Capturing Unrealized Revenue Through Keyword Order Analysis

As search engine marketers, our job is to maximize profits while minimizing dollar spend. Impressions and clicks are important, but it is the return on investment that truly demonstrates whether our efforts have a positive impact on a company’s bottom line.

Today, let’s focus on one specific strategy to identify unrealized revenue: keyword order. In my experience, SEMs are more likely to bid on “blue suede shoes” than “suede shoes blue.” The former is the “primary keyword phrase” and the latter is an example of a “secondary keyword phrase.”

Is it worthwhile to bid on secondary phrases such as “suede shoes blue” and “shoes blue suede,” etc.? Can secondary keyword phrases produce revenue and a similar profitability as primary keyword phrases?

My pre-analysis hypothesis was “yes” based on the rationale that it’s the combination of keywords that matter, not the order in which they are expressed. The analysis is revealing on a potentially significant source of revenue.

To test my hypothesis, I analyzed six campaigns in two different verticals. In total, I analyzed over 78,000 primary keyword phrases and the related secondary keyword phrases. Since these results were based on exact and phrase match functions, there was zero redundancy in the impression and clicks generated by the primary and secondary search phrases.

Impressions, Clicks and CTR Percentage Analysis


As expected, primary keyword phrases garnered a big percentage of impressions and clicks, but what surprised me is that secondary keyword phrases yielded 15 percent of impressions. Additionally, secondary keyword phrases had very good CTRs: phrases with three keywords had similar CTRs, and those with four keywords had slightly higher CTRs.

Next, I asked, “Do secondary keyword phrases drive enough revenue to produce an attractive profit?” To do this I analyzed the return on ad spend (ROAS) for the same primary and secondary phrases as above.

ROAS Analysis


This analysis tells us that secondary keyword phrases bring in a similar margin as primary phrases.

When viewed holistically, the above analysis on impressions, clicks, and margin for primary and secondary keyword phrases reveals interesting insights and actionable strategies for SEMs:

  • Even when multiple consumers have the same search intents, they will use varying keyword phrases when conducting a search
  • Bidding on secondary keyword phrases can produce a positive ROAS that can materially add to your campaign’s performance
  • SEMs should take all high-volume keywords with multiple keywords, rearrange them, and run them through AdWords or adCenter on exact/phrase match to determine the number of impressions; this data will help inform your strategy for bidding on secondary keyword phrases

While it is unlikely all keyword combinations will produce similar margins, this analysis suggests it is worthwhile to explore various combinations. I hope you use this analysis to expand your campaigns and discover unrealized revenue.

The next installment in our Search Engine Watch exclusive series will analyze call to action keywords and how they impact performance, including impressions, clicks and conversions.

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