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September 9, 2013

Pay Per Click Optimization: Don’t Underestimate Assisted Conversions

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Weeding out under-performing PPC keywords isn’t as straight-forward as it may seem; sometimes keywords that look like under-performers according to the stats are actually assisting highly valuable conversions. That’s why a critical component of pay per click optimization is identifying and using these keywords. Read on for further explanation of assisted conversions and how you can make the most of assist keywords.

How do assisted conversions work?

funnelIn order to understand the value of assist keywords, lest you cut these important players from your roster, let’s talk about the conversion funnel as it relates to pay per click optimization.

What Are “Last-Click” Keywords

Last-click keywords refer to the keywords that trigger the click directly preceding a conversion — that’s the “action” step in the funnel. Let’s say you sell basketball shoes. Your last-click keywords might be terms like:

  • buy basketball shoes
  • basketball shoes online
  • basketball shoes sale

These keywords reflect an intent to purchase, using keyword modifiers like “buy” and “sale.” Not everyone, however is ready to buy right away. Before converting, basketball shoe shoppers are most likely going to conduct research — meaning their buying cycles won’t begin and end with one of these last-click keywords, and there is valuable insight to gain from identifying the keywords that preceded the last-click keywords.

Assist Keywords

Before making a purchase, searchers are going to investigate brands, colors, sizes, soles, prices, reviews, etc., as part of stages in the funnel related to gaining awareness, piquing interest in specific products or brands, and sparking the focused desire. Which means the keywords customers searched for initially might be terms like:

  • basketball shoes brands
  • best basketball shoes
  • basketball shoes reviews
  • basketball shoes prices
  • purple basketball shoes
  • size 9 basketball shoes

If Keywords are Assisting Conversions, Don’t Pause Them

Because AdWords tracks last-click conversions, assist-heavy keywords can appear as under-performing keywords. If a PPC manager then pauses those keywords (due to their low rates of conversion), he has broken the chain — and conversion funnel.

“If you cut keywords out without understanding how they are assisting you, that can have an adverse effect on your conversion volume,” said Michael Shore, BCI’s senior SEM analyst. “There was a client that I worked with that was bent on pausing keywords in AdWords that were not producing last-click conversions; when I looked deep into the client’s campaign, however, I found that many of those keywords were driving assisted conversions. There was a cause and effect — when we paused those assisted keywords, we saw a 15 percent drop in aggregate conversion volume.”

A 15 percent drop in conversions is significant. Such a drop can be avoided, however, by sorting out which keywords are provided valuable assists.

“Determine which of your keywords are assisting conversions, and don’t take any money away from them,” Shore explained. “I’d leave them — they’re giving good assist value, and if you have the budget, give them more money. See if you can get a further boost from them.”

In order to determine your assist keywords use the assisted conversions report, located within AdWords search funnels. This report was designed specifically to identify assist keywords, enabling PPC managers to make informed decisions and avoid a drop in conversion volume. Read more about the report itself in PPC Optimization: 5 AdWords Features to Strengthen your Campaign.

Next Steps

Insight into which keywords are driving assists can also lead to a restructure of your ad campaign. It can be advantageous to give assist keywords their own ad groups with ad copy that is tailored to research.

“Assist keywords should render ads that are more research-based than purchase-based,” Shore said. “Make your ad copy focus more on ‘find out,’ and ‘learn more,’ than ‘buy now.'”

People are hesitant to spend money without researching — and the higher the price, the longer the search funnel and sales cycle. Something as inexpensive as frozen yogurt, however, can still have a search /conversion funnel, with people potentially searching for nutritional information before converting. From frozen yogurt to basketball shoes to home entertainment systems, however, the search funnel keeps growing — and so does the list of assist keywords.

Make sure to give your assist keywords the attention and budget they need to keep bolstering your conversions and revenue.

How have you leveraged the assisted conversions report in your pay per click optimization? Share with us in the comments.

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