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Keyword List Mistakes

December 17, 2008 by · 3 Comments 

Filter” is a Band and Other Keyword List Mistakes

It was either Sun Tzu or Bill Belichick who said that “The game is won or lost before you ever set foot on the field.”

That is particularly true of PPC advertising, where the way you design your campaign often determines your ultimate success. You can win or lose before you even register a single impression.

With that in mind, I’d like to write about the biggest mistakes I have seen when developing Keyword Lists for Google PPC advertising. As always, this is not necessarily keyword dogma, or generally accepted best practice. It’s just how I see it.

Big Mistake #1) Poorly Constructed Keyword Lists

It’s SO EASY to just throw your keywords into a couple of Ad Groups in Google, set them active and let it fly. BIG MISTAKE.

Build lots of Ad Groups with a very narrow set of keywords in each group. Why? Google reads your keywords, ad copy and landing pages much differently than you may. By keeping your keyword lists narrowly focused, you have a much more accurate view of how Google see your Ads, Quality Score and landing pages.

Lets’ use the term “water filter” as an example.

Google’s algorithm will see “water filter” as something different than “water filtration”. To your average consumer or non-linguist, it might be difficult to see the distinction. Trust me, Google sees one.

If I were to create Ad Groups and keyword lists for those terms, I would have a “water filter” Ad Group and a “water filtration” Ad Group. You’ll need to adjust ads to reflect differences in the Ad Groups, but they can be minor word changes that make a big difference.

It’s a lot of work, but your Quality Scores and CTRs will improve in proportion with how narrowly defined your Ad Groups and keyword lists are.

2) Ignoring the Duality of Keywords

While keyword selection does not yet have its Carl Jung, many keywords have an awkward duality for PPC purposes. Individual keywords can mean different things in combination, or really different things when poorly separated.

Let’s take the “water filter” example first.

The simplest two words to bid on are “water” and “filter”. BIG MISTAKE. PPC is most effective when someone is searching for something specific. “Water filter” can be specific.

“Water” can refer to just about anything. Water conservation. Rain water. Water stains. Bottled water. Spring water. Contaminated water.

“Filter” can refer to air filters in your car. Coffee filters. Or the volatile industrial rock band that had a good run in the late 90s/early 2000s before heading to rehab.

When Broad matched, you can literally use your entire budget on terms like “water” or ‘filter” because Google will find an enormous volume of searches that it can serve your ads to.

No one will be clicking on your ad, lowering your CTR and driving up costs. Even worse, you can get mistaken clicks, hurting your budget directly. You’ll also see significantly lower conversions on these high volume terms – which often leads to poorer overall results. I’ve seen a number of AdWords campaigns cancelled entirely for “Poor Performance” when the real culprit was poor keyword lists.

Ignore the duality of keywords at your own peril.

BIG MISTAKE 3) “I Don’t Use No Negative Keywords”

Ignoring Negative keywords is a BIG MISTAKE. But it’s easy to fix. When you’re composing keyword lists, look at each keyword and think of all the other meanings or phrases that one of your campaigns could have – but that you don’t want.

For instance, if you want to advertise for “commercial water filtration”, you might want to run a negative keyword for “Brita” the popular consumer water filtration system.

If you want to advertise under the term “filter” you might want to add negative keywords such as “the band” “group” “music” or “rock” because that searcher is likely looking for when the aforementioned band’s next album.

Insert all of those words into your keywords as Negative Matches so that your ad doesn’t appear under searches that are clearly not meant for your campaign. It will increase CTRs, quality scores and overall performance.

BIG MISTAKE 4) Abusing Popular Brand Names

I have heard from a number of advertisers with niche products that they want to advertise under their competitors’ brand names. Fair enough, everyone does it. But this can bankrupt a campaign if done poorly. Let’s look at an example.

A company that makes data profiling software wants to take advertise under the name of its biggest competitor, say “Oracle”. Now, while Oracle may have a competitive data profiling application, that’s not all Oracle is known for – or searched under.

Oracle is a giant company with thousands of product offerings. Hundreds of thousands of searches are done on it every day. But bidding on “Oracle” is a BIG MISTAKE because the percentage of folks looking for Oracle’s data profiling solution under that brand term is unbelievably low. You’ll get tons of volume, high costs, low to no conversions and lower CTR, Quality Score, etc.

The right strategy is to identify all of Oracle’s data profiling products and services by name. You can phrase match a term like “Oracle data profiling” or “Oracle data platform”. Do a little digging and you’ll find their latest version releases, application names, etc. Use those keywords phrases specific to your niche, they’ll produce better in the long run.

BIG MISTAKE #5 – Not Using Competitors Names

I have heard a thousand and one times from marketers that “We don’t have any competitors.” And while I appreciate that brand of self-delusion, these advertisers need to take a long sip of Reality Juice and adjust their thinking.

I’m sure some ancient Eastern philosopher once said to “Look outside yourself.” Ask the question “If my customers or prospects were searching for my product, what keywords would they type into Google?”

Then, type those phrases or keywords into Google. Most every PPC listing on that page contains a competitor.

Now, you probably already know who your competitors are. The first step when developing keyword lists of competitors is to see Big Mistake #4. Don’t use phrases or names that are too popular or too broad. Don’t use the term “AAA” if your competitor is “AAA Painting”. You’ll get lots of useless impressions from consumers afraid of a flat tire.

In most cases, that’s not a problem. If your competitors are local, look them up on local directory, or in the yellow pages. If you have a niche product, don’t be afraid to use your competitors’ product names, software versions, release numbers etc. You won’t get a lot of volume, but you will get more relevant, highly focused traffic.

Big Mistake #6 – Not Using Enough Keywords

About 6 months ago, I spoke with someone who was running only 1 keyword in their AdWords campaign: “Tub liners”. When I asked why he was only using 1 keyword, the answer was simple “That’s what we make, tub liners.”

While PPC veterans may smile at this, we can’t expect everyone to immediately become AdWords masters. The truth is that he should be using hundreds of iterations and alternative keywords to describe his product.

Some of this should be immediately evident. If you are going to advertise under “tub liners” it makes sense that the same consumer might also type in “shower liners,” “bath tub liners” or “acrylic bathtub liner”.

How do you find these alternative terms? Some quick brainstorming could help. Or, use the Google Keyword tool. It’s easy, it’s free, and it will give you the simplest list of alternative keywords. It should never be trusted blindly, but the Google Keyword Tool does a great job of getting you off the blocks and running down the track.

Big Mistake #7 – Assuming People Know How to Spell

They don’t!!! Whether it’s because they are bad typists, genuinely poor spellers or that text messaging has decimated grammatical skills, misspellings happen at an alarming rate and are continuing to increase.

What are people misspelling? It could be anything. I know from firsthand experience that people spell the world “helmet” as “helmut”. I love that because I tend to have that page all to myself for paid search purposes.

Regional terms frequently tend to be misspelled. I was a grade school spelling bee champion, but I had to look up the proper spelling of “Cincinnati.” “Miami” is often spelled “Maimi”. And someone always misses an “s” in Mississippi.

BIG MISTAKE #8 – Writing Ads That Don’t Match Your Keyword Lists

This is something the Google AdWords algorithm loves to punish – or benefit if you do it properly. Let’s go back to my “water filtration” fixation.

Say you’ve adroitly set up two Ad Groups, one for “Water Filters” and another for “Water Filtration.”

“Water Filters” has all sorts of keywords in it that are narrowly focused: Water filter, Water filters, Waterfilter, Waterfilters, Water filtr, Brita water filter, Brita water filters

“Water Filtration” has a similar list: water filtration, in home water filtration, water filtration system, water filtration systems, water filtration company, water filtration companies.

In the ads for the “Water Filters” Ad Group, you can write ads and ad titles that contain the exact term “water filters. A Google ad might read something like this:

Idaho Home Water Filters

Our water filters cleanse & purify

your tap water for healthier living

The Google algorithm loves that you used the specific term that the consumer type into the search box. In most cases, Google will bless your ad with “relevance”.

Now, let’s look at the same ad for the “Water Filtration” Ad Group.

Idaho Water Filtration

Our home water filtration systems

can cleanse & purify your tap water

This strategy requires small adjustments to the copy in all of your ads, but I spend a lot of time on this, and recommend you do as well. If you’re relying on PPC with Google, this is a worthwhile effort.

In Conclusion

With these points in mind, I hope your next AdWords campaign will be easier to design and quicker to show results. Good luck, and as always, “Be careful out there.”


Todd Bairstow is the founder and a partner at Keyword Advisors, a lead generation firm that specializes in providing branded, exclusive home improvement leads to companies around the country. He is currently building a home improvement blog called Home Improvement Advisors.

SEO Analyst / Product Manager

December 8, 2008 by · 1 Comment 

SEO Analyst / Product Manager for hot new travel website – Boston, MA

Walden’s client is the Internet company everybody wants to work for. They seek an experienced and proven SEO Analyst / Product Manager to join their world-class team. Read more

December Meetup is today, the 1st!

December 1, 2008 by · 3 Comments 

Our SEO Meetup is today, December 1st, 2008 at the Robbins Library in Arlington.  Parking in back of the library, along the street, or across the street in the parking lot.  Tonight we’ll be having a presentation from SEO Drop, more information about the event here.

Generating Great Content-Tips and Strategies

December 1, 2008 by · 1 Comment 

We all know the importance of content for our SEO efforts, but it can be hard to create constant fresh content for your article marketing campaigns that is both effective for SEO and interesting as content. Fortunately, there are some simple ways to get an article campaign on track and start creating new, quality content quickly:

1. Use your web analytics tool to focus on one venue for your most recent articles. For instance, analyze those articles published on one site over the past year. Create a list of which articles generated the most traffic, and which generated the most conversions. Also take a hard look at the articles that didn’t drive traffic. Look at the patterns of what worked: was it general informational articles for the beginner audience, or more technical pieces? Take a look at your top-performing articles and find a way to replicate what you feel made them such great pieces, but focusing on a lesser area of your business-one that really needs an uptick in traffic.

For example, say that you’ve published eight articles in an online journal over the past year. Four of them were focused on specific products, one was an opinion piece, and three were focused on industry trends.

  • The opinion piece garnered a lot of traffic, but almost no conversions. It may still be a worthwhile type of article. Your next step: check to see how many inbound links the article has generated—if it’s a large number in proportion to your overall number of inbound links, you’ve found a type of article that could likely generate more inbound links. Although the traffic it brings to your site does not often convert, the story has raised your visibility and your number of inbound links. Look closely at the opinion piece and at the sites that are linking to it. Is the article controversial, does it take a positive tone, does it cite a variety of interesting studies? Check out every site that links to your article, and look at any text that accompanies the links. Analyze the predominant themes of what people are saying about your article, to get a sense of what has prompted so many inbound links. Identify, if possible, at least three factors that contributed to the article’s popularity. Once you’re fairly certain of what prompted all the traffic, write a few similar opinion pieces, now with the goal of creating links, and driving traffic, to an area of your site that isn’t getting enough traffic.
  • OK, you’re thinking, but what about traffic that converts? Go back to your analysis of all your articles: which articles generated the most conversions? You find that the product-focused articles actually did not generate the most conversions. First, make sure that the problem really is the article, and not the product landing page that the article takes readers to—if people take one look at that page and leave your site, then the page, rather than the articles, might be your problem. Are visitors who come to the page from another referring source, other than your article, also leaving the site once they get to that page? If you’ve tested out the page, and found that it normally tends to generate conversions, then it’s likely the problem is the product-focused article.
  • Looking closely at all your articles, you find that the service-oriented, industry-trends articles actually generate the most conversions. Again, try to analyze each article and identify at least three factors that seem to contribute to conversions. Use as much customer data as you have access to, and try to identify demographics and buying patterns of customers who came to your site through these articles. Then, take what you know about those customers to work on more industry-trends articles. For instance, say your site sells electronic gadgets to the consumer. You discover that conversions you got through those articles were new customers, who bought an average of $125 worth of products. Many were located in parts of the country where you don’t have retail stores. Thus, you are reaching new customers, unfamiliar with your brand. Bearing this in mind, write your next few industry-trends articles with a view towards increasing your brand’s visibility.

2. Find a long-tail keyword that really touches on an area of your business you feel passionate about. Now write about it. Create a list of long-tail terms that you would like some content for, and get others in your organization to choose a favorite topic to write about. That collective enthusiasm can quickly generate a lot of great content on a number of terms.

  • Circulate your list of long-tail keywords as widely as possible in your organization. Hold a meeting and demonstrate to all potential contributors the value of writing articles. Use concrete examples of past articles, and show the ROI for each article, but don’t stop there. The more metrics you can show them, the more your message will resonate. For example, say you want your colleagues to understand the value of writing industry-trends pieces—so much so that they start writing them as well. Don’t just tell them that each customer who came to your site from having read an industry-trends piece bought $125 in products. Show them how many of these were new customers, how much traffic the article generated overall, where the traffic came from, etc. Keep the presentation interesting, but provide a compelling argument for why they need to write articles.
  • Make sure that you keep updating the list of topics for which you are seeking content, and send regular email updates to staff.
  • Ask staff to brainstorm about other keywords that they think might be helpful. Keep the article-writing group effort as open as possible. Anything anyone wants to write about, as long as it’s appropriate, should be considered—don’t limit your colleagues’ efforts to your own list of keywords.

3. Make a list of which pages, other than your homepage and landing pages, get the most traffic. Look closely at the content of those pages, and write articles pertaining to that content.

  • You now have articles on topics that have been proven to be of interest to your visitors—without having had to conduct a survey.
  • This can also be a useful exercise if you’re stumped for keywords for you and your colleagues to write about—sometimes, you just need to “ask” your customers.

Most importantly, keep this in mind: creating new content requires continual effort, but please remember to keep it fun.

Christina Inge is the marketing manager for Spinwave Systems, a Westford-based tech company specializing in energy management solutions. She also serves as marketing and public relations coordinator for the New England Quilt Museum in Lowell. She has over ten years’ experience in communications for both B2C and B2B audiences.