The Diminishing Value of Keywords
One concerning factor that has always being nagging in the back of my mind is what happens when your keywords value constantly diminishes over the life of a campaign?
Typically clients are pushing for improved ROI from their digital campaigns so what happens when their primary keywords are tracking the opposite direction and ROI is falling?
I took a snapshot of AdWords (search only) data and decided it was time to research more about the concept of diminishing value and did it exist? For this post analysis the data that was analysed consisted of 22,354 clicks over 2.5 years but was just based on their single highest traffic keyword.
I picked a single keyword to speed analysis and standardise the data set as many keywords did not run consistently or have enough clicks.
Also unlike several of their other keywords I could have used I found they focused on this keyword with a significant daily budget to ensure it was showing most hours of the day.
Also I used AdWords data as the shift in ROI seems far clearer cut in PPC than SEO, but also its data is more consistent as AdWords offers much more control over max bids, total budget and landing page optimisation.
The first insight to notice was that the average CPC showed a 48% increase in cost during that time, this was not a problem for this particular client as their campaigns spend grew at 400% during that same period of time.
What were some of the increases in campaign cost?
- Non-competitors expanded business model to directly compete
- More offline/online competitors piled into PPC campaigns
- Existing competitors got smarter with their PPC campaigns
- Overall the vertical got far more competitive as target market shifted online
But what about if they were not able to increase the campaign spend as rapidly to cover the increase in average CPC rates, would they have to stop advertising? There are often a number of businesses that operate on the arbitrage model and cannot afford such a large reduction in their margins per visitor.
How Does Rise Track with Budget?
Rise in average CPC tracks almost perfectly tracks the growth in campaign budgets over 2.5 years, which is concerning unless you can continue to increase your PPC budgets you may struggle to continue to expand your digital channels.
It also shows how Google is manipulating the actual cost of AdWords traffic consistently overtime, so you need to ensure your conversion rates continue to improve to counter the diminishing value of visitors.
There is also a time when you have to stop focusing on a particular keyword because it’s either become too competitive to be cost effective or user behaviour has shifted so much around that term that it’s no longer a commercially viable keyword.
What About Falling Interest?
One external factor that is out of your control is as your audience adapts and becomes more educated about your products is the shift in what keywords people are using. It also appears as consumers mature there is also the increasing number of online brands that are stealing away traffic from generic search terms.
One interesting point to explore in more detail would be the shift of search terms towards local language alternatives and more niche searches.
A lot of this shift in search behaviour is driven by display advertising and offline advertising that you may not always have as much control over.
One of the key target terms for travel affiliates, airlines and travel agents is “cheap flights” but you can see the search volumes are dropping over the past 8 years.
Looking at the keywords that are now driving traffic it appears that the search terms are fragmenting and the rising search terms are mostly focused around branded searches for airlines know for cheap flights such as Southwest & EasyJet.
One of the key target terms for banks and financial affiliates is “credit cards” but you can see that its traffic has also fallen as a key search term over time, but “credit card” has increased slightly.
This could be easily assumed that consumer spending patterns have changed and they now look for single credit cards rather than multiple cards, along with rises in searches for “prepaid credit cards”.
The keyword “travel” is another massive vanity term for any travel agency, travel affiliate, travel guide, travel blogs but you can see that consumers have adapted their behaviour are not just typing travel into Google as much anymore.
There is a shift in travel search terms to be more focused around travel brands, travel portals and travel information as consumers become more specific about their search intentions.
Are you still focused on a single keyword?
The key message is to understand how your single keyword strategy maybe starting to fail you as consumers adapt their search behaviours and brands continue to steal away more generic search traffic.
If you are relying on a single keyword to drive a majority of your sales/traffic you are putting excessive risk both around over optimisations of that keyword but also risk dying out like the dinosaurs.