Search engine marketing (or search advertising) is relatively easy to set-up compared to other online marketing techniques, which makes it a natural choice for businesses who want instant results. It doesn’t cost much to set up and just about anyone with a credit card can get started right away.

On the other hand, this same reason is why SEM can be detrimental to any marketing initiative. Any business can use paid search to advertise their wares and considering the fact that PPC platforms act as an auction, this makes the online search landscape very competitive. Businesses who assume that they know or have misguided expectations about SEM will ultimately get outsmarted by their competitors.

In addition to this, when you take into account how easy it is to waste resources on paid search ads, the importance of knowing what you’re doing and avoid costly mistakes becomes extremely clear.

Here are the ten most common SEM mistakes you could be making right now:  

  1. Advertising to everyone

Businesses make the mistake of casting a wider net in hopes of getting as many leads as they can. On paper, this looks great. In practice, it can drain your marketing spend without yielding the results you need.

PPC platforms operate as an auction block. Regardless of whether they want to buy or not, you’re paying for every click that comes through your ad. Also, if you’re using a search ad to generate leads, you still have to sift through every prospect you get and drive them towards conversion points, even if they’re completely unqualified. Advertising to everyone will make this process more time consuming and tedious, which is better spent focusing on converting qualified leads.

  1. Not using the right keyword match type

There are three keyword categories that marketers on Google Ads should pay attention to: broad match, phrase match, and exact match.

  • Broad match keywords, as what its title suggest, enables your ad to appear for any search query that is related to your keyword. For example, “red shoes” can also appear for “red male shoes”, “red shoes for sale”, and “buy red shoes”.
  • Phrase matches target keywords searched in the exact order, meaning that setting “red shoes for sale” will display your ad for searches of that phrase while searches of “sale shoes red” will not.
  • Exact match keywords are focused on your specific keywords alone—setting “red shoes for sale” as your exact keyword means anything other keyword combination will not be shown in your ads.

Selecting the correct match type will depend on your business goals as well as the industry your business is in. For example, while broad match keywords can seem too general, they generate 94% more clicks for the health & wellness industry. This gives them great potential for campaigns that raise brand awareness. Meanwhile, exact match keywords convert better than broad match keywords by 18%, making this type better if you want to focus on conversions. 

Utilizing the wrong type may end up costing you more than you gain. You could be reaching your target market too early in the sales process with broad matches or not reaching them at all with unoptimized exact matches.

  1. Not using branded keywords

Some businesses neglect to bid on branded keywords—search terms that include the name of a brand and variations of it, or names of specific products—due to lack of traffic, low search volumes, or even high SERPs at the moment. However, you could be missing an opportunity to promote your brand and increase its value.

With branded queries making up 10% of all searches, you can reach your target market quicker and at a point where they may be ready to convert. Best of all, with the low competition for branded keywords, you’ll be paying less for your bids.

  1. Not segmenting search ads from GDN campaigns

GDN and paid search campaigns can get tedious fast as you constantly need to experiment and optimize ads, so it’s crucial to separate campaigns. The most important part of segmentation is that you will be able to see campaign performance much clearer as each campaign’s metrics will be independent.

Keep in mind that the conversion rates of display ads are typically lower than search ads, so expect lower figures from your display campaigns.

  1. Not using negative keywords

There were nearly 2.3 trillion Google searches in 2019 alone and on any given day, 15% of these searches are new to Google. This means that users are entering keywords that were previously not matched together. So, if you’re not using negative keywords, you’re likely to start showing up for searches that have nothing to do with your product or service.

For example, if you’re a visa and immigration consultant, you might want to target the keyword “visa,” but you’ll want to include negatives for the keywords “visa credit card” or “visa vs mastercard.”

Effectively optimizing your keywords means taking the time to exclude your ads from irrelevant searches. Using negative keywords will enable you to prevent search ads from showing up in the wrong search queries, which can waste your budget or create unwanted connections to your brand.

  1. Not using geographic targeting

Geographic targeting provides a lot of practical benefits apart from enabling you to deliver location specific ads to users. With “where to buy” and “near me” mobile queries growing twofold in the past two years, using local SEO tactics can be an opportunity for smaller businesses to grab the attention of prospects and compete on a more even playing field with larger industry players.

Not convinced? What if we told you that 72% of consumers who did a local search visited a store within five miles? That alone should turn every business owner into a believer!

  1. Not optimizing ad copy

51% of smartphone users have discovered a new company or product when searching from their phone. Optimizing your ad copy—from picking the right keywords, making a compelling offer, to building a solid campaign structure, setting the right keyword match type, and allocating a manageable budget—means your business gets more chances to reach prospects and drive them down your sales funnel.

  1. Using a generic landing page

Optimizing a search ad is half the battle. The real conversion actually takes place on your landing page, whether it’s generating online sales or leads. SEMRush found that the top four ranking factors are website visits, time on site, pages per session, and bounce rate.

Following those, quality content and backlinking also play a significant role in helping pages rank better. If your landing page is not compelling visitors to sign up and become a lead nor is it offering the information they’re looking for, your landing page may be too generic or too disconnected from your keywords.

  1. Not spending time optimizing your bids (set-and-forget)

In this fast-paced digital landscape, the only constant thing is change. Setting up ads without optimizing your bidding strategies, or fiddling with the settings once and leaving it for the duration of the campaign is a surefire way to get left behind by your competitors. This lack of continuous improvement could result in a whole lot of wasted spend for your brand.

Tools built into your advertising platform can generate reports to show just how effective your current strategy is, giving you further data to tweak and adapt your campaign to maximize your bids and get the best results. Remember that SEM is not a one-time activity, rather a strategy that has to be maintained over time.

  1. Not knowing the value of your customers

If you don’t know how much each customer is worth to your business, how are you going to determine ROI and decide on a cost-per-lead budget you can afford? The answer is: you can’t!

The key lies in understanding customer lifetime value (CLV). The only way to create a healthy sales funnel is if the cost of each additional customer is significantly lower than the resulting profit over the lifetime of that customer. For example, if it costs you $100 to acquire a new customer who then spends $50 and never returns, you’re at a $50 deficit, which means it’s clearly not a sustainable PPC campaign.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help!

Search engine marketing is so simple that it’s easy to get plenty of it wrong and different ways to get it right. If you don’t have any experience with paid search or haven’t had much of a success, consider seeking out a good PPC partner help to steer you in the right direction.

Here at Spiralytics, we help businesses just like yours grow their brands online with the power of data-driven search ad campaigns. Contact us today to learn more

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