Do you manage too many keywords in your PPC campaigns? Feeling a bit overwhelmed?
There’s a lot to be said for running small, tightly optimized campaigns with short keyword lists instead.
When Chris Anderson, a columnist at Wired magazine, wrote about the Long Tail back in 2004, the concept was seized upon by the search marketing community. The Long Tail outlines a niche sales strategy whereby a vendor can sell a wide range of niche items, in small volumes, which collectively add up to more revenue than their big sellers. Think Amazon. By covering many niches, you make more money.
Search marketers seized upon the Long Tail concept because it dove-tails nicely with search strategy. You can use an infinite numbers of keywords, some of which may only receive one click a year, but added together, they provide a lot of traffic at low cost.
This theory works best in SEO, where there is nothing to manage after you’ve published a page, but in PPC, covering a lot of keyword terms can create management overhead, and affect Quality Score, which drives up your costs.
Which Terms Drive Performance?
Your top 5-10% performing keywords are likely generating almost all your sales. The PPC Long Tail, all those groups of low-traffic keywords, are probably generating nothing but mental overhead. Such campaigns can be tricky to manage well.
Your Quality Score may also suffer if you run long keyword lists. If you’re using an exhaustive list of terms covering areas where there is little buyer activity – the do-it-yourself brigade, for starters – your click through rate could suffer, which can affect your Quality Score. Your minimum bids could rise, so running with the Long Tail could in fact cost you.
Go through your lists and make a note of the low traffic keyword terms. Can any of these keyword terms be covered by broad or phrase matches? What about a combination of broad & phrase match with the addition of some negative keywords? Would you lose anything by doing so? Is the existence of these keywords helping or hindering you ability to meet your sales objectives? Look at the terms that generate your conversions. How many really perform? 20? 50? Would you be better off focusing all your mental energy on these keywords? Are you wasting time testing long tail keywords and ad copy that will take a long time to prove their worth? Is it time for a PPC spring clean?
Running Long Tail Strategy
Of course, some people swear by long keyword lists and running a huge number of groups. This strategy can and does work. Keep in mind that campaigns that receive huge volumes – millions – of clicks at the top end can include a lot of low-performance keywords further down the tail without it affecting the Quality Score too much, but smaller operators may not have this luxury. Few click-thrus, across a wide campaign, can hurt the keyword terms that perform well.
Long Tail keyword terms can also be useful for testing purposes. There might be gold down there somewhere! Again, it’s all about how much time you want to spend on testing and management of terms that deliver limited testing data over long periods of time.
Whatever method you choose, the important factor to look at the return on investment.
When calculating ROI, don’t forget to build in your keyword management time, and the opportunity cost of that time – would you have been better off managing some other aspect of the campaign, such as landing pages? Use of the Google Desktop Ad Manager or the Google API can improve efficiency, but frequently it is best to focus on improving lifetime visitor value and conversion rates before digging too deep into longtail keywords.
Most importantly, is your Quality Score affected by having too many low paying keyword terms?
What strategies do you use? Do you go for the short, focused campaign in terms of keyword lists and groups, or do you like to cast a very wide net?