Best Practices on Keyword Research and PPC Management from Christine Churchill of KeyRelevance

Christine Churchill If you have been part of search marketing industry or frequent marketing conferences then there is one industry expert you would hear a lot about and that is Christine Churchill of KeyRelevance, a full service search engine marketing company based in Dallas, Texas. Christine is a highly respected search authority and frequently speaks on topics like advanced keyword research and pay-per-click management. So we were glad to have Christine join us for a chat and share with us some great insights that marketers can put to practice right away. So, once again we are pleased to have Christine Churchill with us today!

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Bob Tripathi:  Welcome to instant E Training.  With us, we have one of the noted experts in the search industry: Christine Churchill.  Christine thanks for doing this.

Christine Churchill:  Thanks.

Bob Tripathi:  I know you’ve spoken at a lot of industry conferences, you’ve been around forever.

Christine Churchill:  You’re making me sound old.

Bob Tripathi:  No, [I mean] experience.  You’re an expert.  So, one of your topics which you really own is keyword research.  For me, keywords are the cornerstone or foundation on which search engine marketing is built.  How have you seen keyword research evolve in the past few years?

Christine Churchill:  Well it’s been huge.  In the beginning we really didn’t have keyword tools.  They were very limited and there were maybe a couple of them out there.  I see new keyword tools coming out all the time; they’re refined, the data is better, they’re looking at the keywords from more aspects.  So not only are they looking at popularity, but they’re looking at competition, they look at user intent, they you some demographic data on who’s using those keywords.  There’s a lot more information for the marketer to use to make their marketing decisions.

So that’s fantastic in my opinion because I agree with you.  Keywords are where you start if you’re doing online searches for search engines.  And it’s not just the search engine big guys like Google, Bing and all those.  But if you’re doing a search on YouTube or if you’re doing a mobile search, you’re going to use a text stream.  And this is where people think, “Oh, well, if I’m doing a video, I don’t have to worry about keywords.”  Well that’s not right because people are still going to use that text stream, that query stream, in the search box to find the video they’re looking for.  So keywords haven’t gone away, they’re still very important.

Bob Tripathi:  You’re right.  To give you a mobile experience; I have Android and I look for apps, you’re still doing a keyword research, right?

Christine Churchill:  The search engines have evolved obviously.  The search engines are showing personalized results and localized results [for example], so if you run ranking reports, so you’ll probably be getting some biases from wherever your IP is.  The things to look at…

Bob Tripathi:  One of the things I see, and I think it’s an error on many newbie’s part or point of view is, people go straight to the Google Adwords tool, they type in the keyword and they see on the right the number of searches and they pick up the highest keyword with the number of searches.  What’s your take on that?

Christine Churchill:  Well, if you’re talking about the Google Keyword tool, to start with, people focus in on that popularity number, and the default for that to start with is the “broad match” version of it.  There could be very little semantic matches of that phrase.  So that number is inordinately large.  I always go in and make it say “exact match” when I do that.  But again, it gives me a popularity number, but there’s more than popularity.  There are other things you should look at.  For starters, and this is kind of one of those reality checks, is put the search query that you want to rank for into Google or one of the other engines and see who’s competing.  If it’s .govs or formal, big-brand sites, your battle is you may not be able to get to that phrase.  You have to expand that out or look for targeted phrases or quantifiers to the main route, the core phrase, just to be eligible.  And there are a lot of tools that can help you and competitive research that can give you insight into that.  As well as running the tool or that particular keyword in a pay per click campaign site.

Bob Tripathi:  So basically what you’re getting at is the long tail type keywords, right?  Like adding a modifier or…

Christine Churchill:  Yeah, long tail still works.  And if you’re a small or medium-sized business, going after a one word term is insane.  It just doesn’t work for you.  The only chance you really have is going after a longer tail.

Bob Tripathi:  Yeah, with keywords I’ve seen… But let’s say if you’re a new or small business.  The guy, he just read a book somewhere and he saw this URL called Google Keyword tool.  How does a new business owner or small business owner do this or go about  doing keyword research?

Christine Churchill:  Well that’s a good place to start because it’s free, and it does give you some information.  One thing you can do to get a little bit more information in Google is where you can show different columns.  There’s a pull-down menu, and you can select to put all of the columns out, and that will give you a little additional information and trending information so you might see, “Oh, that’s a very seasonal term, I didn’t realize it.”  A lot of people don’t understand that some terms don’t look seasonal.  Obviously Christmas ones and certain holiday ones are very seasonal, but there are a lot of terms that have a definite period where they’re more in demand than other periods.

Bob Tripathi:  Are there any tools that you like or can recommend people use?

Christine Churchill:  I’m a big advocate of using more than one tool.  I do use the Google tools; I use the Google keyword tool, the Google Insights tool, the Google Trends tool, the Google Traffic tool.  But in addition I use Keyword Discovery, I’ve used Hitwise, I use Wordstream, I use Word Tracker.  I use a lot of tools and here’s why: I like to get different perspectives.  All of these tools use different data sources, and I think you get a more balanced look if you use different sources and different input from different places.  And one thing, you are going to see different numbers on all these because of the different data sources.  The thing you have to keep in mind is you want to look at the order of those keywords.  And if you consistently see across multiple keyword tools, the same order of the- say you’re looking at three different phrases and you see the same order across them- the actual raw number doesn’t matter.  It’s that order you have to be really concerned with.

Bob Tripathi:  That means more people are typing the same…

Christine Churchill: Yeah, across all the ISP’s and everything, so it makes sense.

Bob Tripathi:  You do a lot of PPC.  I saw you in the lab yesterday.

Christine Churchill: That was a fun lab.

Bob Tripathi:  That was a fun lab, yes.  One of the things you saw in the lab, there was this one guy who had a wrong account structure.  How much of that do you encounter with your work where every day people go in and start PPC because it’s spending, right?  Spending shouldn’t be that tough.  But getting the account structure, getting the foundation… How much do you see in your daily work with clients?

Christine Churchill:  Sadly, more often than you think.  Part of the problem is that when people set up their own accounts, they get defaulted into things that they don’t even know about.  And that’s kind of what happened to the guy yesterday.  He got defaulted into both the search and the content network.  Which should always be a basic rule in pay per click is always separate search and content or display networks.  Because the people searching on those, or just the whole nature of those two worlds- they’re complete worlds, a different part, and the ads are different, the landing pages need to be different, everything.  They should be separated all the way out.  So that’s a classic error.  The other thing in that particular case the individual did was they had broad keywords, no negatives at all, and they had very general broad keywords.  So he was paying for money that he probably just wasted, they weren’t even relevant. In this case he was a LASIK vision, and unfortunately he had “golf” as a search keyword.  It might work in a different environment, but not there.

Bob Tripathi:  So one suggestion is to structure your account.  Keep display content and PPC separate.  And the second is actually not having everything on “broad” but do a negative match.

Christine Churchill:  Well do the negative, but just recently Google came out with a broad match modifier, which is a new match term.  It just came out in July 2010.  And what that allows a marketer to do now is while putting their keywords in, if they put a plus sign in front of the keywords…  Say they want to show up for search queries of apple pie.  They would put in at their keyword box “+apple + pie.”  And then they would show up only for instances of “apple” and “pie” in the same query.  So it’s a way of getting more traffic than the “exact” and “phrase match” but not go crazy with expanded broad match.  It gives the advertiser a little more control.

Bob Tripathi:  And I mean even Google isn’t for …a lot of times they just match it to the best match they have.  I mean one of the solutions I see is you would have one keyword, but “broad,” exact” and “phrase” and then have some of that control.  Would you agree to that?

Christine Churchill:  Yeah, I think the only change I’d make is, because I still like doing the different match types in a PPC account, but I find less uses of the regular broad match now that they have the broad match modifier.  I think I’d put the broad match modifier in and still do the “phrase” and “exact” just because it gives me some more data.

Bob Tripathi:  The other question I have for you is the quality score.  I mean, a lot of times it’s just the page rank in the SEO world.  A lot of times people obsess, especially advertisers and clients, who don’t have really good insights.  What’s your take on quality scores and if you had to pinpoint three things in quality scores that that you can do to improve, what would that be?

Christine Churchill:  Let’s take that account yesterday.  When I looked at that guy’s quality scores and his actual live account, we were seeing twos and threes which is pretty bad.  Part of the problem was he didn’t have very much keyword relevancy between the keywords he was targeting and the ad text.  The keywords weren’t in there, or even something related wasn’t in even there.  So you have to have a really close relationship between your keywords and the ad text itself.

The other thing is the clickthrough rate.  Unfortunately in his case, a third factor that’s in there is your account history.  Because he had really bad relevancy in his ads and his keywords throughout his whole account, he had these really bad quality scores.  And that in fact, hurts him even more.  The good thing is, if he changes these and gets rid of some of those bad keywords and gets his account turned around, Google always says that the newer information in your account counts more heavily than the older stuff.  So he can turn it around, it’s just going to take awhile.  There are just a lot of relevancy factors that Google hides and has in that black box mixture; the magic box.  But those are some things.  I always tell people to start with your ads and those keywords to make sure those are  very, very relevant, because that’s something really easy that you can do.

Bob Tripathi:  Definitely.  My last question is: Where do you see the future of search or where do you see search evolving?

Christine Churchill:  I still think it’s on the up curve of a bell curve.  I think it’s still growing.  I still have neighbours who don’t know how to use a search engine, so there are still a lot of people who are still learning about searches and the internet.  I mean, if you’re in San Francisco, you’re neighbour probably understands a little bit more, but if you go out of the metro areas people are still new and still learning about it.  So I think there’s a long ways to go yet and I don’t think it’s peaked yet.  I’m very optimistic about search.

Bob Tripathi:  Can you tell us about Key Relevance, your company?

Christine Churchill:  KeyRelevance is based in Dallas, Texas, but we have clients everywhere.  We kind of look at ourselves as problem solvers for our clients.  We do SEO: search engine optimization, we do paid search advertising, we do a lot of analytics- I feel like that’s a really important component of your online marketing- as well as social media, and local search is big with us. So, anything.

Bob Tripathi:  So it’s growing.

Christine Churchill:  It’s definitely growing.

Bob Tripathi:  Thanks for doing this, Christine.  It was great having you.

Christine Churchill:  Thank you so much, I appreciate the opportunity.

About Christine Churchill:

Christine Churchill is the President of KeyRelevance.com, a full service search engine marketing company offering search engine optimization, strategic link building, and pay per click management.

Ms Churchill was a member of the founding Board of Directors of the Search Engine Marketing Professionals Organization (SEMPO) and is currently Chairman of the Dallas / Fort Worth Search Engine Marketing Association. Ms. Churchill holds a Masters Degree in Business and has over ten years online marketing experience.

Ms. Churchill is a regular speaker at Search Marketing Expo, Search Engine Strategies, PubCon, and High Rankings Seminars. She is a columnist at Search Engine Land and has written extensively on search marketing.

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  • Keybo Wordsy

    Christine Churchill is amazing. Thank you very much for sharing this info on best practices on keyword research and PPC Management. I am truly glad I came here.

    My Last Post: Keybo Wordsy