You’re So Vain! Are You Guilty of Bidding on Vanity Keywords?


You’re so vain! Ok… maybe not as vain as Woody here. But what about your PPC keywords?  Vanity Keyword Definition: Keywords chosen not for performance, but for emotional reasons. May include competitor names, competitor slogans, buzz words with little to no meaning, and various keywords that are only tangentially relevant to the actual product use.

Nearly every account has them. The higher you go in the organization, the more they’re suggested. But how do you recognize them and kill them? Let’s start with recognition.

Recognizing Vanity Keywords

The simplest exercise to “out” your vanity keywords goes like this:

  • Run a keyword report for 90 days or so (it needs to be a pretty big range)
  • Export into Excel
  • Sort by conversions high to low and then cost high to low
  • Look at the highest cost keywords with 0 conversions
  • Is there any keywords in the top 10 most expensive, no-conversion keywords that you wouldn’t pause? These might be vanity keywords
  • Now sort by cost/conversion, high to low
  • Is there any keyword in the top 10 highest cost/conversion keywords that you wouldn’t kill? Why not?

If you found multiple keywords in these lists that you wouldn’t get rid of, you might have a vanity problem. They’re obviously the worst performing keywords in your account. Look at how you found them; highest cost, non-converting keywords & highest cost/conversion keywords. These are almost the definition of poor keywords. But maybe you say things like this to yourself:

  • “This keyword produces very qualified conversions”
  • “The client directly mentions this keyword on calls, in emails, etc. as a bellwether for performance”
  • “Just give it time”

Let’s talk through these.

Killing Vanity Keywords

Reason #1 – “This keyword produces very qualified conversions”

How do you know that? Is it intuition or is is hard data? If it’s intuition you should take a hard second look at your reasoning. If it’s hard data, great! You know that the keyword in question justifies a higher cost/conversion.

Reason #2 – “The client directly mentions this keyword on calls, in emails, etc. as a bellwether for performance”

I myself have had a client who insisted on bidding on one-word search terms. Broad match! Despite my insistence that they were causing lots of irrelevant impressions, he wanted to keep them. I had to add oodles of negative keywords to keep on top of the irrelevant impressions.

Reason #3 – “Just give it time”

If you followed the steps above you chose a date range with at least 90 days of data. Even for a smaller budget advertiser, this is a long time. It’s a quarter of a year! Most likely they don’t need more time, they need to be paused.

In summary, vanity may not be a deadly sin and won’t kill your account performance, it will cost you in extra management time and likely in advertising dollars.