• Monday, December 22nd, 2008

Keywords are the core of every search marketing campaign, paid and natural. Knowing which word combinations to focus on is like getting the perfect site for a new store, it’s all about the location. There are some locations that you need to be in and others that you need to stay far away from. Positive and negative keywords act as your locators and you want them to be as precise as possible. They are the key to the best performing online campaigns.

Positive Keywords

The first step in identifying the best positive keywords is keyword research using the tool of your choice. I personally like the free Google Keyword Tool, but some people swear by other tools. Use the terms are found on your site (Google has an option to just enter a URL and it returns related keywords) and terms you (or your client) use internally. This is the best place to START, but by far not the only thing you should do. If you have access to your clients, ask a few of them. Sometimes what is used in-house is not what real people use to search. Keep an open mind.

Competitors are the next place to go for a good idea of what to target for and what not. Some may have done research already and you can tell what they are targeting by their title tags, keywords meta tag (if they have one), and copy on the site. Look at what you would optimize, see if they have done the same.

Once you have your positive keywords to start with and your site has been running for a while, you can locate the negative keywords to be used in your campaigns.

Negative Keywords

Finding your best negative keywords is a four-pronged attack. It starts with your analytics package. Take the time to look at what keywords users are searching with to find your site. Most should be right on track, but some might be just slightly off what your company or client offers. You might need help from the client to identify these, but common sense can help you identify most. If all else fails, ask!

There are two metrics you should pay attention to in addition to visits; conversions and bounce rate. Visits only tells you part of the story, your analytics should also be able to tell you what those keywords did for the company. Traffic is useless if it doesn’t bring any business over time (pay attention to that, you should not check this after a few weeks, you have got to give it time).

If you are unsure about a keyword, take a look at the number of conversions on those keywords that don’t match up with what you are selling. Is it long tail or are people not buying anything? The other metric to look at is bounce rate. This will be able to tell you if a certain term is sending people running. Bounce rate is one of the best metrics to determine which keywords aren’t working for you. If the bounce rate is over 70%, you need to rethink that word.

Take what you have learned in your analytics, modify your site copy and apply these negative terms to your paid campaigns. Conversions will increase and spend will decrease in paid search. It’s a win-win situation!

Kate Morris is the Director of Client Strategies at New Edge Media and a fellow Austinite.

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