Tool Review: WordStream Helps SEM Pros Streamline & Segment Keyword Lists
As Search Engine Marketing grows as an industry, it’s inevitable that new technology will evolve to fill in the gaps where current solutions fall short.
Case in point is WordStream, a new SEM tool that specifically helps raise productivity for handling, assembling, and segmenting your keyword list. The main value that I see in WordStream is in helping SEM Pros sift through huge keyword lists and quickly segment them into campaigns and ad groups. Then, as you drop in more keywords over time (the tool even helps with that part), the keywords “segment themselves” into these campaigns and ad groups based on the keyword rules you’ve setup.
Larry Kim, the founder, and VP of Products & Marketing for WordStream, said something interesting when showing me the tool last week: “A company’s keywords and taxonomy…” [i.e. having a detailed understanding of relevant keywords, and the organization and prioritization of that information] “… is their most strategic and valuable marketing asset.”
Of course, the value of search marketing has been obvious to me since day one, but thinking of your keyword list as an asset is an interesting way to look at the importance of list to a company. Think of all of the ways you can leverage that data. Not only to find more keywords to bid on with paid search or optimize around for SEO, but also to know how users are finding you, what keyword groups are growing so you can “stock” your shelves with the right products, what competitor terms are bringing users to your site, etc.
Having heard Larry’s deep insight and passion during the demo, I thought it would be great to do a Q&A with him to get his own words about the tool for this post.
Q. Larry, what is your background in Search?
Larry: I spent three years running Pay-Per-Click (PPC) campaigns in-house, followed by three years of in house Search Engine Optimization (SEO) work, and another two years running my own search marketing agency doing a combination of PPC and SEO work. I love search marketing – I think it’s the best advertising venue for any company seeking to drive Web sales and/or lead generation efforts.
Q. How did you come up with the idea for WordStream?
Larry: WordStream was created out of necessity. I learned what I had to do on behalf of my clients to help them succeed in search, and as I did it, I wanted a tool to help me perform those tasks more efficiently. WordStream is the result.
For example, it was clear to me that successful PPC and SEO efforts are dependent on keyword research, keyword grouping, and keyword organization efforts.I was researching, grouping, and organizing keywords for PPC. Keyword selection is obviously important since clicks on keywords are essentially what you’re buying. Keyword grouping is a more overlooked task. I found that for my clients to achieve high Quality Scores they needed to use very close-knit keyword segmentation, so that I could write compelling, differentiating ad text and landing pages. I found creating keyword groups that were semantically similar and highly specific (two, three, more than three term phrases) provided very good returns.
A second insight was the complementary nature of SEO and PPC – having grouped and organized keyword data into campaigns and ad groups, I found that I could leverage these organization structures along with PPC search query data I was gathering, to inform content authoring and information architecture for SEO. I found that the results from successful PPC and SEO data sharing can be staggering – the better I executed PPC, the better I could execute SEO and vice-versa. The corollary to this idea was that keywords and keyword taxonomy are highly strategic and proprietary company assets.
Finally I learned the value of dynamic search campaigns. I found some of the biggest search marketing trip-ups stemmed from a few central failures:
- Failure to make keyword and negative keyword discovery, grouping and organization an ongoing process.
- Failure to effectively prioritize search marketing work – (i.e. once you’ve set up a few content pages and PPC campaigns, what do you do next?)
- Failure to execute or act on search marketing insights that were either provided by search marketing consultants or from analyzing Web Analytics data.
I spent countless hours working to develop solutions for these challenges. Initially I was using Microsoft Excel for things that it clearly wasn’t designed for and got frustrated by various limitations. Since I’m an engineer, I decided to build some database-driven programs to help automate the repetitive, time-consuming work that I was doing. I guess you can say that WordStream is the tool that I wished I had!
Q. How has it evolved to where it is now?
Larry: A few years ago I quit my job as an in-house marketer to start my own search marketing agency. My objectives were to generalize my theories on long-tail keyword discovery, grouping and organization for PPC and SEO on a larger number of clients while simultaneously using the revenues to hire a team to develop a powerful, yet user-friendly product for anyone to wield. We recently patented the inventions, obtained venture funding and launched the product.
Q. The concept is interesting. Can you take me through a segmentation example with the tool?
Larry: To get started, you first import keywords into your private WordStream keyword database from a variety of different sources:
- Keyword Tools: You can copy & paste from keyword tools like the Google Keyword Tool.
- Analytics Tools: You can upload files such as search query reports from Google AdWords or keyword reports from Google Analytics.
- Web Server Log files: We offer a desktop application which parses your log files and funnels keyword data into your WordStream account.
Then you start keyword segmenting. We like to use a pet store example.
You’d start by either typing a full-text query into the query bar which discovers all the keywords in your keyword database which match that query, then clicking “create group” to group together the results into a Keyword Group.
Alternatively, you can let the tool suggest keyword segmentations for you. It does this by scanning your keyword database and determining which keyword segmentations will contain the most keywords, drive the most visits., and produce the largest number of conversions (goals you define within WordStream).
Or even a combination of the three (you can create your own formula). As soon as we click segment group, we get a series of suggestions:
We can then drill further down to get even more specific:
Pick the keyword segmentations that are relevant to your business and click “Create Keyword Group(s)”. What is important to note here is that in seconds we’re creating eight very specific keyword groups. Within the “dog food” group, you’ll find all the keywords containing both the word dog and the word food along with common misspellings, plurals and keyword variations.
Finally we end up with a number of very effective, targeted keyword segmentations:
You can continue this process indefinitely, getting more and more specific. Eventually our “dog food” keyword grouping might have another five or six subgroups corresponding to different types of dog foods, and those might have sub-segmentations of their own, and so on.
A search marketer can immediately act on these keyword groupings by turning them into high Quality Score Ad Groups on Google, Yahoo or MSN by right-clicking on a Keyword Grouping and selecting the “Create Ad Group for Selected Keyword Group” option. You should also be creating ad text and landing pages that speak directly to these different keyword segmentations to further optimize Quality Score and conversion rates, and the product has tools that helps do this.
Q. One thing I really love about WordStream is how it continually adds new keywords to your list. Can you go into more detail into how that works?
Larry: WordStream is predicated on the notion that keyword expansion (including negative keyword expansion) should be a continuous process, not just a one-time thing. Why? Because unless you’re building out and optimizing your campaigns, you’ll probably generate the same results. Additionally, when expanding keywords, one of the best sources to tap are all the potential customers that find your website every day through search!
As new keyword opportunities are discovered, WordStream automatically organizes them based on the existing keyword segmentations and rules that you’ve already created; this organized data can optionally be acted on. For example, the software can automatically bid on promising new keyword opportunities for you, and also suggest negative keywords that you ought to consider, thus making keyword expansion a simple, continuous process.
I named the product “WordStream” because it’s like a continuous stream of keywords flowing into your private keyword database (the “All Keywords” bucket); these keywords then trickle down to more specific keyword groupings that you’ve created. Over time, those more-specific keyword subgroups start to grow and overflow. Big keyword groupings present an opportunity for optimization – you can segment a larger keyword group into multiple, smaller, more narrowly-focused keyword subgroups to improve Quality Score and conversion rates by crafting more relevant ad text and landing pages that speak more closely to the new sub-segmentations. It’s not always immediately apparent how to group and organize your keywords, but over time, this data will reveal itself to you so that you can act on it accordingly.
Q. What are some real examples of how WordStream has been used effectively?
Larry: We have sophisticated PPC agencies and advertisers new to search using our product – the agencies love the product because it does for them what they were already doing in terms of keyword discovery, grouping and organization, but saves them from having to do that work. The advertisers like it because it “demystifies” search marketing – the software almost forces them to be more efficient with their search efforts, and saves them a lot of time while doing it.
Q. I see this as such as niche’ part of the overall search discipline. What are some of the features on your roadmap?
Larry: I think the biggest challenge facing search marketers today is prioritizing workflow and acting on insights gleamed from Web analytics. With so many dashboards and reports it becomes increasingly difficult to cut through the “fog of war” and figure out exactly what should be done and in what order, and then doing that work. A key area of our product are workflow tools that automatically perform customizable, rules-based analysis of Web analytics data, providing a prioritized list of optimization tasks that are more immediately actionable than basic Web analytics reports or keyword lists.
My view is that any person or team can, over time, transform a static website into a highly strategic inbound marketing machine via search marketing, if only they had to tools to help them do the work and prioritize the tasks. In five years, I hope SEMs will be using WordStream to strategically direct search marketing efforts in a collaborative way across entire organizations, using the product for developing and organizing keyword taxonomy, and breaking it down into smaller, manageable tasks. Additionally, we aim to further simplify and enable acting on data by making all of this information seamlessly accessible to individual contributors via powerful data-driven, customizable search marketing workbench tools and applications.