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Top 5 Mistakes in the Search Marketing Hall of Shame

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Submitted by Shea Gordon on Thursday, October 14, 2010

Here’s a quote from a real company that tried advertising on Google and saw disastrous results:

“We tried using Google about a year ago but it simply didn’t work for our business. We ended up spending $10,000 and didn’t get a single sale. I guess the only good news is that Google sent us a pen at the end of the year. We refer to it as the ‘$10,000 pen’.”

A lot of small business owners are frustrated and daunted by pay-per-click advertising campaigns. These folks feel like they have to be doing something – after all, who doesn’t use the Internet to find local businesses? – but they don’t know where to start. All they know is they need to “be on Google.” They quickly discover that all the “good” keywords are prohibitively expensive and the cheap keywords don’t get any traffic. And before they know it, they’re out $10,000 with nothing to show for it.

The world of search engine marketing can be pretty confusing, so we’ve enlisted an expert to help. Jim McKinley, a founding partner at search engine marketing consultancy 360 Partners, has a few great tips for small businesses that want to get started with SEM and don’t want to spend a fortune. If you find this information useful, you might be interested in our upcoming webinar on search engine marketing. This free one-hour session will be held at 1pm Eastern/noon Central/10am Pacific on Thursday, October 28. You can click here to register now.

Without further ado, the top 5 mistakes that search marketers make:

1.  Advertising in Canada, Alaska and Hawaii

Search marketers commonly forget to check geography settings for their search campaigns.  Whenever an advertiser sets up a new campaign on Google or Yahoo, both engines automatically register the campaign to run in all 50 states and Canada.  However, many companies either can’t effectively serve or aren’t looking for customers in these areas.

2. Forgetting to opt out of the content network

There are two basic ways to advertise on the internet: you can advertise through search, which means your ad pops up when somebody uses a search engine, or you can advertise through content networks, which are web sites that have partnered with the search engines to run their ads.

Content network traffic is generally lower quality than search traffic.  People on the content network tend to be “information gathering” customers, while search traffic tends to be “researching to buy” customers.  (Think about it: you’d go to a website about dogs to learn about the breed, but when you’re ready to buy you’ll Google a local breeder.) As such, the value of a content click is usually a lot lower than a search click.  By forgetting to opt out of the content network, search marketers are basically bidding the same amount for both.

3.  Setting all campaigns and ad groups to broad match

Broad match can be a powerful tool for search marketers.  It allows your ads to show up on some of the most obscure search queries – ones that you would never have found on your own.  However, it can also match your ads to unrelated queries, driving up costs.  So when you’re setting up a new campaign, think about running it as “exact match” to start.  This gives you time to figure out which keywords are performing, determine proper bid levels, refine creative messaging, etc.  Once the baseline changes and account improvements are made, broad match can be used to experiment in expanding the account.

4.  Directing all traffic to the home page

The goal of any marketing program is to get the right message to the right person at the right time.  One way to accomplish this is by creating customized landing pages for different types of customers.  For example, if you run an insurance company, you should have separate landing pages for your renters’ insurance promotions and your car insurance promotions. You’ll have better luck with targeted messaging and promotions than with a “one-size-fits-all” approach.

5. Advertising on the iPhone

Google defaults new search campaigns to run on the iPhone and other mobile devices with internet browsers. And while the iPhone can be an effective search tool for many retailers and service providers, running ads on the iPhone rarely pays off for businesses that sell complicated, high-value, or non-localized products.  In these cases, you should probably turn off iPhone searches.

For five more mistakes to avoid, and to learn more about 360 Partners, click here. We hope to see you at the webinar on October 28! 

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