In the world of paid search ads, audience targeting is all the rage these days.
The ability to advertise to people in the right age group, of the right gender, and in the right geographic location, can be incredibly useful toward getting the most out of your ad spend.
But will audience targeting replace keywords as the central focus?
PPC marketing expert and agency owner Kirk Williams argues that no, keywords still offer key insights you won't get from audience targeting.
And he's got a good point: audience targeting isn't always as accurate as it can seem on the surface. Two people of the same age, in the same geographic area, of the same gender, can be totally different from one another.
Keywords, as Williams points out, express individual user intent.
It's a peek into the searcher's mind and mental processes, which is something you can leverage to show your ads to the right people at the right time.
He points out three major aspects of keywords that make them as powerful as they are: they're individual, they're personal, and they're temporal.
Keywords: Personal intent powerhouses
A keyword is still my favorite form of targeting in paid search because it reveals individual, personal, and temporal intent. Those aren’t just three buzzwords I pulled out of the air because I needed to stretch this already obesely-long post out further. They are intentional, and worth exploring.
A keyword is such a powerful targeting method because it is written (or spoken!) by a single person. I mean, let’s be honest, it’s rare to have more than one person huddled around the computer shouting at it. Keywords are generally from the mind of one individual, and because of that they have frightening potential.
Remember, audience targeting is based off of assumptions. That is, you're taking a group of people who “probably” think the same way in a certain area, but does that mean they cannot have unique tastes? For instance, one person preferring to buy sneakers with another preferring to buy heels?
Keyword targeting is demographic-blind.
It doesn’t care who you are, where you’re from, what you did, as long as you love me… err, I mean, it doesn’t care about your demographic, just about what you're individually interested in.
The next aspect of keywords powering their targeting awesomeness is that they reveal personal intent. Whereas the “individual” aspect of keyword targeting narrows our targeting from a group of people to a single person, the “personal” aspect of keyword targeting goes into the very mind of that individual.
Don’t you wish there was a way to market to people in which you could truly discern the intentions of their hearts? Wouldn’t that be a powerful method of targeting? Well, yes — and that is keyword targeting!
Think about it: a keyword is a form of communication. It is a person typing or telling you what is on their mind. For a split second, in their search, you and they are as connected through communication as Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Watson on the first phone call. That person is revealing to you what's on her mind, and that's a power which cannot be underestimated.
When a person tells Google they want to know “how does someone earn a black belt,” that is telling your client — the Jumping Judo Janes of Jordan — this person genuinely wants to learn more about their services and they can display an ad that matches that intent (Ready for that Black Belt? It’s Not Hard, Let Us Help!). Paid search keywords officiate the wedding of personal intent with advertising in a way that previous marketers could only dream of. We aren’t finding random people we think might be interested based upon where they live. We are responding to a person telling us they are interested.
The final note of keyword targeting that cannot be underestimated, is the temporal aspect. Anyone worth their salt in marketing can tell you “timing is everything”. With keyword targeting, the timing is inseparable from the intent. When is this person interested in learning about your Judo classes? At the time they are searching, NOW!
You are not blasting your ads into your users lives, interrupting them as they go about their business or family time hoping to jumpstart their interest by distracting them from their activities. You are responding to their query, at the very time they are interested in learning more.
Timing. Is. Everything.
You can read more about the unique value of keywords for PPC ads over at Moz.