Is there a place for question-based PPC keywords?

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In September 2013, Google’s Hummingbird update saw the search engine giant change how it answers longer and more complex questions. Using its Knowledge Graph to map and understand relationships, Google presents the searcher with a wide array of facts and statistics alongside organic and paid listings — for both question and short/longtail keywords.

Type most questions into Google and you’re likely to be met with articles aplenty, all featuring question-based H1s and title tags partnered with answering and informative content — plus inviting meta descriptions too.

But has this rise in FAQ-style content influenced the way that paid advertisers bid on keyphrases?

Taking a look at Google Zeitgeist data from earlier in the year, it’s clear to see the potential of advertising to the questioners in search. However, despite seasonality and fashion trends playing their part, all but one question in the top ten ‘How to…’ searches have failed to attract PPC advertisers.

  1. How to make pancakes – 0 ads
  2. How to write a CV – 4 ads, only 1 including the question in keywords
  3. How to lose weight – 0 ads
  4. How to draw manga – 0 ads
  5. How to play poker – 0 ads
  6. How to play guitar – 0 ads
  7. How to get a flat stomach – 0 ads
  8. How to dip dye hair – 0 ads
  9. How to reset iPod – 0 ads
  10. How to find IP address – 0 ads

Although it was the second most searched for question of 2013 after ‘how to make pancakes’, ‘how to write a CV’ is still relatively cheap to target (at 27p) and its competition level is only listed as medium.

Similarly, the potential ‘What is…’ keywords isn’t being harnessed.

  1. What is twerking – 0 ads
  2. What is my IP – 0 ads
  3. What is yolo – 0 ads
  4. What is a prime number
  5. What is illuminati – 0 ads
  6. What is my car worth – 4 ads, only 1 including the question in keywords
  7. What is spooning – 0 ads
  8. What is global warming – 0 ads
  9. What is Zumba – 0 ads
  10. What is the meaning of life – 0 ads

So, where is their place in PPC?

Brand exposure and building trust

As consumers are getting increasingly sales-savvy, they are becoming more immune to hard sales techniques. Therefore, they are looking to be welcomed in by your brand before purchasing a product or service. Building consumer trust in your brand takes time, so the more free advice, helpful articles and useful information you offer them, the better reputation you will gain.

Plus, if you impress those who land on FAQ and advice content enough, there’s a higher chance of them remembering (and trusting) your brand when it comes to making their purchase.

Improving conversions

A Google Trends search for “where to buy” shows that the number of searches is on the up, and this is something PPC advertisers cannot afford to ignore. On average, people in the UK are searching for ‘where to buy’ keywords around 500,000 times per month — a target audience who are ready to buy right now!

Choosing PPC keywords used by searchers who are looking to buy (as opposed to those just researching) can be a tricky process, so this keyword should be the top of advertisers’ priorities when choosing target keywords and phrases. Why not test one of your products/services in Google’s Keyword Planner to see if it’s worth bidding on?

Your adverts could also offer a solution to a problem. For example, targeting a campaign around “how to build a shed” could benefit your garden furniture business if the searchers decide against a spot of DIY. In this case, your landing page will be a range of products, as opposed to your FAQ, blog or advice article.

There is definitely a place for question-based keywords in your next campaign. Make the most of Google’s tools and set your campaign apart from competitors by solving your customers’ problems.


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