The Internet Marketing Driver: Glenn Gabe's goal is to help marketers build powerful and measurable web marketing strategies.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

SES NY Series: Advanced Keyword Research for SEO and SEM, An Interview with Frederick Vallaeys from Google

The importance of advanced keyword research.Keyword research is a critical component to any search marketing initiative (for both SEO and SEM). Although most search marketers understand the importance of keyword research, many people outside of Search are not extremely familiar with the concept or the various tools at your disposal. I’m a firm believer that if you don’t perform extensive keyword research, you run the risk of missing key opportunities. Actually, you could end up basing your campaigns on guesswork and intuition versus actual data. Needless to say, that’s not a good thing.

I've written previous posts about the importance of keyword research, the power of the long tail, and how to get the most out of Keyword Discovery, and I always like to speak with other search marketers to share ideas. There's always something new you can learn (and then use immediately in your campaigns).

Why is keyword research so important?
In both paid and organic search, if you don’t target what people are actually searching for, you’re going to have a hard time succeeding. For example, if you target infant bedding, but people are searching for baby bedding, will they find you? If you target notebooks, but people are searching for laptops, will they end up finding your computers? Imagine you just launched a major SEO initiative and you spent a lot of time and resources optimizing your website…but for the wrong keywords. Will that yield adequate results? Will it yield ANY results? And beyond just finding the right keywords, you need to analyze how competitive those keywords are, how much they cost, and if you actually have supporting content. i.e. Are you providing answers to questions about your category, products, services, etc?

So if you can’t tell yet, I think keyword research if pretty darn important. :)

SES NY Session: Advanced Keyword Research
Frederick Vallaeys from Google.Based on what I wrote above, it should be no surprise that I’m very interested in the session at SES NY that covers Advanced Keyword Research. In order to find out more about the session, I decided to ask Frederick Vallaeys from Google about what he will be covering during the session. Frederick is Google’s AdWords Evangelist and he helps advertisers better understand which Google products can help them achieve their marketing goals. After interviewing Frederick, it was easy to tell that he is passionate about helping people maximize their AdWords campaigns! If you will be attending SES NY, the session will be held on Thursday, March 26th from 10:30 to 11:45. You can read more about the session on the SES NY website.

So without further ado, here is my interview with Frederick:

Glenn: What are some of the key points that people will learn at your session?

Frederick: The session should be fast-paced with myself and 5 other panelists. I will try to share as many ideas as possible for finding new keywords with Google tools like Insights for Search and the Search-based keyword tool and I'll also share some thoughts about how our different keyword matching options can be put to work for advertisers.

Glenn: I come across many marketers that aren’t familiar with keyword research, let alone how to organize the data, use it when building their content, landing pages, ads, etc. Will you be providing an overview of why keyword research is important and how it should be used in both organic search and paid search? Also, will you cover the core differences between using keyword research for paid search versus organic search?

Frederick: I won't go into keyword research for organic listings but you're right that there are different tools and methodologies for researching keywords for paid search. Users simply have different expectations for paid and organic listings. Google and Compete did a study in September 2008 with retail advertisers that showed that paid listings were up to 50% more likely to convert than organic listings. Selecting highly targeted keywords is a big component of driving conversions and because you're paying per click, you want to ensure your keywords attract the right type of users.

Glenn: With Quality Score becoming more and more important in Paid Search, will you explain how to use the keywords that you are targeting to achieve a stronger QS?

Frederick: I'll touch on a few best practices about Quality Score but I'm also doing an entire session on this topic at 2:15pm so I recommend you attend that one if you can. The gist of it is that ads should be useful information and if you choose highly targeted and relevant keywords, users will like your ad and this will help establish good Quality Score which in turn will improve your rank and decrease your cost.

Glenn: Will you be explaining advanced matching options? I know there is a lot of confusion with what they are, how to best use them, etc. (especially negative keywords…)

Frederick: Our keyword matching options are one of the most powerful ways of ensuring your ad reaches the right audience so I'll definitely touch on this. With negative keywords, you can tell Google which queries not to show your ad for and when you combine this with broad matched keywords, it's a great way to maximize your clicks while ensuring a high conversion rate.

Glenn: The long tail is incredibly important and powerful. Will you explain how to target long tail keywords, which can ultimately yield more targeted visitors from organic search and a lower CPC and a higher ROI from Paid Search? I think too many companies initially target just a few head terms, and completely miss the power of the long tail.

Frederick: Long tail keywords are extremely important when you consider that 1 in 5 queries on Google has not been seen in the past 90 days, if ever. Users search for keywords that are so diverse that any marketer would have a tough time predicting all the variations. Fortunately, Google's broad match keywords automatically capture any tail terms that are relevant to your ad. When you add them all up, queries that were captured with broad matches deliver roughly a third of all conversions for our advertisers.

Glenn: I’m sure you will be covering the Google Keyword Tool. :) Will you be explaining some advanced features and ways to maximize its use? If so, can you list some of the features you will cover?

Frederick: We have a brand new search-based keyword tool that generates a list of relevant historical search queries for which a particular site has no ad presence. For each keyword, it also suggests a landing page, bid, and ad group. It's a really great way to find missed opportunities in your existing campaigns. You can try the tool at

Glenn: Analytics is obviously extremely important for tracking both organic search and paid search at a granular level. Will you be explaining how to glean insights from your reporting in order to target the right keywords?

Frederick: Analytics has a tremendous amount of data you can apply to your paid search campaigns. For example, you could use the "Keywords" report or the "Site Search" report to learn which keywords drive traffic to your site and what people search for once they're on your site. Combine that with data about conversions and you've got a powerful new source of potential keywords for your account.

Glenn: For Paid Search, will you be explaining how to estimate the cost for keywords and campaigns, once you have completed keyword research? I know the Traffic Estimator tool can be helpful in this situation… I’ve found that many marketers don’t know how much to spend on paid search, how much their initial budget should be, how to calculate that, and then what to do once their campaigns are running.

Frederick: Unfortunately I probably won't have time to cover this in my session but I'm happy to share some of my thoughts here. Because paid search is so measurable, we really hope that advertisers will analyze their results and tweak their targeting and other settings to ensure they are meeting their ROI goals. If you can show a positive ROI from placing paid ads on search, there should be no reason not to spend as much money on this as possible. Instead of thinking about paid ads as money that goes into a black hole, think about it as a cost of sales and use it to drive as many profitable conversions as you can possibly handle.

We have some tools and reports that provide guidance about how much potential traffic you could get and you can estimate your potential conversions from this. And once you've maxed out on search advertising, look for the next big opportunity such as ads on the content network or ads on new formats like mobile or video.


To quickly summarize, there are many important aspects to consider while researching keywords to use in your campaigns. That includes using various tools and software to perform keyword research, estimating traffic, understanding the potential cost, increasing your quality score, conversion, and ultimately your ROI. To learn more about the Advanced Keyword Research session at SES, definitely check out the session details on the SES NY website. I’ll be attending the session and tweeting key points as they come up! I’ll also be recapping each day at SES NY here on my blog.

Are you new to keyword research and confused with where to start? Post your comments below. I’d be happy to point you in the right direction.


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  • At 10:53 AM, Anonymous Scott Malish said…

    Very interesting discussion in this post. Keyword research is clearly critical to SEM and SEO in terms of knowing what keywords are actually being used for search. I'm curious as to whether either of you pay attention to changes in keyword associations over time as a metric of marketing campaign success (for organic search)? In other words, how do campaigns impact how people are searching for your brand organically? Did a campaign add higher-value keywords to your organic search traffic? Did people start searching for what you actually want them to search for?

    I'm currently in PR and think this type of research could have big implications for campaign planning and success measurement. Not only should you be measuring social media keyword associations, but you should measuring what people currently search for to get to your brand (measure of perception) and how it's impacted by communications campaigns.


  • At 12:18 PM, Blogger Glenn Gabe said…

    Great question Scott. I pay particular attention to how specific types of keywords impact the quality of visitors hitting my clients' websites (based on the goals of the site). So, if a specific marketing campaign triggered a keyword variation that yielded a high conversion rate, then I would dig deeper to learn why.

    On the flip side, I also keep an eye on keyword variations that yield low quality visitors. For example, did something trigger a number of searches for X that yielded visitors with a high bounce rate (and why)? Was there something in the marketing communication that wasn't conveyed properly?

    Last, the long tail of seo is very powerful (as demonstrated by a recent experiment I ran). By analyzing your natural search reporting, you can show your clients all of the long tail keywords that drove traffic to their websites as a result of their efforts. Based on my experience, this could be surprising for them. :)

    I hope that helps. Thanks again.


  • At 12:00 PM, Anonymous Ashley Westin said…

    Thank you for the great post and discussion of keyword research and strategy. As I've begun delving into this area of SEO and SEM, I'm recognizing that effective keyword research can certainly drive and result in successful campaigns, allowing you to glean powerful insights into audience behavior, interest, and demand.

    I've become interested in understanding keyword research in relation to buying or decision cycles -- finding which terms people are using in search queries at different stages and at what stage are the majority of searches being performed. As you mentioned Glenn, this insight can help ensure you are tailoring content to meet informational needs.

    I look forward to more discussion around keyword research and managing the relationship between paid and organic search.

  • At 12:06 PM, Blogger Glenn Gabe said…

    Thanks Ashley, and you're spot on. Keyword research and analysis can help you on multiple levels with your SEO and SEM efforts. Traffic is one thing, but targeted traffic that helps you reach your goals is another. It's an ongoing process.

    I plan to cover more about keyword research in future posts, so definitely check back often. :)



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