The majority of search queries consist of more than word - over the past decade searchers have gradually increased the amount of words per query, from 1.2 in 1998 to 3.3 in 2006.

Partly, this is because there is more noise to cut through on search engines like Google and Yahoo. But it is also about savvier searchers, finessing their query to return the most relevant results.

If you are running paid search marketing campaigns you need to understand how search queries indicate propensity to convert, and customer value.

Figuring this out can make a big difference to your return on investment from PPC campaigns…

What are keyphrase qualifiers?
Search queries are usually made up of the principal theme of the search, often a product, or type of content, and then one or more ‘keyphrase qualifiers’.

For paid search campaigns, we recommend that you select keyphrases and assess performance based on the generic search phrase and eight common search term qualifiers.

In the example below, the theme or generic search phrase is car insurance:

1. Adjective (price/product qualifiers)

‘cheap car insurance’ – quality is often poor for these phrases, so the decision may be taken not to target them dependent on the brand.

2. Comparison/quality

‘compare car insurance’ – this phrase may be more difficult to convert on.

3. Intended use (application)

‘high mileage car insurance.’

4. Product type

‘multi-car insurance’ – typically low volume.

5. Product specification or feature

‘no claims bonus car insurance’.

6. Brand

‘Churchill car insurance’ – The combination of brand plus product is a very common search and it is important to be able to use this knowledge to target prospects searching on your brand name and also competitor brand names.

7. Location

 ‘car insurance UK’ – this usage is surprisingly common so you should be sure to bid on phrases including a country or part of a country.

8. Action request

‘buy car insurance’ – these show high intent and are often more competitive.

Are you talking the same language as your target market?
Once you put these qualifiers and all their variants together for many different products you are likely to generate a lot of keyphrases. It can be argued that qualifiers aren’t important since we can just upload a whole raft of phrases to a PPC programme and see which perform best.

But analysis of the relative importance of qualifiers is useful to assess whether your proposition and messaging on the page is consistent with the way your potential customers are thinking.


Adapted from our new Paid Search Marketing (PPC) Best Practice Guide – 250+ pages of comprehensive insight into implementing and executing paid SEM strategies.