1 HOW TO BEAT THE ODDS IN ADWORDS WITH COMPETITIVE INTELLIGENCE CHAPTER 1 From your friends at
2 HOW TO BEAT THE ODDS IN ADWORDS WITH COMPETITIVE INTELLIGENCE HARNESS THE POWER OF COMPETITIVE INTELLIGENCE FOR YOUR PPC CAMPAIGN Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising is a huge business. To put into perspective just how profitable the PPC industry is, keep in mind that 90% of Google s $57.86 billion in revenue from 2013 came from ads alone. Yet, despite such heavy investment into the paid component of digital marketing strategy, and an expressed intent to spend even more, why are so many professional marketers underwhelmed by the performance of their AdWords campaigns? A 2012 survey of 1,915 marketers showed that 48% were using PPC as a key component of their overall integrated digital marketing strategies. Of that subset: 32% labeled their campaigns as being very effective 56% labeled their campaigns as being only somewhat effective 10% felt PPC was not effective for them at all
3 Why are more than 66% of polled marketers using PPC and AdWords dissatisfied with their results? Odds are that many of the users who are unhappy with the results they re getting from PPC can attribute their dissatisfaction to two factors: Off-target initial keyword research Failure to regularly revisit, evaluate, and, if necessary, update their PPC strategies over time Tools and services or software such as SEMrush and WordStream can help digital marketers ensure they re getting the most bang for their buck when researching, implementing, and managing a PPC campaign. A STRUCTURE IS ONLY AS STRONG AS ITS FOUNDATION Diane Pease of Cisco Systems has some great tips about how to ensure your PPC campaign is built on a firm foundation. If your campaign is not set up correctly, it doesn t matter how good or incisive your keyword research strategy is. In this excellent post, Pease tells us the best way to structure a new AdWords account. She follows this up with a checklist for how to monitor and maintain that account going forward: o Create a Standard Checklist o Get Sign-offs for Your Checklist o Recheck Those Settings o Ensure Budgets Are in Place o No Duplicate Keywords o Launch Your Account as Paused o Check Your Tagging o Verify Your Landing Pages Are Working o Mobile Bidding and Location Strategy o Don t Launch On a Friday
4 Now that we have solid footing and a good plan to follow, let s look at how we can use competitive intelligence to begin building our keyword strategy. KEYWORD RESEARCH Every SEO has their preferred way of distilling their keyword research into a target list. But that final list of targeted terms is only as good as the quality and depth of the research data the SEO has at their disposal to work from initially. Deciding what tool you use to gather that data is a big choice, with potentially far-reaching ramifications. Any tool can deliver reams upon reams of keyword data. You need a tool that also organizes that data into reports that you can use to formulate actionable strategies based on what your competitors are doing. Data without context is useless. BIG DATA The Deep End of the Data Pool Keyword tools must research millions of keywords so that the data is there when you need it. Google has stated 30% of total searches are new queries. That means that, in addition to a large database, the research must grow constantly to keep up with newly emerging searches, trends, styles, and events. Whatever tool you choose should grow its data to go on meeting your needs. This is especially challenging when your product or service is new to the marketplace, or you lack an established brand name. Identify Your Competitors Business owners, marketing and ad managers, and agency executives all have a sense for who their business competitors are. These companies have similar business models that sell similar products or services through similar channels to a similar market or audience. But, good keyword research provides business intelligence that can expand on that set of competitors. Search is implicated in over 80-90% of purchases, especially of big-ticket items. Mobile and local search has been shown to result in conversion over 70% of the time. Thus, competitors in search can have a powerful, yet detrimental, effect on leads and sales. Besides head-to-head business competitors, your search competitors may include:
5 Unrelated businesses, whose somewhat ambiguous keywords are overlapping with yours. Find those overlaps and eliminate them or dominate them. Entities whose brand names, company names or initials are the same as yours and cause confusion when searching. Do your best to disambiguate your brand, especially on your site and in your content, before you spend on brand-based ads. Aggregators, catalogs and resellers. Develop a strategy to blunt the ad competition from Amazon, ebay and others who typically rank very highly. Keyword search volume data is heady stuff. But, it is meaningless without being associated with the domains of competitors. Knowing that a competing business is investing in particular terms makes those terms worthy of consideration. Evidence of ongoing investment by a competitor Evidence of ongoing investment by a competitor in specific keywords helps you leverage their in specific keywords helps you leverage their investment, and learn from their lessons, without investment, and learn from their lessons, spending a dime. Viewing the Ad History over months without spending a dime. or even years may identify keywords that opponents have consistently found to bring targeted, motivated searchers. When such clicks result in conversions, then you can bet that the advertiser will spend on that term over time. Analyzing small volumes of searches can be a tricky business. Basing bid decisions on small expenditures can also lack statistical significance. Those are reasons why competitive research is so critical to early success. By reviewing market leaders for their productive keywords, you can quickly bring your keyword selection into alignment with the currently popular terms that searchers are using. With its expansive database of over 106 million keywords, SEMrush can help you make certain you re working from the best list of potential targets for your campaign by helping you to identify: Which keywords your competitors are targeting with spend Which keywords they have had the most success with Which keywords may not have performed well for them at all That last part is key to risk management. Knowledge of low-search-volume keywords based on their performance for competitors can help prevent over-spending, or parking budget on keywords that simply do not attract enough searches to justify the allotted spend.
6 Seek Rewards While Minimizing Risk Your keyword research must take into account keyword costs. The cost-per-click (CPC) should be a constant companion as you analyze. It is possible to see this data in Google AdWords, as well as estimates in other tools. It is better to see CPC in relation to what is actually working for competitors. CPC rises with click popularity. There is frequently a correlation between CPC and keywords of transactional intent, aligned with the bottom-of-the-funnel, closer to conversion and therefore more likely to produce ROI. An extensive database is extremely helpful in picking target keywords, or perhaps even more importantly, helping you to avoid key terms that fail to resonate with searchers, saving both time and money. KEYWORD SOURCES Your competitors sites are a highly qualitative source for relevant keywords. Content on their websites, especially their meta-tags, will give you additional hints for potentially relevant keywords. Once you start researching your own domain or keywords, you will have access to lists of competitors, and queries providing the most value to those competitors. From those lists, it is easy to extract the terms to carry over into those other tools for further analysis. Below are some other tools you can use to further refine your compiled keyword list: BuzzSumo: Find the most popular content for your competitors keywords, to discover what content is resonating with their audience. Add longer phrases around those keywords to your list. Moz: Review social interactions on your competitors websites to see which content resonates best with their readers and adjust your content strategy accordingly to usurp that traffic. SocialCrawlytics: Identify influencers based on the most popular content in your vertical and lift keywords from their best-performing content. UberSuggest: Locate the most popular results returned by Google s Auto-Suggest tool when paired with your compiled keywords. Results are nicely grouped. Using a tool that allows you dive deep into competitive intelligence, such as SEMrush, you will be able to analyze the results by a host of different criteria and in myriad contexts.
8 Competitors: if you only do one thing, learn who your SERP competitors are before you begin to spend. Eye up the competition to see how many keywords for which they have obtained rank. Note historically whether the number of keywords is rising (implies optimal campaign groups, additional keywords). Note how attractive their site is for organic traffic to their keywords (deduce the effectiveness of their landing page relevance for better Quality Scores). Determine whether you plan to go toe-to-toe with your strongest competitors, or whether your strategy may need to be more opportunistic, finding gaps and missed opportunities to build upon. This is especially true if you are a new advertiser, or when introducing new products or services. Search Volume Over Time: This can be used to identify seasonal changes in search volumes and user behavior. For instance, for the keyword, boots, we see that popularity peaks in a particular season.
9 Look for Iterative Long Tail Keyword Phrases: Even a modest understanding of how the intentions of searchers are manifest in their search phrases can help you find gold here. Improve your ROI by finding high-converting keywords to invest in. Look for: money phrases including cheap, Now, order, best buy words such as sale, discount, or even coupons, and questions about quantities, prices, or shipping these can all denote searchers who are nearer to the bottom of your conversion funnel. Even a modest understanding of how the intentions of searchers are manifest in their search phrases can help you find gold here. These terms can be added to the appropriate AdWords Groups, and sprinkled liberally into close-to-conversion content both on-site and off, and that includes your ad copy and landing pages. Bringing landing page content in alignment with the keywords is a sure way to improve your Quality Scores and possibly improve impressions and reduce bid costs. Researching Current Competitor Ads: In the blue boxes below, you can see the total number of ads detected that are being deployed by a given domain that also link to the same URL. This can indicate which groups the advertiser has chosen to make the most active. Through this report, you can see how many keywords in that group resulted in that ad being served.
10 When ads that share large groups of keywords are being purchased frequently, it s a fair signal that the reporting domain is investing significant amounts of both time and resources to that ad group. Ads will ebb and flow in the ads report according to the domain s investment level over time. Thus, your competitors marketing strategies with regard to particular product lines, seasonal sales, closeouts, and other cyclical data can be easily inferred. Competitor s Ad History: What keywords have your competitors bid on over the past year? Who is your biggest competitor? During which months, for instance, did increased bidding drive up detection of a particular ad? Seasonal shifts in spend may be inferred. Are there gaps into which you can apply competitive pressure? This information is presented alongside the text of the ads themselves. Just click on a particular month to see all detected ads for that month. The content can be checked for weaknesses that you may exploit, such as lack of promise or compelling value proposition, an uninspiring headline, or a weak call-to-action. All of this combined data tells you in a both a broad and granular way how well the keyword worked for that domain. Plus, it implies how well you might expect it to work for you. But hammering out your target keyword list is just the beginning. ILLUSTRATE TRENDS WITHIN GOOGLE You can take that headline at face value. The vocabulary of the public is subject to change over time. As one term falls into and out of fashion, so too will it be used more or less frequently as a search term. You can prevent riding a downtrending term into obscurity by peering into Google Trends, an SEMrush Keyword Trends report, or other tools. But, you must still make an active effort to look at those historic trends on a periodic basis.
11 GOOGLE CHANGES FROM WITHIN Given that AdWords now relies on a broad match keyword strategy, campaigns built exclusively from huge lists of long-tail and exact match terms are no longer the model. So, how is one to limit overspending on irrelevant, unrelated terms? It has now become crucial that you have a thorough list of negative keywords to limit the inherent breadth of a broad match keyword. It also becomes very important to identify and analyze domains that are frequently confused with yours. Some brand names, domain names or product names could be burning up your budget, serving up your ads to searchers with an entirely different intent (i.e., bass guitars, bass fishing, Bass brand clothing). Some words are spelled the same and have multiple meanings (homographs, such as glasses). It is easy for Google to misinterpret the searcher s intent and serve up your ads inappropriately. Brands, too, may need to be disambiguated, or made more distinct, to limit excess ad spend for searches irrelevant to your domain. Look at several of those keywordconfused sites at once and contrast their entire keyword overlap with yours. This is especially true of domains using initials or an acronym (e.g. ALA could be variously the American Library Association, the American Lung Association or the American Lighting Association). Try entering the domains of sites with confusing keywords that occupy the same Google SERP as your own brand, product or service search result. Then, examine their keyword overlap with yours. You should be able to easily extract keywords that should be placed into your negative keywords list. Discovery of negative keywords may also be accomplished in WordStream.
12 One Tool Is Not Enough To truly be effective, you will need to use a combination of several tools to monitor and make adjustments to your PPC campaign. Seasonal events, new product releases, and market fluctuations are just some of the events that can require you to make changes to your existing strategy. Keep tools like SEMrush and WordStream at the ready so that you re never caught flat-footed by changes again. Get More to Go On If you are among the 66% of PPC users unhappy with their results, then you need more. Tools such as SEMrush and Wordstream are only part of the solution. The companion webinar, "How to Beat the Odds in AdWords with Competitive Intelligence" will add more to the information in this whitepaper to apply to your day-to-day strategy. At the conclusion of the webinar, you'll gain access to the rest of this whitepaper. Trained professionals from WordStream and SEMrush will show you how to get your money's worth from your AdWords campaign. REGISTER NOW for the webinar: "How to Beat the Odds in AdWords with Competitive Intelligence" and access the entire 24-page whitepaper, diagrams, screens, lists and tips.
13 ABOUT WORDSTREAM WordStream Inc. provides search marketing software and services to small and medium-sized businesses that want better results from paid search. WordStream s easy-to-use PPC Advisor software facilitates more effective PPC campaigns by providing a customized workflow, the 20-Minute PPC Work Week, to help advertisers increase relevance across Google, Bing, and Yahoo and get expert-level results in a fraction of the time. Whether you re new to search marketing or are an experienced PPC manager, WordStream s PPC management software and services can provide the boost you need to grow your business and drive better results. ABOUT SEMRUSH SEMRush competitive research fuels one of the most respected, versatile and affordable digital marketing tools on the marketplace today. Fresh and historical, comprehensive data is required to formulate effective online advertising campaigns for your company or client. SEMrush s deep data has helped over 448,000 users worldwide perform insightful, actionable keyword research and traffic reporting for SEO and Content Marketing. Agencies and brands appreciate the ability to identify PPC competitors and to see their ads, spends and clicks, as well as their highest-performing keywords. Marketers may use the data to reveal lead-generation prospects, analyze content, perform site audits, identify link sources, or to research international markets, with 26 country-based search databases to inform global strategies. SEMrush s customizable reports graphically reveal historical performance and trends in a clear and easy-to-understand format. SEMrush big data API informs some of the search engine marketing industry s leading enterprises. CONTRIBUTING AUTHOR Phillip Brooks is a prolific content creator who specializes in the creation and management of targeted content campaigns for both original and established intellectual properties. He has worked in new media for companies such as Electronic Arts and Turner Broadcasting. To learn first-hand, Register for the Webinar here. To continue reading, download the full guide here.