Tuesday, 23 August 2016

On Tools & Conversion Rates: Notes from the Trenches of Strategic Keyword Management

Today, you get a twofer: as in, two for one.

Firstly, an update on this post about tools being put beyond use. Now, I'm not going to name names, but two of the tools I pay for and use regularly have been put beyond use (albeit temporarily) thanks to an AdWords change in the Keyword Planner.

Remember that I postulated that this was, at least, one tool that wouldn't be changed in a hurry?

It turns out I was partially wrong. In their recent article "Google says bots are the main target of Keyword Planner changes", Search Engine Land's Ginny Marvin says the following:

"The reality is that Google’s keyword research tools were designed to help advertisers develop their search campaigns. The availability of the External Keyword Tool for years, however, set expectations that it should be open and available to all."

For those who are unaware of the pending changes -- I say pending, because not everyone will be affected straight away, and it's likely that different accounts will be affected in different ways  -- they centre around restricting data to accounts that have been designated as research-only.

In other words, if you don't spend with AdWords, then you don't get the data.

Economically, with my academic hat on, it makes sense. Strategically, though, it's a bit at odds with Alphabet's Don't be Evil mantra, and the SEO / KWR part of me can't help but think that limiting data that helps content creators research what people are looking for, and willing to pay for, is only going to result in content blanket bombing and post-publication keyword research.

In other words, we're going to go back to speculative content spinning around known search terms, just to see where the content gets placed in Google's index (via the Search Console and Analytics reports) rather than pro-active keyword research.

While reactive keyword research -- as I call it -- certainly has its place in your keyword research toolbox, what we don't want is a sudden glut of spun content designed to test the viability of keywords, and provide no real value.

Meanwhile, the tools I mentioned? They rely on API access, and seem to be being throttled, either by the tool's creator, or by the API limits, such that they have ceased working. I'm sure a fix is in the works, and I have standby techniques that, while a bit more long winded, get me to the same place.

A case of do as I say, and as I do, for once!

Meanwhile on a more positive note...

There's a great graph on Jason Tabeling's Search Engine Watch article "Online-to-offline search value is exploding with 'near me' searches"that illustrates something that I've been pushing out to retail clients for a while now.

In a recent post "How Keyword Research can help High Street Retailers", I pointed out that many people are now comparing retailers on the high street whilst actually being on the high street with mobile devices in hand.

The anecdotal evidence is borne out by Tabeling's research, and it turns out that "near me" searches are pretty likely to be conducted on a mobile device, which is interesting.

More interesting from a retailer's point of view is his assertion that advertisers "are paying 30% more for 'near me' searches compared to searches with other terms, even though our data showed literally ZERO conversions for 'near me' terms."

Readers of my "Cheat Sheet" eBook will know that part of the strategic management of keywords pivots around PPC campaigns, and looking for the money in the market (think Search Volume x Cost Per Click).

Tabeling's research shows that 'near me' searches attract a very high CPC, have solid volume, but don't get the clicks. In other words, advertisers are spending for the sole purpose of exposure -- probably with their physical address -- near the top of the SERPs, or in AdSense side-bars.

He suggests that it's time for all advertisers -- and I would say, clicks'n'bricks retailers especially -- to review how they track conversion rates for so-called online-to-offline traffic, as in this new digital advertising reality, conversion "might not be from the traditional online search, but from a find a store visit or a click-to-call action."

Measuring the ROI might not be the simplest part of strategic keyword management, but as in other aspects of retail, it is vital to know how much you are getting back for the spend that is being forced upon you.