me, I don’t know why a singular (or plural) version of a keyword that is at the top of the best performers list is also at the bottom for the opposite version of the word (singular or plural).  Anyone who has seen lots of paid search results will recognize this curious dynamic.  For this reason, every keyword needs both plural and singular versions of the word to be covered.

Search Query Reports:  Refer to the search query reports provided by the search engines to identify the actual words someone entered into the search engine in order for an ad to be displayed.  Refine the keyword list and match type strategy based on these findings.

Google Insights for Search: This free tool shows rising searches related to a particular keyword enabling a campaign to yield scale quickly.

Synonyms:  If you sell women’s clothing, ensure that you have all variations of women’s (ladies, girls, etc) and add these variations to the base of every keyword.

Once the keyword list is developed, give it a reality check.  Many merchants name their products with language that is not common to the public.  Cosmetics companies may refer to “fragrances,” whereas the majority of searchers will be looking for “perfume.”  Make sure your product can be found by emulating consumer behavior and by applying common sense.

Suzy Sandberg is President of PM Digital.

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