Pay-Per-Click Keyword Basics

Posted by Methylated on February 25, 2009

Keyword research is one of the most important parts of affiliate marketing. Users will search differently depending on their mindset and what level they are in the buying process. We don’t want every click we can get – a common mistakes newcomers make – just clicks that convert.

Clicks that don’t convert may be too general. Sometimes the keyword is OK but doesn’t correspond with the ad. This can lead to the wrong kind of traffic, or the garnering of “curiosity clicks” – clicks just to see where the ad goes. If the ad sums up to nothing more than “wanna know a secret?” or “Dont Click Here” for instance.

The keyword, landing page and ad may not correspond with the right mindset of the searchee. A person looking for information on shoes might click every single link to find specific info about shoes. If your ad leads to a landing page that sells shoes, a user intending to figure out what the best running shoes are, or how to tie their shoe laces, is unlikely to just whip the CC out and buy what your LP is offering.

When I’m in search mode I hold ctrl (new tab) and click 10-20 search results that seem remotely related to what I’m looking for. The point? Don’t go too short tail unless you know what you’re doing.

Keyword Match Types

There are 3 keyword types: Broad, Phrase and Exact.

Exact is the precise query the user typed in Google.

Phrase is when your keywords appear in the same order, but may be prefixed or postfixed with other text.

Broad means your ad appears under anything the search engine deems remotely related to the keyword you’re bidding on.

If the keyword you’re bidding on is: cheap cat toys

Your ad will show under “broad” for the keywords:

  • cheap toys for cats
  • why arent cat toys cheap
  • cheap cat toys break
  • BrandX makes cheap ass cat toys

If we choose phrase match, these would trigger the ad:

  • where buy cheap cat toys
  • cheap cat toys
  • best cheap cat toys
  • cheap cat toys baldsville, NY
  • are cheap cat toys dangerous?

For exact match, only cheap cat toys would show our ad.

The fastest way to lose money with PPC is bidding on short tail broad keywords. Bidding for “toys” in broad or phrase match will burn through your daily limit in minutes.

You’ll match for searches like:

  • toy story dvd
  • donate my toys
  • recommended toys age 4
  • boy toys
  • bedroom toys lyrics
  • I Hate Toys
  • Toys R Us Locations
  • fixing broken toys

A very important feature in AdWords (and other PPC engines) is using negative keywords to prevent specific search results from displaying your ad. Your ad will be excluded from queries that include any of your negative keywords .

Some words you want to exclude include : Free*, Pictures, Pics, DIY or “Do It Yourself” and other howto keywords, downloads, etc. Of course, some of these might be crucial to your campaign (free for free trials, downloads for digital products, etc).

* It’s possible to have success using this for non-free products.

Structuring Adgroups & Keywords

Keywords should be tightly grouped. Ideally, you want 1 keyword with 1 ad linking to a specific landing page optimized just for that keyword and ad. Obviously this isn’t practical, but should represent your mindset as you’re setting up your campaign.

There are 2 things you’re aiming for. First, the keyword needs to appear in the title of the ad, in the ad copy, and in the display URL (the URL does not need to exist on the server, but the domain should match your destination domain). The ad’s destination URL should point to a landing page specifically tailored for the mindset the user searching for that keyword will be in.

For example, if you have a landing page that has a big red “Click Here To Order Now!” button on it, and you get a visitor searching for “Skin Care Product Reviews” – that user will bounce off your site (hit back) and continue searching. Therefore, you group all the “review” related keywords into one ad group, and link those to a review style landing page. Somebody searching for specific information about a specific product would go to another landing page just talking about that product (for example).

This isn’t always the case, and some landing pages will work just fine for most or all of your adgroups/keywords. There are also programs like SpeedPPC which make setting this up a snap. Yet Another Solution is to dynamically generate some elements on the landing page to make them more relevant to the keyword clicked. Showing the keyword in the title and header of the page for example, or displaying specific images based on the keyword the user came from, might help increase conversions.

That being said, have no more than 12 keywords per ad group, and create multiple ads around each keyword. Also be sure to have the “automatically display ads with higher CTR more frequently” option checked OFF in AdWords. This throws up split testing your ads.

Where to Find Keywords

The best way to find good keywords is to ask people how they would search for a particular product, but this isn’t feasible for most people. There are countless tools and services for doing keyword research, but in my experience, most aren’t required. They wouldn’t hurt, and some might help tremendously (such as KeywordSpy).

Google’s Free Keyword Tool does its job well. There are commercial services like KeywordDiscovery and Wordze, and you should check them out (some have free trials) eventually. Each uses a different database/means of obtaining their results, and might give you a better overall picture and more creative phrases to target. Some people use multiple sources, and this is a good idea if you can afford it. Don’t mistake free for ineffective. Google’s suggestion tool does the job and is probably the only tool you’ll need.

Google’s Search Based Keyword Tool (sktool) is a newer app that let’s you find keywords off a site (via URL). People who do organic SEO usually have a long period of stats and have optimized their sites for certain keywords. They might not always be optimized for converting keywords, but they may be worth looking into. If I’m completely stumped on what keywords to look for, I begin by running the top 5-20 sites ranking for the offer/product I’m promoting in this tool.

The desktop apps that “generate” or gather keywords are useful for brainstorming, getting suggestions. Some might be able to automatically jumble up keywords for you to create lists of misspellings, automatically let you prefix/postfix keywords with text, automatically add ” ” or [ ] around keywords, etc. If you’re looking for such an app, The Permutator by Boxer Software is nice, and if I recall correctly, free. It works natively on Windows, and perfectly on Linux using Wine or some Wine derivative. One can do all this grunt work by hand, and it’s a good idea to do so the first few times, for educational purposes.

If you’re on a budget, stick to free.

Keyword Testing

This can get expensive. You’ll need to test every keyword to see how it performs in regard to your ad and landing page, and how well it converts. One technique is going broad, then digging deep. This means just throwing broad keywords up, and then seeing what converts and optimizing for those. This works, but it’s too expensive for most people starting out. Going broad in a highly competitive niche where clicks cost $3/ea will deplete your budget before you have enough data to test or make a single dime back.

A cheaper technique is to focus primarily on long tail keywords. You’ll get much less traffic, but will spend less per click. The drawback is that it will take awhile to find converting clicks.

Keyword testing will go into its own paper, as it’s much too big to discuss in detail here. For now, be sure to see the CashTactics case study on keywords below.

Managing Keywords

Using the tools above, I save/export a dozen or so lists of keywords (both my own searches and whatever Google suggests) and then sit down with a (huge) cup of coffee and go through each one, organizing them into groups. How you group them is up to you.

Some people group them alphabetically (CashTactics? CDFnetworks? EarnersBlog? I forgot),

Some by whatever mindset the prospect would be in at the time he’s searching for that keyword (is he looking for information, what product to buy, or where to buy product X?)

and others just by subject or how syntaxically close the keywords are (i.e., all keywords with a certain word, of a certain length, beginning with a certain char or word, etc).

You can, and probably will, spend all day freting over the most efficient way to organize, but it comes down to actually just doing it. If you need to be lead, sort by by how related the keywords are in their own adgroups.

Adgroup “looking for reviews” might have all the “X2000 Review,” “X2000 vs Y5000,” “comparison skin cream” etc..

Adgroup “ready to buy” might have “ordery X2000 online,” “free trial Y5000,” “buy ABC free shipping” etc…

How you actually organize them is up to you. Use whatever you’re comfortable with. I personally love vim (text editor/God) and use it a lot for my keyword editing. I’ve been using Open Calc, others swear by Excel. You can use Notepad, TextMate, E, your own tool, a combination thereof, or whatever else would let you read/write text files and group together words. Just keep in mind that we’ll be dealing with a lot of data most of the time.

A lot of apps can export data in a format compatible with Excel, so it’s good to have around and learn. If you don’t have it, download a torrent, otherwise buy it or use Open Calc – a spreadsheets app in the OpenOffice suite. It’s free and not exactly like Excel, but for our purposes here it’s more than sufficient. It can open the same formats Excel can.

In these videos, the dude @ CashTactics shows off Excel http://vimeo.com/cashtactics/videos – This should be pretty useful and you probably don’t need to learn much beyond these basic features.

* Note to those new to Excel/OpenCalc. Many times you’ll be working with CSV files. Google isn’t consistent with the formatting of it’s CSVs, sometimes using TABs to separate the content, and other times using commas.

In OpenCalc, when you open a CSV file, you will be prompted on how you’d like to proceed, with a little preview of the results. For the files to open correctly, you must choose both “tabs” and “commas” as delimeters in the initial OpenCalc pop-up. otherwise all your rows will display together in the first row (shit will be smashed together, basically).

In Excel, CSV files open up with tabs being the delimeter instead of commas. Funny thing is CSV stands for Comma-Separated-Values, so why this is the default behaviour is beyond me. The best way to get around this is to rename the .csv file as .txt and re-open it in Excel. There’s likely an option somewhere in Excel for tweaking this, but renaming suffices for me.


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