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This week @timbarlow got back from a two-week family holiday and wasted no time in describing his conquests at diverting water channels using only sand (his kids didn’t feature in the story so I’m not sure if it was a lone venture). But it got me thinking about the optimisation of a PPC campaign, and how our role is to use the flow of traffic to uncover more traffic, and set up filters to then make this traffic as profitable as possible.

In most cases an Adwords campaign may start with only a few keywords but these are only the tip of the iceberg, or the lip of the waterfall for this analogy. Below these keywords sit potentially hundreds, even thousands, of search queries that will activate your keywords to varying degrees. Some search queries may activate your keywords almost every time, some maybe only once or twice. Carefully selecting and testing keywords allows you to appear for and find data on these new search queries, like pouring water over a dirty surface and making the search queries visible underneath.

Keywords and queries

There needs to be a clear understanding that the keywords you’re bidding on (exact match excluded) are pretty much meaningless. They’re not the search queries you’re targeting; they’re only the tools you use to find the search queries.

Once you can see the search queries you can start building filters, damming off streams of traffic and redirecting the flow (and your budget) towards the search queries you want to see more of. You can give this flow of traffic a boost by upgrading one of the search queries into a keyword, and the process starts all over again. The keyword is used as a tool to identify the search queries under it, filters are put in place to dam off the other traffic and redirect the flow again. Slowly we continue down the waterfall.

Eventually, you have these beautiful thin lines of traffic that fall all the way down the waterfall, occasionally spilling out and identifying new areas that still need cleaning. PPC targeting, like the rest of internet marketing, should be done with “a rifle not a net”; building dams and washing dirt in your PPC campaigns allows you to take on the torrent of traffic that flows through search engines every day.

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