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Guard your Golden Keywords

February 21, 2011

PPC-ers will be familiar with “golden” keywords – those handful of keywords that not only drive the most volume of searches and traffic to your pages, but also convert well on the back-end. If you’re smart, you’ll hold those keywords in the highest regard, and allocate the appropriate level of attention and budget to them.

So it should come as no surprise that at some point in time, other marketing teams will want a piece of that golden keyword action to support their promotional campaigns; be it for a short-term sales promotion, a big event, exhibition, or something else. This is particularly common when those golden words include the more general category keywords (EG: general category keywords could include words such as desktop computer, color printer, pc software, digital camera etc.).

However, when someone does a general category search it is very difficult to know their true intent. They could be looking to buy, but then again they could be looking to learn, troubleshoot a problem, research manufacturers, find reviews, or any multitude of tasks.

This is why it often makes sense to take these types of searchers to an overall hub page for that category, where there are different (but clear) call-to-actions related to the “learn”, “buy” and “use” stages of the buying cycle.

I’ve been approached on more than one occasion about changing my golden keywords to support short-term promotions. My advice is to do so with caution as you often end up excluding a lot of potential visitors. As always, if in doubt, test.

A few years ago I carried out a test by moving one such word to support a sales promotion. The adcopy changed to tout the discounts on offer, and the landing page was changed from the category hub page to a new one-off promo page, where the main call-to-action was sales and discount-related.

What I saw should’ve been no surprise: Click-through rates on the ads took the biggest nose dive (from 2% down to 0.5%), consequently causing click traffic for that keyword to go down by over 60% that month. Post click we were able to address the needs of those people who were ready to buy, but most visitors were not yet at that stage and consequently bounced off the page (or as Avinash would say: They came, they puked, they left). Not good at all.

My key takeaway from this is to always take the longer term view. Remember to put yourselves in the searcher’s shoes and match keywords and pages to target their needs. If intent isn’t immediately clear, then give them options. Don’t try to force them into something, just because it suits your needs for that particular month. And if in doubt, always test.

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From → Search Marketing

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