Sramana: When you do get a list that includes all of the long tail keywords, how do you prioritize that list? How do you manage lists that have tens of thousands of keywords?
Mike Mothner: We group keywords semantically. We will focus on the major keywords individually which are determined by search volume. We will then look to create keyword groups, which can happen semantically or in other ways such as by brand. We do not actually have to pick one of the 14,000 and try and draw a conclusion from it.
If we get very long key phrases that are similar, but one starts with the word ‘buy’ and the other starts with the word ‘purchase,’ then we are going to group those phrases together. We will try to get the keywords down into a dozen or so buckets, and we can then manage the buckets effectively.
Sramana: Is there any prioritization strategy? Do you go for the head, the body, or the long tail first?
Mike Mothner: The best way for me to answer that is to give you an example. I’ll refer to the 1000Lightbulbs.com scenario we spoke about earlier. In that case, we would take the 14,000 keywords and place them into 40 buckets. If this is a brand new campaign, then we will set all the bids at one dollar across the board.
The keywords that have a higher volume of searches will inherently have a large amount of spending out of those buckets. As soon as people start purchasing, we will start to see the relative value. We would then take the bucket that is performing well and raise it to one dollar and ten cents, and lower the other bucket that spent at the same rate but did not have any sales to 90 cents. We start at the average and make tweaks from there. The result will be a campaign which is optimized daily.
Sramana: What happens when there is a large competitor in the market? For example, Wine.com must face a lot of competition.
Mike Mothner: Being in a competitive market is challenging. There are some things we can do and there are some things that the client should do which are fundamental to the business. If you can’t compete on price, then you have to find something else to compete on. We can help businesses connect with perspective clients.
Let’s assume your message is that your service is the best around. We will help clients optimize their campaign around their customer service message. The very large companies have so much ground to cover that they have a hard time optimizing a campaign because they have thousands of product lines. We can make a client more efficient in their PPC budget than the big companies PPC budget.
Sramana: What if you are optimizing a campaign for a small startup that is going after a large competitor. Assuming you figure out the differentiation, are there keyword strategies that you would follow? Would you focus more on the long tail?
Mike Mothner: Focusing only on the long tail does not work like you think it should. Google has broad match technology, which means that if a company just enters 10 major keywords and places a lot of money against that keyword, Google will automatically pull thousands of relevant keywords and run the PPC there, too. You can’t avoid competing with the big player by coming up with long-tail keywords. Google likes it that way because they make more money by making the marketplace more competitive. The long-tail strategy is just not realistic anymore.