SEM Top 10: Grow Your Phrase List

Search engine marketing (SEM) is often correctly described as complicated. But as the saying goes, Where there’s complexity there’s opportunity, and the principles that lead to successful SEM are actually quite simple. Over the next 10 weeks, we’ll walk through a top-10 list of SEM best practices. This week we’ll look at how to grow your phrase list.

The heart of a successful paid-search campaign is a well-designed, comprehensive keyword list. How many phrases or keywords you need depends on the nature of your business and the size of your product assortment. As a rule of thumb, we recommend testing between two and 10 phrases for each page on your site. So if you sell 2,000 products, we recommend testing 4,000-20,000 unique phrases.

Yes, that’s a lot. Here how to get there:

Develop phrases for each of your product pages. Don’t forget misspellings and alternate forms. Tip: Mine your site’s internal search logs, including the “not found” list.

Develop phrases for each of your product category pages. Let your Website’s navigation guide you, and be sure that you hit every level of the drilldown. Tip: This is also a chance to informally audit the language you use on these labels. If you encounter wording that doesn’t sound like the way a customer would describe your product, change the language. This will make your site more appealing to customers as well as to natural search spiders.

If you sell branded products, develop phrases for each of your vendors’ names and their brands. Develop phrases for your item numbers and your vendor item numbers, if these SKUs are in common use.

Think about the possible problems solved by each of your products or services, and develop related phrases. This is a good way to meet the prospect for whom you are a great match but who is unaware of your name or your vendor brands.

Before you launch your list, make sure you have appropriate rights to use any trademarks, registered marks, or copyrighted terms.

Of course, to separate winners from losers in your extensive list, you’ll want to use a detailed unique tracking code for each phrase. Next week, we’ll talk about how to do this.

Alan Rimm-Kaufman is founder and Larry Becker is vice president, marketing and business development for The Rimm-Kaufman Group, an online-marketing consultancy based in Charlottesville, VA.