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Get More Business by Choosing the Right Keywords

Posted by: Today's Tip Contributor on March 30, 2011

Are you speaking the same language as your customers?

You may use the phrase "pest control" to describe your services, but someone who just found bedbugs and turns to the Web to find a local service provider might be more likely to use the phrase: "how do I get rid of bedbugs?"

These discrepancies hurt your bottom line. You pay for search keywords that don’t deliver new business, and you lose customers because they’re not able to find you when and where they’re looking.

Improve results of search advertising by choosing the right keywords. Do that by getting to know your customers.

1. What keywords do they use? Test a few search campaigns and analyze the data. For example, a carpet cleaner in Orange County, Calif., discovered that using the term "pet stains" worked well in certain neighborhoods, but not in others. He realized that to increase business in affluent neighborhoods, he should instead use the term "elite steam cleaning."

2. What state of mind are customers in when they need your services? Will they wait until they have time to conduct research from the leisure of home, where they might be thinking more clearly? Or will they use their phones to search from the road in a panic?

3. Use "negative" keywords effectively. Positive keywords are those phrases you want—such as "elite steam cleaning" in the example above. Negative keywords represent business you don’t want. For example, a mechanic makes good money when his ads are displayed for "muffler service" or "muffler repair," while services related to "smog" and "tires" are not as profitable. These terms thus become his negative keywords.

My company recently analyzed 551 campaigns to understand the relationship between the number of positive keywords, number of negative keywords, and the number of leads per campaign. It turns out that using negative keywords sparingly improves performance, but using too many can restrict lead flow unnecessarily and degrade performance. The verdict: use one to five negative keywords—and no more than 11.

Doug LaBahn
Vice-President of Product
Irvine, Calif.

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