I believe that every PPC marketer has come across some strange search queries before that either made you laugh or just shake your head in disbelief. Here are just a few of weird search queries that we have shared with you before. I dare say that search marketers come across these types of terms on a daily basis and they definitely need to be addressed for the sake of your account’s health. But there is also another type of category of search terms that you might be able to use beneficially in your account: terms that have gone viral, i.e. news stories, public endorsements etc. Celebrity-related keywords are known for screwing up your PPC traffic, especially when your products or services are related to licensed merchandise or you are selling media-related items. So it is always good to be cautious and to keep an eye on your search query reports as well as add negative keywords even before your campaigns go live. However, in some instances you are able to use this type of search term to further promote your products.

Almost anything can become viral and attract people to use new search queries online to look for a specific news story, celebrity or product-related term. In the case I am focusing on today, the news story is based on a professional athlete that was caught using a specific banned substance. So what did that mean for the account?

We had just started to manage the account about a month before and traffic and conversion volume was pretty low.  The account received around 50 clicks and 0.5 conversions on average per day in the first 28 days:

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Then, the news story went public. On this day, account performance skyrocketed. The account produced almost double the traffic volume and almost three times as many conversions as it had in the previous 28 days:

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I have to be honest, in my time as PPC manager (about 3 years), I have never seen this happen before. So it was a little bit overwhelming at first, but luckily one of my coworkers spotted the story on the same day and gave me the opportunity to act on it quickly. After a quick discussion with the client, we decided to take this story and promote it in the account. So here is what I did:

First, I reviewed the search query reports for all campaigns to see what kind of traffic has been coming through in the past day or two. I wanted to specifically see if there were any search terms that were using  terms related to the athlete that I could then use in my efforts to promote this story for the product. That being said, you want to make sure to not just add any terms. You still need to check that the keywords you choose are somewhat related to your product and only highlight the product in a positive way. You want to avoid adding search queries that just are aimed at finding out more about the celebrity and have nothing to do with your product. Always keep user intent in mind.

After reviewing all search terms, I did some more keyword research to see which keywords were trending and to get an idea of what traffic projections looked like for the next few days/weeks. In this particular case, I decided to try two different approaches. One was to build out a campaign focused on the athletes name in combination with product name variations. In the second campaign, I focused on the banned substance and variations with keyword modifiers like “review,” “testimonials,” and “bodybuilding.”  Once keyword lists were built out, I needed to focus on ad copy creation. I definitely wanted to have some kind of reference to the news story in my ads as well. For this specific client it was tricky to create these kinds of ads, as it is already a struggle to have supplement related ad copy fully approved in Google. Nevertheless, one of the ads I ended up using for this client was the following:

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There are a lot more ways of incorporating news or promotions like this though. For example, I used “as seen on TV,” “ as seen on GMA,” or “as tested by” in my ad copy before. While it might not always be as successful as you wish it would be, I believe that it is always worth testing different promotional phrases in ad text to try to capitalize on big events/stories. So don’t be scared. Be adventurous. Never forget to comply with Google’s editorial guidelines, though, and be careful when using different trademarks and names in your ads.

Building out the campaigns needed to happen fast, as we wanted to take advantage of the hype around the product. Moreover, we were determined to turn the negative attention the product created for the athlete into a positive endorsement for the client’s product.

Both campaigns were published on the same day that the news story broke. Over the next five days, they generated over 2,800 clicks, 38 conversions at a lower CPA and a higher conversion rate than the main search campaign.

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Overall account performance in the same time frame was stellar, with over 44,000 clicks, 597 conversions and a CPA of $71.73:

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For the same time period after the athlete’s season ended, overall traffic volume decreased significantly (which was expected). However, cost per conversion decreased from $71.73 to $30.06 and overall conversion rate increased from 1.38% to 1.90%. The account also saw a decrease in average cost per click at overall higher average position.

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Looking at our two new campaigns after the end of the athlete’s season, volume also dropped but they were still converting:

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Both campaigns continued to convert even after the  news story had fallen out of the cycle. Now, farther on down the road, keywords focused on the athlete’s name combined with product-specific phrases are barely receiving any traffic.  It is safe to say that they probably won’t be helping in terms of conversions. Before I pause them, I will review the assisted conversion path and I might even modify the campaign and keep it running in the background with a lower daily budget. My thought behind this is that people might still be using related search terms and I want to further increase traffic to the website. However, I will be careful to add negatives and focus on the targeted audience. The substance specific-campaign on the other hand, continues to perform well as I have continuously reviewed search query data to keep the keyword lists up to date and refreshed ad copy to focus more on the product itself rather than the news story.


My example is not exhaustive by any means and it should only be used to showcase that using viral techniques and incorporate viral keywords in your PPC strategy can be very beneficial to an account. While the news stories might not always be positive, you can still try to turn it into something good for your account. Even if the only purpose is to increase the traffic to your website and get people more familiar with the actual product. They might not be buying the first time around but you never know when they will be back. Of course, there is always the opportunity to help them remember about your site with remarketing, which is only possible if they have been on your website before.

Despite the potential benefits of this strategy, you should always be cautious of how to go about implementing it. Just adding various new keywords and campaigns, only because a celebrity has somehow mentioned your product before, can also have the opposite effect. Viral searches can also go wrong and cost you or your client a lot of money. So when one of your accounts has the (mis)fortune of going viral, make sure to review actual search query data and trends as well as monitor your campaigns/ad groups/keywords closely once they are live and modify them accordingly. You can only ride on the wave of success with this type of campaign strategy for so long until the cash cow turns into a dog.

I would love to hear your experience on this topic or ideas on how you could incorporate this strategy in your accounts!