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Long tail keywords have a low cost per click (CPC).

That is what we’re commonly told, but it is not always true. In an effort to lower keyword cost per clicks, you consulted all of the best internet marketing blogs and they all said the same thing – add additional terms to your current seed keywords to transform them into long tail keywords.

A seed keyword is a one or two word phrase, such as “sneakers.” Long tail keywords contain more terms and are variations of the seed keyword. For example, “black running sneakers” or “light weight hiking sneakers.” You are told long tail keywords have less competition, dramatically lowering CPCs. You followed the advice and spent the time to create and implement long tail keywords in your campaigns. However, when launched these long tail keyword CPCs remained the same or were only marginally less expensive.

Even with long tail keywords your cost per click is high, your cost per conversion is unsustainable, and your PPC campaign is eating money like cookie monster at a Mrs. Fields.

These blogs have missed an important aspect.

You Are Not Only Competing With Other Long Tail Keywords

The problem is that your long tail keywords are not only in competition with the exact series of words you are bidding on. While it would seem unlikely that competitors would target your exact long tail keyword – they actually don’t need to.

With the advent of broad match modifier, it’s easy for your competitors to match on all of your long tail keyword searches.

For example, imagine you run an SEO company and you begin your PPC campaign with the seed keyword “SEO Company.” As the campaign gathers data you find that the CPC is prohibitively high, so you decide to try a series of long tail keywords based on your target market (which for the purpose of this example is real estate). You come up with the following long tail keywords:

  • Best SEO Company Real Estate
  • Excellent Real Estate SEO Company
  • Results Based Real Estate SEO Company

You figure there is almost no competition for these long tail keywords since they are so specific. However, the long tail keyword logic begins to fall apart. The other companies don’t need to bid on that exact long tail keyword to match you in the auction.

Competitors that want to advertise can simply have the keyword “SEO Company” in broad match modifier  (+seo +company) and they match you for every single one of the long tail keywords you created. Since so many companies do bid on that keyword, the competition and CPC will always be high.

Your PPC Problem: Your Seed Keywords Are Hotter Than Larry Bird’s Shooting Hand

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Now that you see how easy it is to match on long tail keywords, let’s talk about the issue with the high CPCs and how it relates to seed keywords. When we talk about seed keywords at Nerds Do It Better we define it as the main keyword (or keyword phrase) to which you build your ad group. In the example, “SEO Company” was the seed keyword.

There are seed keywords you do not want to build ad groups around because, just by having these seeds in the long tail keywords the cost per conversion is unsustainable. These are called hot seed keywords (as in too hot to handle). In the example, no matter how long tail you make the hot seed keyword “SEO Company” you want to stay away from it because the competition is so high that your cost per conversion makes the campaign unsustainable.

The Solution: Do Not Be Explicit: Find Non-Obvious Keyword Seeds Your Competitors Missed

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The solution to a lower cost per click is not simply adding more words to your current seed keywords with the hope of making them long tail and unique. The solution is to find new seed keywords that your competition is not bidding on. These seed keywords will be non-explicit keywords that are not obvious to your competitors and because of that will have less competition in the AdWords auction and a lower CPC.

How To Turn Your Campaign Around: Pause Poorly Performing Seed Keywords, Find Non Explicit Seed Keywords, and Optimize Your Campaign For These New Seed Keywords

Step One: Identify the Seed Keywords That Are Too Hot and Pause Them

The first step is to find the seed keywords that are crushing your cost per conversion and pause them. This is going to take some Encyclopedia Brown style detective work. There is no hard-set number to categorize them, but you know your individual campaigns and what is an acceptable cost per conversion.

It is important to note that, just because the actual cost per click is high, it doesn’t necessarily mean a seed keyword is too hot. The cost per click can be high, but if the cost per conversion fits with your business goals, they may be acceptable seed keywords.

Step Two: Create A New Seed Keyword List By Going Beyond the Explicit

To avoid seed keywords that are too hot, you need to find ones that are not as obvious and really do have less competition in the PPC auction. Here are three exercises to find these non explicit seed keywords (we will continue with the example in which a fictional SEO company tries to avoid the hot seed keyword SEO Company).

Exercise One: Find new seed keywords by: Thinking how your ideal customer would search to solve the problem non-explicitly.

The first exercise is to imagine that you are your ideal customer and are looking for a solution to the problem that your business solves.  Think of all of the different angles you could search for a solution. For example the fictional SEO company may conclude that their customers would have search queries for problems such as:

  • How do I increase sales from my online store?
  • How do I get more customers to my website?

Possible seed keywords may include (in broad match modifier):

  • +sales +online +store
  • +more +customers +website

Exercise Two: Find new seed keywords by: Describing the symptoms of the problem.

How would your ideal customer describe the symptoms of the problem they are having? For example the fictional SEO company may conclude that customer symptoms include:

  • Low traffic to my website
  • No visitors to my online business

Possible seed keywords may include (in broad match modifier):

  • +low +traffic +website
  • +visitors +online +business

Exercise Three: Find new seed keywords by thinking about small informational searches.

In this exercise think about and create seed keywords based on the small informational searches your customer may be making.  This is the most extreme of the exercises, but may be necessary if you are in especially competitive verticals. These are very top of the funnel searches and may not even show explicit interest in your business. I typically use a mind map for this exercise where I branch out and think of everything my business touches. For example the fictional SEO company may conclude that their user would search for:

  • What is a keyword?
  • How do inbound links work?

Possible seed keywords may include (in broad match modifier):

  • +what +keyword
  • +inbound +links

Step Three: Customize Your Campaign For These New Keywords

One of the most important (and difficult) step in process is creating an ad and an offer that match the keywords search intent. Since many of the seed keywords that you discover from the three exercises are top of the funnel your offers should reflect that. Don’t try to sell customers when they are just looking for information. Instead be the company who provides the information, and continue marketing to these customers.

For example if you make an ad group around the seed keyword +low +traffic +website than you want an appropriate ad that addresses questions about low traffic websites, and a landing page with an offer such as an eBook about low traffic websites and ways to increase traffic. Design the landing page so the offer can only be attained if the user provides their email and allows for an opt-in email list so you will have the ability to market to them in the future.

What are your thoughts about the current state of long tail keywords?

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