Is keyword research really necessary for PPC?

Once in a while I get requests to conduct keyword research for a PPC campaign. In my opinion, such research is most often not needed.

Vague numbers

The biggest issue is that the data out there are not accurate. Search volume varies by seasonality, trends and news. Click volume and CTR additionally depend on the brand and ad. Most of all, the cost per click of a keyword can vary a lot depending on how skilled the PPC expert is at lowering it. Of course, high-value car insurance keywords will always cost more than a bouquet of flowers from your local florist.

These numbers are not a problem if you compare keywords and numbers against each other, rather than looking at absolute values. But the temptation is there to rely too much on the numbers in front of you and to start making far-reaching decisions based on them.

Remember, these numbers are at best an estimate, with questionable reliability, even when they come from Google themselves.

Not Personalised

Even taking all these numbers with a pinch of salt don't end up telling you how many sales or leads you may end up getting. This is because you don't know yet how this traffic will convert on your site.

It helps if you already know the conversion rate on your site from other sources of traffic. You do end up with an approximated conversion rate times a very vague click volume. How useful is this going to be?

The solution

Why not take the plunge instead and just run a PPC campaign? It doesn't have to be a full-scaled, all bells and whistles Adwords account covering all your products. What you should try to achieve here is to get genuine data tailored to your website.

You get to see first hand, without any estimate, how much traffic you receive, how much it costs, and how it converts on your site. Be sure to use broad keywords so you can run a search term report to expand on keywords or get additional data on other search terms.

Of course, running an Adwords campaign is not free. But instead of paying third party tools like SEMRush for questionable data, why not put that money into an Adwords campaign?

If you're new to Adwords, Google usually offers a free £75 voucher that goes towards the cost of your campaign. You can then be confident of the data you've gathered and use if for more in-depth and reliable analysis and forecast.

When is keyword research useful then?

  1. When you need qualitative data.
  2. You're at a very early stage in testing a new idea, needing only rough estimates.
  3. Your site is not ready yet to accept Adwords traffic which would tick #1 and #2 above.
  4. For SEO

SEO

Here is one big field where keyword research indeed applies and historically, this is where it started. SEO is a long-term game, you don't want to pluck keywords out of thin air, take months or years to rank for them, only to find out that there is no traffic, it's the wrong kind of traffic, it doesn't convert, etc. Money wasted down the drain!

If anything, you want to make sure your numbers are absolutely right. How do you do this when I kept mentioning that keyword data is at best an estimate? By running a PPC campaign to get the real data :)

But we're all about PPC here for immediate results, so if you're serious about doing PPC and you're ready for it, then just take the plunge. There are new keywords all the time, so you'll always be expanding your keyword list anyway.

If you need to know how to proceed next, just get in touch with me.

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