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A 5-Step Plan for Keyword Optimization in Paid Search Advertising

This is a guest post by Jana Fung, Marketing Manager at MixRank.

Keyword optimization for the paid search marketer is a never-ending task. Given that there is no end in sight, you don’t have much to look forward to when performing keyword optimization. So, how do you get the most impact without getting too caught up in a strategy that may or may not help you? To start, you’ll need prioritize your tasks and take action in a routine way so you don’t waste ad spend or time when scaling and testing new keywords. With a simple plan and checklist, you can easily optimize keywords for more relevant traffic, a higher Quality Score (QS), and an overall lift in campaign performance.

Use this 5-step plan in your routine when managing keywords for profitable ad spend:

Step 1: Pause Poorly Performing Keywords

Poorly performing keywords could be defined as keywords that are not meeting your cost per acquisition (CPA) goals or are not providing the return on investment (ROI) that you’re looking for. Cost-per-click (CPC) is not a stand alone metric that measures performance, so keep this in mind when deciding what keywords to pause.

Step 2: Spy On Your Competitors

It’s quite easy to see who your competitors are for the keywords you’re already bidding on. Simply search for your keyword on a search engine to see what other ads show up. Additionally, the AdWords Auction Insights report provides impression share down to the keyword level so you can see how your bids compare to the competition. While this is great, you have yet find new keywords your competitors are already bidding on that you have not tested. Luckily, iSpionage provides this feature and with your competitors’ keywords in hand, you can head straight into the next strategy.
Competitor's Keywords

Step 3: Expand Your Targeting

Expand your targeting with any keywords that your competitors deem valuable and longtail keywords. Longtail keywords can include the tokens you paused because they weren’t performing well, or they can also include the tokens that your competitors are bidding on, so you can make the keyword more precise and relevant to your ad. Keep these new keywords paused, as you’ll need to do one more step before you can bid on them.

Step 4: Segment New Keywords into New Ad Groups

Segment them with more relevant ad copy to the keywords you added. Ad groups with >25 keywords combine too many intents and these ad groups often hurt performance, having lower click through rates (CTR) and lower QS. By breaking out similar keywords into ad groups that have highly relevant ad copy, before you launch any new keywords, will prevent you from wasting ad spend and having to work in boosting relevancy later on. As you test these new ad groups, there’s a latency period before you can draw any conclusions, so proceed to the next strategy while you wait for solid data.

Step 5: Eliminate Unwanted Clicks

Generate a search query report to see what keywords you’ve been paying for but are irrelevant to your ad. Adding negative keywords requires some digging, but it is a sound strategy for eliminating unsuitable traffic and allocating your ad spend more profitably. With negative keywords, you will ultimately stop wasting budget on unwanted clicks. You will also lower your CPC as your ad will stop showing up in unrelated searches, and your CTR and QS should in turn, increase.

To run either the Auction Insights or the Search Term report, check the keyword you’d like to run the report for and select the Keyword details, as show here:
Keyword Reports


This 5-step checklist can and should be used on a regular basis, as you’ll need to monitor the keywords you expanded into. As paid search becomes more competitive and expensive, managing keywords with these fine-tuning strategies is imperative to ensure your budget isn’t wasted on irrelevant traffic.

So, get started today with this lather, rinse and repeat process.


Guest Blogger Jana Fung
Jana Fung, guest author of this post, is a Marketing Manager at MixRank. She has managed successful demand generation programs for over 6 years. She is optimistic about the growth of online advertising and has a passion for helping online marketers with their campaigns. If you’re a MixRank fan or just want to say hi, she’s interested in connecting with you! Follow her on Twitter @jana_fung You can also find

About MixRank is a spy tool for contextual and display ads. With MixRank you can see exactly where your competitors are buying traffic and which ad copy is performing best for them across over 100,000 sites. You can use MixRank to watch your competitors spend money testing different ads and traffic sources, see which ones worked best, and use that data to build your own campaign.