Heroview - Keyword Research, Tools & Strategy with Michelle Morgan

Today’s #Heroview featured Michelle Morgan (@Michellemsem) as she enlightened us on the subject of PPC Keyword Research, Tools, and Strategy. The interview was full of great insights and interesting new ideas to add to your PPC arsenal. But you don’t need me to tell you, check out the streamcap below!

Thank you to everyone who participated in this month’s Heroview – real-time discussions with PPC industry experts via Twitter.  Stay tuned for next month’s Heroview!

August 18, 2011

PPC Hero: Welcome to #Heroview everyone! To get started, tell me a little about yourself. How long have you been working with PPC?

Michelle: Hey everyone! Thanks for having me, @ppchero. This should be a lot of fun! A little about me: I graduated from college in 2010 and got hired as an in-house PPC assistant close afterward. Now I manage all of our PPC accounts & have fallen in love with PPC. Fun work, great challenges, and a wonderful community.

PPC Hero: Glad to have you Michelle, lets dive right in! How do you typically begin your keyword research process?

Michelle: My first step is always to come up with a list of “common sense” keywords – something I would search for. Then, I take those words & search them in to Google and Bing. I try to get a feel for competition and searcher intent. Search engines know what their users are looking for. Their SERPs can give you great search intent information. Use it!

PPC Hero: There are many excellent sources of data out there. In your opinion, where are the best places to look?

Michelle: I have a hard time trusting any tools estimates on search traffic. I’ve not found one that I feel gives accurate numbers. That said, I think both AdWords’ and adCenter’s keyword tools show a correct hierarchy of keyword search traffic. What I mean is although the numbers of search volume are not accurate, if the stats show that keyword #1 is better than keyword #2 (in terms of volume). I usually find that to be true. So even if you can’t predict actual numbers, you can guess which will have more traffic.

PPC Hero: Do you include any negative keyword research into your initial strategy?

Michelle: Yes, but not as a separate process. With new groups of keywords, negatives are nearly as important as the keywords themselves. When looking for new kws, if I see a word I know I don’t want to show up for I write it down in a separate list. Most of my negative keywords will come from search query reports after the new keywords have been running for a while.

Every tool out there will inevitably give you some keyword suggestions that would be better negatives. Take advantage!

PPC Hero: On average, how often should keyword research be performed for a given account?

Michelle: I think a good PPC manager should always stay on top of their SQRs to be on the look out for opportunities. As far as a regular schedule goes, a lot depends on your company’s products/services & the size of your account. Companies with small lists of products/services might have a hard time branching out into new keyword lists with any regularity, but companies with tons of products and services might have constantly changing market demands to keep up with.

First, I think it’s worth noting that keyword research is NEVER done. Queries are always changing.

Michelle: Generally, the higher your level of traffic, the more often you should do some form of keyword research. I think you need to make sure you’re using your time effectively & making changes from large enough data sets. The accounts I work on have about 100,000 keywords, so I do some sort of keyword research (negative or expansion) nearly everyday just to stay on top of things.

PPC Hero: Excellent points! So, how do you coordinate your keyword decisions with your client/boss?

Michelle: Coordination can be a big benefit – even in-house. Every once in a while, our company will expand, or we’ll see a new opportunity and we’ll get together and chat about kw, targeting, and structuring ideas. Sometimes it’s extremely helpful to bounce your ideas off of other people. One of the best things we have created is a “Low Scores” campaign. This is where we send all of our ad groups that have terrible QSs but still generate great traffic.

PPC Hero: More communication, the better! Should your keywords be tailored to specific engines (Google, Bing, etc)?

Michelle: Definitely, keywords should be targeted to different engines. But I don’t think those differences are imperative in initial research. Tools like Soolve.com and the engine specific tools give suggestions that are slightly different for each engine & that’s great. But I think most of the differences are found later through SQRs. There usually aren’t major differences.

PPC Hero: As you mentioned earlier, SQR’s can be a good source for new converting keywords. Are these always successful in the long-run?

Michelle: New SQR keywords are wonderful. They can give you great results, but they’re not guaranteed to have long-term success. Changes in product features, discounts/sales, legal regulations, or news events can have long or short-term implications. All of these types of changes can have big effects on your account. Sometimes they’ll last for a week or so then lose effectiveness, other times they could be a benefit for years to come!

Once you’ve added some new keywords from SQRs, you should keep an eye on them to make sure they’re still performing well.

PPC Hero: Interesting! Let’s say you have a HUGE keyword list. What’s the best way to distinguish keywords with the most potential?

Michelle: That’s a tough one. I think “potential” is something each company needs to define for themselves. Account goals need to be well defined from the start. Some people are going for traffic, so broader keywords are the most important.

Michelle: Others are more concerned with lowering CPAs and high conversion rates. For those people like me, longer-tail and more restrictive match types tend to be the route to take. If those tighter groups perform well, there’s always the opportunity for expansion into new match types later.

PPC Hero: To wrap things up, do you find it important or beneficial to maintain a close relationship between SEO and PPC keyword research?

Michelle: I think it’s very important to keep close ties between SEO & PPC because they work hand-in-hand. SEO tends to be a longer-term goal while PPC is more immediate & usually a good testing ground. Also, not all searchers are alike. Some click on ads, others click exclusively on organic results. Catch them all!

First of all, I’ve never heard of commanding more space on a SERP as a bad thing. 🙂

Michelle: Here’s a study showing the relationship between SEO and PPC in terms of incremental clicks: http://t.co/lANGE1o

PPC Hero: Thanks for the excellent insights! Does anyone have any questions for our guest?


@JeffAllenUT: In your opinion, is it better to start specific using long tail and exact match and then move out?

Michelle: Thats usually my method. Start with mostly exact w/ some phrase & bmm mixed in. I can expand after that if I need to.


@Mel66: You’ve learned a lot about PPC in just a year. What are some of your favorite training resources?

Michelle: Thanks Melissa. My biggest source of information is twitter. All of the members of #ppcchat are amazing and so helpful! Other than that, I do a lot of blog reading. @sewatch @sengineland @clickz @ppchero (of course) There are so many!


@Chriskos: Any comments on keyword organization, choosing ad groups and campaign distribution?

Michelle: Keyword organization for me is done mostly by the modifying keyword. We have a set list of words for our company, but different people search for them differently. I try to get as specific as I can when creating a new ad group. Makes for better copy. I tend to make campaigns at the product/service level, than the ad groups are the modifiers for those products or services.


@MikeRyan2: Very well done. What’s your take on bid optimization? What’s a good starting bid and what factors influence changes?

Michelle: Great question. Bid optimization is huge. As far as starting bids go, that can’t be answered as a rule of thumb. I would say to start your bids at a price that you wouldn’t be mad paying for every click you get on that keyword. Once you’ve gathered some data, you can optimize for clicks, conversions, & average position in line with company goals.


PPC Hero: Well, that’s all the time we have. Thanks to @Michellemsem for some great insights, as well as everyone following along today!

Michelle: Thanks for having me @ppchero! This was a lot of fun!