Common Misconceptions About PPC Keywords

As with any developing technology, some people hold misconceptions about PPC keywords. Some are completely false, while others are based on half-truths that simply need some clarification. While I can’t pretend that I’ve seen it all when it comes to misconceptions about pay-per-click (PPC) marketing, there are a few about keywords I want to address.

Misconception #1) If my keywords are generating traffic, they are good keywords

tons of trafficI’ve seen a lot people equate traffic to performance. You don’t automatically earn a positive ROI, generate leads and sales, or engage end users, just because keywords are generating clicks. There are a whole host of scenarios that could negate these assumptions. Let’s say you’re Banana Republic and you bid on the keyword banana. Those who aren’t familiar with your company might see an add and think that you have more than just clothes for sale. To them, you might seem as though you sell produce or other banana related products. A keyword like banana would get a lot of clicks, but it might not be a good keyword just because it’s so broad.

I recommend judging the quality of keywords based on how many leads/sales they generate, how focused the queries they match with are (i.e. broad audience vs granular audience), what the associated CPCs and CTRs are, and the nature of the competition on those terms

Misconception #2) Match types are too complicated to worry about

Match Types Google Adwords Broad Match Phrase Match Exact This is a scary assumption I see a lot of overstretched marketers and business owners make when it comes to their PPC keyword lists. Furthermore, some of them don’t even utilize match types at all. What is a match type you ask? It’s a feature that controls which searches can trigger an ad. From an account standpoint, there are 4 match types; broad ( keyword ), modified broad ( +keyword ), phrase ( “keyword” ) and exact ( [keyword] ). If you want to know more, click here. The default match type is broad meaning that you need to implicitly select other match types if you want to use them. Often what happens is that a marketer won’t bother selecting match types and just wind up with a list of broad match keywords. Why is this a problem?

Let’s say you’re running a campaign for a damage restoration company  and you add this keyword: house fire repair. As a broad match term, your ad would show up for searches like house fire repair or house fire repair company, but you would also show up for searches like repair fire house or firehouse repairs. As you can see, the context totally changes and your business wouldn’t be relevant to many of those searches. If you had used a phrase match keyword like “house fire repair”, you would control the order of the words someone would have to type in order to trigger your ad thus ensuring ad placements in the proper context.

By utilizing keyword match types, you can make your PPC campaigns more efficient and targeted. This can then free up marketing dollars for use in another area.

Misconception #3) Keywords must be used verbatim by searchers to trigger my ads

This ties into misconception #2. Match types have a major impact on what someone must search in order to trigger your ads. Let’s say you bid on Mickey Mouse tricycles. Yes, you will get people who’ve typed in those words in that exact order, but you’d also show up in front of people who use those words in an order and/or  add additional words to their queries like price, reviews, or used. It’s something to be mindful of when you build a keyword list.

Should you decide that it’s best for your business to only target searchers who use your keywords verbatim, you must use Exact match keywords ( [keyword] ) only.

Misconception #4) I need to show up for anything my customers might be interested in

montoyaAlthough the marketing universe is evolving, there are still many marketers who employ tactics from more traditional marketing channels (like print advertising) in keyword strategies. The most common tactic I’ve seen inappropriately employed is contextual targeting. A number of years ago I worked with a lake resort who had a major focus on golf vacation packages. They were about ready to give up on PPC because it hadn’t gotten them the return they wanted. When I looked over their account, I quickly discovered that they were spending huge amounts of money on keywords like Titleist, Golf Digest, and Callaway to get in front of people with their PPC ads. While those keywords are golf-related, the people searching for them typically aren’t considering booking a golf package. Thus this resort was losing money on their marketing efforts.

PPC is great for reaching potential customers at specific points in the buying cycle, like the research & consideration phases. However, it is not good for building awareness among people who don’t have an expressed interest (via search query) towards something you sell. If you want to reach those folks, I would recommend leveraging banner ads. Just don’t fall into the trap of trying to get in front of the broadest audience available. ROIs are almost always better with a smaller, more targeted audience.

Misconception #5) Once my keywords are added, I’m done

An autopilot strategy towards managing PPC campaigns may have worked 10 years ago, but it doesn’t work today. Still, I’ve seen many take a set-it-and-forget-it approach to their keyword strategy. While many marketers have a finite amount of time in the day to devote to marketing activities, keyword optimization should not be overlooked. The PPC market is extremely dynamic. Advertisers are entering and exiting the market on an hourly basis. Daily budgets are depleted without a predictable pattern. The needs of potential customers change. While I’m not saying that you need to spend every waking moment in Adwords, it does make sense to check and adjust on a regular basis.

Do you have questions or want to share some other misconceptions about keywords that you’ve encountered? Tell me about them below!

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