September 18, 2014

PPC Farming – Soil Prep

Soil Prep

Soil PrepJust like farming starts with the soil, PPC starts with your keywords. The first step in achieving a successful PPC harvest is to prepare your soil through appropriate keyword research.

Keyword Research

Your first step is to figure out what type of soil you have. First, look at your web content, promotional materials, marketing pieces, etc. to find the keywords that you are currently using to describe your service/product/offering. Open up a Word doc or pull out a pad of paper. Write these keywords/phrases down.

Second, log in to your analytics account (ie Google Analytics, Omniture, Statcounter). Run a report on your organic traffic for the last 3 months or so. Look at the top non-brand terms and add the best ones to your list.

Lastly, if your site has a search bar, look at your search log to see what people are typing once they are on your site. This is gold because these terms are exactly what users are looking for ON YOUR SITE! Add these to the list (if they aren’t already there).

Helpful Tools

PPC HorseThis picture is a Troy-Bilt Horse; a 1HP tiller that chews through the toughest soil and leaves behind a path of soil nirvana. Tools like this allow you to prepare more soil with less time. Here’s a list of my favorites:

  1. Google’s Keyword Tool(s) – Google currently has 3 versions of their keyword tool, but their info is based on the most search data and so I recommend starting with Google.
  2. SpyFu - They show you the ads, the natural results and give estimates of how much clicks are costing advertisers. This is great for seeing what your competitors are doing.
  3. Wordstream – Easy to use, great UI and they’ll email you your keyword lists.
  4. Wordtracker - They don’t have as much search data as Google, but this will help you get insight into searches being done outside of Google.
  5. Suggester - This is a newer tool, but kicks out some pretty good results. Warning: Their servers are in Texas, so some of their Top Terms are biased.

Proper keyword research will help you create an environment where the seeds of your PPC efforts can grow. So how do we get started planting?

UPDATE: Just yesterday Brad Geddes wrote a great piece on 7 keyword tools. Great supplement!

Google’s 3 Keyword Tools

Google Keyword Tool

Perhaps I’m a little slow on the uptake here, but why does Google have three different keyword tools? The oldest of the three (to my knowledge) is the External Keyword Tool here. This is the tool I’ve had bookmarked in Firefox for years. However, a while back Google launched the Search-Based Keyword Tool. This represented a branch in the product development more than evolution since the search-based tool was intended to take “actual Google search queries” into consideration when looking at a URL or list of keywords & phrases. Then, a couple weeks ago I saw a tweet mentioning a new Google keyword tool that was only accessible from a link in AdWords. I have been using it quite a bit over the last couple weeks and I’m quite impressed.

The New Google Keyword Tool

Understand that I use the term “new” liberally because the official AdWords blog post about this if from September. So it’s new to me (in my defense, they say it’s in beta, so I like to think my account just didn’t get access until recently). You can read the official post for the details, but here is why I think this tool is too cool for school.

Google Keyword Tool

  • Great Filtering – On the left sidebar you’ll see that you can check/uncheck the different main keywords to weed out less relevant threads. You can also display broad, phrase and exact match searches AT THE SAME TIME!
  • Sorting – Now that you can actually display all 3 match types together, sorting by total search volume, or average CPC, will quickly give you a high-level snapshot of the opportunity.
  • Competitor Research – Here’s a little trick for you to try. Take the URL of a competitor and put it into the “Website” box. Include all match types and then sort the list by relevance (drop-down box above the keyword list, right side). This will show you what Google thinks are the most relevant keywords on your competitor’s site and how much search volume they’re potentially getting.
  • Self-Analysis – Now put your own URL into the tool and run the same process as above. Are you sending Google the right message?

P.S. When you first bring up the tool you’ll only see columns for Keyword, Competition, Global Monthly Searches, Local Monthly Searches, and Local Search Trends. The “Views” drop-down box will show you the other 9 columns of info you’re missing out on.

Google Keyword Tool has Real Numbers!

Google Keyword Tool

After years of using the Google Keyword tool and trying to interpret what those stupid green bars meant, Google has finally come around and is showing real numbers in the search volume estimator. Hallelujah! Check it out:

Google Keyword Tool

First I would like to point out that this feature was a long time coming. With all the data Google has, all the users of their AdWords platform and all the money being spent, this seems like it should have been available (at least for AdWords customer) for a long time. However, I am elated to finally be able to have an idea of how many impressions I might get. This will allow me to put together much more accurate budgets for ad spend in the future.

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