10 Search Engine Marketing Pitfalls To Avoid

by James Irelan
February 23, 2017

Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is one of the most powerful tools in the digital toolbox. When used correctly, it can bring in business that is ready to make a purchase right away. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t have challenges. There are ten common pitfalls that a lot of SEM newbies fall into. Here is what you want to avoid:

1. “Stealing Business” From the Competition

While it might feel like you’re winning by taking traffic from your competitors, it is usually a difficult and expensive task to get clicks from their business name. Google assigns a higher quality score to the businesses that have the best connection between the keywords used, the wording of the text ads, and content on your landing page. There is usually very little connection between the three for a competitive campaign because you probably don’t have your competitors name all over your website and you can’t use it in your ads. So to steal those clicks, you have to bid very high to try and overcome that quality score hurdle.

2. Getting Too Excited

Search engines require moderation in the use of capitalization, the punctuations of exclamations and question marks, and in repetition. In other words, don’t use these methods excessively such as “FREE! Call NOW! NOW! NOW!”

3. Going Negative

Some broad negatives like “scams” you do not want at all, any misspellings, nor tenses, but others need to be strategic. A bank that wants to promote their online savings account program may want “checks” as a negative, but will eliminate traffic for searches like “check online savings balance.” A phrase negative would be a better choice, and two words would be even better such as “order checks.”

4. Staying Too Narrow or Going Too Wide

Google uses match types to determine exactly what searches you want your ad to show up in. Broad Match has a lot of flexibility to discover a wealth of knowledge in search behavior. You may even find a new vertical of your business to pursue or find one to avoid. But this can be time-consuming and requires lots of attention to discover the little nuggets. Exact Match may limit the number of searches you get, but it comes with higher Click-Through-Rates (CTR) and lower Cost-Per-Click (CPC) for your high performing keywords. Having a good balance among the match types helps you manage the expense of gaining knowledge of user behavior with the higher performing but lower volume of the exact match keywords.

5. Not Telling Them Who You Are

Call extensions are a great way to get users to pick up the phone but make sure to have your brand name shown prominently to overcome search misbehavior of calling the phone number without looking or clicking on the ads. If they see a phone number without giving them the brand name, you may receive (and get charged for) irrelevant calls.

6. Thinking All Customer Clicks are Created Equal

Make sure to divide different customer values into different targeting groups. For example, a chiropractic office targeting a 100-mile radius does not consider that someone 50 miles away from your location has a different value than someone that is 10 miles away.

7. Too Much Theme Segmentation

Segmenting your campaign into different themes is a helpful way to focus your ads, but it can be difficult balancing budgeting and adding more themes to make sure you are not spreading yourself too thin. For example, a lawyer with a $3,000 monthly budget and a $30 CPC divided by 30 days in the month means you only have three clicks a day to work with. Adding 20 themes may limit one theme to a fraction of a click per day.

8. Not Enough Theme Segmentation

But wait! Because Google assigns the highest quality score to an ad campaign that has the best connection between keywords, text ads, and landing page content, performance improves when you segment themes into different groups. Such as segmenting keywords and matching text ads for plumbers vs. plumbing or lawyer vs. law group. It’s a delicate balance to find with segmentation, one that seasoned SEM experts are working with every day.

9. Using One-Word Keywords

You want to avoid Single word keywords because of the amount of irrelevant traffic they generate and the amount of time required for adding negative keywords to maintain quality. There are some rare vertical exceptions where there is no possibility of getting that vertical confused with irrelevant traffic such as with cremation services, but let’s leave the one-word keywords to Search Engine Optimization (SEO,) not SEM.

10. Having 100% Impression Share

One of the major benefits of SEM is in using optimizations and negatives to tell Google what traffic you do not want to have. Depending on the vertical, it ‘s hard to have an impression share of more than 80%, in particular with a limited budget. By increasing your bids so high to capture above an 80% impression share, you are paying extra money for your relevant traffic and trying to gain impressions and clicks on irrelevant traffic.

It is a lot to keep straight and can get overwhelming quickly. The key to running successful SEM campaigns changes daily. Your best bet is to figure out what will or won’t work for your business is just to get started.