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PPC Keyword Research

AdWords Account Review


Paid Account Review

This guide assumes that you are familiar with keywords, the concepts, terminology and metrics that describe them and we also assume some knowledge of AdWords. You will need an active AdWords account targeting relevant keywords, to perform this type of keyword research.

There are many techniques and types of keyword research that can each play a different or complimentary role in the ongoing endeavour to find new valuable keyword. We cover a range of common techniques for performing keyword research in this and other guides in this series. This guide looks at pulling data from Google AdWords to help inform your SEO strategy.

Why Is This Important?

Choosing the right keywords or the best keywords and having this rolled up into a keyword strategy is pivotal for any site. There is no point spending time, money and effort targeting keywords that no-one searches for or that you can’t rank for. In some cases, small tweaks to the target keyword can lead to dramatic changes in the volume or quality of traffic.

The Illusive Accurate Search Volume Data

Search volume is a metric that Google’s Keyword Planner provides with keyword to indicate the amount of people who search for a keyword (as a monthly average). This metric is notoriously inaccurate and some studies have shown a truly massive discrepancy between what we are told and what we see.

Since Google starting restricting keyword data in Google Analytics quite a while ago, since then it’s not possible to see how much organic traffic each keyword delivers to your site. This is a problem because the value of a keyword is largely determined by how many people search for it. All other factors being equal, this is typically this most significant factor when choosing your keywords.

One of the advantages (and this is no coincidence!) of Google AdWords is that they will give you the keyword traffic data if you pay for it. AdWords provides two hugely valuable metrics for SEO:

Impressions is the number of times your ad has been triggered by a search query in Google, and Impression Share is; this number as a percentage of all the available impressions. This means that if you had 1,000 impressions and an impression share of 10%, you missed 90% of the available impressions. However, the beauty of this is that if we divide Impressions by Impression Share we get the total amount of available impressions, which is the actual search volume.

Cross Channel Synergy

There is a significant amount of potential crossover and synergy to be had from aligning your SEO and SEM strategies. Although than can end up competing against one another, there is no reason why they should. Even this basic keyword research exercise can help you learn something about both channels, that could result in increased efficiencies.

We cover this concept in a little more detail later, with practical examples later in this guide.

Paid Account Review

There are several places and ways to export valuable data to inform your organic keyword strategy, we cover these in the processes described below.

Search Term Analysis - Process

In this process, we will need to specifically look at keywords on the  Search Network using the following match types:

  • Broad
  • Broad Match Modifier
  • Phrase

We will not be looking at the search terms for exact match keywords in this process as those keywords do not trigger significantly different search terms. All of the above match types will allow ads to be triggered for search terms not being directly targeted. Part of the benefit of using these match types is to identify new search terms to pull into the account as target keywords, we are just using them for SEO.

1. Navigate to Your Search Terms

The first step is to select ‘Search’ campaigns is there are other types available, then navigate to your search term report:

Search term Report

You can setup a filter here to remove match types that you are not interested in seeing:

Search Term Filter

2. Setup Columns in AdWords

The second step is to setup your columns for this report, we would include the following at a minimum, but feel free to include any other data you feel will help:

  • Clicks
  • Impressions
  • CTR
  • Avg. CPC
  • Cost
  • Avg. Position
  • Keyword
  • Conversions (if available)
  • Conversion Value (if available)
  • Assisted conversion metrics (if available)

You cannot use the competitive metrics within the search term report section of AdWords, but you do get the impression data.

3. Download Search Query Report

Once you’ve setup the columns and chosen a date range, we would choose ‘all time’ just to get all of the available data, download the report to a CSV or Excel file.

4. Categorise & Label Keywords

This process is fairly well known among SEOs, the idea is that you create categories and within them, labels… The example data below shows what we mean by this:

Keyword Categories

In this example, we show some keywords relevant to us with two categories, the first ‘product’ has multiple labels (SEO, Backlink, Keyword, etc). The second category has only two labels, which are either ‘yes’ or ‘no’, these delineate whether the keyword refers to a tool (program, software, app, etc) …
You could structure either in any way you want, the important thing is that you are consistent in your application of the labels.

Add as many categories as you need to properly categorise your keyword data. We provide a tool for this, or you can use a spreadsheet (download one from here). This will allow you to very quickly and easily create categories and labels for your keywords; as it automatically applied the specified labels to keywords containing the specified text.

As you progress, filter on categories to look for keywords that have been assigned no category, these are usually marmite… Because these keywords are ones that you hadn’t anticipated, they are often the most interesting or the least relevant!

You need to spend a little time thinking about you will address the structure of the categories, a poor implementation initially can lead to redoing work or an illogical output. One advantage of this technique is the meta-analysis that it allows us to perform on this data by segmenting it by category or label… Read more about this is our guide to keyword data analysis.

AdWords Labels

AdWords provides some basic functionality with which to label components of the account, such as ad groups, ads, campaigns, keywords, etc… If labels are being used (and in a logical way) you can use these and potentially avoid having to re-label everything. Often, we find that the labels in AdWords, although useful for reporting, often aren’t structured well enough to be used for this type of analysis.

5. Filter Out Data

Depending on the size of the account, the length of time it’s been running and the number of categories you apply; you could have a lot of data in that spreadsheet. We recommend filtering out anything that you can at this point… use the labelling process to help remove these terms.

It’s also worth noting that these terms might be worth adding into the AdWords account as negative keywords… If they are not relevant, odds are you don’t want to pay to show your ads when people search for them.

You can discriminate in any way that you want with this data, you can remove search terms with small volumes of data or no conversions, etc.

6. Compare to Target Keyword List

If you have a list of current target keywords, we would remove all keywords in that list from the list downloaded from AdWords. You already target these terms and hence don’t need to review them in this context, as we are trying to find new keywords.

7. Pull in Ranking Data

At this point you should have a more refined list and this would be a good time to pull in some ranking data for these keywords. This is valuable as it provides some idea of how well you rank for these terms what pages are listed.

8. Collect Other Data

You can pull in any data you want, we would typically pull in the following data:

  • Search Volume (just to see what crazy discrepancies we get!)
  • Keyword Difficulty

9. Analyse the Data

We discuss in other guides the idea of applying a formula to your data in order to help highlight opportunities; certainly you could do that to this, but a lot of the time you can just filter out data. For example:

  • Filter out anything you are ranking well for already
  • Filter out search terms with a low number of impressions
  • Filter out search terms with a high difficulty

The rest of the analysis will be largely limited to manually reviewing the remaining data for relevant opportunities. The data itself will often indicate what is valuable; especially if you have revenue and conversion data.

10. Derive Keywords

At this point, there is nothing left but to determine if / what keyword opportunities you would like to target as part of your SEO Keyword strategy.

11. Feedback into AdWords

If you end up creating content to target these keywords or even if you optimise existing pages; you can use these as dedicated landing pages in your AdWords account… You can split out the search terms into their own ad groups, using your newly optimised pages as the Final URL.

Keyword Analysis - Process

In this process, we are looking at the actual keywords in the account for two principle reasons:

  • Acquire accurate search volume data
  • Identify new opportunities

If the SEO and PPC is managed by the same person or agency, odds are there is already some collaborative work underway, this might mean that there isn’t a huge amount of opportunities… Because the process for identifying opportunities is largely exactly the same as the process described above, we will focus more on the search volume data components.

The search volume component is valuable because it provides us with some valuable data about our target keywords; this can be used in any other type of keyword research or analysis as the search volume data.

1. Navigate to Your Search Terms

The first step is to select ‘Search’ campaigns is there are other types available, then navigate to your keywords. We want to look at all of the keywords regardless of match type.

2. Setup Columns in AdWords

The second step is to setup your columns for this report, we would include the following at a minimum, but feel free to include any other data you feel will help:

  • Impressions
  • Search Exact Match Impression Share

*If your account receives a very small amount of the available impressions, you may see “<10%” instead of an actual value; in this case you will either need to assume a value like 9% or ignore these keywords.

3. Download Search Query Report

Once you’ve setup the columns and chosen a date range, we would choose ‘all time’ just to get all of the available data, download the report to a CSV or Excel file.

4. Apply Formula

You can do this in a CSV file; simply divide the impressions by the impression share for each keyword. This will give you the search volume for the whole period (date range) that you exported; calculate the number of days, weeks or months I the date range and dive the resulting search volume by this number to get an average.


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