SearchFocus: Keyword Universe

By Sage Peterson

When I speak at conferences, I often ask the audience: "What are the factors that control the effectiveness of your paid search advertising?" Everybody always blurts out, "Your bid price," which only impacts your position in the search results.

Even more important than the amount you bid, and the position your bid nets you in the paid search results, are the keyword phrases your campaign targets.

One of the most daunting challenges of paid search advertising is identifying the universe of keywords on which to bid. Today, the average paid search advertising campaign targets more than 1,000 keyword phrases. If your campaign targets just 200 keywords, how do you increase the traffic your campaign produces? Increase your bids to enhance your positions? That's likely to increase your traffic, but decrease your return on investment (ROI). The answer is to add more keyword phrases.

When you increase the number of keywords, you can often increase traffic and increase ROI. But identifying more keywords is harder than it sounds. Brainstorming seldom gets you more than an additional 100 keywords. Then what?

Your natural search engine optimization campaign is a treasure trove. It's amazing how often marketers engaged in search engine optimization (SEO) fail to share the traffic and conversion performance of their keywords with those who are managing their pay-per-click (PPC) advertising campaign. And marketers who are engaged with a firm to manage their SEO can share the intelligence gained from their vendor's proprietary tools that:

- Mine Web site content to identify keyword phrases you may have missed.
- Mine competitor Web sites for keyword phrases found in their on-page content.
- Mine the competition for keywords included in their "meta keyword" tags.
- Mine the SEO firm's own in-house keyword databases for keyword recommendations.

Web sites often attain unexpected or "accidental" rankings on keywords and phrases that weren't purposefully targeted - especially where the keywords are not lined up in a continuous phrase.

Reviewing your Web site's log files will reveal every keyword phrase that ever referred natural search result traffic to your site, including these accidental phrases  so be sure to share this data with those managing your PPC campaign.

I am continually troubled by how few marketers fully integrate their paid and natural search engine marketing campaigns. People talk about the value of integrating search engine marketing with offline marketing, but shouldn't we start by integrating search engine marketing with itself? It's time for marketers engaged in PPC and SEO to require their vendors to work together or to work with one vendor to manage both their PPC and SEO, so that the campaigns can leverage the power of an integrated strategy.

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