We’ve been walking in searchers’ shoes all week, and today is mile 3 of our journey to think and search like our customers! Search marketers have a wide array of tools at their disposal, many of which are powerful assets in understanding search behavior. More specifically, the PPC search engines all offer invaluable reporting features detailing ad and keyword performance, but it’s when you take that next step that things really get interesting. Analytics (Google or otherwise) and some of the newer specialty reports in AdWords offer some of the best data available in getting to know your customers better.

Keywords, Keywords, Keywords

Keywords are the building blocks of PPC and they have a lot to tell you about your customers and their search intent. We all should know which keywords are performing the best for our accounts. But have you really narrowed your keyword lists down to those that you know without a shadow of a doubt work the best (i.e. most qualified traffic, conversions, etc.) for your campaign? If this was the case, everyone would be running exact match keywords all the time! We all know this isn’t the case, and for the most part quite the opposite as the vast majority run PPC strictly with broad match keywords. Some advertisers don’t know any better or some are too lazy to try and break down their keyword lists!

Either way, I’d like to help you out. The first place you should begin to understand how customers are searching for your product/service is in Google’s Search Query Performance report. This report details the actual search query that was entered into the search box on Google that led the customer to your door step. What’s the advantage here? This report can begin to shed light on search trends in your industry (are the red tennis shoes hot this season or the blue?), and it will detail which long tail keyword variations your customers are using. Use this report to create new, more highly targeted keywords so that you can reap the benefits of knowing your customers better.

I hate to tell you this, but there’s a catch. Google’s search query report is limited and often times lumps 100s or even 1000s of search queries into a single line on the report, listing it as “other unique queries.” This is very frustrating to me as an advertiser. Thankfully, the guys over at Apollo SEM put together this set of instructions for using Google Analytics to side-step this problem! Both the Analytics data, and the reports directly from AdWords can clue you in to a searcher’s intent: both the good and the bad. Reviewing actual search queries on a regular basis can help you to add highly targeted keywords to generate more qualified traffic, but it can also help you to create strong negative keyword lists. Knowing how the wrong types of customers are finding your ad is just as important.

The Joys of Analytics

Aside from using search query filters for PPC clicks, you can use Analytics to discover the search queries from organic traffic too. Back in November, Dave Davis at Red Fly Marketing wrote an excellent post on using organic search queries as a launching pad for your PPC keyword lists. I whole-heartedly agree that using Analytics to determine the highest traffic and highest converting keywords is a best-practice for all PPCers. But I would take that a step farther and suggest that you frequently scan the non-paid keywords in your Analytics account in order to make consistent updates to your keyword arsenal. There is an infinite number of keywords, and there is not a single tool that can predict what a searcher will dream up to find your product or service! Check often, update often.

Something else that Dave mentions in his article is the utilization of goal funnels. The obvious use of this tool is to track conversions on your website or landing page (sales, sign-ups, etc.). The main difference between Analytics goals and PPC conversion tracking is that goals encompass your entire search engine marketing effort – SEO and PPC. I’ve already discussed how you can use this data to mine new long tail keywords, but goal funnels are also great for seeing how customers interact with your site!

If you want to get to know your customers better, learn which pages of your site or landing page experience don’t resonate well with them (i.e. pages with high bounce rates). The point I’m making here is that if your landing pages turn customers off, all the keywords in the world won’t help you out. Take the time to set up goal funnels and use the data to make smarter changes to your landing page experience for your customers.

Analytics and PPC reports can be your greatest ally in the effort to understand your customers. If you don’t already, create healthy habits of running reports and checking Analytics on a regular basis. But remember, scanning the reports alone is not enough. Understand those searching for your product or service through the data, and then take action by adding new, highly targeted keywords to your campaigns and adjusting your landing page experiences to better serve your customers.