PPC Micro-Management: On Data Mining And Keyword Refinement

Managing pay per click (PPC) campaigns entails sufficient acumen in both macro and micro management and administration. From targeting and refining keywords to mining data to base your campaigns strategies on, PPC management is indeed a wholesale process that, along with the rest of the Internet marketing industry, is also a constantly changing field. Luckily, there are best practices that pass the test of time and industry dynamics that you can follow to help in your endeavours

Mining for Data / Keywords

One of the first few concerns to prioritize is where to mine for relevant data and in doing so refine your keyword targeting efforts. The best places to look include:

  • Your Business — Obviously, you need to base your keywords around your business, or your business niche. Your entire business, however, can relate and market to several different niches, and each niche can have a wealth of possible keywords to target. If you had the budget, the time, and the resources, you can bid on them all. Realistically, however, you can only bid on a few, so always include keywords revolving around your core products or competencies, as well as popular variations or long tail versions.
  • Your Organic SEO Performance — The return on investment (ROI) of your organic search engine optimisation (SEO) efforts can be measured for various purposes, one of them being PPC research. Perform a content and SEO audit of your website to see which keywords you are ranking well for, and use these keywords as a basis for further refinement, targeting, and seeding. As you peruse the results of your SEO endeavours, you will also notice which keywords are generating conversions. These same keywords may not be leading a lot of traffic to your website, but since they seem to be consistent in generating conversion, you might want to turn them into keywords for targeted PPC ads as well.
  • Your Competitor(s) — How many competitors do you have in your niche? It may seem that the more competitors you have, the more problems you need to handle. Ironically, the more competition there is, the more data you can mine. Competition allows you to measure and analyse the performance of other related businesses aside from your own (niche data). Better yet, keyword data and performance are not the only details you can glean from competitors, but other information such as ad scoring, landing page quality, and more.
  • Your Internal Searches — Many people searching for something through Google often find themselves in a webpage not containing exactly what they want, but something related. What they do after that is use the website’s internal search engine to search for what they were after in the first place. Internal search stats is an invaluable data mine that can show you what your organic visitors are truly after, or what else they might need from your website. Data from internal searches shows popular, long-tail, and product related keywords you can use for PPC management and ad tweaking.
  • Your Customers’ Persona — Your customers’ persona are key profiles segregating your market base based on their characteristics relative to your buying cycle. Customer personas tell you, among others:
    • In which stage customers are in your sales funnel
    • Where they typically search for info related to their needs
    • What keywords they use for their searching
    • The sorts of content they like

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It is plain to see how customer personas can help you with PPC data mining and management. Knowing the keywords they use and where they use it (which search engines or external or internal searches), as well as what role they play within your purchase process provides great insight into how you should target them. Of course, you need to develop your own business’ customer personas first.

Seeding and Culling

As you explore the above mentioned sources of PPC data, you will obtain volumes of information about keywords, your target market, and your very own business which can all be used for PPC management. But, after all that, what do you do with them?

PPC keywords need to be nourished through seeding and culling.

  1. Seeding keywords into keyword suggestion tools — If you have yet to try Google AdWords’ keyword suggestion tool, now is the time. Seed your newfound keyword list within this free tool and you can obtain traffic data, competitive keywords, and other keyword suggestions. Combine it with data from your own website such as your Analytics, keyword matches, and the keywords being targeted by landing pages, and you can effectively weed out inefficient keywords and focus on those that really bring in traffic. Other free and paid options are available, such as Wordtracker’s paid service.
  2. Culling by ranking — You’ve probably zeroed in on half or a third of your keyword list after seeding, but you need only one or two keywords to use for PPC per asset (webpage, blog, etc), so you need to cull your keyword list into a much more refined set of options. The best way to do so is by ranking. When it comes to ranking, you have full control on which criterion to use to cull your keyword list. If for instance you want to rank your keywords by relevancy, then sort your current list based on which keywords would be the most relevant for an asset. If you want to base it on convertibility, cross-reference your current list with your Analytics and Adsense data (if applicable) to check which keywords can complement or boost your highest converting keywords in your website.

After all of this, the last thing to do is to test. Never take A/B testing for granted. You need to see what works, what works better, and what simply doesn’t cut it. Of course, for testing to be fruitful, you need to have base data for comparison — a control set of performance metrics to compare your testing to. You can use your current performance data for this, or the set of PPC ads that used keywords prior to the data mining and seeding and culling.

Evidently, PPC management and data mining can be a lot of work. But the ROI is proportional to the effort, so it’s all more than worthwhile.