Coaxing smarter paid search bidding decisions out of sparse conversion data

Paid search is an industry that’s grounded in data and statistics, but one that requires practitioners who can exercise a healthy dose of common sense and intuition in building and managing their programs. Trouble can arise, though, when our intuition runs counter to the stats and we don’t have the systems or safeguards in place to prevent a statistically unwise decision.
Should you pause or bid down that keyword?
Consider a keyword that has received 100 clicks but hasn’t produced any orders. Should the paid search manager pause or delete this keyword for not converting? It may seem like that should be plenty of volume to produce a single conversion, but the answer obviously depends on how well we expect the keyword to convert in the first place, and also on how aggressive we want to be in giving our keywords a chance to succeed.
If we assume that each click on a paid search ad is independent from the

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The ins and outs of keyword research

A great way to expand your PPC account is by performing keyword research in order to uncover untapped opportunities. Keyword research is a key tactic for growing an account — especially new accounts, but even mature accounts can stand to benefit from ongoing expansions.
When keyword research does & does not make sense
Keyword research is sometimes debated as being unnecessary, and it is fair to say that certain methods of keyword research are futile. Back in the day, it wasn’t uncommon to hear search marketers taking pride in the number of keywords managed, but it’s a different ballgame now; keyword counts don’t correlate to positive performance or even account health. All that to say, there’s no need to add keywords just for the sake of adding keywords!
A good goal with keyword research is to try to identify entirely new themes. There may be some room to flesh out existing themes, but there’s only so much expansion on existing keywords before

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How to get the old Google Keyword Planner volume data

Back in June, the AdWords Keyword Planner started displaying the same volume of searches for keywords that were similar. Search Engine Land reported on the anomalies and asked Google about it but didn’t receive a response at the time. Ginny Marvin speculated, and now an AdWords representative has confirmed, that this was caused by close variants.

@tanestis Hi there, terms that are close variants of each other will show the same volumes within the Keyword Planner. -Mitch
— Google AdWords (@adwords) July 21, 2016

Many people and tools are overestimating search volume by adding together the results that AdWords Keyword Planner has already grouped, effectively doubling or tripling volume estimates.
If you’re like me, you want to see more data, not less. You want to be able to determine which version of a keyword you want to target. You know that even small changes to a word can mean huge changes to intent and value.
How do we get our data back?
Using Ginny’s

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Machine learning for large-scale SEM accounts

A key challenge when working on what we could term “large-scale” PPC accounts is efficiency. There will always be more that you could do if given an unlimited amount of time to build out and optimize an AdWords campaign; therefore, the trick is managing priorities and being efficient with your time.
In this post, I will talk about how concepts from machine learning could potentially be applied to help with the efficiency part. I’ll use keyword categorization as an example.
To paraphrase Steve Jobs, a computer is like “a bicycle for the mind.” The generally understood meaning of this statement is that, in the same way a bike can increase the efficiency of human-powered locomotion, computers can increase human mental productivity and output.
With the existentialism out of the way, let’s get to something tangible — we’ll explore here how relevant/valuable it could be to try and automate the process of placing new keyphrases into an existing campaign.
What do we mean by machine learning?
As

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The essential metrics to analyze for keyword research success

Brainstorming keyword ideas is great, but you won’t get very far if you’re not looking at the right metrics. After all, it’s the metrics — the objective criteria we use to make the data-driven decisions — that make search such an effective marketing channel.
But which keyword research metrics should I be considering? Isn’t search volume sufficient? Let’s explore.
Search volume
Average monthly search volume is the one metric that is universally used for keyword research. This metric is derived from Google’s Keyword Planner, a free tool intended for use with AdWords, and it forms a foundation for the popularity of a given search query.
Typically, one chooses the exact match type for a more precise representation of search volume for a keyword. If your business is regionally locked, make sure to specify a geography to get regional search volume.
Recently, Russ Jones wrote an excellent article on Moz discussing some of the issues with relying on Keyword Planner search volume. Jones found that search volume numbers are actually

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Re-Examining The Top 10 Paid Search Best Practices, Part 2

In Part 1 of this series, I cited a really great article here on Search Engine Land on why search marketers should reconsider using broad match that challenges a common best practice in paid search. That article got me thinking about other best practices and if we should reconsider some of other tried and true tactics which most of consider as important to our approaches.
Once again, the idea here is not to try to prove these best practices ineffective. This is an exercise to see what we can learn by taking the counter view and see if anything surfaces that can help us get better as search engine marketers.
6. Big Keyword Lists
At the beginning of search engine marketing, the idea that bigger is better was the dominant strategy. After all, if you could identify keywords that your competitors hadn’t thought of, then you could earn top positions for a fraction of the cost of the most common, highly competitive

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How I Saved $1M Using Negative Keyword Lists

When seeking opportunities for improved cost-efficiency, one of the most highly recommended checkpoints is the search term report in your paid search interface.
Discovering a keyword spending well beyond its CPL threshold results in a mix of joy (“Great! Another keyword to exclude!”) and pain (“How did this search term spend that much?”).
As your excluded terms accumulate, they inevitably grow into a massive list to be reviewed constantly for any chance of a mistake. Did you once exclude a term that, upon second glance, might need to be considered for an exact match negative but maybe not a broad match negative? With a list of more than 1,000 excluded terms, this type of quality check can be a huge time commitment and long-term undertaking.
Luckily, the PPC gods have released the Negative Keyword List for our excluding convenience. Now you can easily create smaller, more manageable groupings of negatives and apply them equally to whatever campaign is deserving.
But does the

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The Importance Of Monthly Versus Rolling Average Search Volume

When it comes to optimizing your content, it is critical to monitor search volume data. Properly optimized content will naturally use keywords to best match the queries of users so that interested parties can find and interact with the brand. When you understand the search volume data for different keywords, you will able to evaluate your market opportunity, as well as the potential demand for your content.
In an attempt to reward sites creating quality content, Google no longer shows you how your site ranks for keywords. However, the fact remains that keywords are still an important part of search and content performance.
Types Of Search Volume Data
Information from Google tends to be the most useful, since the search engine giant manages to dominate the industry. Google alone receives an estimated 64.1 percent of desktop search queries. So when you receive your search volume data from Google, you can trust that this information represents the majority of search engine users.
To

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How To Build A Customer-Centric Keyword Strategy

It’s no secret that keyword research is an integral part of crafting a successful SEO strategy. After all, keywords provide us insights into our users and help drive our content strategy.
The challenge is that our keyword strategy must evolve as search evolves. Along with the changes in the search results themselves, we as search marketers must also account for the various ways users can search (voice, mobile, desktop), query length changes, and user expectations.
Query Length & Voice Search
Blue Nile Research released a study at the end of April that looked at how individuals searched. While there is a ton of great data in the report worth checking out, what stood out to me was this:
Blue Nile’s research shows an exact 50-50 split between users who search in fragments (e.g. “swollen ankle”) and those who search in more fully formed terms (e.g. “causes of swollen ankle during sleep”). When it came to questions vs. statements, 27% of respondents phrased

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