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Build Out Your PPC Toolbox With Non-PPC Tools

The last few months of posts to this column have all been about the research phase of paid search account creation. From a combination of sources include client interviews, keyword tools, web analytics, and competitive intelligence platforms, we’ve been able to build a rich profile of data that we will start using to build out our keywords, ads and other elements of the account.

Even though you may be swimming in data with PPC tools, there are some other sources which are worthwhile to check before moving to the Build Phase. SEO tools, search engines, social monitoring platforms, industry intelligence sources and research sites can not only provide great information, but they can help understand the data you already have by providing context on how you should look at it.

After using the paid search tools we’ve been discussing in this column for the last five or six weeks, here are some tools that aren’t specifically related to paid search, but are nonetheless valuable additions to your research toolset.

Search engine tools

Search engines provide tools to help people search, so it makes sense that they may have some advanced tools to help you discover more about your advertiser’s keyword landscape.

Google Wonder Wheel. A visual approach to searching (click “show options” on any Google search to activate this feature). The Wonder Wheel groups keywords into topic segments which “branch out” from the core ideas. For SEM research, this could be a way to serendipitously find new groups of keywords. Remember, you don’t have to limit yourself to bidding solely on the term “used bmw” if you’re selling used BMWs. Other related terms that can reach your target audience are also valid keywords to consider when doing research.

Quintara Word Cloud. A precursor of the Google Wonder Wheel, search engine Quintara has a word cloud feature that shows the top sub-term topics and their relation to the core term. The bigger and closer to the core terms, the more important the sub-term. I’ve been using this tool for years before anything like it really existed in other places. Here’s the result for a search on “video games” that demonstrates Quintara’s word cloud technology.

Social monitoring platforms

One of the best ways to get more supplemental research for your account is to simply listen to what people are saying on the web about your core topics and keywords. You can discover jargon and slang words to incorporate to your list or even find out what kinds of terns you don’t want to use for your negative keywords list.

Twitter. Who hasn’t heard of Twitter? Regardless of its use as a micro-blogging tool, it’s one of the best sources for up-to-the-minute data on any keyword or topic. Find out what’s happening now. What’s hot, what’s not. It’s easy too. Just go to Twitter’s own search engine and search for on any term for instant results.

Technorati. The blogosphere (just a fancy term for the group of blogs online) is another great resource to tap into for the newest/latest on any topic. You will find other search engine marketers that are working on the same problems or issues that you have and can provide tips and tricks on how to battle them.

Social Mention. This free tool monitors the social web and returns mentions of the keyword or URL that you query. Here’s an example how [one of my favorite sites] Gamefly.com is being mentioned in social circles:

SEO tools

Most SEO tools are built for search engine optimizers, not paid search folks, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have any value for a paid search campaign. There are a lot of great reports these tools provide that can start trickling nuggets of insight your way.

Let’s take a look at SEOMoz’s tool suite, using their own descriptions, see how they can help in a paid search campaign.

Open Site Explorer. Provides webmasters the ability to explore or compare a site’s backlinks, top pages and other metrics using SEOmoz’s own API.

This can also be used to uncover competitors and what top terms are showing up in anchor text for links to the site.

Keyword Difficulty. Used to analyze the competitive landscape of a particular keyword, this tool issues a percentage score and provides a detailed analysis of the top ranking sites at Google and Yahoo.

Chances are, if a keyword has a lot of organic competition, it may have a lot of paid competition as well. This could be useful to understand which terms you may not want to even bid on in the paid search auction model.

Trifecta. Measures metrics to estimate the relative popularity and importance of a page, blog or domain.

Discover how important your competitors are on the web. Might be good to know if you should be following their lead or not.

Term Extractor. The term extractor tool analyzes the content of a given page and extracts the terms that appear to be targeted at search engines

Good way to quickly see what terms your competitors are using on their key landing pages. Here are the results for the homepage of Gamefly.com.

Industry intelligence

Learning as much as you can about the search marketing industry can be extremely helpful when trying to understand the trends you’re seeing in your data. For example, you may have seen a recent spike in SEM competitors during the recent recession. When you look at the industry data, the insight is that advertisers have shifted dollars from other media and into paid search. Another trend is that the number of words in keyword phrases has been growing year after year. Users are getting savvier on how they search so they may search on “used car in Indiana” or “buy a used BMW” instead of just “car.” That’s a piece of information that can really help you understand the value of your longer phrases.

Some proven industry intelligence sources include:

eMarketer. These smart guys pull in research from around the world and cover not just search, but other online marketing channels.

comScore. Tracks the internet user habits of millions of panelists and provide some of the best industry data around. Some of the benefits listed on their site for their qsearch product include data about the worldwide search market, benchmark statistics against competitors in your category and the ability to identify search behaviors of various custom segments across worldwide search activity.

Marketing Sherpa. A fantastic site that’s been around almost as long as the internet. They have news, reports, books, etc. It’s really a one-stop shop for online marketing pros. Their thick, yearly Search Marketing Benchmark Guide is a yearly buy for many SEM pros. Here’s an example of some interesting research on local search that may alter how you approach people searching with local intent.

Miscellaneous resources

Industry news sites. For example, Search Engine Land!

Search engine help pages. All three major engines have blogs and support sites devoted to their paid search programs, with tons of information, tutorials and other resources that can help you succeed. They’re very good at releasing timely data such as seasonal search habits during high traffic months.

Agency and tool vendor sites. You can often find some really solid research on search agency or search vendor websites.

There are many tools outside the paid search world that can of use to you during the research phase of paid search account creation. Check these out and see if they work for you. Put them in your quick links folder for easy access and please share with others if you find new and interesting tools that show any value.

This week’s question: “Are there other tools out there that should be considered for PPC Research?”

PPC Academy is a comprehensive, one-year search advertising course from beginning to end. Starting with the basics, PPC Academy progressively explores all of the varied facets of paid search, and the tactics needed to succeed and become an advanced paid search marketer.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

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