The Art of Keyword Qualification


Advertisers looking to promote their products or services through Google AdWords often face a difficult challenge when deciding which keywords to target. Some keywords will naturally be more relevant than other keywords, so where do you draw the line? When researching keywords in which to show your ads, how do you decide which keywords to use and which to avoid?

Unfortunately, there is no definitive rule on the types of keywords which are relevant (which you should show your ads), and which are  not relevant (which you should avoid). After all, what’s relevant to a large advertiser may be irrelevant to a small niche advertiser. This lack of a boundary can make it extremely difficult to decide where to draw the line when researching possible keywords.

But as long as you consider the principle of keyword qualification, everything will be fine! If you understand how different keywords in your AdWords account naturally have different levels of qualification, keyword research and ad group organisation become a whole lot more effective.

Let’s see how.

Suppose you want to sell your luxury apartment in Melbourne. What keywords should you target? Perhaps you might want to show ads for the phrase ‘luxury apartments in Melbourne’? But people making this search might be looking for luxury rental apartments in Melbourne, and you’re obviously only concerned with apartment sales.

So you might want to instead target the phrase ‘luxury apartments for sale in Melbourne’. This would no doubt be a highly-relevant keyword, and surely deliver ideal visitors to your site. And you’d be right – the keyword is qualified on four separate counts:

  • It contains the word ‘luxury’ – qualifying the visitor as looking for high-end property
  • It contains the word ‘apartments’ – qualifying the visitor as looking for apartments rather than houses or offices
  • It contains the words ‘for sale’ – qualifying the visitor as looking to purchase, rather than rent
  • It contains the word ‘Melbourne’ – qualifying the visitor as looking for apartments in Melbourne, rather than Sydney

But highly-relevant as this keyword may be, search volume may be very limited. If you only target keywords which are fully-qualified by description, type, purchase intention, and location, you might as well give up hope of ever selling your luxury Melbourne apartment. Only 38 people searched for ‘luxury apartments for sale Melbourne’ in March 2011, so even with a strong click through rate (CTR) of 10%, you would only receive a handful of visitors to your site each month. There just isn’t the search volume to focus only on the most highly-qualified keywords.

So let’s get more visitors!

The Art of Qualification

In order to open up your property to a greater visitor base, you need to be less strict with your keyword qualification. While it is of course great to have only highly-qualified visitors clicking through to your site, to increase the reach of your property, you will also need to target slightly less-qualified keywords.

But while targeting these less-qualified keywords may increase your risk of getting irrelevant visitors to your site, this can be minimised by intelligent separation of different types of keywords.

To see how your keyword can be separated, let’s once again consider the multiple ways in which a property keyword can be qualified:

  1. Description – the searcher has specified they are looking for ‘luxury’, ‘world class’, ‘spacious’, or ‘waterfront’, rather than ‘cheap’, ‘first home’ or ‘small’
  2. Type – the searcher has specified they are looking for ‘apartments’, rather than ‘houses’, ‘land’, or ‘offices’
  3. Purchase Intention – the searcher has specified ‘buy’, or ‘for sale’ in their search, rather than ‘rental’, ‘hire’, or ‘for party’
  4. Location – the searcher has specified they are looking for property in ‘Melbourne’ or ‘St Kilda’ (a suburb of Melbourne), rather than ‘Paris’ or New York’

Your most highly-qualified keywords would contain all four qualifiers, such as:

  • world class Melbourne apartments for sale (1234)
  • buy waterfront apartment in Melbourne (1234)
  • exclusive Melbourne apartment sales (1234)

But to increase the reach of your website, you might also want to target keywords which do not include a description qualifier, such as:

  • Melbourne apartments for sale (234)
  • buy Melbourne apartment online (234)
  • apartments for sale in Melbourne (234)

Or keywords which don’t mention the words ‘for sale’:

  • Melbourne waterfront apartments (124)
  • luxury apartments in Melbourne (124)
  • spacious Melbourne apartment units (124)

Heck, why not even target keywords which don’t mention a location. You could always geo-target your ads:

  • world class apartments for sale (123)
  • apartments for sale over $1 million (123)

But why stop there. We could also target even less-qualified keywords:

  • luxury apartments (12)
  • apartments for sale (23)
  • apartments in Melbourne (24)

And if we really wanted traffic, we could take it even further:

  • apartments (2)

As you can see, as we select keywords which are slightly less qualified, they become vaguer, and it becomes more difficult to determine the searcher’s requirements.

So where do you stop?

I would suggest somewhere before you start broad-matching to ‘apartments’, but it is entirely up to you. However far you decide to take your keyword research, what’s important is to keep different types of keywords separate.

The Art of Separation

Your keyword ‘waterfront Melbourne apartments for sale’ will no doubt perform extremely differently to your keyword ‘apartments for sale’ or ‘Melbourne apartments’. Of course it would! So why should you mix different types of keywords together?

You shouldn’t.

Keep your different types of keywords separate, and tag your ads group names based on their amount of qualification:

  • 1234 | Waterfront | Apartments | for Sale | Melbourne
  • 123 | Waterfront | Apartments | for Sale
  • 124 | Waterfront | Apartments | Melbourne
  • 12 | Waterfront | Apartments
  • 234 | Apartments | for Sale | Melbourne
  • 23 | Apartments | for Sale
  • 24 | Apartments | Melbourne

By keeping your different qualified keywords separate, you can:

  • Create different ads based on the qualification of the ad group’s keywords (if the keyword does not mention a location, then perhaps you should mention the location in your ads)
  • Set different bids and budgets based on the level of keyword qualification (you might want to bid higher for highly-qualified 1234 keywords, and bid much lower for less-qualified 23 and 24 keywords)
  • See at a glance how your different types of keywords are performing, and adjust your bids and budgets accordingly
  • Have a logical pecking order depending on how your campaign is performing (your high-priority 1234 keywords might always be showing, with your low-priority 23 and 24 keywords turned on and off depending on desired visitor volume)
  • Use negative keywords more intelligently depending on the ad group’s keyword qualification
  • Have a clear keyword ad group organisation strategy to help with future keyword expansion

Since your highly-qualified keywords will no doubt perform very differently to your less-qualified keywords, it makes complete sense to keep them separate. Try researching and organising your keywords based on the amount of qualification they contain, and you see if your campaigns don’t improve.

How do you like to organise your keywords and ad groups? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section below.

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Alan Mitchell is an experienced Google AdWords manager, helping businesses of all sizes connect with customers and improve their return on investment through best practice PPC techniques. To find out how strategic keyword qualification can benefit your business, get in touch today for a free consultation.

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  1. #1 by terry on May 9th, 2011

    Great article. What a great way to explain and understand the segentaiton of keyword phrases and the mixtures of related keywords that can be targeted.

    Understanding that each mixture can perform differently and that is why it is impotant to place them in different ads.

    Thank you for sharing.

  2. #2 by Alan Mitchell on May 10th, 2011

    @ terry

    Glad you found it useful.

    Simple words such as ‘for sale’ or ‘free’ can completely change the meaning (and therefore commercial intention) of a search phrase, so it’s important to keep them separate.

  3. #3 by Aaron on June 29th, 2011

    Great post as usual Alan!

    I pretty much seperate the ad groups out like you have mentioned here. First point of call would be to use the phrase/broad keyword ad group search query reports to generate a list of more specific search queries. I then break these down into specific exact match ad groups based on how you have explained.

    When starting a compaign it can be difficult to generate a list of specific keywords so using more generic terms such as “luxury apartments” over time can be used to generate a much more specific list of the product/service the website is offering.

    On another note, I tend to tag my converting keywords and then work on these as a priority.

  4. #4 by Alan Mitchell on June 30th, 2011

    @ aaron

    Your right that it can be difficult to generate a comprehensive list of keywords when starting a PPC campaign, and like yourself, I tend to use shorter broad match keywords as a means to generate new exact and phrase keywords.

    You might find my articles on the broad match generator and search query mining useful in exploring techniques in doing this.

    Cheers,
    Alan

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