Study Suggests Keyword Choice Predicts Click Activity

Peter Roesler, President - Web Marketing Pros

By Peter Roesler

President, Web Marketing Pros

market-researchMost business owners and marketers know that keywords are important for SEO and internet marketing. People use keywords in search engines that relate to what they want to find, so aligning a website’s content with the best keywords for an industry makes sense. No one is spitting their coffee out over these great revelations, but the effect keywords is greater than marketers may think. According to researchers, the keywords most likely to perform well for PPC may not be the top performing keywords for an industry.

The 2013 study from Columbia Business School suggests that the type of keywords a consumer uses is predictive of whether or not they will click a link or ad they see in the search results. The researchers found that people who searched for something using a less popular, but more specific keyword were more likely to be primed to buy the item. Consumers using more popular keyword terms such as ‘car’ tend to have lower click activity overall. However, consumers using less popular terms tend to have higher click activity overall and thus are more targetable for paid advertising.

“For example, a consumer looking to buy an automobile may search a popular term like ‘car’ in a search engine, but a high-involvement consumer would use a less popular keyword that may contain a specific make or model, like Corvette,” said Kinshuk Jerath, co-author and professor at Columbia Business School in a press release. “Consumers using less popular search terms are more invested and closer to the product they are searching for, making them better targets for sponsored search advertising.”

The study also made a few other interesting findings. Besides, the click activity data, the researchers also found that consumers using less popular keywords expend more effort and are more invested in the product or service they are searching for. Also, they note that the day of the week has no impact on the likelihood of clicks by consumers, though this seems dubious.

Marketers should understand some of the limitations of this study before they rush off to change their PPC budgets. This study was based on data on individual consumer click activity after keyword searches from a leading search engine firm in Korea. The layout of the Korean search engine is very similar to United States search engines, such as Google or Bing. Essentially, this study can’t be used as a direct comparison for the behavior of internet searchers in America. It’s possible that Korean consumers are similar to American consumers in search and click habits, but without data, it’s impossible to know for sure.

Additionally, there was only a limited number of variables the researchers could use in the search. The search engine provided data on search and click activity for 1,200 keywords over a one-month period. This is a very small portion of all the keywords searched and from this list researchers sampled 120 keywords at random. Using this data, the team then modeled the number of clicks by a user on the organic and paid lists that they are presented with after a keyword search. In other words, it’s difficult to make broad observations about all users and all keywords based on such a small study.

Despite this limitations of the study in a scientific sense, there’s little reason to think that the trends the researchers observed wouldn’t apply to consumers in other countries or using different keywords. It makes sense intuitively that the more specifically someone searches for something, the more likely they are to be ready to buy that item. This knowledge gives marketers a new way to think about where to place their ads. It will always be beneficial to run ads on the general keywords because it will catch people who are that the start of the buying process. However, there may be a higher return for trying to catch users who are further ahead in their intention to buy.

Picking the right keywords is only half the battle when it comes to a successful PPC campaign. For more tips and tricks, read this article with five ways to improve your PPC ads copy.

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