Identifying new high-performing keywords for paid search using Google Analytics

Wednesday, July 29, 2009 | 9:27 PM

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Google Analytics is a powerful solution for discovering how exactly visitors reach your site and what keywords brought them to it. Online marketers and SEO specialists alike find keyword-level reporting useful to determine keywords that they are not advertising on but should be and keywords that they should be optimising their site's content for. Today I'll be focusing on how you, as an online marketer, can use Google Analytics and related tools to discover new keywords to advertise on.

Step 1: Ensure Goals and E-commerce Tracking are set up
The key to identifying which keywords are worth advertising on is to measure those keywords against success criteria. Google Analytics makes this easy for you by allowing you to set up goals (e.g. visitor completing a purchase, visitor signing up for a newsletter) and track e-commerce activity on your site. Google Analytics can then associate goal conversion rates and e-commerce activity with the keywords that brought those visitors to your site.

Step 2: Access the Keywords Report
Access the Keywords Report under Traffic Sources > Keywords. This report outlines all the keywords that brought visitors to your site. The keywords can be both paid and non-paid. Paid keywords are those associated with clicks from your online ads. Non-paid keywords are those that users have typed into a search engine, such as Google, to find your site. Because we want to focus on keywords that we are not already advertising on, click on the "non-paid" link to filter out paid keywords.

Next, determine what is your criteria for success for these keywords. If you are concerned about goal conversion rates, then now is the time to switch over to the "Goal Conversion" tab. If you have e-commerce tracking enabled and would like to see the Dollar/Ringgit/Baht-impact associated with your keywords, switch to the "Ecommerce" tab. For the rest of this example, I'll assume that we are concerned about goal conversion rates.

Step 3: Export non-paid keywords to a spreadsheet
First, sort the list of keywords by conversion rate in descending order for the goal that you are concerned with. Second, scroll to the bottom and select to display 500 keywords.

Next, click on the "Export" button at the top, and select "CSV".

If you want to export more than 500 keywords, repeat the export process for the next few pages of the report.

Open the downloaded CSV file in your favourite spreadsheet package (in my case, I like using Google Spreadsheets).

Filter the list of keywords to show keywords with a conversion rate of more than 0% (or whatever threshold you choose). You are now left with a list of non-paid converting keywords. It is most likely that you are not advertising on many of these keywords.

Step 4: Expand the list of keywords using other Google products
To consider more keyword options, consider using some of Google's other free products to discover more opportunities: Google Insights for Search, Google Trends, Site Search reports in Google Analytics, Webmaster Tools, and even the new Wonder Wheel. If you are an AdWords user take a look at the Keyword Tool, Search-based Keyword Tool, Search Query Performance reports, and more. Once you have identified additional keywords you would like to advertise on, add it to your list of keywords from Step 3.

Step 5: Download a list of keywords that you are already advertising on
In Google AdWords, go to the Report Centre, and generate a Keyword Performance report. Export the report as a CSV file and open it in your favourite spreadsheet package. Filter the list so that you only see keywords in currently active Ad Groups and Campaigns.

Step 6: Identify keywords you are not advertising on
Now, open another worksheet or spreadsheet document. Copy the column of keywords from Step 5 and paste it into column A in the new worksheet. Copy the column of keywords from Step 3 and paste it in column B.

Cross-segment the list to identify keywords in column A that are not in column B. If you are using Google Spreadsheets, you could simply use the VLOOKUP function to identify those keywords.

We have now identified keywords that you should consider advertising on to drive more qualified traffic to your website.

To make things easier for you, the spreadsheet in the above screenshot is available for you to use here.

Step 7: Expand on these keywords and start advertising
Consider the list of keywords identified in Step 6 to be your "seed" keywords. Take these keywords and expand on them using tools such as the AdWords Keyword tool. Once you've built a comprehensive list of keywords, add them to your AdWords campaigns and start advertising on them. Be sure to monitor the performance of these new keywords using Google Analytics and your AdWords reports. Hopefully you've managed to identify a new set of keywords with great ROI potential!

There you have it, a simple 7-step process to identifying high-value keywords to leverage in your search engine marketing strategy. Google Analytics helps you identify keywords that are performing well organically. By leveraging these keywords in your search marketing campaigns you can drive even more of these valuable visitors to your site and experience great returns on investment.

How do you use Google tools to discover new keywords to advertise on? We would love to hear your tips in the comments below.


Mentoring for Free said...

Tremendous information, We appreciate all you do for us in the Field.

Thank you...

greenleaf said...

To avoid repeat exporting if you have more then 500 keywords append &limit=5000 to the URL (will then export up to 500 keywords) and hit return to reload the report before exporting.

Webmaster said...

Wow - this is the most useful piece I've seen on Adwords for a while!

I applied it straight away and found several high search keyword groups that I had not seen before!

Thank you!

Vinny said...

@Mentoring for Free: you're welcome!

@greenleaf: ah yes, that workaround wasn't documented yet at the time of writing. For anyone curious to know how to export more than 500 rows at once see

@Webmaster: wow, that's awesome! Let us know how the campaigns perform.

Arjan Snaterse said...

Great article! Btw: if you easily want to download more the 500 rows a time, you can use this Greasemonkey script. It allows you to download 50,000 rows a time and more.

Kang Deni said...

disini saya banyak belajar tentang SEO, pelajaran berharga bagi saya untuk lebih banyak lagi belajar disini
terima kasih

Anonymous said...

quick question: why pay for traffic you are currently getting for free?