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Making Use of Google Keyword Status Data

In a paid search program with thousands to hundreds of thousands of terms it is common for an appreciable percentage of keywords to have very low impression volume or to receive no impressions at all.  For these cases it is important to understand whether this is an indication of a remediable problem or if the keyword simply has low search volume. In the AdWords interface, Google provides several pieces of information at the keyword level to help make that determination.  Here are a few things to check for and some tactics for fixing the noted issues. "Rarely Shown Due to Low Quality Score" - If you see this status you can dig a little deeper into why Google has given your term a low Quality Score by hovering over the speech bubble in the status column.  You will see three Quality Score criteria and a rank of Poor or No problems. If you have a rank of Poor for any of these, here are a few tactics you can try.
  • Keyword Relevance – The keyword is probably too general or suggests low commercial intent.  Unfortunately, Google suggests little recourse is available in these cases other than to run more specific keywords.
  • Landing Page Quality – Ensure the landing page delivers a good user experience by providing useful and relevant information while being easy to navigate.
  • Landing Page Load Time – Use fewer and faster redirects, reduce the size of the landing page data (including images) and continuously monitor both web host and redirect servers to ensure quick load times.
In addition, since Quality Score is largely a representation of a keyword's potential click-through rate, best practices to improve that metric should be employed as well. "Below First Page Bid" - These days, having a bid that falls below the first page minimum is about equivalent to the keyword being turned off entirely.  A couple of tips for this scenario:
  • Don’t simply raise your bid! The First Page Bid threshold is determined by Google for a particular keyword-matchtype depending on its Quality Score and competition.  Try improving the Quality Score by making sure you have tightly themed ad groups with high keyword to ad creative relevancy.
  • If you are willing to be a little aggressive with your bidding, you can use AdWords Editor to select the affected keywords and click Advanced Bid Changes in the Edit Selected Keywords pane on the bottom to raise keyword maximum CPC bids to their first page bid estimates.  Then, repeat the process and “Increase bids by X percent” to minimize the chances of immediately dropping off the first page again if one of your competitors adjusts.  Note that by doing this you are likely to override your ROI target for these keywords.
"Low Search Volume" - As we noted above, we expect some keywords to simply not have enough search volume to receive many impressions and it's understandable that Google would not handle matching them to search queries as well as higher traffic terms.  Still, there's some information to be gleaned by reviewing the status details for these cases, again by hovering over the speech bubble.
  • “One of your other ads is showing for this keyword” – While you may see this explanation for the other status indicators as well, it is common for terms with Low Search Volume and typically indicates a similar, but more general keyword or a duplicate keyword on a broader matchtype will show instead.   You can't force Google to show a particular keyword and matchtype if they deem it too low volume, but you can prevent other keywords from showing for the query through the use of negatives.
  • Like Keyword Relevance above, at a certain point there's not much you can do about Low Search Volume terms and the best tactic may just be to continue building out new terms.  Google reevaluates terms with a low volume status weekly and you may find they ultimately get reactivated due to an increase in searches.
Regardless of the issue, you cannot go wrong if you continually test and attempt to maximize the relevancy between your keywords, ad creatives and landing pages.  Google's keyword status information can be an invaluable resource for guiding those efforts.
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