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SEM: Getting the Best Return on Paid Keywords

Paid search is not a do it and forget it endeavor.  Savvy advertisers stay current with trends and examine reports to receive the best ROI for their marketing dollars.

Last year, retargeting, mobile, and shopping were hot topics in search.  This year, it is expected that keywords will be the focus with an emphasis on search intent more so than specific words.  This shift to semantic search will help marketers better understand searcher behavior and how that behavior may lead to a future purchase.

One thing that has not changed in the search engine marketing game is the importance of the quality score (QS).  This number influences the success of the overall campaign, including keywords.  The click through rate (CTR), popularity of search teams, and landing pages are all QS factors important for a successful campaign.  Although understanding what makes for a good QS isn’t entirely clear, you can at least check your score in your AdWords account and learn specifically if you are on the right track with your selected keywords.

The keyword diagnosis tool is another useful tool to learn if keywords will trigger your ads.

Advertisers can access this directly in their AdWords accounts and receive real-time results and see potential problems, such as a low quality score mentioned above.  The diagnosis and QS check provide data about keywords in general.

The next step is to dig into the specifics of the actual search queries used based on different types of keyword phrases.

Branded keywords

The use of these words indicates that the customer knows you.  Because they are interested in your specific product or service, they will be more likely to convert when they come across your ad.  Advertisers should use and monitor for use of the company brand name as well as the products and services the company is best known for in reports.

Ads with branded keywords and strong calls to action enable you to control what’s in the search results.  With organic, search engines do not always pull the meta descriptions so you, as the site owner, cannot control what exactly is displayed to the searcher unless you do so with a paid ad.

Branded words are also seen in later interactions when the customer is ready to buy.  Even if they have never heard of you, after doing some research between Brand A, Brand B, and Brand C, if the time has come to purchase from you (Brand A), they will use that term instead of the category terms used earlier in the buying cycle.  You want to monitor the performance of those words separately in reports so you can learn where people are in the buying cycle when they click on your paid ads.

Non-branded keywords

This indicates they want your service or product, but not necessarily you.  These are used earlier in the buying cycle when the customer is in the research phase and doing some comparison shopping.  Here you are competing with other brands.  This is when the Display Network is a good strategy because you are advertising based on contextual terms, not on your brand name.

Longer-tail words

Google’s Keywords to the Wise suggests using broad match terms to learn about long-tail queries.   Since these keywords are 5-7 word phrases, they will have less competition because of their specificity and lower costs. One strategy is to put them in their own group because they are more specific to your offerings.  These words operate similarly to branded words in terms of performance because these searchers are more likely to know what they want.  On the other hand, short-tail words will have a lower cost-per-click (CPC) since those are broader categories of items people are searching.

Those who are ready for some advanced reporting can use the Keyword Performance Report available with AdWords scripts to get even more detailed with keywords monitoring.  Data is pulled from the previous week and the reports are accessible in Google Drive.

By analyzing different types of keywords, you’ll be able to make good decisions about your campaigns based on CTR and CPC.  Successful companies monitor their campaign reports to understand and optimize the performance of the different keyword types.

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