Search engine marketing (SEM) is one of the most powerful tools in your digital toolbox. When used correctly, it can bring in customers ready to make a purchase right away. But it does have its challenges. Here are 10 common pitfalls to avoid:
1. “Stealing Business” from the Competition
While taking traffic from your competitors might feel like winning, it’s also difficult and expensive. Google assigns its highest quality score to businesses with the best connection among the keywords used, the wording of text ads, and landing page content. You probably don’t have your competitor’s name all over your website, and you can’t use it in your ads, so to get those clicks, you have to bid very high to overcome that quality score hurdle.
2. Getting Too Excited
Search engines require moderation in capitalization, punctuation, and repetition, so “FREE! Call NOW! NOW! NOW!” is a big no-no.
3. Going Negative
You can make sure certain words won’t bring up your site by making them “negatives” in your search engine optimization (SEO), but you need to be carefully stragetic. Of course you don’t want to match the word “scams,” and you don’t want to show up for misspellings that match your company name. However, for example, a bank that wants to promote its online savings account program may want “checks” as a negative, but that also would eliminate traffic from searches such as “check online savings balance.” Instead, the bank should add phrases such as “order checks” to its negative list.
4. Going Too Wide or Staying Too Narrow
Google uses match types to determine exactly what searches should show your ad.
- “Broad match” has flexibility to discover knowledge in search behavior. You may even find a new industry to pursue – or one to avoid. But this requires lots of attention to discover little nuggets.
- “Exact match” may limit the number of searches you get, but it comes with higher click-through-rates and lower cost-per-click for your high-performing keywords.
Having a good balance between these match types helps you balance the expense of gaining knowledge of user behavior through broad matches, with the higher-performing but lower-volume of exact match keywords.
5. Not Telling Them Who You Are
Adding your phone number to your ads — known as a call extension — can get users to pick up the phone. However, you need to prominently display your brand name to overcome search misbehavior of calling without looking at or clicking on the ads – and you still have to answer and pay for those irrelevant calls.
6. Thinking All Customer Clicks are Created Equal
Divide customer values into targeted groups. For example, a chiropractic office targeting a 100-mile radius still needs to consider that someone 50 miles away from your location may have a lower value than someone who is 10 miles away.
7. Having Too Much Theme Segmentation
Segmenting your campaign into themes can focus your ads, but it can also spread both you and your budget too thin. For example, a lawyer with a $3,000 monthly budget and a $30 cost-per-click, divided by 30 days in the month, only allows for three clicks a day. Adding 20 themes may limit each one to a fraction of a daily click.
8. Not Having Enough Theme Segmentation
But wait! Because Google assigns the highest quality score to an ad campaign that has the best connection among keywords, text ads, and landing page content, performance improves when you segment themes into groups. This could be segmenting keywords and matching text ads for plumbers versus plumbing, or lawyer versus law. It’s a delicate balance that experienced SEM experts work to find every day.
9. Using One-Word Keywords
Single-word keywords generate irrelevant traffic and require significant time to also add negative keywords to maintain quality. Some rare industry exceptions such as cremation services might not have overlapping terms, but it’s best to leave the one-word keywords to SEO, not SEM.
10. Expecting 100-Percent Impression Share
SEM uses optimizations and negatives to tell Google what traffic you do want, and what traffic you don’t want. A key metric is impression share: how many times your ad is shown on a search result page or other site on the Google Network, divided by the estimated number of times it could have appeared. Depending on the industry, it‘s difficult to reach more than 80 percent impression share. By increasing your bids high enough to capture more than 80 percent, you are paying extra for your relevant traffic while gaining impressions and clicks on irrelevant traffic.
It’s a lot to keep straight, and the keys to success are changing all the time. Your best bet is just to jump in and get started – and keep this checklist handy.