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When talking about search marketing, it starts and ends with a keyword.

The concept of understanding the keywords users are searching for and matching them to what your brand has to offer has created one of the most successful and profitable companies of all time.

We’ve had a lot of conversations lately about keywords and how to use them. I divide these into three strategic discussions:

  1. specificity: How detailed should any company’s keyword list be?Example; summer flat feet men’s running shoes vs running shoes
  2. activity structure: How should these keywords be grouped to be most effective and map to the appropriate ad copy?
  3. Brand and non-brand: Should I bid on my brand terms? What is the value of non-branded keywords if they are below my ROI target?

This article will focus on specificity – how to determine the starting point of your keyword list and then how to refine it using the available search query report data provided by Google.

getting Started

If this is your first campaign running, welcome. If not, then you should skip this section.

There are many different keyword tools you can use to help set up your account. While they may be slightly different, I’ve found that either one is good enough to get started.

I usually use Google’s tools. Enter your website or some basic keywords you know to include and let the tool come up with your list.

From there, everything is your own intuition. You don’t yet know what your results will be, and there really isn’t a way to know how far you should go until you get real data, especially given your product set. You just have to start somewhere.

Some common questions are:

  • Are you a local business? If so, it makes sense to include some of these local keyword variations
  • What is your budget? Your ability to fund a broader keyword list or target more expensive key terms will be determined by your budget
  • How much traffic is your search term getting? If you’re in a high volume area, you’re likely to see more volume on larger tail terms that make sense to include.

Start with some grouping structure to keep your related keywords together and consistent with your ad copy and landing pages. This is important for relevance and quality score.

Don’t try to overfill ad groups. If a keyword doesn’t belong, put it where it is, even if it’s on its own.

Always include at least phase match and negative keywords. Every business knows keywords that don’t match their business or that don’t match their product set.

Similar to phrase match, you want to be able to get an idea of ​​what consumers are searching for. This is where the real magic and sophistication happens.

Use the Search Query Report to refine your keyword list

Once your campaign starts running, you’ll not only start getting actual data about the keywords you’re bidding on, but you’ll also get keyword information about the search terms Google matched your keywords. This gives you the opportunity to refine your listing by adding negatives or bidding specifically on these variations.

You can access this data from the main keyword menu by selecting “Search terms” or by running a search terms report in the Reports section. Google provides more details in its help text here.

I prefer the keyword menu in the main interface because you can directly manage keywords based on the data you see. Below are examples of adding as keywords or negative options.

I like to start by sorting by impressions. This helps me deal with keywords that I might have missed. Those who will have the greatest impact on the results. I will also include CPA data.

What I’m looking for is simple. If the number of search terms is high and is converting, or I feel strategic to the account (meaning it may not convert yet, but I can optimize bids or other items to bring value) I would add it as a keyword. If it’s the other way around, I’ll add it to the negative list.

What I find that you see often are search term variations that can give you insight into how consumers perceive your product.

You’ll often see search terms that give you insight into things you might be assuming, such as: color, size, location, or price. It can help you understand what content or landing pages you might need to build to better answer those queries.

By adding these search terms that you didn’t think of at first, you can better choose landing pages for those keywords, or ad copy that is more specific to that term.

In the keywords section of the menu, you can also add various segments to the data, which are also very insightful. The segment menu options are located in the top row next to Column, Download, or Expand:

You can segment data by time (day, week, month, etc.), conversions, device, or network (Google and search partners). These segments can provide deeper insights into consumer behavior and give you some keys to further optimization.

You do not have the correct or wrong number of keywords in your account

It’s driven by category, your budget and consumer behavior. The key is to use data to drive your decisions.

The Search Query Report provides excellent insights into search terms that can help you build landing pages and content that can help you improve customer experience, relevance, and overall conversion rates.

Keyword research tools are the starting point, but nothing beats your search query reporting data.


The views expressed in this article are those of the guest authors and not necessarily those of Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.


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About the author

Jason Tabling is CEO air tank And is an accomplished marketing executive and proven leader with over 20 years of experience growing strong and profitable teams, working for and with Fortune 500 companies in a variety of industries. Prior to joining AirTank, Jason was Executive Vice President of Product at BrandMuscle, an enterprise software and services company focused on Fortune 1000 brands, where he led product innovation and strategy. He earned the company a leadership ranking in Forrester’s 2020 Omnichannel Marketing Automation Wave. He also spent 16 years with Rosetta, Razorfish and Progressive Insurance, leading paid, earned and owned media teams across the healthcare, financial services and retail verticals. He has been named a “40 under 40” by Direct Marketing News, has served as a judge at the AMA Reggie Awards, and has been published on Forbes and many other publications as a subject matter expert.



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