Many organizations, from "mom and pop" to large national companies, have at some point thought about or implemented an SEM (Search Engine Marketing) campaign for their business. Some of these implementations led to great results, while others have fallen flat on their back.
So why do some work and others not? It is the age-old advertising question that those in the field have been trying to answer for any form of advertising that they do. You do all of your research and select the media channels that the research shows your potential consumers use, but then it either works or it doesn't.
The truth is, SEM is no different from any form of advertising that is out there. It will either deliver or not. But with SEM, you have more control of your campaign, unlike traditional media channels like Television, Radio or Outdoor. SEM allows you more ways to tailor your campaign delivery to your specific audience. However, with more options does come more opportunities to further cripple your campaign, resulting in poor performance.
Google AdWords does come with several bells and whistles, but don't let those scare you. Each one is there to help your campaign be successful. The key is using the right ones and not necessarily using them all. Because of that, we have put together a list of Do's and Don't's to better educate you on best practices.
The correct set-up is key: If you are a business that has several product lines or specific areas of expertise, it is important that you set up Ad Groups for each of those areas to allow for a more focused campaign delivery. The key is that within each of those Ad Groups, have keywords that are specific to the group and ads that speak directly to the content the user is searching. This allows you to create specific campaigns for each individual product or service that you have, and reduces the clutter that a single Ad Group would cause with so many different keywords and ads.
Send users to a relevant page on your website: The consumer journey is a crucial factor to getting good results with your SEM campaign. If the user was searching for a specific product and you have an Ad Group set up for that, but link to your homepage instead of that product page, that consumer experience is tarnished. Consumers today want to go directly to what they searched for; they don't want to search more on your website to find that item. If you are selling a t-shirt and they search for that and see your ad, but are directed to your homepage or a page with shoes, they are more likely to leave your site and not complete a purchase.
Negative Keywords: While you have keywords, you want to be sure you add in negative keywords that will help your campaign deliver to the specific audience you want to target. As we know there are words (keywords) that you will use that will also fit within another industry or something all together different; even the same word in the English language can have 2 meanings. So as you are thinking through your initial keywords, also think of those words that could potentially have your ad serving to the wrong audience and add those as negative keywords. For example, perhaps you are selling men's dress shoes, but not women's dress shoes, so you would make "women" a negative keyword to help root out that particular audience.
Having a call to action: It is important to always have some sort of call to action in any advertising that you do, but even more so with SEM. You have a limited number of characters to get your message out while someone is searching, so having something like "Buy Now" in your ad will help overall delivery. You are giving your potential customer the next action for them to take; be sure that your ad also goes directly to the item they are searching for. With Google AdWords you have 2 headlines of 35 characters each with 80 characters of body copy to get your product out to potential customers. While it seems like a reasonable number of characters, until you go in there and start creating ads you won't realize how fast those characters go away.
Know the difference between Search Network and Display Network: Google AdWords provides you with several options, like Search Network Only, Display Network Only or Search Network with Display, and it is important as you are setting up your campaign to really think through what you are trying to accomplish. If you offer services that are typically immediate needs, like a plumber or electrician, focusing on the Search Network only is going to be your best approach. The Display Network is not an immediate results driven tactic, but perfect to build brand awareness, increase reach and interest in your services.
Be sure to set your location criteria: When you are setting up your campaign you need to be sure you think through where people can see it, and by that we are talking about geographic location. If you only service a certain city, state or if you are national, you need to be sure that you set your geographic location target so only people you can actually serve can see your ads.
Think like your prospects: You know your products and services very well, but often your customer does not. They may look for something they know only by "hose with attachment end", but you know it by its technical term. So when you are developing your keyword list, it is fine to have technical words, but you must think about how the average customer may search for it. It is when you start to think like a consumer and not a business owner, you will start to see results.
Do not set it and forget it: SEM is not a "set it and forget it" model, even though people may think it is. Continual monitoring and testing is key to any SEM campaign. By not looking at your campaign on a regular basis you may miss something that could make your campaign more successful. Perhaps one of your ads is performing with a high CTR, but conversions are low, while another ad is performing in the middle of the road but conversions are through the roof; now what do you do? Staying on top of a situation like this would allow you to pause that high CTR ad, which in turn will allow the other ad to be served more and deliver even more conversions for you. Additionally, by examining search terms that people are using which trigger your ad, it allows you to add both keywords and negative keywords to your campaign to deliver better results. In the end, pay attention to the little things, as these can go a long way to delivering results. This attention to detail is where a quality agency partner can help as doing SEM right takes time.
You don't have to be certified: As much as Google makes you think that you need to go through their tests and get certified to do AdWords, it is not required. Which mean anyone can do it. This doesn't mean that you shouldn't go through the materials and learn all that you can. Google is continually changing things and adding and taking away features, so going through the materials is always a good idea. Plus, when you are certified, you can opt to receive email updates on changes within AdWords for future consideration. If you have the time, give it a go - but again, a SEM agency partner can help make the most of your pay-per-click campaigns.
Finally...Don't overthink it: With any advertising campaign, you need to stay within yourself and be sure to not overthink things. No campaign is perfect, so don't be afraid to pull the trigger if things aren't 100% ready in your mind. You also want to be sure to give your campaign time to get going. Don't make a bunch of adjustments after the first 2 days because you are not seeing results. Give the campaign at least 2 weeks from launch before making any adjustments, this will allow all the Google algorithms time to do their magic.
Are you wanting to give SEM a try for your business? Have you started and are completely lost now? Do you need help with optimization? If you answered yes to any of these questions then give us a call here at McCulloch+Company as our Google AdWords certified staff has the expertise to improve your campaign.