Posts Tagged long-tails
After 7 years running PPC campaigns, I thought I had it sussed. I thought that people searching for specific long-tail searches were further along in the buying cycle than people searching for shorter, generic phrases, and therefore more likely to convert. I thought that targeting long-tail keywords provided a great opportunity to segment different types of searchers, and bid differently depending on how much qualification was contained in their search. I thought long-tail keywords provided a great opportunity to respond to the specific needs and preferences of each searcher, and provide tailored and relevant ad messages which solve their unique problems.
It turns out I may be wrong.
A long-tail PPC strategy, consisting of thousands of keywords and thousands of tailored ad messages catering for a wide range of searcher needs and preferences, can indeed lead to higher click through rates, higher Quality Scores, lower CPCs, and higher conversion rates. It’s a methodology I have abided by for 7 years, generally achieving far superior results than more generic PPC strategies which instead target shorter, more generic searches.
The logic of long-tail theory is sound too:
- Compared to shorter keywords such as ‘flooring’, people who make long-tail searches such as ’14mm bamboo flooring melbourne’ are generally more knowledgeable about what they want, are further along in the buying cycle, and are therefore more likely to convert.
- Because the searcher has provided signals such as ’14mm’, ‘bamboo’, and ‘melbourne’, you can be more confident they are searching for exactly what you offer, allowing you to bid higher for searches which contain those qualifying words, leading to a higher return on investment.
- And because the searcher has been very specific, you can show targeted ad messages which are tailored to ’14mm Bamboo Flooring’, take the visitor to a landing page which showcases your 14mm bamboo flooring range, and be confident that your campaigns will generate fantastic results.
It all sounds great. But we are making one big assumption about one important variable – knowledge.
Knowledge Isn’t Always Good
Long-tail theory assumes that people who make specific long-tail searches are generally more knowledgeable, further along in the buying cycle, and more ready to buy than people who make shorter and less-specific searches.
I still believe this is generally true.
However, just because people who make long-tail searches may be more knowledgeable and more likely to buy, does not necessarily mean they are more likely to buy from you.
If the profitable clientele of your business consists of people who are not knowledgeable, not informed, and not aware of the specifics of your products and services, then even though long-tail searches may closely match your products and services, shorted generic keywords may be more effective at achieving the goals of your business.
Even if you sell 14mm bamboo flooring in Melbourne, receiving 100 clicks from a generic search such as ‘flooring’ may be more effective than receiving 100 clicks from the search ’14mm bamboo flooring melbourne’.
Just like you can be over-qualified for that marketing role you’re applying for, searchers can also be over-qualified. If your business specialises in selling to people who are not knowledgeable about the specifics of your industry’s products and services (perhaps because your target market largely consists of an older generation who tend to search for shorter words such as ‘flooring’ and ‘carpets’), then targeting shorter searches can be more effective than targeting long-tail searches. In this scenario, too much knowledge can actually be a bad thing.
It’s All About Your Target Market
Perhaps I’ve only previously worked with businesses who regard knowledgeable and specific searchers as potentially more valuable than less knowledgeable and specific searchers, with the theory that the more the searcher understands about the products and services of your industry, the greater the opportunity for you to demonstrate you can meet the searchers needs, so the greater the potential for targeted long-tail campaigns and a higher return on investment.
Perhaps I’m missing something.
Perhaps there are some people out there who actually enjoy a pushy sales approach and don’t mind businesses taking advantage of their naivety and lack of knowledge. Perhaps there are successful, profitable, and genuinely honest businesses who add real value by educating (and albeit selling to) this relatively unknowledgeable demographic – a demographic which favours face to face communication more so than the best deal – a demographic which might otherwise have struggled to research the difference between bamboo and laminate flooring if left to their own devices.
Perhaps I’ve been looking at keywords all the wrong way, and ignoring the fact that the lack of information is information itself – that the exclusion of signals is a signal itself. Perhaps I’ve been ignoring the fact that less is sometimes more.
Just because long-tail searches may be beneficial for most businesses, doesn’t necessarily mean it will be beneficial to yours. Depending on how your clientele choose to search (or choose not to search), a long-tail strategy may be either more effective or less effective than a generic keyword strategy.
Although it seems obvious to test different types of keywords to determine which performs best for you, remember that the vast majority of people who visit your website won’t ever convert. It therefore makes sense to consider the knowledge level of your target market even before you set your PPC campaigns live, to maximise your chance of profitability.
So you’ve realised your current Google AdWords strategy is missing out on a big opportunity to connect with long-tail searchers who are further along in the buying cycle and more likely to convert. You’ve also realised you’ve collected a wealth of search query data while you’ve been running your current Google AdWords campaigns over the past few months or years. You therefore want to use your search query data to improve your long-tail targeting, reach these searchers at the later stages of the buying cycle, and increase your return on investment (ROI) from Google AdWords marketing.
However, when analysing your search query report, it can all too often be overwhelming. It can be hard to know where to start. You find yourself falling victim to analysis paralysis, and give up without making any tangible improvements to your campaigns. So to help mine your search queries for new long tail keywords, below are 3 techniques I find incredibly useful:
Back in 2009, I looked at the standard of PPC ads being displayed on Google in Australia, using the Sydney hotel industry as an example. I found that the majority of PPC ads being presented on Google by Australian businesses were poorly targeted and unengaging, and concluded that considerable opportunities exist for Australian businesses who take the time and effort to develop tailored and effective long-tail Google PPC campaigns.
Three years on, despite Google PPC marketing becoming more widespread among businesses in Australia (and arguably more competitive and expensive as a result), there still appears to be very few Australian businesses who provide high-targeted and tailored ad messages which cater from the growing long-tail of search. A huge amount of valuable keyword and search query data now exists for every PPC advertiser, but it appears that most PPC campaigns in Australia still consist of only a few hundred keywords and only a few hundred ad messages.
Due to the increasing popularity of Google, people are now typing a wide range of specific searches into Google, and are expecting more relevant and helpful search results and ads. However, when searching for these specific long-tail phrases, it appears that the general standard of PPC ads in Australia is very poor. For the search ‘sydney hotels near the rocks’, for example, notice how few PPC ads make any mention of The Rocks (a location in Sydney). The searcher has typed a specific phrase where location seems to be an important consideration, yet few Google PPC ads fully cater for their needs and requirements.
Google last month increased the maximum number of keywords allowed in a standard Google AdWords account from approximately 50,000 to 3 million. Yes, that’s right, you can now have up to 3 million keywords in your Google AdWords account.
And while most pay per click (PPC) advertisers are probably already doing a fair job at targeting a large number of relevant searchers through their existing keyword lists, there are massive opportunities for PPC advertisers who take the time to research thousands more keywords than their competitors.
Let’s find out why.
1. More Impressions
To illustrate the first reason, let’s consider Google’s phrase match for a moment. By bidding on the keyword ‘sony bravia tv’, and setting it to phrase match, you are essentially saying to Google:
“Show my ad whenever someone mentions the word ‘sony bravia tv’ in their search query”.
The job of phrase match is to show your ads for searches that mention your keyword phrase. You might therefore think this will enable your ads to appear whenever someone mentions the phrase ‘sony bravia tv’ in their search query.
Just because you have chosen to bid on the keyword ‘sony bravia tv’, does not mean your ad is guaranteed to show for any search containing the phrase ‘sony bravia tv’. You are competing with thousands of other advertisers for Google’s search results page real estate, and Google can only show a finite number of ads at any one time (10-12).
When deciding which ads to show, Google will display the ads that are most likely to generate a high click through rate (CTR), and those that have a relatively high Quality Score.
So when someone searches for ‘sony bravia 50 inch tv black’, PPC advertisers who have chosen to bid on a keyword close to ‘sony bravia 50 inch tv black’, and are able to display an ad which is relevant to Sony Bravia 50 inch TVs, is more likely to be awarded the chance to appear on Google’s search results page, than your generic keyword ‘sony bravia tv’, which triggers a more generic ad message.
The percentage of impressions your keywords receive for all ‘available’ searches is counted in Google’s Impression Share metric. The higher your Impression Share, the higher the percentage of available searches in which your ads appear.
The crucial point is this – by researching thousands of relevant keywords, all other things equal, you are more likely to show for a greater number of relevant searches. By researching thousands of keywords, your impressions and click volume will increase considerably.
WordStream last week carried out some fascinating research on Google AdWords CPC prices of different sectors. One key finding was that the finance industry carried high CPCs of up to $54.91, while other service-related sectors such as education, law and health also exhibited expensive CPC prices of over $30.00.
It’s All Relative
Since CPC prices are often closely linked to the potential profitability of a sale from that keyword, the CPC price is often a mute point. A ‘bad credit history remortgage’ could be worth $15,000 profit to a remortgage broker, so having CPCs in excess of $50.00 can deliver a strong return on investment.
On the other hand, the keyword ‘New York weather’ has little commercial intention, so keywords such as this tend to benefit from low CPCs.
While this relativity of CPC prices makes CPC comparisons across sectors rather meaningless, most PPC advertisers would jump at the chance to pay lower CPCs. So below are 4 strategies I’ve found useful for achieving lower CPCs, while still maintaining a strong conversion rate.