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SEMrush Toolbox #18: PPC Keyword Tool




Craig: Hi, guys, and welcome to today's 18th edition of SEMrush Toolbox. Today's episode is going to be about the PPC Keyword Tool. And today's guest is Amy Bishop, who is a PPC expert, so welcome to today's show, Amy. Thanks for coming on.

Amy Bishop: Thanks for having me. 

Craig: I don't do pay-per-click, so it's interesting to get someone who does pay-per-click to share their insights on the tool. The tool is relatively easy to navigate, and I'll show everyone what the tool does. But Amy will be offering insights into how she uses the tool and various other bits of knowledge and experience that Amy will give us to help better our knowledge in the PPC market.

For anyone who doesn't know who you are, what you do, how long you've done this stuff for, can you give the audience a bit of an introduction to yourself?

Amy Bishop: Sure. I've been in this space for just almost 10 years. I own my own consulting business now. It's called Cultivative. I do paid social and paid search, and I love to geek out about this kind of stuff. So I'm really excited to be here today.

SEMrush PPC Keyword Tool Overview

Craig: What I'm going to do is give you guys a quick 10-minute introduction to the tool, where all the basic buttons are, and then Amy will come in and give our presentation on everything else that she wants to demonstrate for you guys

So: where to find the tool. If you look at the Advertising Toolkit option, and under Keyword Research, down at the bottom here, you will see the Pay-per-click Keyword Tool. If you click on that, it will give you a bunch of projects that you create.

Up here in the top right-hand corner, you've got the new PPC Keyword Tool. Click on that and put in the project domain name, so it can be... I'll just put in Testdomain.com, and call the project whatever you want. I'll just call it Craig for just now, and click Create Project. 

Now, to add keywords into the project... you can add them in manually, you can add them in from SEMrush, TXT files, CSV files or XLS spreadsheets, whatever suits you. You can import keywords into the tool. And then I'm going to go back to this screen, and it will pull up this kind of dashboard for you, once you put in the keywords.

The tool is very simple and easy to use. You can create different campaigns using different databases, different countries, and different cities. 

If I wanted to add more keywords over on the right-hand side, you see the big green button, Add Keywords, and again it will get me the manual option, merge words, SEMrush or the various other files. 

And you can also change the match type to broad, phrase match, exact match, and modified broad match. And then you click on the Update Matrix button. If you're going to make changes and you want to update the information that comes on here, you would simply click Update Matrix, and that would change the matrix here in the various bits of information that are available. 

We also do have advanced filters, where you can do your filtering through the various keywords on there if you've got massive amounts of campaigns. You can have different groups on here as well, so you can set these up as different groups, and then it goes on to show you the volume, which is obviously the monthly search volume, the average cost per click, and the competition level, which is a score that SEMrush bring out to give you an idea of how competitive that's going to be. 

You do have the option to add in negative keywords.  I'm sure many of you guys doing pay-per-click will know all about putting your negative keywords in, which you can add in at group level or campaign level. You can add these manually or through a TXT file to either group level or campaign level. 

You've also got cross-group negatives as well, which you can work on. The PPC keyword tool is a great tool if you want to build out campaigns and what-not and be able to get an idea of the volume, the competitiveness, and various other bits and bobs.

That is pretty much all the functionality in everything that's there. What we will now do is get Amy to start sharing her screen, and she can then show us more advanced knowledge of the pay-per-click tool and the various other parts and various processes that she uses to make good campaigns.

Amy Bishop: Thank you. Okay, so today we're going to talk about how I like to leverage the SEMrush Keyword Tool in conjunction with some of the other tools as well because I find that it's actually most powerful when we combine it with some of the other tools. We're going to talk about one of the most common problems, which is a client that has a mature account and they want to drive more paid search volume.

Typically, it's a high performing account. They're looking for growth. They already have a healthy account. They have a wide variety of keywords. The budget isn't capped. They're still looking for more volume. Lead generation and/or sales are typically driven through a variety of keyword themes, campaign types, and channels. Search performs really well for them, and it may seem like all of the bases are covered, but they're still looking for more.


Using Multiple Tools to Find More Keywords

What we're going to talk about today is how can we find that additional volume? And that's why I really like these tools because they're great for uncovering even more keywords. Somebody had asked what's the difference between this and the Google Keyword Tool? The Google Keyword Tool is great. I also use it for keyword research in conjunction with these, to try to get as many ideas as possible. 

The thing that I like to start with is identifying keyword gaps. And the best way that I find to do this is to go into the Advertising Toolkit, as Craig also showed, and you can do that from this dropdown on the top left. If you just click in there, then on the left-hand navigation, you go to the Keyword Gap Tool.


It's going to allow you to enter the different domains. You can enter these different domains here, and you can actually compare the keywords that each domain has. 


If it's a mature ad account and we're trying to find new keyword themes, this is a great way to do it. If competitors are increasing their impression share and you want to get a better sense of what they're doing well, if your SEO took a hit, and you're trying to use paid search to bridge the gap in the meantime to make sure that you have coverage on some of these keywords, or if you're trying to rank a new site, it's a great way to come up with different ideas of keywords that you could be targeting.


Even though it's in the advertising toolkit, you can look at organic keywords or paid keywords, so you can compare either of those against different domains. For the purposes of this first example, we're going to look at organic keywords and we're going to look at how they compare against these different sites. These are not my clients, they're just example sites that many people are familiar with.


First, I'm going to use the filters. I'm looking at what is Famous Footwear ranking better than position four that Finish Line is ranking only greater than a position 10? That would give Finish Line a good sense of what Famous Footwear is ranking really well for, that maybe they aren't. Maybe they want to add those keywords to their paid search account so that they can make sure that they have really good coverage on those. 


In addition to that, you can get the list and you can sort by any of these different things that you want to. In this case, I'm sorting by volume to try to get a sense of which keywords would be the highest impact for us. 

You can also set some different filters. You can look at all keywords of all domains. If you were looking at multiple different domains, it would be really helpful if you could just look at the first domain's keywords to see which ones are unique just to them, which ones are the common keywords, and then also which ones are the unique keywords.


For the purposes of this one, I'm looking at just the unique keywords, and then I'm looking at paid keywords for each domain. I'm trying to get a sense of what keywords do they have that we don't have, that we might want to take a look at. We might want to export those and kind of go through those and see if those would be a good fit for us. 

Once you're ready to export, you can just check any of the boxes here, or if you want all of them, you can just check this box right here at the top. It'll select all of them. You can click the Export button and now you'll have a CSV file with all of these keywords in it that you can go through. Before we do that though, we're going to look at finding even more keywords. 

For this part, we're going to go into the Keyword Magic tool. It's also on the left-hand navigation. And with this tool, what you're going to do is you're going to type in just one keyword and then you'll select which country that you're doing keyword research for. We have our keyword here and what we can do with these buttons over here, zooming in, we can choose if we want the keyword ideas to be broad match ideas of this keyword, or if we want phrase match. If we picked phrase match, it would be phrases with this keyword in it.


Exact match; I don't use very much. Related is going to be even broader ideas of just terms that are related to this particular keyword. I typically use broad match, and it's just going to give us a lot of options that are similar to the term that we've added here. You can choose if you want all keywords or if you just want keywords that are in the form of questions. If you use this tool at all for content marketing, the questions can be a really great way to get ideas for different content that you could create, like blog posts and things like that. 


You can also add filters. You can specify if you want certain keywords to be included and you can change the match type here to determine how they're included. In this case, you can also exclude keywords. 


As we all know, any time you're doing keyword research, you get a chunk of keywords that are not relevant. This is a good way just to try to pare down some of those keyword ideas that you might have gotten that you don't want. You can also filter based upon the word count or the volume. 

I like to sort by volume, just to make sure that I have a good insight into which of the terms have the highest volume. And then once you're ready to actually move some of the keywords over, or you want to export keywords, you have the option of either selecting keywords or selecting all keywords, and you can export them. In this case, we're actually going to send them into another tool. 

You can just click this little “Add to KA” button, which is Keyword Analyzer. It's going to send all of those keywords over to the Keyword Analyzer tool. 


After you've sent the keywords over, we want to go to Keyword Analyzer tool. Essentially this tool would allow you to get greater insights into the keywords that you've selected. But one of the reasons that I like this tool is because you can actually use it to then send your keyword research into the PPC keyword tool that Craig was talking about, which is what we're going to talk about next.

To do that, you would just select all of your keywords here. Then you would click Send to Other Tools here, and you would click Send to the PPC Keyword Tool. It's a great way to make use of the research that you've already done, without having to export it and pull it back in. 


After you click that button, it's going to give you the option to put it into a project, if you've already created one. Likewise, if you already had campaigns created within your project, you could choose to send these right into a specific campaign. And then you could also choose to send it to a specific group, which basically functions as an ad group. 

One of the reasons that I like the PPC Keyword Tool is it will actually group things for you. As opposed to sending things into one group, I would rather send it all into just the default campaign, or a particular campaign, if I've already created one, and then use the tool to group it. 

Now we're going to go into the PPC Keyword Tool, and it's going to help us to identify even more keywords and also start to organize. When you click this plus keyword button, as Craig mentioned, there are a ton of different options for how you can add keywords in.

The first one that we're going to talk about is merge words. This is a really, really handy tool. It's going to give you a ton of different keyword themes, based upon what you plug into these boxes. The way that this works is, if you had certain combinations of words that you wanted to create, you could put each of those different qualifiers in here. It's going to come up with things like women's cross-trainer shoes, or yellow cross trainer shoes, and so on and so forth. 


When you're using this tool, make sure that you set the way that you want your keywords to be grouped. If you want to put them all into one group you can select the group and specify that. Or you can use their auto grouping where it will group it into ad group themes. Or you can create groups where it's one keyword per group, which can be really handy too.

We're not done yet; we're going to still keep adding more keywords. We'll click this plus keywords button again. Then we'll click SEMrush from the dropdown here, and that's going to take us to this page. And this is going to give you another dropdown with several little tools that can help you find more keywords as well. 

This one is the phrase report. What it's going to do is give us phrase match variations of the term that you plug in here. And then you can also choose the number of keywords that you want to receive from this tool. 

For the next way to add keywords, if you had an export from the Google Keyword Tool, you could use the CSV file import. But if you are using other tools, or if you have other forms of research, or the client is sending you keyword ideas and they're not grouped yet, that's okay. For that, we're going to use the manual import. You would just click plus keywords and then you would click the Manual Import. 


And in this instance, do you remember the export that we did from the Keyword Gap tool? We're going to highlight all of those, and then we're just going to paste them right in here. And after you click add, they'll show up down here. 

How to Organize Your PPC Keywords

Now that we have all of these keywords in the account, the next thing that I like to do is use the Remove Duplicates function. We're going to get rid of any duplicate keywords that we have that way, which is really handy. 


And then I also like to filter here. I talked about in the Keyword Magic tool that I sometimes like to filter things. I just find that after I bring all of the keyword research together, it's just easiest to filter it at the end and do it all at once. This allows you to add a filter to say keywords that have volume of less than 49.

And what I'm going to do is I'm just going to highlight all of these and delete them, because what I don't want to do is add a ton of keywords all at one time that just have a little bit of volume. I want to add keywords that are going to make a quick impact, and if they aren't working, we know quickly, and we can remove them from the account as opposed to adding a bunch of things at once that just have a little bit of volume that are going to be really slow to determine if they're working or not. 

Even if they're each just spending a little bit of money and kind of plugging along, that can have a big impact on our CPA, and we don't want that, at least not in a negative way. 

I go through and I kind of remove anything with low volume, and then I'm going to go and I'm going to clean the keywords. You'll select all of your keywords, you'll go Actions on the dropdown, click Clean Keywords. 


It's going to give you this pop-up and you have a ton of options here. You can say, I want to clean all of the special characters except the letters and numbers, or I want to clean all numerals. If you wanted to remove articles or removing interjections, remove prepositions, remove conjunctions, or if you wanted to remove keywords that contain certain terms, you could do that too. 

Now that we've done a cleanup, we want to make sure that we have all of the match types in the account that we want. If you select all of the keywords and then you click Add Match Type; it's again under the dropdown menu for Actions. You can either go by ad group and choose the match types that you want, or you can just select up here which match types that you want.

And then after you've done that, it's super easy to add campaigns, as Craig also showed, you just click this Add Campaign button up here on the top left. You can create as many campaigns as you want. 

I recommend adding campaigns, either that match your current account structure as it is if these keywords are going into your existing campaigns or of course, you can create your new campaigns. And then what you can do once you have that, you can just drag and drop the groups into different campaigns. 

And so once you've done all of that, all you have to do is export the list, export your existing keyword lists from your account, run those up against each other to make sure that you don't have any duplicates, or remove anything that already exists in the account. And then you can add your already structured ad groups to your existing campaigns or create your new campaigns. And then of course, step five, profit.


It makes it really easy to get everything added into your account after you've done the keyword research. And it's really great for cleanup as well. That's all I had for today.

How Many Keywords Do You Need?

Craig: Question from Joseph; it says, "In Amy's example, Amy brought in 123 keywords into the pay-per-click keyword tool, is that a normal number for you, or was that just the live example? And is there a best practice for how many keywords you would bring into the pay-per-click tool?

Amy Bishop: As long as they have enough volume, I'm typically going to import over as many as I can, but then I'm going to go through the cleaning measures through the PPC Keyword Tool. And then depending on how many keywords that I wind up with at the very end, I usually will export them and I'll just review them again, manually in Excel, just to make sure that there's nothing wonky, or that I overlooked. But typically, I just kind of do as many as possible to try to get as much volume as I can.

I don't think there's necessarily a best practice for how many that you would import over. It kind of just depends on how many that you want to sort through, depending on what you're looking to do, and what your budgets are, and if it's a new account. 

For newer accounts, I typically just start with the most high-intent keywords as opposed to starting with a small budget and thousands and thousands of keywords that are going to just really fragment that budget. But as far as starting out, and kind of doing that keyword research, I like to know what all of my options are so that I can sort through those.

You could filter more narrowly for things like volume and things like that. A lot of times the high-intent keywords may not have the most volume, so that gets a little bit dangerous. It kind of depends, I guess, on if I'm adding to an existing account, and trying to find all of the new volume and missing gaps that I didn't have before. Or if I'm starting with a new account, and I want to start with just the most high-intent keywords that I could possibly have, on how I would kind of comb through those keywords.

Google Adwords Quality Score Tips

Craig: Someone is asking, "Can you give any tips or advice in improving your Google AdWords quality score?"

Amy Bishop: Yeah. If you wanted to improve your Google Ads quality score, there's a couple of different places that you could look. The first thing that I would do is there's a free script that you can get online…if you Google it, you'll find it. There's a script that you can plug in, and it will actually chart your quality score for you in a Google Sheet, which is really handy if you're trying to impact it, because you can really closely see what that trend looks like, so you can see if what you're doing is helping or not. 

But then I would actually look at the different keywords, and I would group them based upon their quality score in terms of where they're hurting, if it's the landing page, if it's the expected click-through rate, if it's relevance. And then what I would do is I would map out different plans for trying to improve each of those different pieces. 

In some cases, you may want to look at all of these keywords that have a lower quality score because of the landing page. Then maybe see if there's a better landing page that you could send that keyword to, or if there are updates that you can make to your landing page to make it a better experience. Similar with relevance. 

And then for click-through rate, there's a lot of things that you can do to try to improve your click-through rate with ads. The only thing that I would caution is that I view quality score as a health metric, not an ultimate KPI, so there are things that you could do in pursuit of a better quality score that could actually set you backward in terms of cost per conversion or conversion volume.

I would just say, be a little bit careful in how hard you pursue quality score, and just make sure that it's not at the expense of other more valuable metrics. Everything that you do to try to improve quality score needs to be in context of also making sure that it's taking steps toward improving your ultimate goal as well.

Best Low Budget PPC Strategy

Craig: And Sandesh is asking, "What strategy can someone use for lower budget, so that they can get the best out of it?"

Amy Bishop: It's really important that you're really, really particular about the keywords that you're starting with. Trying to target maybe 5,000 or 10,000 keywords a day with a $10 budget per day; what's going to happen is that even if every keyword gets clicked one time, over the course of a month, you're going to spend a ton of money, but you may not have enough data to determine if any of those keywords are working yet, to be able to pause things and pare things back.

I would first start with your most high-intent terms. And then as you start to get a baseline of what's working, and what's not working...and you can start to add new keywords in. And each time you add new keywords in, I would label them, so that you can monitor them closely and see if they're working, or if they're not working, and then you can pause things out and add things in again. 

I would also say that making sure that you add audiences as observation, and then also setting up campaigns like RLSA campaigns, and remarketing campaigns, can be a really good way to make sure that you're making the best use of that budget as well, in capturing that low hanging fruit. 

Best PPC Ad Type

Craig: Cool and Lots of questions, and they're still coming in.  Peter is asking, "Which ad type is best? Expanded ads, responsive ads or SKAG?"

Amy Bishop: Good question. Typically, when people mention SKAG, they usually mean single keyword ad groups. That's typically more of an ad group structure versus an ad type.

As far as ads, I still see the expanded text ads performing better than the responsive search ads. But as a best practice, I at least test the responded search ads. From my discussions with Google reps, they usually recommend having at least two expanded and one responsive ad in each ad group. 

Have not seen great results with the responded ads just yet. But hopefully, that will change. I have a feeling there will come a point where we won't have a choice. 

Common PPC Campaign Management Mistakes

Craig: What are the most common mistakes people are making, in your opinion, when you take over a campaign? What sort of stuff are you seeing over and over again? 

Amy Bishop: I still see a lot of campaigns that are just all regular broad match. Or where we just see one campaign with all of the keywords in one ad group, or people don't make use of the extensions, or they're not making use of all of the different bid modifiers that we have access to for time of day, or geography, or device. Not using audiences as observation in search campaigns, which is a great way to collect data. 

I still see people that aren't tracking conversions, which pains me. You name it, and I've seen it. I've also seen keywords that are in accounts that just completely don't belong in that account, and I'm not sure how they got in there, maybe it was just like a data dump of keywords when they built the campaign, but things that just aren't even relevant, have no intent.

General PPC Strategy Outline

Craig: I'm not sure if you want to answer this one, but it's from Peter Crumb again, "What is the best bid strategy when you target the entire world?"

Amy Bishop: I always start with manual, to try to get as much data as I can initially, and then I either will keep it on manual, or I also like the target CPA bid strategy. Target CPA only works well if you have quite a bit of data though, so I don't start with that out of the gate, because I find that it squelches the volume if you try to. 

I start with manual, collect some data, and then once I have enough data, I like to run an AV test, using their experiment tool, and I'll change the variant over to target CPA and see if it performs better. If it does, then we'll run with that. But if we find at any point, or over time, that conversions start to decrease, or we start to get a lag, I'll switch it back to manual, to make sure that we can start kind of collecting that data. 

Because the thing about an automated bid strategy is, it's using its historical performance to try to make decisions off of. And if our historical performance, at least recently, isn't great, we don't want it making decisions off of that. That's when I'll switch it back to manual.

Craig: Sadly, you know guys, we are out of time, but Amy, if anyone wants to catch up with you, catch you on social media, catch your website, whatever it may be, what's the best place for them to get you on?

Amy Bishop: Yeah. You can find me on LinkedIn, at linkedin.com I think it's /in/amybishopmarketing, so I'm pretty easy to find there. On Twitter, you can find me @Hoffman8, which is my maiden name. And then my website is Cultivativemarketing.com.

Craig: Perfect. Thank you, everyone, for coming in. Very engaged audience today. Lots of questions. And thank you, Amy, for taking the time to do an excellent presentation, and answer all of those questions. It's been a pleasure. 

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