Eliminate Keyword Cannibalization

If you are running an AdWords account, chances are you’ve spent a fair amount of time looking through the search terms report to eliminate irrelevant traffic. It’s a good practice to continually monitor this report to make sure you aren’t spending money on traffic that won’t help you reach your goals. Although this is the standard way to use this report, you can also use it to uncover and resolve another potential issue in your account: keyword cannibalization.

What is keyword cannibalization?

In an ideal world, all of your traffic would come from highly optimized, exact match keywords. However, we know this isn’t realistic. In most of our accounts, we run a combination of exact and phrase match keywords and use a continuous optimization process to update our exact match keyword lists with search queries from the phrase match campaigns. Unfortunately, this creates a problem where Google will serve an ad using a phrase match keyword, when there was a better, exact match keyword available in the account. This is keyword cannibalization.

There are obvious ramifications to this (wrong ad, wrong landing page etc.) but the less obvious problem is the effect of quality score on your overall CPC. A phrase match keyword will almost always have a lower quality score than an exact match keyword, and therefore will almost always have a higher CPC. Cutting down on keyword cannibalization will therefore lower your account’s average CPC without modifying bids or sacrificing traffic.

Here is a simple process using excel and AdWords Editor that will let you simplify the elimination of cannibalization.

1.       Export all search queries

a.       In the AdWords web interface, go to the keywords tab and click to the “Search Terms” section.

b.       Download this as a CSV, and open in Excel.

2.       Remove all exact match and excluded search terms

a.       Apply a filter to the second row.

b.       Filter for only exact match lines.

c.       Delete these lines.

d.       Now do the same with “excluded” lines.

3.       Clear the Added/Excluded column

a.       We’re going to use this column shortly, so it needs to be blank.

4.       Export all exact match keywords.

a.       Go to the keyword tab in the AdWords web interface, and create a filter for only exact match keywords.

b.       Export this as a CSV, and open it in Excel.

5.       Clean up the Keyword Report

a.       Delete the first row and column, so that the keyword list starts in cell A2.

b.       Use Find & Replace to remove the brackets from around the keywords.

6.       Use vlookup to identify cannibalization

a.       On the search terms workbook, in the Added/Excluded column that you cleared, use vlookup return the campaign from the keywords report of the search term on each line. Your formula should look kind of like this: vlookup(SearchTermCell,KeywordWorkbookA2:KeywordworkbookB10000,2,false) This is identifying if any of the search terms have an exact match counterpart in your account, and telling you which campaign that counterpart is in. Any lines that return a result are experiencing cannibalization.

7.       Create your negative upload list

a.       Filter the Added/Excluded column to exclude anything that returned “N/A”.

b.       Copy the remaining lines onto a new sheet, then delete those rows on the original sheet.

c.       On the new sheet, delete all but the Search Term, Campaign, Ad Group and Match Type columns.

d.       Change the order of the remaining columns to this: Campaign, Ad Group, Search Term, Match Type.

e.       Rename Search term to Keyword, and change the match type in all rows to Exact.

8.       Load your negative list into AdWords Editor

a.       Open AdWords Editor and download recent changes.

b.       Click to the negative keywords section, and click “Make Multiple Changes”

c.       Copy and paste your negative list into the dialogue box, make sure the column headers are correct, and click process.

d. Accept the changes, post to your account

This process checks your search queries against your exact match keywords, identifies those that are cannibalizing existing keywords, and creates exact match negatives in the non-exact match campaigns to eliminate the problem. Doing this about once a month should be sufficient for most accounts to have a positive effect on your account’s overall CPC.

If vlookups and keyword match types gives you a panic attack, drop us a line, we're here to make your life easy. 

Setting Up Shared Negative Lists in AdWords

What is a shared negative list?

Shared campaign negative lists allow you to apply a single list of negative keywords to any number of campaigns in your account. These lists sit in the Shared Library with audiences, bid strategies and budgets.

Why use this versus campaign or ad group level negatives?

Often, a query that needs to be blocked from one campaign will match to another, especially if you are running phrase or broad match keywords. Unless you predict this and proactively add the negative to all campaigns the query could potentially match to, the query will simply match to a different campaign until you catch it there. You will end up chasing the query through your account, wasting money for weeks depending on the frequency with which you add negatives.

The process of adding campaign or ad group level negatives from a search queries report can be tedious and time consuming, so repeating the same process multiple times is a waste of time and effort that could be better spent elsewhere. By creating and maintaining shared campaign level negative lists, you will only need to address each category of queries once, with minor ongoing updates.

Immediately following this process, you will most likely notice a drop in impressions and clicks – this should correspond with an improved click through rate and increased efficiency due to the elimination of irrelevant or underperforming queries.

Create Your Lists

The first step to creating shared negative lists is to do the keyword research, just like if you were starting a new campaign. The difference is you are looking for related, but unwanted queries that you will need to block. You can find these in a few places:

·         What you know:

o   You probably already know of a few to start with from working with the account. Is there another company or product with a similar name? A non-branded term that Google considers synonymous with your brand name or category modifiers? List everything you can think of to get started.

·         Existing negatives:

o   This will likely be the most lucrative source of negatives. These lists are often the result of many hours of optimization; take advantage of them! Export all existing negative keywords from AdWords Editor, and add them to your list.

§  To export all your negatives, open Editor and download recent changes. Navigate to the “Keywords, Negative” view at the account level, select all, then right click and click Copy. Now paste this into a blank Excel workbook.

·         Search Queries Report:

o   If your account doesn’t have extensive negative lists, then a search queries report is where you’ll want to head next. Jump into AdWords, click into the “Keywords” tab, then switch to the “Search terms” view. Set your time range to something pretty long, last 30 days should work, then download this view.

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o   Start by eliminating any queries you know you don’t need to add as negatives.

  •   Place a filter on the “Added/Excluded” column to identify all the “Added” queries, and delete these rows.

o   Now sort the list by impressions, and start digging. Mark any queries that you want to eliminate by highlighting the cell. When you’re finished, filter the query column by color and copy those rows to another sheet.

If you use all three of these methods, lump them all into one big list when you’re done.

Once you have your master negative list, you’ll want to group them into categories. This process will be the most time consuming and labor intensive, so block off an appropriate amount of time.

I usually think about the categories as the campaigns I want to apply the negatives to. For example, there could be a category called “Everything but Sale” which will include any and all queries related to sale. Applying this list to the whole account except the sale campaign will prevent any sale traffic from creeping into a non-sale campaign. There should always be a catch-all category that is applied to the whole account, and ideally there will be several other categories.

Now that the keywords are grouped into categories, you’ll want narrow the lists down as much as possible. Think carefully about what match types you want to use – the broader you can make the match types without blocking quality traffic the better. You want your list to block as much irrelevant traffic as possible with the fewest keywords possible. Keeping with the sale example, you can distill “clothes on sale”, “shoe sale” and “best sale price on gummy bears” into one negative keyword: sale, using broad match. Doing this correctly requires a pretty solid understanding of match types, so brush up here if you are a little rusty.

There are going to be some leftover negatives that don’t fit neatly into any category – these should be added individually at the campaign or ad group level.

Put those lists into AdWords.

When you’re finished creating your keyword lists, it’s time to put them into AdWords. Take a deep breath, pour a new cup of coffee and let’s finish this up.

Navigate to Campaign Negative Keywords under Shared library.

Click the “+ list” button, and put in the name of your first category.

You can use whatever naming convention you’d like, but I usually duplicate the names of the categories I created earlier.

Paste in the negative keywords, using the match type modifier punctuation. Click save.

To apply the list to the appropriate campaign, check the box next to the list’s name in the campaign negative keywords screen, and click “Apply to campaigns”. Select the campaigns you’d like to apply it to, and click save.

Repeat this for all of the lists you’ve created – then pat yourself on the back, because you’re done!

Except… not really.

It’s extremely important to monitor the account performance following this process. Keep in mind that it is easy to accidentally block quality traffic with negative keywords, and it’s difficult to troubleshoot. Keep a close eye on the performance changes that result – you should expect to see some positive changes, but be on the lookout for indications of something problematic. If you see something dramatic, it’s easy to go back in and remove the offending list from the campaigns until you can troubleshoot that problem.

Also, while it won’t hurt anything to leave the old negatives in the campaigns and ad groups, I like to delete negatives that are no longer needed. Wait a few weeks before you do this, in case you have to remove the new lists to troubleshoot. Once you’ve decided that the new lists are working as expected, go ahead and delete any old negative keyword that is covered by one on the new list. Once again, this is time consuming and requires a pretty good knowledge of match types, so plan to do it when you have an appropriate block of quiet time.

Ongoing Management

Now that you’ve done the work to clean up your negatives, it’s important to maintain them. Fortunately, that will be a lot easier now. When you are running search query reports, add negatives to one of the shared lists as much as possible – try to avoid adding them at the campaign or ad group level unless absolutely necessary. If you keep this up, you should see a dramatic drop in junk traffic through your account, improving click through rate, conversion rate, and quality score. 

10 Pro Tips for eCommerce Marketing Teams in the Final Days Before Cyber 5

Here are 10 tips we’ve learned through the years that if you nail in these final days, can make or break a very crucial Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday weekend.

  1. Exchange cell phone numbers with the vendors that cost you the most money.  Adwords teams, Retargeting vendors, Affiliate network reps and top affiliate account managers, Personalization vendors, marketing agency reps, technology providers, etc.  You never know when you’ll need to shift direction on your ads during the weekend and need immediate approval pushed through.  Or you find out Thanksgiving morning your link is broken on that affiliate’s site.

  2. You should have placements secured with your top affiliates by now.  If you don’t, huge miss.  Affiliate revenue can account for as much as 30% of your sales this key weekend. Don’t let it happen again next year. And immediately contact the movers and shakers to buy, beg, and bribe your way into any remaining placements. Bonus pro tip:  try your hardest to negotiate for increased commissions vs straight flat fees – your ROAS will be much improved.  But if you’re at the 11th hour, beggars can’t be choosers.

  3. On that note, you’ve sent all your affiliate creative on to them, right?  If you haven’t, get moving. They’ll be inundated with last minute requests and that leaves room for mistakes.  Mistakes will cost you serious money, so minimize your risk.

  4. Take retargeting CPCs up (you are bidding on CPC, right?!), way up.  Build as big of a cookie base in these final days as possible to cash in on during Cyber 5.  Of course, make sure you’re still driving profits so only take them up as high as your goals allow.

  5. Sale pages are ranking in Google organically.  Not only sale pages, but check your rankings for your top brand terms + thanksgiving/black Friday/cyber Monday variants + sale variants (sale, deals, specials, coupons, offers, promotions, promos, etc.).  The conversion rates on visitors coming through these terms can be upwards of 40% or better.  Are your rankings not that great?  Two fire drills to run:  1)  Get with your PPC team and buy your way to the top of Google; 2)Some quick-but-strategic internal linking could be a solution to bump you up a bit.

  6. Run a “site:domain.com” search on your domain and make sure things look copasetic. Fix any minor issues and keep an eye out for major ones (oh, ya know, like a robots.txt message!).

  7. Have your coupon-based promos uploaded into your Google Shopping campaigns for a “Special Offers” highlight.  This can drastically increase your CTR and of course conversion rates during this key time.  Don’t have any coupons?  Get creative.  Free shipping, free expedited shipping, gift with purchase, purchase with purchase, etc. are some ideas.  CPCstrategy.com does a nice write-up on how to enable Special Offers for your Shopping Campaigns.

  8. If you’re not in a code freeze, use these last few days to remove any marketing tracking pixels/tags not in use. They decrease your load times and removing them is sure to provide a better UX and possibly increase conversion rates.

  9. Give your IT staff the whole marketing team’s cell phone numbers. If your sites go down for any reason during Cyber 5, you’ll want to be nimble with your marketing plans.  Pause that email campaign that’s sending out, pause PPC spend, etc.  Think your site won’t go down?  Never say never.

  10.  Check your PPC budget caps across all the engines and make triple sure you won’t cap out at 9am on Black Friday!  No harm in raising them insanely high, if your goals are ROAS based.

Have some other gems to share? Let us know in the comments below or share with us at hello@MAKAdigital.com.

How SEO Insights Fuel Content Strategies That Solve Audience’s Problems While Driving Revenue

Every problem is an opportunity to make your audience happy. SEO insights are invaluable for identifying what content will drive revenue by solving for your audience’s problems. Those insights are a great way to identify customer pain points that not only surface in their online habits, but also manifest at other customer touch points throughout your company. Perhaps the very same issue that people search for also takes up a large volume of resources inside of your call centers, at retail or in the social space. Smart, insights driven content strategies can not only help solve those audience problems, but also provide a perfect opportunity for SEO, content, PR and social teams to work together to solve larger company-wide issues. In this presentation, we look at how to identify search insights from Google and how to use that information to create omnichannel eCommerce content strategies. Take a look at how we helped footwear giant UGG Australia use content to put their audience first with tightly woven content strategies.

Short on time? Here’s a 2 minute takeaway… 

1. Put the Other Fellow First Ruthlessly prioritize your customer needs above that awesomely distracting shiny “fun” project. Sure, it’s easy to get pulled by the new hero product, celebrity endorsement or attention grabbing content project, but it’s important to stay focused on listening to your customers. What are they searching for? Not only on Google, but also on your site. At bare minimum, use the Google Keyword Planner Tool and Google Trends. Start there, then…Start there, then… 

2. Solve Problems Once you’ve identified what it is that people are asking you for via search, begin your company wide quest to determine where else this problem surfaces. Are customers calling into your call center, showing up at retail, voicing their needs on social? Great. That means that you now have multiple manifestations of the same problem which builds the case for getting the time and resources to solve it. Now start solving and… 

3. Build Bridges With Cupcakes The more complex the problem, the more people need to be involved. Often, these issues sit in the grey area of “who’s job is it?” This can be a danger zone for the problem becoming everyone’s responsibility = no one’s responsibility. Or, it can also mean that you’re stepping on people’s toes because suddenly, you’re trying to develop content that touches upon other people’s turf. My advice here is similar to Facebook’s Jonathan Colman’s advice to “be empathetic”. The way to get people to help you solve your audience’s problem is to understand what’s important to them, what they’re measured by and what makes them happy. For me, chocolate cupcakes will do the trick. If you find people you need to work with, but they’re reluctant to be a team player, contextualize your case with what matters in their world. Let them know what’s in it for them and show them you give a damn about what matters to them. This means that you actually have to take the time to learn about them and follow up by showing them that you care. The thing is, when you start to learn about what’s important to people, you actually do start to care. Now, you’ve got employees across the organization who previously had no reason to collaborate, start to bond. Imagine the magic that can happen… 

4. Create, Measure & Share Success When that morning finally comes that your content is ready to share with your audience, it’s pretty damn exciting. It’s exciting because you know you’re delivering something that people actually WANT! You’ve solved their problem and now it’s time to deliver the goods. I urge you to take a lot of time in your planning phases to think about where to host the content, what channels to push it out on, what SEO (always back to SEO!) needs to be in place and who else in your company may need it. That planning phase is also the right time to identify what success will look like, what KPIs you’ll use and how you’ll optimize or course correct as you begin your content distribution strategy. So, let’s just say that all goes well. You’re audience loves you, your teammates are stoked and your dashboards are smiling. Now is the time to share the glory. Remember #3. It’s cupcake time. As you publicize the results of your insights driven content strategy, be sure to call out everyone that helped you. Make them shine in front of their bosses. It feels good. 

5. Keep Solving While it may be tempting to say “Ok, I’ve done my part to make our audience happy, now back to all that other stuff”, my advice here is to dig back into the data and see what problem you can solve next. I can guarantee that even the best of companies will always have audience problems to solve. That’s exactly what we did at UGG Australia. Once we’d created content that helped our audience take care of their boots and saw how successful it was, we continued on our quest to solve even more problems. We started looking at queries around sizing and fit, style suggestions, and out of date product searches. For each one of these incidents we were able to find stakeholders throughout the organization who benefited from the content and quickly rose to the occasion to put their audience first. It’s ok if you can’t come up with the perfect content solution in your first try. Be iterative. Try SOMETHING, listen for feedback and optimize until both your internal stakeholders and your audience tells you that you’ve nailed it. Sometimes, taking those smaller steps can be enough to get buy in and show your audience you value them and you’re trying to “get it right”. 

…Summing it Up Magic happens when you collaborate and use channels in nontraditional ways. Use SEO to identify search trends that serve as a launching off point for content, social, email and PR campaigns. We’ve said it once and we’ll say it again, every problem is an opportunity to make your audience happy. So go ahead, take a look under the hood and start up those conversations, your audience will thank you. After all, that’s what it’s all about in the first place.