Giving Credit To Keywords Where Credit Is Due

We exhibited at the Internet Retailer show in Boston recently. The signage in our booth touted that we had the ability to do attribution management. For that reason, a lot of people came up to us and told us about a situation they are facing that is very common with paid search marketers: their branded keywords were the only ones were converting and their remaining keywords were just driving traffic.

For each person that told me this, I asked them, ‘How do you measure the success of a keyword?’ They would say if it was the last ad clicked and converted, and had a positive ROI, then it was a good keyword.  I then asked them, “If you were a basketball coach, what stats would you look at during halftime to decide who is going to play in the second half?” The answer I kept hearing were points scored, assists and rebounds.

I then asked them, “Why for your basketball team are you counting assists as a success metric, but when you evaluate your online advertising, you only value points scored?” The answer that I received across the board is that, “I don’t have the ability to see the assists, I can only see the points scored, so that’s what I have to focus on.”

And this is the problem that online marketers continue to be forced to deal with.

By utilizing a technology that allows marketers to see the team of ads, or purchase path, that leads to a conversion, along with implementing a simple attribution model that attributes profit and revenue evenly across the ads in a purchase path, marketers can now value ads that assist. With this type of system in place, marketers will quickly see that they have been giving far too much credit to their branded terms, which typically fall in a closing position (last click), and completely ignoring the value of their top of the funnel keywords, which assist in the conversion path.

To take this model one step further, we recommend implementing a purchase path with exclusions model.  In this model, we exclude giving credit to brand terms that occur at the very end of the purchase path. Many studies have shown, and our own research has found, that when people type brand terms into the search engine, they are doing so to navigate back to the site they decided to purchase from.  Under a last click model, the brand terms in this scenario receive all of the credit, while the actual ads that did all of the selling early in the purchase path receive no credit. By using the branded exclusions model, the true credit is being given to the ads that did the work needed to receive a conversion.

The reality with paid search is general terms do work and have real value, as do other forms of ads that do a lot of assisting, like display, comparison shopping engines, email marketing, etc., but you need the ability to measure their performance across a purchase path.

If you’d like more detail and insight into this topic, we’ll be publishing some further analysis in the coming weeks.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Analytics | Credit Is Due | Features: Analysis | Search Ads: General


About The Author: is the Co-Founder and Chief Innovation Officer at ClearSaleing, Inc., a technology provider of advertising analytics. Adam founded ClearSaleing after working at Google for 3 years, where he started their Inside Sales organization.

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  • Marco

    Your statement, “…when people type brand terms into the search engine, they are doing so to navigate back to the site they decided to purchase from…” is right on the money. This is something we have been preaching for a while, but it is hard for customers to buy. Often, our clients’ SEM managers have their compensation or evaluation plans tied to metrics that lead them to ignore their general terms. It is difficult convincing them otherwise. I look forward to your next column for more insights.

  • mlillig


    Sounds like you and I share the same ideas. :)

    See link below…

  • BlogSpot SEO

    The branded exclusions model where the true credit is being given to the ads that did the work needed to receive a conversion. This is a good observation.

    I will be waiting for more of your analysis.

    I am also tattling about keywords in my article at:

    BlogSpot SEO


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