Extending Root Keyword Search Query Volumes in PPC

Introduction

As the pay-per-click (PPC) channel continues to mature for search engine marketers, it’s become more and more important to anticipate search behavior in the process of meeting existing demand.  The objective of this analysis is to assess the viability of using URLs as keywords, in order to scale PPC programs and drive larger volumes of conversions.

Hypothesis

Individuals vary widely in the way they interact with search engines.  Some users are prone to querying broad terms such as “digital camera” and then drill down based on the results they find. Others use more focused queries such as “buy used nikon d200 digital camera.”  With the evolution of local search we see more queries like “dry cleaning wicker park chicago,” and with blended search results becoming more popular, users will search terms such as “youtube video will ferrell landlord.”

An important subset of search engine queries request entire URLs (or parts thereof), instead of keywords in the traditional context.  Search engines generally read periods as spaces, so querying the keyword “www.google.com” ends up looking like “www google com” — which is a fundamentally different investment within a marketer’s PPC (pay per click) advertising program.

Hypothesis: The presence of extensions such as “www” and “com” presents a unique commercial and competitive profile for keywords, and marketers should look to these as opportunities to improve overall ROI within PPC (pay per click) advertising programs.

Definitions

Root Keywords – these represent the single term shown between the periods in a root URL.  Example: for www.google.com, the Root Keyword is “google”.

Extension Keywords – these represent the prefix/suffix used in the URL.  For the sake of this analysis, the Extension Keywords under consideration include the prefix “www” and the TLD’s (top level domains) “com”, “net” and “org”.

Cost-per-click (CPC) in this analysis is defined as Google’s value for Estimated Averaged Cost Per Click, which is defined as the maximum CPC bid necessary to show an advertisement in one of the first three positions within Google’s sponsored links.  It should be noted that this estimate is privy to the unique characteristics of the auction, of which billions take place every day.  Therefore, we default to Google’s best guess.

Competitiveness in this analysis is defined as the quantity of advertisers worldwide bidding on a particular keyword, relative to every keyword.

Methodology

We analyzed thirty-one domains whose Root Keywords combined for over 2.2 billion global average monthly queries in Google.  The domains were chosen from among the most popular sites across the U.S. audience (measured in unique visits), with several notable exclusions, including compound names (e.g. “huffingtonpost” vs. “huffington post”), domains with multiple semantic applications (e.g. “live.com” vs. the verb “live” or the adjective “live”).  Monthly query volumes are based on Google data at the broad-match level, indicating raw volumes with or without other terms as part of the search query.

Using Google’s estimates for Average CPC and Advertiser Competition, we aggregated data across the experimental set, to generate unique figures for Root Keywords and Extension Keywords.

Results

• The presence of any or all Extension Keywords increased the average monthly query volume of the experimental set from 2.21 billion to 2.47 billion global monthly queries — an increase of 11.7%.

• The aggregate CPC for the Root Keyword set was $0.72, while the Extension Keyword set showed an aggregate CPC of $0.47 — a discount of 35%.

• The Competitiveness for the Root Keyword set was 99.94%, while for the Extension Keyword set we observed 98.59%.

Extending Root Keyword Search Query Volumes in PPC

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Analysis

Bidding on keywords which include extensions presents a significant opportunity for marketers to extend reach in the PPC channel at a relative discount of approximately one-third, measured in Estimated Average CPC terms.  The competitive profile of these keywords is not substantially different, but this does not offset the notable cost savings of this ROI-driven keyword strategy.

Appendix

The following domains were considered in this analysis: adobe, amazon, aol, bing, cnet, cnn, dell, digg, ebay, facebook, flickr, hulu, imdb, latimes, microsoft, mlb, msn, myspace, netflix, nfl, ning, nytimes, pandora, paypal, photobucket, twitter, ups, usps, wsj, yelp, zynga.

Limitations

We acknowledge that the reporting and analytical tools used in this study have limitations which might impact our conclusions.  Keywords estimated by Google at $0.05 CPC generally have a high standard deviation relative to this number.  Relying on Broad match, while essential to accumulating a large enough sample to derive meaning in this analysis, also introduces the remote possibility of extraneous terms occasionally appearing within the query.

About Paul Burani

Paul Burani - Partner, Web Liquid Group. Connect with me on Google+

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