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FutureNow Article
Wednesday, Apr. 9, 2008

Stop Paying for Bad Keywords in Three Steps

By Melissa Burdon
April 9th, 2008

...your analytics reportsWeb analytics reports can be deceiving. They’re great at showing you WHAT visitors did on your website, but they can’t tell you WHY they didn’t do what you hoped they would.

But with the right process and frame of mind, it is possible to use web analytics to get insight into “why” your traffic isn’t converting — especially if you do pay per click advertising.

Here are some ideas for attracting more targeted traffic in order to get higher conversion rates and a much better return on pay-per-click (PPC) spend.


• Look at your top traffic-driving keywords (PPC and organic).

Are they highly relevant to the industry you’re in and the products you sell? Do these keywords clearly indicate that the searcher has a motivation to find your solution to their problem? Some keywords may have double meanings and could suggest that the visitor had a completely different search intent than expected. Someone searching “training videos” might actually be looking for “workout training videos,” “management training videos,” or a variety of other things. If the traffic from these fuzzy keywords is converting poorly, don’t be surprised. Stop buying and doing search engine optimization (SEO) for ambiguous keywords. The ultimate goal should be to figure out which key phrases specifically relate to your industry, product or service, and do some PPC and/or SEO to get listed for more relevant keywords.


• Don’t play the generic keyword game.

It both difficult and expensive to get traffic from the most generic keywords in one’s industry. Such keywords are much more competitive in the search engines. You pay more for text ads and it takes a lot of SEO effort in order to get listed organically for these keywords. A lot of these single-word keywords are really only attracting early-stage visitors who are not necessarily ready to buy, anyway! If I’m searching for “purses,” I probably haven’t yet decided on a brand or a style of purse and it could take me a lot longer to convert. When I search for “white Chanel purse,” though, you can be fairly certain I’m ready to buy. Focusing on phrases that are tailored to your product or service is what people really mean when they talk about “long tail keywords” [define] — and often it’s the difference between having visitors who are ready to learn and ones who are ready to buy.


Speak the customer’s language, not your own.

Sometimes, marketers get so focused on their own sales process that they convince themselves that would-be customers actually care about the words they use to describe their own products and services. When someone is searching for a solution to their problem, they enter search terms that sometimes don’t match up with what the company thinks people should be searching for.

Are you buying traffic for keywords that mean something to you but mean precious little to your customers? We’ve all done it before. Even brilliant marketers can assume that customers will think and behave as they do. This is what we like to call “Inside-the-Bottle Syndrome.” Although contagious, it is curable, but your web analytics reports alone can’t diagnose you.

Let us know if you’d like to optimize paid search from the customer’s perspective.

Add Your Comments

Comments (25)

  1. Very good article. I my opinion, Wordtracker is a good place to help with keywords. You can obviously get traffic from keywords you know about. But side words that your customer thinks of but not you, are also a great source of sometimes untapped traffic.

    After I found some side words I was not thinking of through Wordtracker, I mixed them in a couple of page titles. They were hard keywords to rank #1 for but also mixing these keywords with others I knew about added a powerful punch. I have gotten sales from some of these words over the years.

    I think over all, it is not always about the huge things you do to your site but continued small improvements along the way that payoff time and time again.

  2. We’d have to agree with Audio Bible in saying that WordTracker is a fabulous tool — as well as Keyword terms of researching the proper keywords. Too many businesses waste money by the poor choosing of keywords – these tools are priceless in those attempts to make your campaign effective.

  3. My biggest lesson in PPC came from #1. After you start digging into the actual keywords used to find one of your sites, you learn a lot. I haven’t used many keyword tools in the last few months.

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  5. Personally I like to have a non-websavy person find my keywords for me. I ask a friend or family member try to find a website about “blank” and then write down all that they try. Of course I add this to normal strategies, but I have learned some great keywords in the process.

  6. I’m learned early about the effectiveness of the longtail (niche) keywords. For a few years I was trying to hammer my way into SERPs. This took so much time and money that I had to rethink what I was doing.

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  8. I agree that some general terms are not necessary, but to remove all keywords that do not return is a bad idea. The best approach is to build a portfolio of keywords and make sure the return from your highly targeted keywords is good enough to support your general terms. Unless you have an extremely well known brand, you are limiting your company from even being considered in the “early stages”. Instead of just deleting your general keywords, you can research and build an expansive negative keyword list, tighten match type to slow traffic, and even make sure your creative calls out what your actual product is (and “pre-qualifying” your traffic).

    Regarding web analytics, if your staff or agency has the experience or knowledge, they can follow the string of searches to see if these “generic keywords” were used at the beginning of the customer’s searches (aka “assist” keyword). Assist keywords won’t get credit for the sale but started the sales process.

  9. i’ve made good experience with long tail keywords. it was comparably cheap and efficient. But this is true, it takes lot of time and patience

  10. I’ve been trying to purchase more niche keywords and avoiding generic terms but this has led to a significant reduce in volume when we use “exact” and “phrase” match type.

    This did give me more targeted traffic at the expense of volume. The theory is we’ve let go of a lot of trashy leads and saved a lot but we’re seeing some decrease in sales performance probably due to its effect on our sales team.

    I don’t think the above mentioned steps should be done abruptly but instead gradual. You guys got suggestions?

  11. Re Yhadz – see my last post above. When you cut out the generic terms you could be removing potential sales by deleting the begining of the sales cycle. You could try day parting the generic terms to slow spend, using bid rules (if your technology supports it), match types, building out keywords specific to your generic terms, etc. Build a portfolio of keywords that combined meet your goals. These should include generic terms, niche terms, long tail terms, etc.

  12. Thanks Nate. I’ll look into that. We already have a portfolio of keywords that are being purchased strictly based on returns per keyword. This being the deciding factor for bids on each keyword combination (considering match type). I’m afraid I may be seeing some negative impact conversion-wise but it’s too soon to tell. The theory is sound though when you say we cut off all keywords that do not return, but I think you’re right about the sales cycle. It may just take time (and money along the way) to actually confirm it. But I will test your day parting suggestion. Thanks again

  13. Actually yes.Do Business in a bloggers language.

  14. [...] Burdon of has written a great article on this very subject and how in three easy steps we can stop buying bad [...]

  15. Thanks, but now I just focus on SEO. I hope I can do it

  16. I focus on Sites which cover a small keyword range. It’s easier to make them successful.

  17. Great article!

    I just add this article in my bookmark.

  18. I always try to target very specific long tail keywords for cheap. Don’t get much traffic every day but they convert according to my moderate expectations :)

  19. Nice article. I concentrate on specific keywords which potential visitors are ready to buy.

  20. I agree with looking for long tails. The number of searches may not be as impressive but in this case “less is definitely more”.

  21. For big brands generic keywords may also work well because the brand will be visible at the beginning of the search-funnel!

  22. I have gotten keywords that do not return, but you can research I knew. and build an expansive I think you’re right about about added a powerful punch negative keyword list the sales sales from some of these words

  23. I try really hard not to have to pay for keywords. In an ideal world I would love for all of our traffic to be organic based solely upon our content. Is that wishful thinking?

  24. @Green Tech News
    Yes. The most straightforward answer is yes, that is wishful thinking. On the other hand, if you have a specific goal in mind of how many people you want to convert each month via organic traffic, and you can surpass that, you can get rid of your PPC campaigns altogether. In truth, if you have a \good PPC campaign, you will never want to get rid of it because your ROI will meet or surpass that of your organic keywords.

    The truth is that organic keywords are not free either. Optimizing your website for SEO optimization is time consuming and can be costly if you decide to hire a consultant, and even more expensive if you decide to dive in and learn everything yourself.

    The best thing you can do is keep very close track of your investment in SEO and PPC campaigns so that you REALLY know what is making you money.

  25. [...] Stop Paying for Bad Keywords in Three Steps – “Must Read!” [...]

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Melissa is a Senior Persuasion Analyst at FutureNow.

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