Search Engine Strategies New York Day 4 – Training!

Day 4 at Search Engine Strategies New York focused on Search Engine Marketing training. One of the downsides to a lot of conferences is that one hour sessions don’t allow a deep dive into the topics we really want to discuss. No fear here, as these are four hour long sessions. Here’s what we learned…

We’re swamped with data, especially with the arrival of social media. The ever increasing dependence on search means that we desperately need to leverage it, whether we are SEOs, SEMs, or even Social Specialists. But what keywords to use? In order to find that, you have to master the art of keyword research. Christine Churchill of KeyRelevance, fresh off of the SEO Super Tools session on day 2, and Paid Search Site Clinic and Advanced Keyword Research sessions on Day 3, led students through a great overview of the keyword research space.

There are a slew of critical tactics both internally and externally that can be leveraged for excellent keyword research. Internally, leveraging data from site search and web analytics, coupled even with

The list of external keyword research tools are many, from Google’s family of Keyword ToolWebmaster ToolsInsightsTrendsSearch Based Keyword Tool, and Sets, as well as Google’s Search Options such as Related Searches and the Wonder Wheel, to Microsoft’s adCenter Labs Tools, Add-in for Excel, Yahoo’s Buzz, and other search sites such as ClustyAsk.comQuintura, to services such as WordTrackerKeyword DiscoverySEO BookWordspy, there are a wealth of ways to find just those keywords that are right for you.

Social Media has created an enormous mountain of data that is invaluable for keyword research purposes. VisWikiTwitter SearchTwitscoopTweetVolumesiteVolumeYahoo’s SidelineTweetBeepTwhirl are fantastic places to get keywords from Twitter and other social sites. The prevalence of tag clouds across social media sites also provides another excellent opportunity to find highly used keywords to leverage in your marketing efforts.

Of course, once you have those keywords, what do you do with them? Obviously, the most popular keywords are likely to be the most challenging for PPC advertising, in terms of competition, quality score and price. For that, you’ll need long tail termsHitwise‘s Bill Tancer has shown that three and four word search queries are increasing in popularity, thus necessitating the use of the longer keywords in order to find that great traffic. But how do you do that? You need to expand those keywords in order to generate that delicious long tail. You can do that in a bunch of ways, whether adding comparison words, adjectives, some intended uses, product keywords, brand keywords, location keywords, and action keywords (such as “buy” and “find”). Don’t forget some other things to correct, such as misspellings, abbreviations and slang, modifiers and also plurals and synonyms. There are some useful keyword permutation tools out there that can do this for you such as Aaron Wall’s SEOBook Permutation Tool.

You don’t need to research the keywords you want to advertise on from a PPC standpoint, however. You also have to research the keywords you don’t want to advertise on! Known as “Negative Keywords”, you definitely want to make sure that keywords that don’t match your product get shown. If your product costs money, any keyword with “free” in it is definitely somewhere you do not want to be. Also, if you’re using a keyword which has another use that isn’t your product, you need to be very careful not to get those sucked in. At IntraLinks, we find many people searching keywords like “virtual data room” and “virtual deal room”. Often, they abbreviate it with “VDR” – but we don’t want to advertise on VDR! Why? Well, you’ll find far more people typing in VDR to search for consumer electronics, as VDR is an acronym for “Video Disk Recorder”.

So, you’ve got your keywords, your negative keywords, now what? It behooves you to evaluate these keywords in some way. Of course, it needs to be relevant! Ignore the bonking that Google’s Quality Score will give you, but if the keyword isn’t relevant, the traffic you’ll get will be worthless, so what you need are keywords that truly resonate with your target audience. Also, is the keyword popular? Yes? If so, you probably don’t want to run on it. The volumes alone can completely deplete budgets, but also, from a competitive standpoint, you will find that the CPCs will be much higher, and it will be very difficult to tackle. User Intent is also key, especially for those that have some semblance of a buying cycle. Often, you can differentiate keywords by researching versus purchasing intent, and you often can determine searcher behavior and align your keywords accordingly, whether the searches are navigational (someone who wants to go to a site), informational (trying to find information about a site/product), or transactional (clear displays of user intent).

Your competition is a critical source of data. Who is showing up for your keyword terms? Even more critical, who is running PPC advertising on your keywords?  Competitive intelligence is the key. The massive proliferation of competitive intelligence tools such as Hitwise, ComScoreTrellianSEOmozSpyFuCompeteSEMRushKeyCompeteKeywordSpy and AdGooRoo can be highly useful to see what keywords are driving traffic for your competitive set. But the main point we should remember is that it isn’t the words you want to be found on, but the words that the end user uses to find you.

So now you’ve got your keywords, and you’re running them on Google. What’s next? Well, you’re going to want to do everything you can to improve your ROI with Google AdWords. For that, Brad Geddes, Founder of bg Theory‘s session was aptly named “Google AdWords Tactics to Improve Your ROI”.

Ultimately, we need to remember that the user’s experience is paramount. The user is looking for results relevant to the keyword they are entering in. For many users in a B2C world, they’re falling into a shopping funnel where they 1) learn, 2) shop and ultimately 3) buy. The keywords for these will change dramatically based on where the user is in that process, and good PPC advertising keeps this in mind. One of the major sea changes is that content sites are increasing dramatically as people do more research, and the rise in social media heavily plays into this.

Building keywords should be a top-down process. Think about things at the ad group level before building out the keywords. Be careful with going too far with long tail keywords at first, as you can very quickly get enormous combinations of very words, as any student of statistics knows from combinatorics problems. Negative keywords are also critically important for improving the health of your ad campaign. Once your ad groups are up and running, you will want to run Google’s Search Query Report to delve into the results.

But enough about keywords. Those are only a small part of the challenge. Compelling ads are critical, as Brad points out. Stick to unique selling points and benefits, which will get those consumers on those keywords you’ve carefully researched to click on those ads. Test, test, and test again. Carefully test your ad copy to improve it and not only increase the click through rates, but make sure you’re improving your ultimate conversion rate. Ad calls to action! Pre-qualify people, even if you sacrifice some click through rate in exchange for the increased benefit in getting better quality users to your website. When carefully reviewing ad copy, make sure to not forget the display URL? Sometimes it will look like, but you may want to be a bit more specific such as to reinforce that keyword’s relevance to your site. One suggestion was to avoid www. in many cases. Capitalize! One excellent example is There are a couple of potential capitalizations there, one the obvious, the other, somewhat different. Positive ad copy is also not always the most effective! Negative ad copy will increase your click through rate, but the conversion rates may not follow. You can also leverage dynamic keyword insertion in ads to help increase the relevance of the ad to that user’s query. One tip to dynamic keyword insertion which people forget.

Let’s say you want an ad to look like: Buy {Keyword}. Seems reasonable enough, since for many keywords, you’ll be fine. But what if the keyword is “online virtual data room electronic mergers and acquisitions”? That’s going to cross the character limits. You can solve this with something like {Keyword:Data Room}, which will show “Data Room” in that ad, should it be too long. Did you know {KeyWord}, {Keyword}, {keyword}, {KEYword}, {KEYWord}, {KeyWORD}, {keyWORD} and {KEYWORD} all function differently within Google? Brad does. But beware, dynamic keyword insertion really only works well when others are not using it, lest that keyword get a bit repetitive on the search engine results page.

This is all well and good, but how do we actually increase these conversion rates and make more money? Make sure your pages are clear and support the process. Make sure they are cross-browser compatible, and that the navigation is good – what point is driving people to your site if upon arrival they cannot find anything? Is what you want the user to see above the fold?

What about forms? Forms are very critical, especially in B2B SEM. Asking more information reduces the amount of conversions, so you should ask for what you really need, and what has value to the person filling out the form. Make sure that you recognize the buying cycle length, as many users convert offline, want many options, and may not yet be ready to buy, make sure you have a way to engage them.

But what about Quality Score? Quality Score is astonishingly critical in how Google processes ads. The ad rank is simply the quality score multiplied by the max CPC. How is Quality Score determined?

  • Click through rate on, normalized by position
  • Display URL click through rate
  • Relevance of the keyword to the ads in a specific ad group
  • Relevance of the keyword and ad to the search query
  • Landing page
  • Account performance in geographic region
  • Account history
  • Other relevancy factors

A great trick to see what Google considers relevant for a particular keyword is to search for “~keyword -keyword” the “~keyword” portion brings back pages related to “keyword”, while “-keyword” excludes that exact keyword from the search results.

Improving quality score will go a long way towards improving the ROI and ROAS of your Google AdWords accounts, and ultimately, make search engine marketing a far more successful business.

This guest post was written by John C. Fernandez, who is a global online marketing leader with over a decade of experience in positioning, branding and building businesses. John currently manages Search Engine Marketing (SEO & PPC), web analytics, social media, corporate blog, website content and lead conversion optimization at IntraLinks, the leading provider of critical information exchange solutions. Previously, John has had strategic marketing and public relations positions at Twing, Accoona, X3D and An industry thought leader, Mr. Fernandez has spoken at conferences such as Coremetrics Client Summit and eMetrics Marketing Optimization Summit. 

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