Secret Truth #21: All Keywords Are Not Created Equal

The ability to prioritize and focus is a key skill for any paid search manager. With campaigns stuffed with hundreds-of-thousand or even millions of keywords, organized into hundreds or thousands of ad groups, and presenting metrics from zillions of clicks and conversions, there is always too much to do. No paid search manager has ever finished their work and gone home early. Some may have gone home early, but they weren’t finished. There are many wise and legitimate ways to prioritize. Perhaps the most important comes, ironically, from the ‘long tail’ that consumes so much of our media attention and has forced the culture of keyword expansion (a de-focusing force) upon us. The priority is at the head end.

The Big Head

In the last release of ClickEquations we introduced one-click segmentation features. One of them automatically tags some subset of your keywords as ‘head keywords’. The user-customizable definition starts as the smallest number of keywords that are responsible for 80% of your revenue over the last 30 days. In other words your 30 biggest earners. In our 250,000 keyword demo account, between 200-900 keywords are normally tagged as ‘head keywords’ depending on purchase histories of the preceeding 30 days. That means using this one-click segment takes 99.8% of all the keywords in the account out of the way, and allows you to easily spend your time getting those .2% into tip-top shape. Think about that for a second. Two-tenths-of-one-percent of our keywords drive 80% of our revenue. What a great opportunity to prioritize and focus.

  • Most of us don’t spend enough time writing text ads – maybe for this small group we can find the time.
  • Many accounts have too many keywords per ad group – maybe these winners can at least earn their way into super-narrow ad groups.
  • Even query mining takes time – perhaps for these big-ticket words we can devote the attention required to add some negatives and promote some exact matches and push our profitability even higher.

With a management goal of getting everything right surrounding 500 keywords, there’s even a chance, admittedly slim, that we’ll finish and go home guilt-free for a change. More importantly, it presents one clear signal we can use to prioritize. Again, it’s not the only one. It may not be perfect for everyone. But the idea of separating the urgent from the important from the interesting is critical in PPC and doesn’t get nearly enough attention.

A Bunch of Long Tails

If you’ve followed along this far in this series, you may have already guessed the rub with keyword prioritization. We’re much bigger fans of search queries than we are of keywords, and our natural inclination would be to take any keyword that is garnering a lot of clicks, consuming a lot of expense, or generating almost any revenue at all and dive deep into the search queries that were matched to that keyword and add more negatives and new positive, more specifically matched, keywords. In effect we want to create mini tails around our top performing keywords – extending the range and specificity of the keywords and flattening the curve that leads to the long tail. Fragmenting our top performing keywords in this way can really skew the results of a head-defining approach like that described above. So over time we’ll have to move towards using top performing ad groups – each narrowly defined themselves – or tag-based clusters of keywords, to gain the focus we seek. The goal and ultimately result will be the same, but the process will be much different.

Finding Your Priorities

For most people the benefits of a simple ‘head keyword’ definition far outweigh the limitations, at least unless they’ve already done a tone of query mining. The ‘head keywords’ approach is the right place to start and can be a great prioritization tool. Longer term it should also be a goal to outgrow this technique. With aggressive query mining and organizational narrowing it should be considered a success when the process isn’t effective anymore and you need to move on to one that’s more sophisticated. However you choose to do it, every paid search manager should be able to answer this question: Which 2% of my keywords do I have to execute on perfectly, and which 98% can I manage to much looser standards.

This blog post is part of a series extending and amplifying the ideas in our free ebook ’21 Secret Truths of High-Resolution PPC’. What they’re saying: “Everything you know about AdWords is the basics Google wanted you to know. Just enough to get you hooked. But what if there was fundamental secrets that they neglected to share? Would you want to know them? Now you can! 21 Secrets Truths is what you must read, no, act on, before your competitors do.” – Bryan Eisenberg Conversion Expert and New York Times Best-Selling Author ’. Download Your Copy Today .


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