It's vital to adopt SEM keyword management practices in order to survive—and succeed—in search engine marketing over the long term.
Too often, search marketers place a heavy emphasis on the two end points of the SEM spectrum—keyword research and bid management—and ignore all the steps in between. Those middle steps (including keyword grouping and organization , negative keyword  discovery, keyword expansion , deduplication and more—what we call keyword management) are in fact the most important steps for getting search marketing results that last.
These crucial steps are frequently overlooked for a couple of reasons:
- Ignorance of SEM best practices 
- Keyword management is perceived as difficult and time-consuming
In fact, keyword management is only difficult if you're working with the wrong tools—tools like Excel  that weren't built for the job. WordStream SEM keyword management software, however, was designed with the specific needs of search engine marketers in mind.
Let's take a closer look at how you can achieve full-fledged keyword management for SEM .
What Is SEM Keyword Management?
Keyword management means adhering to a set of best practices that go way beyond basic keyword research  to increase the value and relevance of your SEM campaigns while improving your productivity as a search marketer. These best practices include:
- Engaging in personalized, data-driven  keyword research.
- Grouping and organizing keywords by relevance/theme .
- Setting negative keywords to increase click-through rate  and Quality Score.
- Acting on keyword analytics  in a prioritized way.
- Refactoring new insights into your SEM keyword research.
There's a lot more you can do to maximize ROI on search marketing budgets, but these practices will go a long way toward driving more traffic  and conversions through search engines.
Start at the Very Beginning: Better SEM Keyword Research
Everybody used to go about keyword research in basically the same way: start with brainstorming; then consult one or two basic, free online keyword suggestion tools to compile a list; revisit this keyword list infrequently, if ever. This old methodology has obvious shortcomings.
The keywords people are using to find products and services in your industry are always changing. According to Google, as many as 1 in 4 search queries has never been used before! What's more, keywords are getting longer. The upshot is, if you want to stay on top of your market, you need to practice ongoing keyword research, continuing to update and expand your list on a weekly if not daily basis.
It can also be extremely profitable to incorporate long-tail keywords  into your research. Long-tail keywords are those longer, less common and less competitive keywords that nonetheless make up most of your traffic. They have a lower bid price in the PPC auction and often lead to higher CTR and conversion rates .
Typical keyword tools don't offer much in the way of long-tail keywords. In addition, they don't lend themselves to ongoing research. WordStream SEM software takes a totally different approach to keyword research. Our keyword discovery tools hook up to your server file logs and web analytics to find the actual keywords  that lead real visitors to your site. Those terms are imported into your keyword database , and the process continues, every day!
This is good news for your keyword research because:
- It expands over time and is always up-to-date.
- It's completely relevant to your business—third-party tools can't guarantee that.
- Real searchers are a great source of long-tail keyword variations.
- You'll know exactly how much traffic each keyword is driving, and you can define other goals that are important to your business.
Better-quality, more qualified keywords—and more of them—will put you much closer to strong SEM management . But with a large and growing body of keywords at your disposal, you also need an effective way to organize them.
Keyword Grouping and Organization for SEM
It's paramount to group your keywords properly for effective, efficient search engine marketing. This is because your SEM keyword group structure can make or break your Quality Score , and high Quality Scores:
- Improve your search engine rankings , while
- Lowering your SEM costs
Many search marketers struggle and fail to keep their keyword research properly grouped and organized in Excel spreadsheets. Excel is like cement—it's awkward and time-consuming to update, it's hard to form relationships among data, it's not actionable or dynamic.
WordStream, on the other hand, is a scalable, self-organizing database with a suite of keyword grouping tools  that enable you to easily create an organized group structure for your PPC campaigns. Our intelligent keyword grouping software suggests segments based on keyword frequency and relevance and then instantly groups those keywords together with one click.
As new keywords are added to your database every day, they'll automatically be funneled into your existing group structure.
You can very quickly transform your data into an organized hierarchy and then convert those keyword groups into Quality Score friendly PPC ad groups , all in the same integrated application. Keyword management software not only saves you time, it saves you money, because your SEM advertising dollars go farther.
Learn More About Keyword Management!
Read our free white paper on the 10 ways keyword management improves search marketing campaigns .