he goal of today’s blog is to put some perspective on keywords as they are used in PPC advertising. Because we all use them daily in our searches, and they trigger both ads and natural results at the same time, it’s no wonder that keywords get so much attention in website advertising. Keywords happen to be one of the more tangible parts of search marketing. However, excessive focus on keywords can cause some other equally essential parts of the process to go lacking. We like lists, so…

Here’s our list of six facts about keywords in PPC ads:

1-Because of the way PPC campaigns and ad groups have to be entered, keywords determine both of the following: a- which topics or searches will trigger an ad, and b- which text ad(s) will be displayed to the searcher.

2-Keywords are not at the top of the hierarchy of PPC account organization. The “right” keywords must not only be present – they must also be well organized in other ways to be successful.

3-Unlike their use in SEO which has one form that we’ll call “phrase match”, a single keyword or string of words (key phrase) in PPC ad programs has up to 4 matching options: Exact, Phrase, Broad and Negative. The first three options determine what queries will trigger an ad. Negative keywords act as “filters” to prevent ads from showing for keywords somehow related to the topic but not desired by the advertiser. Negative keywords “clean up” PPC ad display to make them more relevant to searchers and more profitable for advertisers.

4-When organizing keywords into topics (ad groups), we first have to be mindful of two things: a- the searchers intent or stage in the buying process as indicated by the keyword, and b- best practices re: the way search engine ad algorithms function.

5-An essential point in organizing keywords into ad groups and campaigns is to have keywords (and the ad groups they reside in) of equal value competing for budget. Budgeting is set one level above the ad groups, at the campaign level.

6-In Google AdWords, we can run reports that show the exact query that searchers used alongside the keyword (from our keyword list) and matching option that resulted in a click (and also a conversion). These are called Search Query Reports. These reports are useful but can be tedious to analyze. They send home two points: a- that valuable queries can be oddly structured, and b-without broad match and negative keywords, reaching many customers with an ad would be difficult indeed.

How to use these facts

The search engine ad process flows in this way: keywords (and related settings) determine who, what type of, and to some extent how many potential customers can see the ad. The ad must attract the searcher to click on it. Then, the website or landing page must then cause the customer to take the desired action or “convert”. So, the keyword initiates the process for two essential steps that follow.

Because of the PPC matching options and other factors, asking the question: “are we using xyz keyword for our ads” is not enough. A more useful question would be, “have we tested the cost per conversion for general and specific keywords and matching options to cover the topic of wxyz?

Assuming that appropriate conversion goals have been set, the best way to measure the effectiveness of PPC advertising is by return on investment, ROI. The main factors that contribute to that are cost per conversion, margin dollars (perhaps within product or service categories of different profit margins), and the total number of conversions.