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Phrase-Free AdWords? Why Keyword-Centric Search Is Becoming A Thing Of The Past

Marketers raised a few eyebrows when Google announced it is running campaigns for advertisers based on Google My Business location info, as opposed to keywords.

Keywords have been synonymous with search since its earliest days. So kicking them to the curb might seem like a radical shift in the way search advertising is conducted, even if location extensions are as widely deployed as they are. Although it seems like a significant shift in the search operations and business model, a primary focus on location -- instead of keywords -- could actually pay significant dividends.

Here are three reasons why “phrase-free” location-based search might make keyword-centric search a thing of the past.

Saturation of the Market

Search is one of the most saturated and competitive advertising markets today. Moreover, search is incredibly established -- and within certain industries, very expensive. Finding ways to improve ROAS or increase market share is becoming more difficult every day. So to find success in search, it’s all about picking up trends as rapidly as possible and staying ahead of your competitors. Blank search campaigns just won’t deliver the value that advertisers need anymore. By drilling down and conducting more focused campaigns, however, advertisers can uncover the ROI they are looking for. Location becomes a key part of this. 

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For example, if you’re in the mountain biking industry, you might notice that Knoxville is an up-and-coming place to go mountain biking in the U.S. Having a Knoxville-tailored campaign will outperform competitors’ more general campaigns, as long as it is using location extensions and everything Google has to offer to capitalize on highly motivated segments of the mountain biking search market.

Expanding Location to All Searches

Google has done a great job of bringing in location for product-specific searches. For example, if you search for "Cannondale bikes near me" you will likely be presented with relevant information such as bike ads, pricing and deals in your area through Google Shopping’s local inventory ads. Since its rollout, this has delivered immense value for both advertisers and customers, with product listing ads being one of the most attractive ad units today.

However, for more generic searches such as "car washes near me," location hasn’t yet been able to drill down and deliver the same value. But by shifting some of the spotlight away from keywords and over to location through Google My Business, Google will be able to close the loop between product-specific and more generic searches, and deliver value throughout the search landscape. This will not happen overnight, since it will take a bit of time to optimize Google My Business data. But it’s definitely something that Google is eyeing -- and a major reason why the shift to a location-centric model does not seem to be going away.

There’s More to Search than Just Keywords

Keywords are still a staple, but as search has become dynamic, relying on a strictly defined and static set of keywords will prevent advertisers from capitalizing on all the opportunities that crop up -- especially highly competitive terms. Instead, search is looking to become more informed and personalized beyond the keyword level.

Granted, it is a must to have an idea of which core keywords should serve as the focal points of both you and your competitors. But search advertisers should be able to adjust to trends and external circumstances that influence search -- whether they are seasonal, price-driven or even completely random. Location is a hugely influential factor to predicting movement, adjusting strategy and then executing as soon as possible. Furthermore, by wrapping in more regionally focused information -- as well as audience interests -- advertisers can reveal opportunities they didn’t know existed, and even dramatically save on costs.

In the end, the idea of “phrase-less” AdWords may be unsettling for some advertisers today, and it may take some time to adjust. However, if deployed properly, it could be a disruptive force in search that all advertisers could benefit from.

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