How To Bid Profitably On Nonconverting Keywords

Google has a bidding methodology called Budget Optimizer that attempts to maximize the traffic you receive for the keywords in a campaign. This is useful for early buying cycle keywords. However, every keyword should be reaching some goal regardless of where it falls into the buying cycle. It was difficult to track the effectiveness of these campaigns until recently when Google made some changes to Google Analytics.

Now you can more effectively bid on early buying cycle keywords, or keywords that you want exposure for, but do not have direct returns by combining the new Google Analytics goals with a budget optimizer campaign.

Google Analytics changes explained

Google Analytics expanded the number of goals you can track from four to 20. However, it looks a bit different as you now have “goal sets.” Where each goal set has 4 goals, and you can have 5 sets per profile.

Second, Google added two additional goals:

  • Page views per visit
  • Time on site

Please remember with Google Analytics, time on site actually means time on site minus the last page visited, as Google analytics only tracks data when there is a click. For instance, if your site visitor exhibited this behavior:

  • Page 1: Time 5:00
  • Page 2: Time 2:00
  • Page 3: Time 1:00
  • Exit via closing the browser window

In this example, Google does not know the browser window was closed and that they should stop tracking time on site. Therefore, Google Analytics would report 3 page views and 7 minutes on site for this user.

Using goals to measure branded or early buying funnel keywords

I’m a fan of bucketing keywords by where they fall in the buying cycle. If someone is in the learning phase of the buying cycle they need an informational page. If they are in the buy section of the funnel you need to monetize the click by encouraging them to buy.

sel column funnel

This creates situations where keywords (and often display or content ads) reach a user who is at a different point in the funnel than the ads you’re displaying and you might not be able to monetize the user—at least for now.

For instance, the keyword “plasma vs LCD TV” is a learning cycle keyword. Buying a high-end electronic device is expensive, and takes thought and time before even beginning initial searches, much less actual purchases. Therefore, this keyword will rarely lead to a purchase as its a research oriented search. However, that does not mean it’s a bad keyword. When you have keywords that describe your products or services, but cannot be directly monetized, you have three options:

  • Set a different conversion goal for the keyword, such as a newsletter subscription; and then set a value for what a newsletter subscription is worth
  • Use an attribution management bid system
  • Use a budget optimizer campaign

Use budget optimizer campaigns to increase your exposure

The budget optimizer works by your giving control of your bidding to Google in an attempt to maximize the traffic you receive. The optimizer does not care which keywords get clicks, it just cares that your budget is spent and that it gets you the most clicks possible.

The benefits for a publisher who measure RPV (revenue per visitor) are obvious. As long as your RPV is higher than your CPC, you want as much traffic as possible on those keywords. However, for those who sell a product or service, there is a unique way of using the budget optimizer to maximize your company’s exposure.

If you set ROI or profit based bids by keyword then do not use budget optimizer.

If you consider words to have unique values, then do not put those words into a budget optimizer campaign.

However, if you have keywords that, are early in the buying cycle and do not directly lead to revenue, describe your industry and products well but are hard to monetize and you want exposure on because they are words in the news, branded terms or for other reasons then putting these keywords into a budget optimizer campaign can be a useful way to maximize your exposure on non-direct ROI keywords. With the budget optimizer campaign, set a “branding or exposure” budget. The goal of this campaign is to move searchers into your buying funnel so you can monetize them at a later date.

However, you still need to make sure that these keywords are helping you reach goals.

Setting goals for budget optimizer campaigns

If you set a goal for these keywords such as a newsletter subscription or contact, then you should be able to determine what those conversions are worth and then set keyword bids. Therefore, words that lead to those types of conversions should not necessarily be in a budget optimizer campaign.

A few metrics for measuring budget optimizer campaign keywords are:

  • Page views per visit
  • Time on site
  • Video views
  • Bounce rate
  • Send to a friend
  • Bookmark
  • Print this page
  • Tweet This (or other social actions)
  • Download product specs

The above goals do not directly lead to revenue; they lead to exposure and show levels of consumer engagement.

It just so happens that the new analytics goals will let you measure these items much more easily. Follow these easy steps to be able to measure the effectiveness of these early buying cycle keywords:

  1. Set goals for the budget optimizer keywords, such as 3 page views per visitor.
  2. In Google Analytics, set goals for time on site, page views per visitor, or use one of the expanded goal sets to track the social sharing items.
  3. Add early buying funnel keywords to a budget optimizer campaign.
  4. Let the budget optimizer campaign send you traffic. It may take up to two weeks for budget optimizer to really get going; have a little patience here.
  5. Examine your analytics to optimize your budget optimizer campaign
    • If a keyword is not meeting your goals – delete it
    • If a keyword is meeting other goals (such as newsletter subscriptions) then move it to your normal max CPC or conversion optimizer campaign
    • If a keyword is meeting your budget optimizer goals, but no other goals, then leave it where it is
  6. The last step is to measure if your overall revenue is higher while the budget optimizer campaign is running. If yes, then as long as the increased revenue is higher than the money you are spending in the budget optimizer campaign, then you are in good shape. If not, then lower the budget optimizer”s budget.

Every keyword, ad copy and landing page should increase revenue. If it does not, it needs to go away. However, you cannot always measure direct revenue for every keyword or traffic source.

Therefore, you should set appropriate goals for a keyword regardless of where it falls in the buying funnel to make sure your entire budget is working toward turning a searcher into a customer.

Engage consumers early in the buying cycle, so when they are ready to buy your company has already been part of the conversation. However, do not just spend money to receive clicks. Make sure every single click is helping to increase your overall profits.

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

Related Topics: Channel: Analytics | Google: AdWords | Google: Analytics | Paid Search Column


About The Author: is the Founder of Certified Knowledge, a company dedicated to PPC education & training; fficial Google AdWords Seminar Leader, and author of Advanced Google AdWords.

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  • alanmitchell

    Nice post Brad,

    Bidding strategies for keywords that are earlier in the buying cycle which lack conversion data is one of those grey areas that won’t fully become clear until conversion attribution improves.

    Without fully understanding user touch points (i.e. a user searches for ‘cheap televisions’, comes back a few days later on ‘sony bravia’ and then returns a week later to make a purchase using the search ‘compare prices bravia 42 inch’), and properly attributing the correct share (or weight) of the revenue to each touch-point (keyword), we can only go by user behaviour stats like you have outlined above.

    I recently wrote about using analytics data such to assess the performance of non-converting keywords and came to similar conclusions to yourself: that it is possible to get a good idea of user engagement and interest generation by considering metrics such as bounce rate, time on site, page views and return visits.

    People will continue to carry out research when making online purchases, so the winners in PPC will be those who can better understand how their audience is researching their products and services, and adjust their keywords at all stages of the buying cycle accordingly.

    Nice point too about the time on site stat not including the last page – makes complete sense but it hadn’t previously crossed my mind!



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