Welcome to  Heroview everyone, real-time interviews featuring PPC experts from around the industry! This month we had Eric Couch (@ecouch11) on who talked about how to handle keyword research late in the sales cycle.


PPC Hero: Thanks for joining us today Eric. We appreciate you being with us today!

Eric: Thanks for having me!  I’m thrilled to be taking part in this month’s Heroview, and hope I can share some useful PPC knowledge!

PPC Hero: Could you start by telling us a little bit about your background in PPC?

Eric: Sure – I’ve been working in PPC for about eight months now with Hanapin Marketing. I’ve kind of settled in to the niche of… PPC Hero keyword research, helping our largest clients grows their accounts – with keywords from every stage in the buying cycle.

PPC Hero: What makes keywords late in the buying cycle different from those at the start?

Eric: There are many differences – long-tail vs. short-tail, specificity, match types, branded terms, those kinds of thing.  But the best way to put it is simply “intent” – keywords later in the buying cycle tend to reflect a person who’s done their research. This leads to more branded and product-specific conversions, which is why you should make use of them!

PPC Hero: How do you make sure you aren’t losing out on the types of customers who need to do a lot of research before buying?

Eric: Segment them out! I’ve had success building out accounts for a large ecommerce client, segmenting campaigns akin to the conversion funnel.  Starting with generic terms, moving in to specific product categories, then on to actual products. By segmenting them, you have more control over budgets/bids – still providing them the chance to convert now OR later.

PPC Hero: What are your favorite keyword research tools? Any ones we might not have heard of?

Eric: The Google Keyword Tool is be helpful, Opportunities tab, etc. They’re best used as suggestions to guide your research. I’m also a big fan of the WordStream Keyword Niche Finder, and utilizing SQRs to find themes you might have missed.Also, a second eye can be great.  Other people are better able to spot gaps and catch what you don’t.

PPC Hero: How much do you rely on Google’s Traffic Estimator for keywords and impression counts?

Eric: I think it’s a great place to start on a keyword basis.  You get an idea of impressions, bid price, average position. But it’s still just an estimate – there are so many variables including structure, QS, ad copy, landing pages, etc. I use it as a jumping-off point.  Optimize to the reality of the account once it’s live, not just the estimates.

PPC Hero: What is your process for adding new keywords into an account?

Eric: It usually starts with some gap analysis. Examine the existing keywords and ask yourself “what’s missing” Then I start going through the above-mentioned tools looking for new keyword themes/descriptions/qualities to add in. I keep my old work handy, and usually templated out.  This allows me to generate and iterate on new keyword theme quickly and efficiently.

PPC Hero: Any good Excel tips to share with us?

Eric: I also like using the concatenate function, filters, and a heavy dose of find-and-replace. When you have to research/build a $160,000 account in three days, Excel functions like the above are a time/life-saver.

PPC Hero: And on the same theme: How is your process different for keywords late in the sales cycle to earlier?

Eric: For keywords later in the sales cycle, I tend to rely more on the client site/competitor sites. They usually contain product-specific terms, jargon, branding, and other keyword ideas in line with the latter parts of the sales cycle.

PPC Hero: How much of your overall time do you spend working with keyword research in an account?

Eric: Lately, it seems like 80-90% of my time has been taken up by keyword research and account creation! It depends on the maturity of the account, but always try to make time in your week for research, no matter what your preferred method is.

PPC Hero: Do you have any tips about negative keyword strategies?

Eric: I’m a big fan of embedded negatives in segmented ad groups, but we’ll get to that soon enough.  I do like using campaign. Exact and Phrase match negatives to tightly segment my campaigns. For one of my clients, I’ve recently set them up to clean up some cross-pollination across campaigns.  My early-cycle terms were taking traffic from my “closing” keywords!

PPC Hero: How do you feel about broad matching late in the buying cycle? Is it still valuable?

Eric: I do like to make use of it, if only to get some more research ideas in an SQR.  Be careful with them, use negatives!

PPC Hero: Broad, Modified Broad, Phrase and Exact – how do you handle them all? Do you separate them?

Eric: If I’m in charge of creating an account, I make use of all match types – segmenting them out in different ad groups with embedded negatives ensuring traffic across match types is controlled. Makes writing ad copy a bit more of a pain, but I’ve found that the level of control has been worth it.

PPC Hero: Do you notice any trends towards long or short tail keywords later in the buying cycle?

Eric: It definitely trends toward exact match, more long-tailed keywords, and more product/brand-specific keywords.

PPC Hero: How much do you look at SEO/Organic keyword performance when expanding your PPC?

Eric: I do take a look at what’s working on the SEO/Organic front. In an ideal world the two should already be in sync. It never hurts to check, though!

PPC Hero: What was the biggest mistake you ever made with keyword research? Any funny stories?

Eric: The biggest mistake I’ve (recently) made was implementing broad match competitor keywords for a health supplement client. This particular competitor was called “move free”, which for Google is enough to start triggering all kinds of clicks. for “free movie”.  This led to all kinds of… exotic searches popping up in SQRs.  Totally NSFW kinds of “exotic”.

PPC Hero: Last question: If there was one thing we could take away to really improve our keyword research, what would it be?

Eric: Step back from the account and look at it from afar and ask yourself what’s missing. Use unconventional research sources and try to wrap your head around all the different ways people might be searching for your product. I said it before have other people take a look at the account, if you can – they might think about it differently than you do!