Implementing an Effective Keyword Governance Strategy

Recently, I’ve written blog posts about some of the challenges large organizations face with multiple business units as it pertains to paid search, as well as some successful search strategies they can implement to overcome them. The next big challenge I want to discuss is how to develop a keyword governance strategy when there are several departments or business units that sell the same or similar products and want to bid on the same keywords. It’s extremely difficult to determine the strategy for bidding on overlapping keywords so that they maximize value for the company, while still ensuring that each stakeholder is able to achieve their goals. This is where keyword governance comes in to play.

What Are The Benefits?

There are several benefits to a well-thought-out keyword governance strategy:

  • Maximizing Overall Revenue: Businesses should generate more revenue or profit overall by ensuring the right departments are ranking for different specific keywords based on company-wide business goals. For example, a company that has multiple brands selling similar household cleaning products may choose to prioritize advertising spend on products across both brands based on margin. To do so, the brand with the lower margin product will need to bid for a lower position than the brand with the higher margin product.
  • Improving Efficiency: Additionally, with an effective keyword governance strategy in place, each business unit should pay a lower cost-per-click (CPC) since the business units will no longer inflate costs by bidding and competing on the same terms. When working together across business units, brands can collectively control the bidding strategy for certain words and try to dominate the results. For example, a company with three unique household cleaning brands could bid with the goal of winning the top three positions.

Understanding Your Goals

The first step in developing a keyword governance strategy is to understand the goals for each business unit as it relates to that individual keyword. The reason this is important is that it can help determine the hierarchy. If each business unit has a different ROAS target, then the CPC they are willing to pay is different. For example, imagine if two business units wanted to bid on the same keyword but one group wanted a $6.00 ROAS and the other wanted a $3.00 ROAS. Since the second business group has a lower desired ROAS, it is willing to pay a higher CPC, meaning this business group should potentially have a higher ranking than the other.
Beyond ROAS, there are other driving factors that should be considered such as inventory availability, brand recognition, and importance of the product or brand to the overall business.

Developing, Implementing, and Managing a Keyword Hierarchy

Once the goals and desired CPC have been determined for each business unit, a hierarchy can be created for each business unit for every overlapping keyword. After creating this hierarchy, there needs to be a solid communication plan to inform each stakeholder, as well as a system, to ensure that this hierarchy is enforced.
Logistically, it can be very challenging to manage a bidding strategy for multiple business units.  Oftentimes the business units have different accounts, use different technology, or work in silos. So in order for this to be effective, the head of Search will need to map out all of the different systems and accounts to create a unified approach. This could require a major initiative to get everything aligned if the accounts were not set up properly or in a unified manner.
Another challenge that comes into play is managing multiple stakeholders. The main goal of a keyword hierarchy—or any marketing program—is to maximize the return for the organization as a whole. This might mean that certain stakeholders will either have a lower keyword position than desired or may not be allowed to bid on that specific keyword at all. In order for this to be successful, marketing leadership needs to explain the strategy to each stakeholder and have them understand that this is an approach to maximize ROI for the whole company and not just one department. It is not unusual for a stakeholder to still be upset since their business unit might be losing out on necessary revenue for their goals. The leadership team needs to recognize this and think about how to keep their stakeholders motivated and incentivized.


By developing the right hierarchy and ensuring a unified system for all business units, a company can generate substantially more revenue versus letting each group operate autonomously. Additionally, you will lower CPCs and ensure that the consumer has a better experience. Although there could be some additional setup work to do this properly and not all stakeholders will be happy, we believe that the added benefit of a well-thought-out keyword governance strategy far outweighs the cost.

If you’d like to learn more about how Rise can help create a keyword governance strategy for your organization, contact us today.

02/07/2019 at 07:10