Distinguishing Between Primary and Secondary Keywords for PPC Campaigns

Distinguishing Between Primary and Secondary Keywords for PPC Campaigns

Primary vs. Secondary Keywords for Paid Search Campaigns | BlueprintMany factors should influence which keywords, or keyphrases, you focus on when building your PPC campaign including: search volume, competition, importance of a keyword to a client’s success, where a keyword falls within the conversion funnel, AdWords’ suggested bid, and more. It can be quite a challenge sorting through hundreds or thousands of keywords to decide which ad groups to build ads for first and which words to bid the highest on, especially if your resources are limited.

To ease this decision process, we at Blueprint split our initial list of keywords into two separate lists: primary and secondary keywords. If your budget or time is limited, secondary keywords should be addressed after primary keywords have been spoken for. That being said, we do believe secondary keywords can contribute to a campaign, otherwise we’d leave them out of our campaign entirely. Here is how we classify a keyword as either primary or secondary:

Primary Keywords

A word or phrase is typically considered primary for two main reasons. Specificity of the phrase is one large consideration. A highly specific search query usually implies that the consumer is approaching the bottom of the conversion funnel; therefore, an ad triggered by a very specific keyphrase is more likely to lead to a conversion. For example, a person searching for a “2010 Hyundai Santa Fe” has much more conversion potential than a person searching for “cars.” Highly specific keyphrases will generate higher click through rates, as they tend to increase the likelihood that your ad is relevant to a given query. Lengthening a keyphrase can also increase this likelihood, as longer phrases are often more specific.

A second reason why a keyphrase would be put on our primary list is that it’s in line with a company’s primary business goals. This could mean a variety of things; it could mean that the keyphrase represents the product or product category bringing in the most revenue; it could also mean that the keyphrase is associated with a product or service a company is struggling to sell, but is trying hard to make profitable. Certain positive and negative adjectives or modifiers can also be added to a keyphrase, to completely alter whether or not a keyphrase is in line with primary business goals. For example, if a company is trying to sell paint, then the keyphrase “buy black paint” is very different than the keyphrase “black paint designs.” The first phrase is in line with the primary goal of selling paint, while the second phrase is not as relevant. The second phrase could either be left off the PPC campaign entirely, added to our secondary keyphrase list, or “designs” could be added as a negative keyword. At times this decision can be subjective and must be made on a phrase-to-phrase basis.

Secondary Keywords

Secondary keyphrases oppose our primary keyphrases in that they’re more broad than specific, and, therefore, may result in traffic that’s not completely aligned with a company’s goals. However, secondary keyphrases still deserve consideration for inclusion in a campaign, often being used to increase awareness.

Consider building a PPC campaign for a fabric store. We would likely classify the keyphrase “curtains” as a secondary keyphrase. “Curtains” is too broad of a search query to assume that the searcher is looking to buy curtain fabric. This person could be searching for curtain rods, curtain hardware, curtain ideas, etc. A primary keyphrase equivalent might be “curtain fabrics” or “buy curtain fabric.” Negative keywords can be added to more closely align a secondary keyphrase with the right user. In this example, “rods,” hardware,” or “ideas” could be added as a negative keyword to avoid spending money on people searching for items not sold in the fabric store.

Now consider you are building a PPC campaign for an online fabric shop that also offers a supplementary upholstery service. Note that this shop does not specialize in upholstery, so the margins for upholstery are low, and the price point is quite high. In this situation, your primary keyphrases should be focused on selling fabric, while a secondary “upholstery” ad group can be designated to keyphrases related to your upholstery service.

Organizing and prioritizing your keyphrase list gets easier with AdWords knowledge and experience, but it will always remain a highly subjective process. In addition to easing this process, splitting your keyphrase list into primary and secondary keyphrases assures that your list is prioritized in a meaningful way, and not just by search volume, or by which phrases you can afford to win on.

By: Jacob Oliver
  • Jeff Cline

    Nice post Jake. Understanding the value of primary and secondary terms can help in so many ways.

    “Carpet Cleaners” might bring you a service or a bottled product – and choosing the “right” term to target can make impacts to quality score, ad placement, and the one most business owners will argue as the most important – cost and return on investment.

    By separating these terms you allow yourself better insight into how effective each can be, and allow conscious data driven decisions that can guide budget allocation and performance to each.

    Any thoughts on how to align ad copy and landing page content & design to the primary vs. secondary keyword concept? Would love to hear more on this.