Many advertisers waste money on inefficient Google Ads campaigns.
Amongst the biggest budget wasters are campaigns triggering searchers queries that are not relevant.
These wasted clicks drive up the total cost and make it a lot harder to get profitability.
The good news is that you can easily fix this issue by using negative keywords in Google Ads.
What are negative keywords?
Negative keywords prevent your ads from showing up for specific search queries.
Here’s a quick example.
Your store sells furniture, and your bid for the keyword “console”. While some of your searchers’ queries are related to table consoles, you see that your ads have shown for terms like “PlayStation 4 console” or “Xbox One console”.
As you don’t sell such products, showing your ad for these queries drains your budget.
So, to fix this problem, you add “playstation 4 console” and “xbox one console” as negative keywords.
These two negative keywords will stop Google from showing your furniture ads when people search for video game consoles.
The benefits of using negative keywords
As this example shows, the main benefit of negative keywords is that they save you money.
But there are a few additional benefits:
Increase click-through rate (CTR): show for more relevant search queries
Improve quality score: better CTR leads to a higher quality score which leads to a lower CPC
Increase conversion rate: get higher quality visitors to your website
How to find your negative keywords
Now that you know what negative keywords are and why you should use them, it’s time to find the ones you should add to your campaign and ad groups.
The way we’ll find these keywords is to go very broad at first. We’ll use a bunch of different tools to find potential negative keywords. I like to dump them into a spreadsheet to review and sort them after.
I’ve put together a worksheet you can use to follow along.
The Google Keyword Planner is a great tool to find keywords you want to bid on, you can also use it to discover negative matches.
You can find it inside your Google Ads account:
Let’s say you have an ecommerce store where you sell mobile chargers. So, you type “charger” into the search bar.
As you can see in the image above, there is only one keyword that could be relevant for our smartphone business. The others are related to cars or football.
This is great as it allows you to select those relevant keywords and add them to your spreadsheet.
Search Terms Report
If you’re running Google Ads campaigns (Search or Shopping), the Google Search Terms Report will show you all the search queries for which your ads have appeared.
I usually tackle this report by sorting on Impressions.
Then I scroll through the list and look for poor performing keywords. These often will have a lot of impressions, a low CTR, or a high cost
This might be the simplest tool of all, a quick Google search will reveal keywords, products, and concepts and you might not have thought about.
The above search for “bike”, shows results for bike tours, bike maintenance equipment, a stationary fitness bike, and a bike-sharing system.
So as you go through these pages, you’ll stumble on a bunch of things that do not apply to your business. Add them all to your negative keyword spreadsheet.
Other keyword research tools
Soovle keyword tool
You can use a third-party tool like Soovle to discover even more negative matches. I admit it looks a bit dated but is still very useful. This free tool will show you popular search queries for your keyword on different websites, such as Google, YouTube, Amazon, and Wikipedia.
If you hover over the icons at the bottom of the search bar, you’ll see the results for each website. Go through them, and look for all the terms that are not relevant to your business.
I especially like the Amazon one, since most keywords there has commercial intent.
SEMrush provides a lot of the data that Google Keyword Tool used to provide.
It has a lot of recommendations for related keywords, ideal to discover more negatives.
You can also have a look at the keywords of your competitors, and discover new candidates that way.
Just from that list, we can already see a few searches for competitor products slipping through. These are ideal candidates to add to your potential negative keyword list.
SEMrush is a great tool, but it isn’t free. It lets you access to a limited amount of reports, ideal if you don’t need a lot of data, or want to test if its something for you.
Another tool I’d like to mention is Ahrefs . It’s similar to SEMrush but had a lot fewer PPC features. (When it comes to SEO I actually like Ahrefs a lot better)
But that makes it still very usable for our task at hand, do keyword research to find potential negative keywords.
Like SEMrush, Ahrefs is also a subscription-based tool. It doesn’t have a free plan.
Evaluating “bad keywords”
By now your spreadsheet should be pretty filled with plenty of potential negative keywords, time to evaluate them!
All the keywords in your list can be reduced to 4 groups of negative keywords. I usually will go through my list of keywords and create a column for each group, that will make the work in what follows easier.
The first thing I do is put all the completely irrelevant ones in a single column. These are the ones that hurt the performance of your ads and drain your budget. They are usually the easiest to spot and exclude.
You are selling phone chargers, and the search term is dodge charger
You’re selling robot lawn mowers and somebody is searching for “robot lawn mower diy”.
The second group consists of competitor terms. While it is tempting at first to show ads for these queries (if you sell the same products), they usually aren’t very effective.
Especially if you have a new or lesser-known store.
If you’re hesitant about excluding them and have actual data on them from your own campaigns, analyze the cost and revenue of these specific search queries. Maybe some competitors are profitable while others aren’t.
You sell car parts and someone searches for “amazon bull bar”. Should you exclude Amazon?
Products not sold
This group is similar to the competitor’s search terms. But instead of searches for an actual store, these are searches for products you don’t sell (yet).
Most people searching for a brand have already made up their minds, so it will be hard to convince them to buy the brand you’re selling instead.
CTRs and quality scores also won’t be stellar if you’re not actually using the search term in your ad.
Knowing that these search queries are happening can be a type of market research.
I have a client to whom I report these search queries. He uses it to identify trends in the market or new hot brands to sell or look into.
So you can exclude them, or leverage them like in the example above.
Very generic terms
The fourth and final group contains the keywords that are most difficult to evaluate.
These keywords are the ones you’d LOVE to show for organically (aka for free): they bring in a ton of traffic that is looking for what you’re selling.
Having these keywords in your campaign come with high costs (more clicks), low CTR, and conversion rates.
Which search queries you exclude will be unique from store to store. But if you’re already hurting for profitability, it’s best to exclude these.
But it’s also easy to be too aggressive in this area. Google Ads doesn’t always work very straightforward. Some searches don’t bring in sales directly but do introduce a lot of potential customers to the store.
So adding too many negative keywords could starve your campaigns from the oxygen you need to convert visitors later in the funnel.
This is a tricky balance that becomes a lot more important as you scale your campaigns.
Your store is selling lawn mowers and the search term is “lawn mowers”.
If you find it difficult to exclude such seemingly valuable search queries, the next section is for you.
The Grey Zone Search Query Checklist
This checklist will help you to decide what to do with the keywords you’re hesitant to exclude.
Should they stay, or should you add them as negative keywords?
I have included explanations to all questions to make them clear:
Does this search query have a low commercial intent?
If a search query has a low commercial intent, it means that searchers are not yet ready to buy your product.
Does this search query have a CTR that’s below average?
A below-average CTR means that your searchers are triggered by your ad, but they are not clicking it (as often as you like). If you’re running a Google Search Ads campaign, consider creating a new ad group with a more relevant ad for the search term.
Does this search query have a conversion rate that’s below average?
Does this search query have a cost per conversion that’s above average?
A below-average conversion rate and an above-average cost per conversion for a search query are indicators that the expectation of searchers are not met after they’ve clicked on your ad. There are many reasons why this happens (e.g., your landing page is not optimized for mobile devices). So unless you can figure out the reason, you should exclude them.
If you answered yes to any of the questions above, then you should consider adding that specific search term as a negative keyword.
How to add negative keywords to your campaigns
By this point, you should have reviewed all the potential
As soon as you are ready with evaluating the negative keywords in your spreadsheet, you can add them to your campaigns and ad groups.
First, go to the campaign where you want to add negative keywords. Navigate to the Keywords tab and click Negative Keywords in the top bar. Click the “+” icon to proceed.
You can select from two options there: “Add negative keywords or create new list” and “Use negative keyword list.”
The next section will look into creating negative keyword lists. Here we’ll focus on adding negatives to a specific campaign or ad group.
So why would you add negative keywords to an ad group instead of a campaign level?
Campaign level negative keywords are keywords you don’t want to show up for. These are the keywords we’ve been talking about in this article.
Ad group level negative keywords are to prevent a specific ad group triggering an ad for a search query. This is more of a campaign structure thing, like something you need to do with single keyword ad groups.
Now before we get to the practical side, there is one last important detail you need to know. That are the negative keyword match types.
Negative keyword match types
Like with regular keyword match types, these extras are modifiers you can add to your keywords to control how restrictive Google handles them.
We are going to look into all three negative keyword match types, starting with the most restrictive option.
Negative broad match is the strictest negative match type.
As you can see in the example above, if you add the negative broad match ‘running shoes,’ Google will prevent your ad from showing up for this exact phrase (running shoes), the reverse version (shoes running), but also when this exact phrase is included in a keyword (blue running shoes).
However, your ads will still show for searchers if their queries contain only a part of your negative keyword (running or shoes).
When you add a negative phrase match keyword, searchers won’t see your ad if their queries include the exact keyword terms in the same order.
So, if you add the negative phrase match keyword “running shoes”, your ad won’t show up for any queries that contain this phrase. But searchers who invert the order of the keyword (shoes running) will see your advertisement in Google.
Negative phrase match is my personal favorite as it gives advertisers a fine balance between control and flexibility. If you use this match type right, you can get rid of most irrelevant keywords while not hurting the reach of your ads.
Negative phrase match has one additional benefit. You know exactly what you’re excluding, unlike broad match where you could be excluding more searches than you think you are.
Every time you search for something related to your products, your competitors ads’ are right there, staring you in the face.
A common urge I see with many business owners is want to get their ads on top of their competitors.
But that’s not always a good strategy. At least, not if you want to run profitable campaigns.
Because from the outside, you have no idea wether your competitors are actually making any money from those ads. Even if they’ve been running them for many months or years, doesn’t mean a thing. (Trust me, I’ve seen the insides of hundreds of Google Ad accounts and can testify to this.)
So if you want to spend more to outrank your competitors, or just get started with Google Ads, it’s good to have a little more information.
How much are they spending? What keywords are they advertising on? And how profitable are they?
Of course, your competitors want to keep all of this information hidden. Heck, they might even be embarrassed about the amount of money they are throwing away.
But luckily for you they can’t hide everything.
In this article I’ll show you how with a little bit of time and the right tools, you can get find out what your Google Ads competitors are exactly doing.
Quick note before you go on: if you do decide to start with Google Ads, or want improve your current campaigns grab your free 6-page worksheet to guide you along!
Key Competitor Insights
Most people immediately start with the tools. These matter, but it’s more important to decide what we’re actually trying to find out.
To me these are the most interesting questions:
Which competitors are advertising on Google Ads?
How much traffic do they get?
How much are they paying for these visitors?
What are their most popular keywords?
What do their most important metrics look like? (Revenue, AOV, CAC & LTV?)
In what follows I’ll show you how to find this information.
1. Which competitors are using Google Ads?
The easiest way to discover who is advertising on Google Ads is to just search for a couple of keywords and see which advertisers show up.
That’s a good start, but know that this approach might only show part of the playing field:
Geography & language: the results are limited to the location and language of your browser
Keywords: you need to have some clue of their keywords
Schedule: advertisers can configure their ads to only show during certain times. So repeat your search at different times of the day and days of the week.
Ad budget: Their budget might be exhausted, causing them not to show for that time of the day
For the advertisers that show up, you can take a look at their numbers with a tool called Similarweb.
Here you get a quick look at the traffic sources of this website. (I’ve verified this traffic split with a couple of site where I have access to the Google Analytics and it was very accurate, with about a 5% difference for some numbers)
If you scroll down to the Search section:
Here you can see the split between organic and paid search traffic. The right side of the chart is the most interesting.
(I also tested this split for accuracy with a couple of clients and was satisfied with the estimates)
Google Ads Auction Insights
If you are already running Google Ads campaigns, you can more detailed information from the Google Ads Auction Insights report. This report will tell you how you compare to other advertisers for your whole account, a specific campaign or a specific ad group.
The great thing with this method is that you get a pretty clear picture of which advertisers you’re competing with and how aggressive they are.
Here is a look at the Auction Insights report for a campaign of one of my clients:
In the first column of the table you can see all the other advertisers, I’ve blurred most out for confidentiality but you can see a couple of big stores like Amazon and Target.
If your report shows these type of big competitors, don’t be scared off. It is possible to compete against these giants if you do things right.
But because these businesses operate pretty differently than you are, I’ll leave them out of the research. If we’re looking for actionable information that you can use in our campaigns and business, so you need competitors that sell similar items to what you sell.
If you sell outdoor furniture, you need to look into other outdoor furniture stores, not a store like Walmart which sells a bit of everything.
2. How much Google Ads traffic do your competitors get?
As I shown you above, my goto tool to find traffic numbers for any website used to be Similarweb.
Unfortunately they don’t show that info anymore for a lot of sites? Especially for smaller ones you’ll often see the following:
My guess is that some their estimates weren’t 100% so they cut some unreliable data sources.
But although Similarweb doesn’t always show the actual number of visitors, knowing the split between the different traffic sources can be valuable. You can compare and see where your own traffic comes from.
Let say an advertiser gets 2000 visitors/month via organic search, and that’s 50% of their traffic. If they look at that traffic sources report for one of their competitors and see they get 75% through organic search, it could mean there is potential in this channel.
But a lot of that is guestimating and speculating, let’s see how we can find the actual traffic numbers.
A) If you’re running Google Ads Campaigns
If you’re running Google Ads campaign, the Auction Insights I’ve mentioned above are a great source of information:
You can see Dominant Danny, amazon.com, You (my client), target.com & Lagging Larry.
Out of all the data in this table, these are the most important metrics:
Impression share: what percentage of the time did this advertiser show up vs all the potential impressions?
Outranking share: what percentage of the time did this advertiser outrank my client?
Let’s take a look at some specifics:
Dominant Danny has the highest Impression Share of all advertisers with these same set of keywords. This store is showing up in 82% of all searches while my client only shows 35% of the time.
Very rough math means that if my client could get to that level of traffic, we would be looking at 2.5x the clicks and 2.5x cost and potentially 2.5x the revenue.
The reasons for a low Impression Share can be a lower ad budget, lower max CPCs or lower quality scores.
B) If you’re running NOT Google Ads Campaigns
There are a ton of keyword/PPC tools that specialise in giving this competitive research information.
These will give you the number of keywords that a business is advertising on, how much traffic that drives and what that cost.
because there are many tools out there that look similar, I decided to run a quick test to test their usefulness and accuracy. I compared a US-based client’s data to the results from these tools.
Here is what that looked like:
These aren’t great results. Of the 5 tools that I tested, only SpyFu came close.
I know that the results from these type of tools can can vary wildly depending on which website you are researching. I’m guessing that bigger accounts will also have more accurate data.
But if you’re interested about any of these tools, scroll to the end of the article where I’ve included a bit more info on each tool.
3. What are your competitors’ top keywords?
Here is where you are at. You know:
Which competitors are advertising on Google Ads
How much traffic they get?
A rough estimate how much they are spending.
Now it’s time to dig a little deeper and discover the Google Ads keywords that your competitors are advertising on.
The tools I’ve mentioned before can help you to find the keywords and the traffic they get from them.
Here is a report I pulled from SEMrush while researching Allbirds:
It starts with the basics: which keywords, the monthly search volumes and their estimated CPCs. The last two columns give you more insights into the role of a specific keyword for an advertiser.
The traffic % and cost % allow you to quickly focus on the most important keywords.
Knowing which keywords are most popular for a brand is interesting. But it would be even more interesting to know how profitable these keywords are.
Here is my rule of thumb, from most to least profitable keywords:
Type 1: Store brand keywords: searches for the store’s name
Type 2: 3rd-party branded keywords: searches for the brands and products that a store sells
Type 3: specific non-branded keywords: detailed searches for products
Type 4: general non-branded keywords: very broad category searches
As I said, the most profitable searches in any account are those for the store’s brand. These branded keywords have an ROI of 50-300x. Many stores are hesitant to advertise on them, but the cost is so low that they often are a good investment.
Example of the potential ROI of branded keywords
But this can also work if you’re competing with that brand.
If you see a competitor with a large amount of branded keywords, you could try to set up a campaign to target these competitor searches with your ads. While it’s easy to steal clicks in this way, the orders don’t often follow.
It can work for some brands, but in most cases competitor branded keywords are out of reach.
A better approach is to try and discover the type 2 and type 3 keywords from a competitor.
Try to see which on which products and brands they are advertising on. And how long they’ve been advertising on them.
That’s a good start to judge profitability of a keyword. But as I said before, this logic doesn’t always hold up. Some advertisers will continue to plow money into unprofitable keywords for many years.
Let’s take a look at a couple of specific tools to see how they can help with the research.
In Similarweb, you can actually get the % split of branded traffic, with the actual keywords.
SEMrush has a report which gives a pretty solid overview of the keywords, traffic volume and percentage of all traffic.
Checking again for my client, the number keywords is off, but SEMrush manages to identify almost all of the most trafficked ones.
Ahrefs has a very similar keyword overview and their numbers are in the same ballpark as SEMrush. The biggest issue is that Ahrefs attributes even less keywords, only 25 vs the 146 active ones we have in the account.
iSpionage has an interesting report with the most profitable keywords.
The top 3 keywords it surfaced for this client are indeed amongst the more profitable ones and not just the ones with the most traffic.
As part of SpyFu it has a built-in Google Ads advisor where it tells not only what’s happening but also what you should do.
Here is a report with some keywords suggestions that are missing for this client but that other advertisers are using.
So while there is no single tool that you can use for all your needs, crosschecking a couple of sites in the different tools will give you a good idea about the most interesting keywords, their popularity and search volumes.
4. How much money are your competitors making from Google Ads?
Here is where Google Ads gets complicated (and very interesting!). If two advertisers sell the exact same products, run the exact same campaigns, ads and keywords, the results can still be different.
Especially in bigger accounts (with budgets over $5k/month), the foundational parts become essential to succeed.
There are tons of great articles on how to do keyword research.
And rightly so. Finding the right keywords can be extremely valuable to your business.
But unfortunately, most keyword research ends up in a forgotten spreadsheet somewhere.
I’ve been guilty of this myself. Many times I’ve started the research but didn’t follow through somewhere along the way. I have even delivered keyword research reports to clients and failed to help them to take action based on those findings.
So rather than attempting to describe the perfect keyword research process, the focus of this article will be to do keyword research that you can use to get your Google Ads campaigns up and running.
To make the approach more practical I’ll do the actual keyword research to set up Google Ads campaigns for my own online store, Apes In Space.
Let’s get started!
Bonus: follow along this post with your own keyword research worksheet. Grab it here!
As I said, the goal for this article is to do keyword research that you will actually use. To do that I’m going to cut corners to speed up the whole process.
The most important difference with mostarticlesout there, is that they are focused on SEO.
When you’re doing keyword research for SEO, you’re looking for the keywords that are worth investing time and resources in. You’re looking for the keywords that are valuable to rank for and then try to narrow down that list to the ones within your current potential and resources.
So with SEO, the goal is is to get as much relevant traffic to your site as possible.
So keyword research for Google Ads aims to research a subset of all possible keywords, the ones with the highest potential ROI.
Let’s take a look at some differences between keywords.
The Different types of keywords
For the example in this section, pretend you are a seller of audio equipment.
Check out these 4 searches that someone used before they purchased one of your products:
How to soundproof my room
Best microphones for podcasting
Blue yeti microphone
Now let’s dig a bit deeper into each of these search queries.
Search query #1: “How to soundproof my room”
User goal: wants to reduce the echo in a room.
We don’t know why, Maybe it’s because the room doesn’t feel cosy, or because they’ve heard people on the phone ask them if they’re in a hallway, instead of their lovely office. All we know is they want to know how to soundproof their room.
That means the purchase intent isn’t very strong. They’re trying to understand the exact problem and aren’t ready to settle on one solution yet.
So showing an advertisement for one specific product won’t be very effective.
Here is what the search results look like for that query:
The huge video and knowledge box below it shows that Google know that people looking for this search query have a problem they’re trying to solve.
After heading off to YouTube and watching some videos, our study object has gotten a lot smarter about acoustics. He realizes that he can soundproof all his walls and still have poor audio quality.
So he wants to see if changing his microphone will actually improve the quality.
So he takes to Google:
This broad category search is more commercial, illustrated by the Shopping ads that are more prominently featured.
But result #2 is wikipedia, so Google know this searcher is still looking for info.
Maybe he starts with the wikipedia pages to discover what the characteristics of a good microphone are and why some are cheap while others are expensive.
Search query #3: “best microphones for podcasting”
While researching, he has found that not all microphones are equal. Ones for singers are radically different from those used for podcasting, the actual reason he’s searching on Google.
So now, he digs deeper into the podcasting microphones.
In the organic search results, you can see a lot of lists, top 10, review sites:
Keyword #4: “blue yeti microphone”
From the previous search, he has learned a lot about podcast microphones and has made up his mind.
He wants to get the blue yeti microphone. Now he wants to find the best deal.
In the results you can see pretty commercial listings: products pages, star ratings, pricing, etc.
Keywords And Purchase Intent
I hope the long winded example from the previous section actually make it more obvious that there can be a lot of information packed into a small number of words.
Most search queries can be subdivided as follows:
Informational: how to, what, when
Orienting: best, review, compare, etc.
Transactional: product searches, price, buy
The most important lesson takeaway is that not every search has the same value.
A visitor coming from a transactional search query will have a higher conversion rate and therefore higher value compared to an informational search query.
So if you have to pay for each click, it makes sense to focus on the most valuable searches.
There often is little opportunity to advertise on informational queries on Google Ads. If you remember that first example search query above, Google only showed a few ads. Sometimes, Google doesn’t even bother to place ads, because it has seen from its experiments that users don’t click on them for those type of searches.
But with other queries, people do click on the ads. This difference between search queries is not a secret, Google knows it and so do your competitors.
If you’re doing keyword research for SEO, a lot of time is spent to find the keywords that will allow you to capture these informational search queries.
But in what follows, I’ll skip that part and focus on orienting and transactional search queries.
Step 1: Finding Your Seed Keywords
Time needed for this step: 30 mins – 1 hour
With all of that background, we can (finally!) start the keyword research.
To start, you’ll need to come up with some guesses for relevant keywords, these will be your seed keywords.
Look at your own site and take note of page titles, categories, product names or brands. Look at the text you use in your navigation.
The easiest ones are probably the phrases that describe the category you’re in.
If you are selling your own or third party brands, your seed keywords will include combinations of these: brand and brand + product.
For my own store (which sells space posters) I came up with the following:
If your store has been up for a while, you can crack open Search Console and see if you can spot interesting keywords in the Performance report:
These reports will often show you interesting new keywords, so make sure to have a look!
How To Steal Your Competitors Most Important Keywords
If you don’t have any idea about your seed keywords h, you can always head over to your competitors sites. Just plug in your top keywords into Google and go through 2 or 3 of the sites that rank well for them.
The biggest ones have probably done their homework or spent $$$ on SEO consultants to get this right.
Here is a look at one of the biggest sites in the poster space: Allposters.com
I found them through a Google Search for “space posters”.
Looking at the breadcrumbs of the page I landed on I can see that Space is probably not a big category for them, as it is gIt is grouped under the “other subjects” category.
From their navigation and category pages I can see a lot of other keywords with potential:
astronaut posters ( including the name of the most famous ones)
Apollo spacecraft posters
International space station posters
Mars rover posters
Space shuttle posters
Space exploration posters
Here is what we’ll do with them.
Probably the only tool you absolutely need for keyword research is a spreadsheet. So that’s where I’ll be organising all of my information.
I’ve added all my own keywords and those from my competitor research to the first sheet:
Now that we have our seed keywords, it is time to see if they make sense.
We’ll do that by using some keyword research tools. These will give us the search volumes and interesting alternatives like synonyms or related keywords.
Now the question that’s on everyone’s mind: which keyword tool should you use?
My default recommendation has always been Google Ads’ very own Keyword Planner.
But the last couple of years it has lost a lot of its glory: interface is a mess, it stopped showing all search queries, started grouping keywords into buckets and made it a requirement that you have active campaigns in order to use it.
For SEO research I use some of the tools that I’ve listed below. But for Google Ads I don’t need the data to be 100% accurate. So I still use the Keyword Planner to start out. But I always keep in mind that the volumes aren’t accurate and that I’m not seeing all the keywords.
So in what follows I’m going to use the Keyword Planner. If you don’t have access or would like to use a different tool, great. The approach won’t be very different:
Plug in your seed keywords
Comb through the suggestions
Export suggestion to your spreadsheet
For our example, I start by plugging in “space posters”:
You can see my seed keyword “space posters” up top. Next to it are a couple of columns: monthly searches, competition, ad impression share and suggested “Top of page bid”.
The monthly search volumes aren’t super accurate, but they give a good idea of the ballpark volume for any keyword.
Next I start scrolling through this list.
And from this first search I already stumble on a couple of interesting keywords I hadn’t considered: space prints, nasa prints, hubble prints, nasa space posters, nasa jpl posters, outer space posters, large space posters, etc.
I don’t know yet if these keywords are valuable and will be in my campaigns, so I Add them to my Keyword plan:
This allows me to export all interesting keyword ideas and review them in my spreadsheet later. Don’t just gloss over the first page, keep going through till page 3 and 4 to find the gems.
If you spot obvious irrelevant keywords that are closely related to they keywords you’ve found, I also add them to my list. These will make a perfect negative keywords list to start out with. Otherwise I’d have to pay for that traffic and only after exclude it.
Then I repeat this process with the next keyword in my seed list: moon posters.
As you do this for all of your seed keywords, you’ll discover that you won’t add that many new ones over time, or the ones that remain have a low search volume (10-20 searches/month). That’s because the best ones are already in your list. Don’t worry about that and just keep expanding your list of keywords.
Then when you think you’re ready, export your Keyword Plan:
In the dropdown, choose “Plan historical metrics (.csv)”.
If you can’t or don’t want to use Keyword Planner, you can also use other tools like Semrush or ahrefs.
These tools will provide a similar set of keyword data. On top of that they will have extra features to discover the most valuable keywords. One of their biggest advantages is their competitor keyword research reports. That allows you to tap directly into your competitors Google Ads campaigns.
Doing all the above is pretty straight forward for branded and product keywords. Usually it’s the generic keywords where you’ll spend most time one.
At the end of this step, you should have a big keyword dump in your spreadsheet. In the next step, i’ll show you how to turn this list into something actionable.
Step 3: Keyword Review
1 – 4 hours
For my own store the previous step produced 279 keywords. This is not a lot by the way, if you’re selling 100 products you can easily have 200 keywords just from the brand and products searches alone. So..
That can be through the type of search queries, like specific product searches, they use or through their behaviour like browsing products on your site.
You can be pretty direct in your messaging. Because these people know what to buy, you can reinforce why they should buy from you. This means that you can send them directly to your product and category pages and generate sales.
A great analogy for this Do stage is that you’re harvesting the demand. The people you want to reach have already done their research and are ready to buy.
But that doesn’t mean that just showing up with ads is sufficient. There are plenty of factors why things might not work: price, product, the trustworthiness of the site, shipping costs, delivery time and payment options, etc. All of these need to be to the customer’s liking before he or she will pull the trigger.
Types of campaigns
Branded search campaigns: a search campaign that targets your brand name. These usually are the cheapest and most profitable campaigns.
Competitor brand campaigns: a search campaign targeting your competitors brand. Guaranteed to annoy your competitors and doesn’t always work.
Product brand search campaigns: if you’re selling other brands, you can borrow some of their brand power and run campaigns targeting searches for the brand/product/SKUs. These are often the most competitive keywords because you’re competing with other sites selling similar products. That’s something you will see in your conversion rate.
Remarketing Lists for search ads or RLSA campaigns: allow you to target people that have been on your site, and are searching again in Google. You can simply use a bid adjustment for this specific audience in your regular search campaigns.
Similar to Search campaigns, you can also target brand and product brand search queries with specific Google Shopping campaigns.
Branded shopping campaigns: these usually work if you’re a big brand. People would search for store name + product
Product brand shopping campaigns: these are searches for products brands or actual products that you sell.
Remarketing campaigns target people that have been on the website before.
You can either show a static banner, these are the regular remarketing campaigns or the specific products a visitor was looking at, this is dynamic remarketing.
The relevance of the latter really draws attention. These campaigns usually work well.
They are good KPIs to evaluate the effectiveness of your campaigns in the Do stage: Conversions, Cost per action, revenue, ROAS, and profit.
The Think Stage
In this stage, you’re one step removed from the sale. You’ll attract people that know they have a problem or want something but they’re just not sure on the details yet.
Your goal with these campaigns is to get potential customers to engage with your brand and site. Perhaps that means signing up for your newsletter or checking out key pages on your site.
This doesn’t mean that you’ll never make sales from these campaigns, it’s just that the conversion rate will be low and the CPA high. So if you’re expecting the same results for your investment as in the Do stage, you’ll quickly get frustrated and cut these campaigns.
Your goal is to get people to your site and become part of their consideration list.
So later when they are ready to buy, your store will be a bit fresher in their mind. That can be because you’re sending them emails or because they see a remarketing banner.
The type of ads you create in this stage can vary widely.
For search, it still will be pretty straight forward because you put in your ad what people are searching for.
But it gets trickier with Display or YouTube campaigns. The people you’re reaching with those ads aren’t (at that moment) looking for your products.
So a banner or video that says: “Come check out our awesome products” won’t work.
You’ll need to interrupt what they are doing and try to grab their attention with a different offer or call to action.
And instead of sending traffic to product pages, you need alternatives that will be of interest and benefit your store and customers.
These are things like buying guides, product comparisons, newsletter signup, wish lists, etc.
Here is what that looks like on a product detail page from Purple:
These red arrows point to things that are key in the Think stage.
The Reviews section can help with that.
The “Try in store” addresses the most common obstacle in people purchasing something like a mattress online: they want to try it first.
Trying to get visitors to do other things apart from buying might seem backward.
But at this point, you need to match the intent of your customer. If they want to explore all options, and you force them into 1 product, it simply is not going to work.
(This is one of the most common mistakes with Facebook ads)
Because rather than showing a very commercial message, you’re grabbing the attention of people that might be interested.
Especially if you’ve chosen your placements well, you’ll see good results.
What’s important at this stage is to try and get to the financials as quickly as you can. The amount of traffic at the Think stage is a lot higher, so the overall cost of these campaigns can also be higher but that is compensated by the cost per click, which should be lower.
If you can’t convert visitors directly, try to get an idea of what micro conversions are worth to you:
What’s an email subscriber worth?
Someone creating an account on your store?
A visitor that downloads your buying guide?
Types of campaigns
Unbranded search campaigns target people that show a slight purchase intent.
Examples: “anti-aging cream”, “thin hair” or “vitamins for thin hair”.
The importance here is that you can back up the claim you make in your ads.
If a visitor searches and clicks on an ad that says: “Largest Selection Of Camping Tents. Browse now!” and you only have an organic, handmade $1000, 1-person tent, that visitor isn’t going to engage with your site whatsoever.
Unbranded shopping campaigns work very similar to search. Controlling your Shopping campaigns on a keyword level will also allow you to set correct bids to capture these searches, but not overpay for them.
Unbranded shopping queries can literally go down to $0.02 – $0.05, so you can attract tons of traffic with this setup.
With campaigns on the Display Network, you’ll show banners with attractive offers to people on Google’s Network of 3rd party websites.
I use a lot of ecommerce benchmarks in my client projects. For new clients, these metrics offer a great way to put together a plan to set goals and expectations. And with existing clients, benchmarks are good way to see how we stack up against others.
This article bundles all of the different research and reports that I have collected over the years.
Data disclaimer: I try to focus on recent, high quality studies with a large enough sample sizes. But benchmarks can vary between studies for a number of reasons.
So keep that in mind while you go through the list below. These ecommerce metric benchmarks are meant to give you direction, not a hard target.
This list of metric benchmarks is a long one. Use the links below to skip to the section you need.
Why should you care?
How do your traffic sources stack up? Does your list look different than the ones sorted by visitors? This can be an indicator that the effectiveness of your investments is off. You could be attracting a lot of organic traffic, but get no sales from it. This means that you’re missing critical links in addressing the buyer process.
Many of my own clients outperform the list above when it comes to paid search. Both in terms of traffic and revenue. This might show there are opportunities to invest in other channels.
Why should you care?
These numbers will vary widely depending on your industry and website. But a general rule is that more engagement with your site is better. If your numbers are totally off (such as a bounce rate of 88%), try comparing buyers to non-buyers on your site.
Transaction path length
For the visitors that have converted, how many sessions did it take before they converted?
Why should you care?
Many store owners expect to make a sale the first time someone visits their site. These benchmarks show that most of your revenue will actually come from visitors that come back to your site. That’s why it is so important to have a strategy that brings visitors back to your website.
Ecommerce Average Order Value
Average order value (by traffic source)
Why should you care? Your average order value (AOV) depends on the type of products you sell. But solid businesses bring in solid revenue. And building an ecommerce empire on $150 orders is a lot easier than doing it on $10 orders. If your order value is too, low, you might need new products or cross/upsell more effectively.
Why should you care?
These numbers illustrate what great stores do compared to the average ones. If all else stays equal, the better performing stores get a 30% higher average order value. This extra revenue allows them to invest more and get even further ahead.
Why should you care?
The table shows a breakdown of the different conversion rates you can expect for each of your marketing channels. If you’re not hitting the average ones, maybe it’s time to review the effectiveness of your efforts.
Also compare the average with the conversion rates that the top 25% of the stores in the study are generating. For most channels, they convert more than DOUBLE the rate of the other stores. This gives them a huge competitive advantage.
What's A Good Ecommerce Conversion Rate? - YouTube
Why should you care?
Mobile visitors convert at almost half the rate of desktop visitors. That’s a fact and these benchmarks illustrate it. So what do you do about it? Eliminate paying for mobile traffic? Probably not as that will limit your turnover. But continue to optimize your mobile experience is a good start.
Why should you care? If your visitors don’t buy, have a look at the add-to-cart rates for your store. Are people adding product to their baskets? You might need to configure extra ecommerce analytics to be bale to track this metric.
Cart Abandonment Rate
The average shopping cart abandonment rate is 69.89%%.
Why should you care? It can be frustrating to see visitors add things to their carts, but then abandon the checkout later.
But most of these visitors were never going to buy anyway. About 58% of all those abandoned carts claim it’s because they were “just browsing”. Many use the shopping cart as a save for later list.
That doesn’t mean that there is nothing you can do about the remaining 40%. If you score below this benchmark, take a look how you could improve your checkout experience to generate more sales.
Annual Ecommerce growth rate
Stores with an annual revenue between $0-1 million have an annualgrowth rate of 137%.
Why should you care?
Keeping track of this metric is a pretty advanced thing to do. But if you know how fast the best stores in your industry are growing, it will help you to set realistic growth targets for your own store.
It’s a good indicator of when you will need to move past the low-hanging fruit and start exploring new sources of growth. In the early days of your company, you can double your business simply by building awareness. But after you’ll need to grow more deliberately: improve your website, start advertising or get serious about your email list.
Why should you care?
Solid businesses are build on repeat orders. It’s cheaper to get your existing customers to buy again, and if that revenue reaches scale, your store really grows leaps and bounds.
The top companies excel at retaining customers, even at the start of their business.
Average Gross Margins in Ecommerce
Average gross margins sit in the 30-40% range.
Source: MarketingSherpa (2014)
Note: data gathered in a survey from 4,346 ecommerce professionals
Why should you care?
The average gross margin for your industry might be very different. But one interesting remark from this study is that the gross margin increases with the size of the business increases. This makes sense because as the business grows in size, it should run its operations more efficient.
As said before, this metric can be a target. If you’re far below, you should explore how your competitors might be able to achieve better margins.
Customer acquisition cost for repeat customers is between ⅛ and ⅓ of the original cost.
Source: couldn’t find any but this number is thrown around a lot.
Why should you care? You need to spend big money to get customers into your world. But getting them to buy again will cost you a lot less. It’s also good to remember that getting an existing customer to buy again often isn’t free if you factor in things like email marketing.-
Google Ads benchmarks
Google Ads Clickthrough Rate (by network)
Search Network: 2.69%
Source: Wordstream Google Ads Benchmarks (2018)
Notes: data from 14,197 US-based WordStream client accounts in all verticals (representing over $200 million in aggregate Google Ads spend) who were advertising on Google’s Search and Display networks between August 2017 and January 2018
Why should you care?
I use this CTRs as a minimum threshold for my Google Ads campaigns.
Average Google Ads Clickthrough Rate (by percentile)
Why should you care?
Rather than aiming for the average, these numbers show what great advertisers are doing. The best ones (in the 90th percentile) are getting almost 5X the CTR vs the lower performing ones. On Google Ads this translates into a great quality score, and a lower cost per click.
Why should you care?
Unlike other traffic sources, Google Ads gives you control of who you attract to your site. These conversion rates give you an idea of the quality of the visitors you should be bringing to your site.
Why should you care?
I have to say that these CPAs are very high to me. Most of my clients have customer acquisition costs well below $45, spending this much for a customer would make it unprofitable.
But similar to the Google Ads conversion rates, these should give you a rough idea if you can make Google Ads work for your store. But realize that you can do better (and have to if you want to turn a profit).
Google Shopping benchmarks
Google Shopping Revenue share (by device)
Why should you care?
This table is gold. You can see where you stack up against your competitors on the actual performance. These numbers decide evaluate if you can be an effective competitor. If one or more of these metrics is far above what you’re hitting, you need to dig deep to find out what this is happening. And start optimizing!
Average Google Shopping Cost per click (by device)
If your emails don’t get opened, you don’t have a chance of selling. Email open rates are very dependent on list quality, sending frequency and strength of the subject line. If you are far below the benchmark, consider segmenting or working harder on your subject lines