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To Maximize Your Paid Media Spend, Focus on High-Intent Keywords

When building out a paid search campaign, many marketers may decide to target the entire user journey in their campaigns — whether they realize it or not. Without thinking about which stage in the funnel a keyword falls in, there could be a lot of time and budget allocated to users who are just beginning their research. Many of which may never move down the funnel.

Every keyword you choose to target on Google Ads will cost you marketing dollars. Some keywords can have a high number of monthly searches or have a greater amount of competition, which can burn through your campaign’s budget more quickly than others. When selecting the keywords you want to target in your marketing strategy, it’s important to think about where they fall in the marketing funnel.

Depending on the stage in the funnel, there are different keyword targeting strategies to consider.

Where In the Marketing Funnel Should You Focus Your Keyword Research?

When we talk about “the marketing funnel,” we’re referring to the path that users take on their way to completing a high value conversion action. You’ll see a lot more users completing top-of-funnel actions than users who complete bottom-of-funnel actions. The top-of-funnel actions indicate the user is just beginning their research. This could mean downloading a broad piece of content on LinkedIn, reviewing posts on your blog, or a research-based search query on Google.

A great example of a bottom-of-the-funnel action is a contact form completion. When users are ready to reach out, there may be specific bottom-of-the-funnel, buyer keywords that you could target. Targeting this group means focusing on high-intent, usually longer, more specific keyword phrases (long-tail keywords). This strategy is generally cost effective if cost-per-lead is a KPI of your campaign. Although, neglecting the more expensive top-of-funnel terms may prevent more users from entering the top of your funnel and becoming familiar with your brand.

Why Should You Focus On High-Intent Keywords?

High-intent keywords are search queries that signify that the searcher is getting closer to the transaction — whether that be contacting a company for a service, purchasing an item, or starting a membership. These users are closing in on the bottom of the funnel.

If there is enough search volume, targeting these high-intent keywords is cost-effective because you’re most likely to target users who are ready to convert. You’re getting in front of the users who are actively looking for a service you offer. The cost-per-click (CPC) may not necessarily be less than a more broad keyword, but the search volume would be less. With a limited budget, it is strategic to focus your spend on keywords that capture users near the end of their search and ready to convert. This strategy produces the most high-value conversion actions, for a lower cost.

How Can You Find These High-Intent/Bottom-of-the-Funnel Keywords?

It’s always important to review your search queries every few days. When reviewing the high-converting terms, you may be able to uncover some high-intent keywords. The user’s search terms may be long-tail keywords that you can target that may not have come up in your initial keyword research. You can find other high-intent keywords by testing a related search query on Google, and reviewing the results of the search as well as the “Searches related to…” at the bottom of the search engine results page (SERP).

High-intent keywords generally have a word or phrase in them indicating that the user is ready to take an action. Phrases like “where to buy” or “join membership” are examples of these action-oriented search queries.

Okay, I Have My Bottom-of-the-Funnel Keywords — What Now?

After finding quality, bottom-of-the-funnel keywords, you want to make sure that you’re testing ad copy that speaks to that specific search query. The more relevant the user feels the ad is, the higher CTR you should see on the ad. It’s best to test around three ads per ad group at all times, keeping a close eye on their performance, and pausing any underperforming ads. Ad relevance and expected CTR will impact the quality score of the keywords, so improving on these metrics will help you show higher on the SERP, and reduce your average CPC.

When To Use Full-Funnel Keywords

Although focusing on bottom-of-the-funnel keywords is cost efficient, there are benefits to targeting higher-funnel, broad keywords.

If brand awareness is a goal, then it would be strategic to target the top-of-funnel keywords. By utilizing “broad match,” you can capture a range of keywords within a theme. If you assign a keyword as a broad match, you’re giving Google Ads more freedom to show your ad, by allowing it to bid on similar or related terms along with your keyword.

By using broad-match keywords, you can cast a wider net with your targeting. This means a wider data set of search queries is made visible. To be effective, this requires a campaign manager to diligently exclude any irrelevant terms. If done right, you will discover additional long-tail, high-intent keywords.

Targeting full-funnel keywords can be costly, and you may have less control over the search queries you’re bidding on. After the user is introduced to your brand and services, the hope is they come back to the site with a bottom-of-the-funnel keyword like “where to buy ______.”

With any campaign, it is important to continuously test. Carefully monitor the search queries and stay on top of adding negative keywords, and adding related keywords. Keeping your Google Ads organized can help with this account maintenance. By organizing your keywords in close themes within each Ad Group, you can easily see where new Ad Groups need to be broken out, and which keyword groups perform best.

Targeting all relevant keywords can bring in plenty of traffic, but to make sure you’re getting the most qualified users to your website, you need to carefully consider the intent behind each keyword you’re bidding on. Narrowing your focus on only the high-intent terms can be an effective strategy and worth testing on campaigns that may be limited on budget or are serving ads for a highly competitive industry.

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