Chances are you're underutilizing your Google AdWords search query data.

One of the most valuable reports available to PPC advertisers is the Google AdWords search query report. It allows you to see the searches people type into Google before they click on your ads, providing a window into searcher intent, and insight into their specific needs and requirements. Although it's easy to passively scan through the report to look for any glaring blunders, or any obvious keyword opportunities, a more strategic approach to search query analysis can yield massive benefits to your PPC campaigns, SEO rankings, and overall website performance.

Below are 7 practical strategies for making effective use of your Google AdWords search query data.

1. Optimize Your Keyword Bids

Knowing which search queries and perform better than others allows you to adjust the bids of your keywords to better reflect their performance. However, if you have an extensive long-tail keyword strategy, chances are most of your keywords will receive a relatively small number of clicks, making optimisation difficult. However, by assessing the performance of different themes within search queries, you can identify which types of words within search queries tend to perform better than others, and adjust all keywords for those themes accordingly.

For example, if you are a travel agent, and you find that searches which contain the word 'kids' or 'children' perform significantly better than searches which contain the words 'cheap' or 'discount' (see image below), you can push your 'kids' and 'children' keywords, pull back your 'cheap' and 'discount' keywords, and be confident that this is likely to have a positive impact on campaign performance. Even though your individual keywords may each not have enough data to justify a reliable or significant bid change, by using theme analysis you can draw reliable and significant insights from your search query data at a macro level, and make powerful changes to your campaigns at a micro level.

2. Expand Your Negative Keywords

Search queries also provide an excellent opportunity to highlight searches which have a lower than average conversion rate, poorer than average ROI, or are just completely irrelevant and don't convert at all. If you have a lot of search query data, simply comparing the performance of different search queries will probably uncover a few ideas for some negative keywords.

However, chances are, a large number of your search queries will be unique, so looking at them individually will be very time consuming and unreliable. Again, theme analysis can be incredibly powerful here. If you can identify that searches which contain the word 'weather' tend to covert extremely poorly (see image above), or do not covert at all, then adding the word 'weather' as a negative keyword will likely have a positive impact on the performance of your campaigns.

If you simply looked at each search query individually, it might have been difficult to spot that searches which contained the word 'weather' perform poorly, so theme analysis can be extremely useful in extracting reliable and powerful insights at a macro level, which can be used to improve your campaigns at a micro level.

3. Expand Your Long-Tail Coverage

Despite Google AdWords being around for over a decade, most PPC advertisers are still missing a big opportunity to connect with the specific needs and demands of searches, and are failing to recognise the specific preferences being entered into search queries on Google.

For example, not all people looking to book a holiday in Fiji search Google for 'Fiji holidays'. They often specify their origin (e.g. 'fiji holidays from melbourne'), their travel period (e.g. 'fiji holiday specials spring 2013'), their hotel preferences (e.g. 'fiji resorts with beach view'), their family needs (e.g. 'fiji holiday packages with kids'), or their desired duration of stay (e.g. 'fiji flights and hotel 10 nights').

Catering for all these specific preferences and search themes can be quite complex, especially if there are thousands or millions of potential keyword combinations, but there are a few techniques to help make the most of your search query data and create practical, manageable, and effective long-tail campaigns:

  1. Structured expansion – use your search query data to intelligently and gradually expand your campaigns in a direction which will likely have the most impact, while keeping the number of keywords and ads manageable and practical
  2. Broad match generation – use your broad match keywords as a generator of new search query data, which can then be added as new exact and phrase match keywords (if they are relevant), or negative keywords (if they are not relevant), in and endless cycle of expansion and creation
  3. 10% clicks rule – quickly highlight your most popular ad groups which have the most opportunity for long-tail keyword expansion

A combination of these techniques can quickly turn a basic Google AdWords strategy into one which is more tailored, relevant, and targeted to a wider range of different searches.

4. Tailor Your Ad Messages

You will also notice your search query report also shows which ad group each search query matched to. This is incredibly useful. Take a look at your top search queries, and then take a look at the ad messages which are currently showing in those ad groups. Are they are relevant, tailored, and engaging to the search query as they could be?

For example, if you find that search queries such as 'fiji holidays 2013' and 'fiji holidays 2014' are being matched to your generic 'fiji holidays' ad group, and a rather generic 'Fiji Holidays' ad message is being shown, you can create separate ad groups with keywords and ad messages tailored to fiji holidays 2013' and 'fiji holidays 2014'. Even if you can highlight only a handful of popular searches which could benefit from their own ad groups and their own tailored ad messages, doing so would likely have a significant positive impact on your campaign performance.

Again, the broad match generator and 10% clicks rule are great techniques to practically and efficiently carry out targeted expansions. If you can prioritise your campaign expansions by using search query data to your advantage, even a little goes a long way.

5. Build New Landing Pages

By looking at the most popular searches or themes in your search query report, you can highlight which searches would likely benefit most from the creation of tailored landing pages, should you choose to do so. For example, if you are a Fiji travel agent, and found that a large number of people searched for 'fiji hotels with spa in room' and 'fiji hotels with balcony', you can decide whether it's worth creating tailored landing pages to cater for these specific needs.

By looking at your search query data, you will also probably notice a large number of search queries which seem relevant, but for some reason are failing to convert or generate a good ROI. These grey-area search queries present another great opportunity for tailored landing pages, allowing you to determine whether the search query is, and will always be, a poor converter, or just needs some extra help with a more relevant and focused landing page. Use your search query data to drive your landing page strategy.

6. Focus Your SEO Strategy

Until now, we've primarily focused on just the PPC benefits of making effective use of your Google AdWords search query data. But the benefits of effectively utilising your search query data also expand into SEO. If you can identify searches or themes which are both relatively popular and have a good conversion rate, these would be ideal candidates for SEO optimisation.

For example, if you find from your Google AdWords search query analysis that searches which contain the word 'kids' or 'children' perform much better than searches which contain the word 'cheap' or 'discount', you can adjust your page titles, descriptions, website content, and linking strategy accordingly.

If your SEO strategy is focused on searches or themes which have a decent search volume and are most likely to convert, your conversion rates and number of conversions from organic searches are likely to increase. And if you're in a very competitive industry, where getting any visibility in the organic search results is extremely difficult, use your AdWords search query report to identify searches or themes which have a slightly smaller search volume, slightly less competition, but still convert very well.

If you can rank for high-converting but generally overlooked searches such as 'fiji holidays kids eat free' or 'fiji hotels with free wifi', this could deliver a higher return on your SEO investment than trying to chase after trophy phrases such as 'fiji holidays'.

7. Better Understand Your Audience

Last but not least, your Google Adwords search query report provides a great way to research your target audience and better understand their needs and requirements. What are they searching for? What are their preferences? Are they knowledgeable and well informed? Are their demands changing? If you can better understand your target audience, and better keep in touch with how their needs are changing, you can evolve your campaigns, website, and business to better adapt and grow with these changes.

Alan Mitchell

Alan Mitchell is the founder of Calculate Marketing, helping businesses of all sizes improve their return on investment from PPC marketing with comprehensive long-tail keyword strategies and intelligent campaign analysis.

Calculate Marketing

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