The Danger of Having Narrow Keyword Themes

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Oh the sweet old days. We all remember, or most of us have been told about, the tales of greatness from using very specific keywords and how it allowed for extraordinary profits.

But where did these days go and what happened? It’s certainly not like that anymore. There are no magic low CPC keywords that all of a sudden start producing huge profits.


What is a Narrow Keyword Theme?

One of the key mistakes I used to see when training new AdWords professionals in White Shark Media was the act of siloing keywords.

Rookie AdWords managers would see keywords like:

  • plumbing repair services
  • plumbing repair company
  • licensed plumbing repair
  • plumbing repair emergency services

They’d think they had done a great job because they had found a lot of ways of saying plumbing repair.

The danger with only using keywords like this however, is that you’re limiting yourself extensively. You are entirely dependent on the effectiveness of the keyword plumbing repair to garner enough searches to suit your financial goals.


Low Diversity in Keywords Results in High Click Prices

When you’re relying on a single keyword theme, such as plumbing repair, you will be limited to the amount of searches there are for the single keyword plumbing repair and its variations.

If the keyword plumbing repair has 3,000 monthly searches, you can then be sure that the keyword plumbing repair services has less. When keywords all revolve around another single main keyword, you will only attract the few searches that the single main keyword is providing.

When your keywords have low search volume, you can be forced to bid high in order to get the traffic that you need to succeed.

The ad position of a keyword is directly related to how big of a CTR it has. If you’re #1, you will have a 5 to 20 times as high CTR as in the 7th position.

The higher the position you have, the more you will have to pay. This is the basic governing math one finds in AdWords that you can always count on.


The Magic of Going Wide Instead of Narrow

The direct opposite of narrow is wide. The true magic in AdWords happens when you start thinking about width when you’re best researching for your AdWords campaigns.

One of the characteristics of a wide keyword is that it doesn’t share any of the words that your other keywords contain.

Google’s broad match feature will effectively make sure that you’re shown on smaller variations of plumbing repair services, so initially it’s not necessary to spend too much time researching that one silo.

Instead, think outside the box…


Example of a Great, Wide Keyword List for a Plumber:

  • plumbing repair
  • fix sink
  • leaking pipes
  • emergency leaks
  • emergency plumber
  • septic tank installation

To be honest, I’ve only developed 2-3 plumbing campaigns in my entire AdWords experience and I have no natural inclination toward the field. But just look at the variety of keywords I found by just thinking a little bit outside the box.

I’m confident that a plumber could find far-more-reaching variations than in my small example above.


Not All Wide Keywords Will Succeed 

It’s important for you to realize that not all your “outside the box” thinking will work. Some of the keywords I’ve listed above might also be a bad choice.

The keyword fix sink, might be over-used by do-it-yourselfers and will be unlikely to attract profitable business. With the right ad, it might work though!

An ad that mentions the dangers of fixing sinks yourself and a landing page building upon the horrific stories about men fixing their own sinks (just to discover mold in the foundation 3 months later), might perform amazing!


A Great Way to Keep Yourself in Check when Researching Keywords

A good exercise is to split your keyword research up in two lists:

  • A wide keyword list
  • A narrow keyword list (with adjectives, geo-modifiers, price-modifiers, etc.)

The danger is that once you have 200 keywords that all revolve around one main keyword, you will be satisfied. You won’t know the true width of your keyword list unless you segment your keywords into both narrow and wide.


More Resources on the Subject

I recently discovered that I’m not the only PPC professional at all that has changed his keyword research focus from narrow lists to wide lists.

My fellow AdWords enthusiast, David Rodnitzky, has written about what he calls the Wide Tail in this fantastic, short eBook on the subject.

I recommend that you download it for a more in-depth analysis of why wide keyword lists will be more successful for you in the long run.

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12 thoughts on “The Danger of Having Narrow Keyword Themes

  1. Larry Kim

    i am generally am in agreement with most of the posts here but on this one i fear that i’m not totally buying this. I have found that the risk of going excessively wide (in terms of the junk search queries you’ll end up snagging as a result) in general outweighs the risk of the low search volume issues that you raised. I guess it just depends on how exactly you define narrow or wide. In my opinion, an adgroup containing targeted 3-word phrases with decent volume do just fine, and far better on average than the 1-word and 2- word phrases, which tend to be less specific and end up matching to all sorts of unintended search queries.

  2. Andrew Lolk

    Hi @facebook-795184988:disqus

    I understand your point of view, but as with anything else AdWords (and marketing) then the outcome relies heavily on how the task is performed.

    I’m not advising anybody here to start buying keywords like plumbing parts or chandelier pictures 🙂

    If you by allowing yourself to go “wide” include keywords that are irrelevant for the audience you’re trying to reach, then you’re doomed to face a ton of clicks without much interaction beyond the click.

    This is where the post is trying to be balancing. You can go too wide (which ‘plumbing part installation’ might be in my example) or you can go too narrow. Keywords should always be assessed for the potential success rate before adding to a campaign, and maybe I should follow up this post with how to take search intent into consideration.

    Your example with ad groups containing 3-worded phrases are good, but in a situation for many local businesses where they focus on a 50-mile radius then the amount of keywords with a “decent” volume can be heavily limited if they don’t think outside their small silo of keywords.

    Kind regards, Andrew..

  3. Arvind Katke

    I think the keyword strategy is depends on many factors including geo, industry, competition, etc. I agree to post to certain extent but if there are constraint like budget then I think going wider is not an good option. Building account slow & steady with keeping your experiment budget different and performing keywords in different bucket. There has to be long tail and short head keywords to tap most of the relevant traffic. What we can do to avoid clash between keywords, observing search query can include exact negative in some Adgroups.

    I build keywords in the following format:
    Seed Keywords – Direct keywords, semantically related keywords, etc
    Concatenation Keywords – Location, adjectives, etc

    The trick is not cover whole ground but be present where the profits are. Experiment learn and tap.

    1. Andrew Lolk

      Hi @d23d4a278b0efad82dca65d2cae611c3:disqus,

      I completely agree with you.

      If you’re just starting out with AdWords then you should aim to start out slow and not take in too much from the beginning.

      Kind regards, Andrew..

  4. Andrew Lolk

    Hi Andres,

    My tips aren’t against the long-tail concept per se.

    The tips are based on the idea that instead of focusing all of your time on a narrow set of keyword themes, then you can open the doors for new keywords by thinking outside the box and outside of your current “silo of keywords”.

    But yes, I do go a little against the original long-tail concept. I haven’t see much value of solely expanding a small amount of keywords into long-tail as opposed to using wide keyword themes.

    This is especially true for local businesses that advertise within their geographical areas.

    Kind regards, Andrew

  5. Andrew Lolk

    Hi Ben,

    It’s not as much what kind of keywords would be classified as a wide keyword, but instead it’s about looking at your keyword lists (ad groups) as a whole.

    Example of a narrow keyword list:

    Marine pumps
    Marine pumping machines
    Marine pump parts
    Manual marine pumps

    While the list might be good, then businesses should also focus on going wide – especially if they don’t see the kind of search volume from their keyword lists as they currently are.

    Same example – just with a wide keyword list:

    Marine pumps
    Boat pumps
    Maritime pumps
    Ship pumps

    Not that these keywords might attract various audiences. Ships might attract industrial searchers, but if you’re not servicing industrial clients, or selling to pumps to ships, then this is of course not the right keyword for you.

    The main idea is that you stop using solely one keyword for describing what you’re selling and instead open up your mind for wider keywords.

    Kind regards, Andrew…

    1. Andrew Lolk

      Hey Josh,

      That’s absolutely true. I would highly recommend that you start out slow.

      Take your time and expand your campaign slowly in the beginning if you’re a beginner or intermediate.

      However, if you have budget to blow off and the skill-level to monitor while making quick corrections then starting with a bang has its advantages as well.

      Kind regards, Andrew…

  6. Andrew Lolk

    Hey Chris,

    You’re completely right.

    Generally we advise not to use broad match in the initial stages of a campaign. They’re way too unpredictable these days and you can be sure to misplace your budget.

    The narrow vs wide danger is not solely for starting AdWords campaigns, but is also, and maybe especially, relevant when expanding campaigns. I would never advise anyone to start an AdWords campaign with keywords they aren’t confident about.

    In my philosophy you start out with the sure-thing keywords unless you have the budget and skill-level to experiment from the beginning.

    Kind regards, Andrew..

  7. Rajdeep Srivastav

    Great post that every Beginners to know about this. However, google will not rank those websites, since it introduced “Latent Semantic Indexing” Algorithm, which is a Important factor for Keyword ranking.


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