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How to bring keywords back from the right-rail grave

Published: September 17, 2014

Author: Miguel Madrigal

Today I want to share some tips that are a good way to push for extra volume, using the keywords you’re already bidding on.  Sounds easy, right?  Well, it is!
Let me give you a good scenario for this push:  Let’s say your client (or your own personal  account, for that matter) has had really good CPAs recently, but there is a feeling that we are missing out on some lost opportunity where, over time, optimizing towards CPA has left some low-hanging fruit.  Maybe the goals of the account is to hit certain numbers set earlier in the year, or to reach a certain YoY growth number based on projections, and loosening up the CPA goal a bit can help the account reach its goals.
As search engine marketers, we are always bidding up high-performing keywords and bidding down on ones that are high-spending/low-converting (SEM 101, right?).  What in many cases happens is you have a keyword (for this example, let’s say an exact match or “Alpha” as we like to call them), and over time because it was high-spending and low-converting you pulled back on bids to the point that it is below the top 3 in average position. Now that keyword is either on the right rail, or rarely showing at all.  This keyword’s bid is so low, the impressions and clicks have dropped exponentially compared to when it was in the top 3 spots, and it will rarely bounce back from such a low bid/low pos since it will never have the chance to have build traffic and data.
So what is a search marketer to do?  You know this account cold and have a good idea of what type of keywords can have some potential for good results if given that second chance. First, take a look at your SQR and determine what types of tokens in a query trigger a lot of impressions and clicks.  This will help you keep two things in mind when choosing your keyword set to push: relevance and potential gains in traffic.
Pull a keyword report from your exact match campaign (again, here at 3Q we call that our Alpha campaign), and pull a look-back of 30-60 days depending on volume.  Now, take anything that is above avg. position 3.0 during said time frame, and remember to identify opportunities based on the two variables above: relevance and potential gains in traffic.  Once you have identified those 10-20 keywords (or more depending on size of keyword list), make sure to utilize labels in the AdWords UI to tag them as “High Impression Alpha” (or whatever you may choose to identify the set easily).
Take a look at where the bids are now, and what kind of avg. position they have, and then make your best judgment of where the bid should be to get up into the top spot.   Remember that this is going to be a pull-and-push process, so be aggressive. You’re never going to score unless you take the shot!
Below is a screenshot of 13 Exact Match “Alpha” keywords data in aggregate that I identified as having relevance, and potential to increase overall traffic.  You can see that in the first four weeks of data, those 13 keywords that had been bid out of top-3 positions, had been averaging about 100 clicks a week and had a 2.6% CTR, $60-$80 in spend, avg. position of 4.6, and 0 conversions.  The first week of the test, after increasing those bids, clicks increased 7x, CTR nearly doubled, avg. position improved to 2.0, and we had 2 conversions.  Now needless to say, the $884 CPA was much higher then what we optimize towards, so this is where the real fun begins… the pushing and pulling.
High Impression Queries
After the first week of increasing the bids, you can see right away which keywords are high-spending and not converting as they should, so you can pull back appropriately.  Then you see which keywords are converting at decent CPA and worth leaving in the top spots.  You need to be careful because it has only been a week or so since increasing your bids, and if latency is a huge factor in your account that can really inflate the CPA you optimize towards.
As time goes by, and more data accrues, you are able to make more conscious decisions of where you need to be.  The goal here is to find that healthy balance of good avg. position and sustainable CPAs.

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