If you’ve read my keyword research tutorial you should be familiar with the process of how keyword research is a fundamental part of SEO.
For this post I’ve decided to give you a nugget that is usually reserved only for major SEOs. It uses a professional tool called SEMRush and it works by tapping into, or spying on, what other websites spend on their Google advertising.
SEMRush isn’t cheap, and at the moment it’s running at $69.95 per month, but if you’re serious about making money online the information you can find on keywords alone is well worth the asking price.
How It Works
This method basically piggy backs off businesses that spend a fortune on Google advertising. For those that aren’t aware Google offers Pay Per Click advertising (Adwords) in their search results. This means that anyone can be at the top of a Google search if they have enough money to play with.
Google Ads work on a Pay Per Click basis and operate on a bidding system. So if you want to be number one for a search on “shoes”, you would have to place a bid on that keyword, and if your bid is higher than anyone else’s, your advert will be in the top position.
It’s not uncommon for companies to spend over £20k per month on Google Adwords, and if done correctly it’s possible to make a healthy profit. It’s a fact that Google Ads are expensive, but they do work. That’s why Google makes so many billions per year. If they didn’t work no one would advertise. But the fact is to get the most out of Google Ads they need to be managed efficiently. This means constant tweaking and analysing.
There are three basic types of keywords you can target on Google Ads. There’s a ‘broad match‘, which means if you bid for the keyword ‘shoes’, Google will display your advert for any phrase that contains the word shoes. It’ll also look for similes, so you’ll find your ad displayed for words like ‘pink fluffy boots’, because it equates the word shoes with boots.
Broad matches are the most expensive way of using Adwords and is considered the ‘nuclear’ option. If you have a budget of £500 and you bid for the keyword ‘shoes’, you’ll probably find your budget is gone within an hour as there’ll be hundreds of shoe related clicks.
If you’re only selling leather shoes then you’ll find around 80% of your clicks are useless because they’re for people searching plastic shoes, boots, slippers, sandals and everything else shoe related, but not necessarily leather shoes.
So to target it further you can opt for a ‘phrase match‘. A phrase match will only show your ad for keywords that include your specific phrase. So if you bid for ‘leather shoes’ on a phrase match, you’ll only get clicks for people searching leather shoes.
But even this isn’t faultless, because you might get clicks for ‘leather shoe allergies’ or ‘stretching leather shoes’ and these aren’t people looking to buy leather shoes.
So to take it to its ultimate conclusion you can use an ‘exact match‘ bid. If you bid for ‘buy leather shoes’ on an exact match then your ad will only be displayed for the exact search ‘buy leather shoes’.
This is all well and good because you now know that every click you pay for is a potential sale for your leather shoes. But, you may be missing out on other keywords that offer potential sales too. Such as ‘buy leather shoes cheap’ or ‘buy brown leather shoes’. The possibilities are endless, so what do you do?
Well, the experts spend a great amount of money and time researching the best keywords to bid for. They might run a campaign on broad for a couple of months, then filter out the converting keywords and bid on those exact. They could do the same with phrase matches and keep the keywords that are converting and drop the ones that aren’t. This could take up to a year to perfect and in the meantime they would have spent thousands, possibly hundreds of thousands on wasted clicks. But by the end of it they’ll have a campaign that is streamlined to only contain the keywords they know convert well. And this is where we come in.
Using SEMRush To Spy On Google Ad Campaigns
For the price of the subscription you can use SEMRush to spy on anyone’s Google Ad campaign, and it’s so easy to do. SEMRush can do so much more but this one simple trick alone makes it worth the subscription.
To see this in practise I did a search for ‘leather shoes’. The number one position in the Adwords is occupied by Clarks.co.uk.
Now, Clarks are a pretty major company so they’re probably spending a fortune on Adwords, and probably hire experts to manage their campaigns in the most efficient way possible. To find out we login to SEMRush and do a search for their domain: clarks.co.uk.
Yep, their spend is 117k which is no small change. Also we can see their organic keywords, their backlinks and all manner of interesting information. But for this method we’re only interested in their Adwords campaigns. So for this we click on Ads History.
Which brings up a page displaying their entire Adwords campaign. We can see all of the keywords they’re bidding on and their positions right the way back through their history.
Now this is a literal gold mine of information. We can export this file and pull out all the keywords that are relevant to our ‘leather shoes’ campaign. I won’t add them all as there’s 22.9k to choose from. But as an example here are some real nuggets I’ve found:
- soft leather shoes
- ladies black leather court shoes
- leather shoes ladies
- black leather court shoes size 5
- mens leather boat shoes
- leather driving shoes
- leather deck shoes
- casual leather shoes
- mens shoes leather
- brown leather shoes for men
- leather court shoes sale
- leather court shoes uk
- leather heeled brogues
- navy blue leather court shoes
- formal leather shoes
- mens black patent leather shoes
- mens leather slip on shoes
These are all keywords that Clarkes have consistently paid for going back over the last two years. It stands to reason that if these keywords didn’t convert customers they would have been dropped a long time ago. So we can pretty much bank on it that if our website ranked highly for any of these terms then we would be able to sell our leather shoes.
And not only that, but if we click on a date we can see the actual advert they’ve used for that keyword.
This is useful because they’ve probably done a lot of split testing to see which adverts create the most clicks and conversions. We can see from this quick example they place a lot of emphasis on free delivery, seasons and sales. This can give us ideas to use for our own campaigns, which we know work.
This was just a quick example for ‘leather shoes’, but as you can see this method can be used for pretty much anything. If you had the money you could start a Google Adwords campaign right away and be armed with keywords you know are tried and tested.
If you’re looking at organic SEO you can combine these keywords into an article that’ll rank on Google. The difference between this and other forms of keyword research is that you know these keywords generate converting customers, which is a much more powerful way of looking at keyword research.
It’s what the pros do, and if you’re serious about your website and business, then you’ll use this method as a key part of your arsenal.
As always I’d love to hear your thought. Drop me a line any time with any questions or comments.