The Mother Of Optimizations: Audit AdWords Keyword Selection and Management

Choosing the right keywords is crucial to finding success with AdWords. Equally crucial is mining keyword data via Search Query Reports to understand how your keywords relate to the user search queries across multiple match types. As you audit your AdWords keyword list, keep in mind that effective keyword management is equally about choosing the right kinds of terms in the first place, and using performance and SQR data to further expand both your positive and negative keyword lists. This post will cover top audit areas for keyword selection and management, and touch on some important considerations regarding keyword quality score.

It should also be said that there are many tools and resources available for helping you develop your keyword lists. Two such resources are:

 

  • Google Keyword Planner — This tool is built right into AdWords. It gives keyword suggestions, traffic estimates, and makes it easy to add new terms to your account.
  • Google Analytics — Although Google Analytics recently replaced organic keyword data with ‘not provide’ (a huge bummer), GA can still be leveraged for identifying new keywords. The site search report is a good example.

 


Audit AdWords Keyword Selection and Management:

 

Positive Keywords:

 

  • Keywords make sense in multiple match types? — Some keywords may make sense in phrase, but not in modified broad or exact. For example, terms such as “best guitar teacher in”. Keyword match type duplication is a common way of adding keywords to an account in bulk, and this can often be overlooked.
  • Longtail is being built out effectively? — Use SQRs to understanding which broad and phrase match terms are firing for high performing, longtail search queries. Building up a significant longtail keyword list in exact match is important because those terms often have lower competition, which means lower CPCs.
  • Bidding on Brand keywords? — Both your brand keywords, and those of your competitors can be valuable to your account. Buying your own brand keywords will ensure that your competitors aren’t eating into your brand’s SERP real estate, and competitor terms can often drive great performance with the right strategy applied.
  • Looking at Geographic data to find less competitive auctions for competitive keywords? — It’s worth checking to see if certain higher CPC keywords will fetch cheaper CPCs in select auctions.
  • Auction Insights report being mined for competitive insights? — This can be a useful tool for identifying competitive trends and bringing that information to bear in keyword selection. Competitors on the ascent may be worth combating more aggressively if their branded terms aren’t prohibitive.
  • New keywords consistently being added to the account? — Adding new terms should be an ongoing process. Use your SQRs, the AdWords keyword planner, Google Analytics, other tools, and your imagination to find new terms to test.
  • Variations of existing keywords being added based on performance? — Your SQRs will show if you have close variations on your phrase and broad terms that are driving strong performance. It’s a good idea to add these terms to the account, even if they’re very close to the terms you’re already buying. This will make it easier to understand your data, to optimize, and to add more relevant creatives for these terms.

 

Negative Keywords:

 

  • SQRs being farmed to identify low performing terms? — Negative keyword selection is often just as important as positive keyword selection. Mine SQRs to find low performing or irrelevant search queries and add them to your ad group- and campaign-level negative keyword lists.
  • Negative keywords being added in the correct match type? — This is a big one. In order to maximize ad serving, AdWords defaults to exact match when you add negative keywords to your account. This is often misleading because most advertisers, when adding negatives, really want those terms in broad match—which keeps any search query featuring that term from triggering an ad. Make sure negative match types are understood, and don’t let Google trick you by adding exact negatives where you really want broad negatives!
  • Navigational negatives being applied? — Navigation negatives allow to sculpt ad serving for optimal relevancy.

 

Quality Score:

 

  • Pulled Quality Score Impression Weighted Pivot Table? — For a top-level view of the health of your account (at least from AdWords’ perspective), pull a report of quality score for all the keywords in your account and use Excel to produce an impression weighted quality score pivot table. This will show you the relative volume of all each quality score (1-10) in your account, weighted by impression volume. (For more on how to do this, see below).
  • Tracking Quality Score changes on a monthly basis? — You should do the above analysis every month to keep track of fluctuations in quality score over time. It’s also helpful to do the analysis at multiple levels of your account—account-level, campaign-level, high volume/performance ad group-level.
  • Pausing low volume, low Quality Score keywords? — It’s possible you may have a large number of low quality score keywords that have extremely low, or no, traffic volume. Pause these keywords. They’re not doing anything for you in terms of performance and they’re dragging down your account-level quality score.
  • Focus on improving QS for most valuable terms (80/20 for keywords) — If you have valuable terms with low quality score, work toward improving them with better ads and landing pages.

 

AdWords Keywords and Management Checklist:


Positive Keywords:

  • Keywords make sense in multiple match types
  • Longtail is being built out effectively
  • Bidding on Brand keywords
  • Looking at Geographic data to find less competitive auctions for competitive keywords
  • Auction Insights report being mined for competitive insights
  • New keywords consistently being added to the account?
  • Variations of existing keywords being added based on performance?

 

Negative Keywords:

  • SQRs being farmed to identify low performing terms
  • Negative keywords being added in the correct match type
  • Navigational negatives being applied

 

Quality Score:

  • Pulled Quality Score Impression Weighted Pivot Table
  • Tracking Quality Score changes on a monthly basis
  • Pausing low volume, low Quality Score keywords
  • Focus on improving QS for most valuable terms (80/20 for keywords)

 

Great Resources for Identifying New Keywords:

Brad Geddes on Impression Weighted Pivot Tables: