Most paid search advertisers have experienced the severe mental pain associated with inheriting messy, unorganized PPC accounts. The account may have hundreds of keywords, all set on broad or phrase match. It is possible to tame this beast without pulling your hair out. If you have access to previous account performance, you have all you need to simplify the keyword structure.
The first step is to run a search query report. I find it most useful to look back at a year’s worth of data, but two to three months should be the minimum. Arrange the search queries from largest to smallest by conversions. If the account does not have a large amount of conversions, you may want to arrange by clicks or impressions.
The next step is to find out how many search queries you need, going down the list, to cover around 80% of total conversions. Create a column in your spreadsheet that has a running total of conversions going down the list. Then divide that sum at each search query by total conversions. Once your search queries have covered around 80% of total conversions, you have your list of exact match keywords.
For example, say there are 1,000 total conversions for your account and your highest converting search query had 500 conversions. That search query accounted for 50% of total conversions. Then say the next highest converting search query accounted for 100 conversions. This means two search queries into your list, you have covered 60% of total conversions ((500+100)/1000). Keep adding each successive search query’s conversions to create a sum that will be divided by total conversions.
In order to capture the remaining 20% of search queries that have converted, use broad match modified keywords. Organize your exact match and broad match modified keywords into campaigns and ad groups accordingly.
Keep in mind, this is not a one-off process. Continuous optimization with keyword bids and search query reports is required to ensure that you are reaching relevant traffic at a reasonable cost per conversion.
All though this keyword strategy may take time to implement, you will be pleased with how simple your keyword structure has become. Just like any other strategy, it can and should be refined. Let me know the strategies that you have used to organize inherited PPC accounts in the comments section below.