[Editor Note: Dave Collins, noted UK micro-ISV marketing expert, is sharing his considerable expertise on marketing, SEO, Google AdWords and more on Fridays at MyMicroISV. Thanks Dave!]
By Dave Collins
Founder, Shareware Promotions
Identifying the single most important factor in achieving Google AdWords success is tricky, but the keywords are the obvious starting point. Get them wrong and your ads may not only remain hidden from the right people, but could also be shown to the wrong people.
Although there are plenty of other factors that play a part, it is clear that the whole of the AdWords process begins with and rests upon the keywords.
Generally speaking, there are two different ways of approaching your keyword lists. Either you use a very small number of highly targeted keywords, or you use a large number, where hundreds or more is the norm.
Which is the right approach? As in most things Google AdWords related, there are two ways of doing things. The wrong way, and the potentially right way.
In other words, the right length for your keyword list is somewhere between the two extremes. Usually. But I know you’re not going to be happy with that, so let’s delve a little deeper.
Highly targeted lists usually employ tight matching options. Perhaps a very small number of keywords, all of which are exact or sometimes phrase matched.
Some argue that this is the right approach. That it is more prudent to be safe, and you’re unlikely to waste much money this way. Usually.
The problem is that you’re unlikely to make much either, and the ultimate goal of an AdWords account isn’t to save money. It’s to make it.
The fact is that any form of money making carries an element of risk, and advertising is certainly no different. But you usually need to strike the right balance between caution and risk taking.
Some people argue that a huge keyword list is the way to go, because the more bait you scatter, the more likely it is that something will bite. But the problem with this approach is that much of your bait is likely to be lost along the way, or eaten by fish that you have no interest in catching.
Again, balance is the key.
For me, the process begins as simply as possible. I often start my keyword research using little more than my copy of Microsoft’s One Note (seriously useful software) and my brain. (I won’t comment on usefulness of the latter).
I like to scribble down a list of features, benefits, user groups, usage scenarios, basically anything regarding the itch that needs to be scratched, and/or where to find the itchy people!
Once I have this basic list, I fall back on a little more common sense, and brainstorm a list of variations. Synonyms, slang, regional variations, combinations, plurals, misspellings and so on. The more the merrier, at this point.
When it comes to using these keywords in your Google AdWords account, keep a careful eye on the matching options that you choose. It’s usually a bad idea to leave everything broad matched.
Some keywords will also work well using multiple match options. Example: You may get more impressions using spam blocking, “spam blocking” and [spam blocking].
I know. It shouldn’t work that way, but it usually does. Welcome to the world of Google AdWords.
It’s also worth noting that your keywords may be used in different contexts than your software, so make sure you keep an eye out for that. We once worked with a company who had been bidding on a phrase matched keyword that happened to be the name of a band! They had wasted a fair amount of money on some totally untargeted traffic. You’d think that the ad text would have worked as a filter, but it didn’t.
If you follow all of the above instructions, you’ll usually end up with a fairly massive list of keywords. The problem is that you may well find your ad group unwieldy and difficult to tame.
Because of this, there are a series of steps that will not only improve how you handle your list, but will usually also improve your click through rates and overall return on investment.
First of all, when you add your new keywords, give them a while to generate some solid data, but keep a careful eye on them during this time. Look out for any that are generating more impressions than you expected, and if any catch your attention, make sure you understand why.
Aside from any big blunders (for example your software’s called White House and you only used broad match), you should give the new keywords a full week at the absolute minimum, and wherever possible try to work with units of seven days.
Once you have some data, go into your ad group and order by impressions, and take a careful look at both ends of the scale.
For the high impressions, do the click through rates match accordingly? Any surprises? And at the lower end of the scale, look for keywords that generate zero impressions – preferably after at least two weeks if not longer. Get rid of them. All they’re doing is cluttering your account and possibly hurting your quality score.
Once you’ve done this, you are ready to split the keywords into their own campaigns and/or ad groups, each of which will be grouped around new themes. Effectively you’re dragging and dropping from the existing group/s into the new, but Google don’t make this process particularly easy.
Once you’ve done this, you need to write new ads around these keyword groups.
The result? A large list gets broken into several smaller lists, all of which are grouped around their own features, themes, user groups or subjects. And the new ads are an exact match for their keywords. As you already know, relevance is usually the key to Google AdWords success.
The process then begins again, at least if you have the time to spend on it. As well as ensuring that your ads and keywords are well matched, this method allows you to only work with the keywords that are worthwhile. Would you rather write ads for a keyword that gets 11 or 1,100 impressions a day?
Although this process is time consuming and tedious, it is a rock solid technique for expanding the scope of your AdWords account, increasing your list of keywords, pruning the deadwood and having ads that are tightly built around targeted keywords.
One final note. The word “usually” has been used more than ten times in this article. Why? Because much of the Google AdWords system is hidden from view. They don’t want you or me to be in complete and total control of all aspects of their account, as this wouldn’t be to their advantage. Sometimes there seems to be a random factor, and what works for ten accounts may not work for the eleventh. But the above techniques work well more often than not. Usually.
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Dave Collins is the CEO of SharewarePromotions http://www.sharewarepromotions.com, a well established UK-based software marketing company. Dave specialises in Google AdWords, Log Analysis, Online Marketing and Delegation.
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