keywords-research-shutterstock_432827209-800x500 Keyword research strategies in a close-variant worldGoogle once again has disrupted the search marketing community by announcing exact match close variants will now include same-meaning variations. As a result, marketers putting all their chips into exact match keywords will have to shift their bidding, structure and keyword strategies to avoid wasted spend. The writing has been on the wall since 2014, and while the motive and benefactors are debated, the importance of focusing on intent rather than granular, exact keyword sets is clear.

Revisiting your keyword research approach and tactics is not only a suggested regular optimization task but also an essential step in preparation for match type changes rolling out in October. The process of keyword research is already changing, as it’s no longer necessary to launch with a hefty keyword list full of variations.

Rather, keyword research has become iterative and more valuable post-launch as needed. Following are some pertinent points of consideration when conducting keyword research for more effective spend and results.

Reviewing your PPC structures

For pay-per-click (PPC) practitioners, exact match becoming less important can seem discouraging. It can also bring challenges surrounding intent in B2B spaces. The new reality is that as Google improves its machine learning, marketers must adapt by combining keyword sculpting and research with many other available corresponding intent-centric signals. Think demographics, site engagement or browser history, location or proximity, time of day, income targeting and so on.

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First and foremost, you should review performance within accounts and revisit your management approach. If accounts contain predominantly exact match, look to understand how close variant changes could affect performance or intent based on:

  • Keyword order.
  • Multiple-word keywords.
  • Addition of a location or preposition within a keyword.
  • Synonyms, close or similar-word variants.

Findings and responses will inherently dust off the topic of how the current campaign structure strategy aligns with performance and match type deviations. Remember, Google’s optimization levers work best when sufficient data is flowing through.

Don’t fret over giving Google the full reign over an account. Instead, focus on how consolidation (paired with “safety nets”) could bring benefits to the overall program. Single keyword ad groups (SKAGs) are powerful for personalization, granularity and quality scores, but be careful the contextual changes haven’t made you compete against yourself.  

Leveraging tools to improve keyword research

There is no shortage of tools designed to help marketers target audiences more effectively. However, for those depending solely on one tool, the reality is stark.

Web scrapers and keyword tools. Scraping content is a highly effective way to populate seed keywords to run through Google Ads Keyword Planner for inventory. From the simplicity of ScrapeBox to Mozenda’s speed and sophistication, these tools wrangle data sets far more efficiently than one could manually. Wikipedia pages, search engine result pages (SERPs), Amazon, YouTube, Reddit, Facebook and LinkedIn groups — the options are endless. The goal is to find what people search in relation to the products with keywords you’re hunting.

Additional keyword research tools like SEMrush, Moz, or SpyFu are also the cornerstone of a successful keyword research approach. Each tool has their own unique benefit, from competitive recon reports to international inventory to search versus organic rankings, to historical versus forecasted potential ranking.

On a similar note, if Keyword Planner is your go-to keyword research tool, consider the data. In most standard keyword processes, we give Google our website or a seed keyword list to suggest extrapolations. If you think about it, how Google groups these extrapolations may provide a glimpse into how they’re algorithmically grouping them together; this inverse mindset can be semantically beneficial.

Word count tools. Many marketers use search term reports to generate negative keywords that don’t resonate with their brand, identify search terms that are too expensive and pinpoint new keyword opportunities. Leveraging a word count tool alongside search term reports can extract large data sets and pertinent data points seamlessly for future application or expulsion.

When using the tool to identify new keyword themes, it’s crucial to decide which terms to export. We have found value in all search terms that have converted by day to understand how many times a search term appears and converts, and {keyword} search terms, segmented by day to highlight what traffic looks like for search terms including words relevant to your business and uncover new opportunities.

For example, a bank may want to see how many variations show up for the word “mortgage” as opposed to “buying a home.” Based on this data, they could pursue new keywords that are either mortgage- or financing-focused based on search term results.

When it comes to leveraging the tool for negative keywords, uploading a six- to 12-month search term report to export top single-word density will uncover words that may not align with your service offering or brand.

Answer the Public. While Answer The Public is commonly used on the content side, it can also be an effective (and gratis) means of gleaning intent from seed keyword lists. Answer the Public uncovers precisely what searchers are asking, yielding opportunities for your business to engage and solve.

Once a keyword or phrase has been entered, run it through a tool for search volume data to gauge quality. Based on questions, it is fairly easy to decipher funnel-stage and intent to determine which ad groups or campaigns can be created.

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Expanded negative keyword. If Google remains on the current path of match type term expansion, then the keywords one excludes will become just as important as the keywords one chooses to target. Negative keywords will be the key to unscathed performance with exact match close variants, especially in cases where word order can alter intent.

Unfortunately, it is still commonplace to see accounts improperly using negative keywords. It’s worth recalling that negative match types work differently, as negative keywords do not consider close variants. Google may continue to restrict the level of control that match types place on query matching, but through thorough and frequent search term report analysis, we still have the ability to prevent irrelevancies and self-competition.

Whatever happens to match types or keyword targeting in the future, keyword research will remain a key component of marketers expanding or refining their best means of connecting with customers. While these changes will be rolling out in the coming months, it’s never too early to reflect on your hardcoded paid search strategies, tactics, structures and paradigms.


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.


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