SEM: The Challenge of Technical Keywords

In our increasingly complex and technical world, we take for granted many new technologies and related terms that didn’t exist 10 years ago. Because searchers on the web have varying degrees of familiarity with these terms, their ability to find what they are looking for varies as well. To say that technical keywords present a challenge in digital marketing would be something of an understatement.

As technical terms and keywords grow continually, so grows the necessity to distinguish the nuances of our technical lexicon.

PPC, SEM and SEO - the challenge of technical keywordsEven in the practice of SEM / SEO , we have growing permutations of technical jargon. So when we market a client’s technical product or service, we should be equally sensitive to the many variations of terms that could  veer quality searchers away from our content. We should also be on the lookout for close match searches that bring the wrong kind of searcher to our online destinations – because we can be paying dearly for “clickers” who bounce away (leave our destination) quickly – which has negative consequences beyond just an irrelevant visit.

With SEO, we look at webmaster tools and analytics to determine what search terms are attracting visits, and we make a judgement call about the value of those terms – and based on that, we adjust.

With SEM, we use AdWords Dimensions to track terms that trigger paid clicks, and fine tune with negative keywords and keyword matching options. Let’s talk about that for a moment, and try to close the gap between what we think Google is supposed to do, and what we observe it actually doing in practice.

If you’ll look at the link above, at the way Google defines phrase match and exact match, I think you’ll find that in practice, query matches tend to be much less restrictive than those simple explanations provide. And this tendency is greatly magnified in the realm of technical jargon, due to the burgeoning of technical terms that correspond to similar (in the mind of the searcher) yet irrelevant (in the mind of the advertiser) offerings.

Let’s say you’re a manufacturer of high tensile strength coated fibers that are superior to steel cable in bridge suspension applications for the construction engineering industry.  You may need to avoid being confused with fiber optic cable manufacturers who supply a completely different product to the telecommunications industry.

Or you could be a service bureau who provides optical scanning services to convert contracts and invoices into digital format for a line of business workflow database – and somehow be confused with providers of digital converters for analog television sets.

I know it sounds absurd, but I’ve seen both, and I’ve seen searchers click on Ad text that has NOTHING to do with what they are searching for. In fact, I’ve literally seen them do this in droves (to my complete dismay) partly for the reasons cited above.

Clearly, as the complexity of your offerings increases, variations of exact matches will need to increase as well.

We have to remember that in our technical world, there are many levels of acumen and understanding. These levels range from novice searchers just beginning to learn how to effectively find their target destinations on the web, to advanced searchers who are far more likely to search more narrowly and click more precisely.

And keep in mind also that search perspectives can vary by measures beyond intellect or sophistication alone. A CFO will not search using the same terms as a CIO – but both can be influential in a complex enterprise technology sale.

Objective: Quanitity of Clicks or Quality of Searcher?

In our Adwords campaigns, when we see a keyword beginning to dominate impressions and clicks, it’s generally a good indication that the term is too broad. That’s when we peer into the Adwords Dimensions tool and look at the keywords that are generating clicks.

When we do that, we begin to see a whole new dimension of what is being searched for, relative to our marketing intent. And as with any other metrics tool, we adjust accordingly. Then we begin to ask ourselves, “Who are these searchers?” Are they decision makers, influencers, or even obstructionists? Are they employees of our target accounts, or are they our own competitors, or perhaps industry analysts?

They could even be potential partners searching for ways to support their clients, who in turn support our efforts (as partners – which sometimes occurs) in our high-dollar complex technology sale.

The term “Dimensions” is quite fitting for this AdWords feature tab. I highly recommend exploring it, along with each of the 12 drop down views below, especially “search terms”. Using Dimensions, you’ll be able to fine tune your matching and decide where exact matches need to be used.

But you’ll gain more than that – you’ll begin to gain the perspective of your searchers as they arrive at your content. And that perspective is invaluable.

Redefining Your Keyword Strategy

As businesses mature they tend to spend a lot of time refining their keyword strategy. This approach includes looking at existing keywords and measuring their performance in various ways.

Don't overcomplicate your keyword strategy ...Inspecting and managing keyword performance is important, but in our ever-changing world, defining (or re-defining) your keyword mix can be equally important.

In fact, this may just be the most important part of “refining” your strategy, especially in our ever-changing world of technology.

How Did You Originally Define Your Keyword Strategy?

Assuming you did it correctly, you probably originally established your keyword mix by answering  a few simple questions, like:

1) What are we really good at?
2) What do we want to do more of?
3) What makes us successful?

Now there are more questions we could ask, like “what is really profitable for us?” or “what do our customers love?” and these are good sub-questions to ask. But in essence, they pretty much fall under the three questions above, or some variation of those.

The objective here is not to limit yourself to three questions, but rather to take a sometimes overcomplicated idea and make it simple.

In the world of B2B software consulting for example, a system integrator might have a difficult time just answering those three questions (believe me, I know) because the answers are pretty much in a state of constant flux.

Software partners are constantly changing their licensing or pricing structures, new versions and new features constantly come to market. New acquisitions can come into play, new talent appears, and opportunities for new business (along with prospect focus) can change fairly regularly.

Keyword  Content Gets Indexed More Quickly

In the early days of SEO, the time it took to for spiders to index a new page or keyword change was typically about 60 days. But today, with the prolific growth of search engine spiders, databases and algos, content changes or additions can take effect in search results much more quickly.

In the case of social media,  ideas or offers can be seen immediately, and promoted across multiple networks. And, in our webmaster tools accounts, we can ask Google to “fetch” our changes literally on demand.

Today, it’s a matter of days, even hours (not months) for content to be indexed, liked or shared.

How Will You Refine Your Keyword Strategy?

While some businesses stick to a branding strategy of consistent keywords that speak to their unique and enduring strengths, not all businesses are so lucky as to have earned the status and brand recognition required to rest on their laurels.

There is no truer proof of this than in the very competitive realm of technology development – because inevitably (and by definition) technology is always changing .

So we always have to re-evaluate our original questions, with our emphasis placed on the context of “TODAY”.

What are we really good at TODAY?
Our business has probably evolved (even traditional businesses do, to some extent) since we established our original keyword mix. We have probably hired new people, developed new talents, created new offerings and opened up new markets as a result.

This is an excellent time to practice the art of story telling on our company blog, which articulates that evolution – rich with those new keywords. Who are the champions of these positive changes? Can we tap into their expertise to really tell the story accurately and credibly?

What do we want to do more of TODAY?
We ask this important question because the reasons behind “why we want to do more of this” can be many, and not so obvious. There may be strategic partnerships that could be strengthened, there could be new, high margin opportunities available, or certain strategic rewards could be enabled, that are beyond the surface.

Again, leadership within the company deserves to be aware of the power of a refined keyword strategy toward furthering these goals – both those that are apparent, and those which have a deeper long term purpose. We can guess at the obvious, but we have to ask the question before the answer “either surprises us or not”. If we are surprised, even a little, the question was well worth asking.

What makes us successful?
This open ended question is meant to be more thought-provoking than the knee-jerk response of “making money”. Sure, the profit motive is a very important consideration, but what gets us there? Happy customers? Happy employees? Happy partners? Happy regulators? So when we put some thought into this, it’s again worth devoting some time to the less obvious answers.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with devoting a  blog post or a social mention to something that indirectly contributes to your success, especially if you want to build that enabler and grow that aspect of your business.

By starting with a simple foundation when defining your original keyword strategy, and by asking the right key people the right questions TODAY, you’ll have an organic, evolving keyword strategy that always taps into the relevance of your evolving business strategy.

Refining your keyword mix is certainly pertinent to the larger SEO strategies we talk about in other articles. In fact, you’ll probably notice a common thread among all our articles which support the larger idea of a comprehensive marketing strategy.

In that comprehensive strategy, each component strengthens the other, so that you are leveraging specific best of class techniques to support the broader strategy.

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