The 12 Most Common SEM Mistakes

Lorna Gill Posted by Lorna Gill

Knowing what not to do can be just as important to your SEM campaigns as knowing what to do in the first place. Here we identify twelve of the most common SEM mistakes and determine what marketers can do to avoid them.

The world of SEM can be a virtual minefield. Everyone wants to run the most efficient campaigns, but with such a vast spectrum of competitors out there, it’s difficult to know exactly how to get ahead. More importantly, it is important to know what NOT to do.

Here are twelve of the most common mistakes made in the SEM game today. Think about whether any of them sound familiar and consider what you can do to avoid them in the future.

1. The Ad Doesn’t Match the Landing Page

As made clear in this video released by Google, the importance of a proper landing page cannot be underestimated.

To direct a user to the correct site is not enough. Assume that your customers don’t want to trawl through your site to find what they are looking for and make sure that the landing page delivers what the ad promised.

To get the maximum return on your advertising investment, ensure that your ads have specific landing pages and that these landing pages have titles. Make it easy for the customer to find what they are looking for; they will be more likely to buy, recommend your product to a friend, or return to the site in the future.

2. Poor Website Navigation

When a customer clicks through from your ad on the search results page, it’s up to you to make sure that they are directed to the most relevant landing page on your website. It’s also important that the customer isn’t overloaded with information and that the page isn’t too crowded or messy.

Ideally, the customer lands on a page that clearly features the brand or site name, the information they’ve searched for, and the navigation choices they need to easily move around the site and further explore their options.

Don’t let confusing navigation bring you down – the visitor will appreciate the quick and efficient delivery of the information they’ve searched for. To make sure you hang on to your visitors, incorporate relevant page titles, as well as an easy-to-find search bar, breadcrumb, and topic navigation into your site.

3. Mobile-Unfriendly Landing Pages

Mobile is becoming an increasingly important component of the online purchasing experience, with more and more of us looking to buy products and services on the go.

To maximise profits and efficiency within this growing portion of the market, make sure that all website pages load correctly on a mobile device, with mobile-friendly content that includes less text, well-arranged images, and simple navigation. When implementing a mobile site, you need to configure elements like brand name, search bar, and topic names so that they are displayed neatly and visibly.

4. Failing to Use on the Most Expensive Keywords

It’s crucial to evaluate keyword types and matching options. Some keywords naturally generate very high volumes of traffic. The greater the level of interest, the higher the CPC bids are driven up and the more expensive the keywords become. Some notable examples include highly sought-after terms like Ugg boots, all-inclusive holidays, and Beats headphones.

Previously, businesses could bid on these high-value keywords using an exact match. Working Google’s search algorithms to your advantage in this way ensured that your budget wasn’t stretched too far and your ads became visible to those most likely to click through and buy.

However, Google has now replaced exact match with close variants, meaning you’ll find yourself bidding on a wider range of keywords that are similar but not necessarily an exact match.

5. Leaving Out Important Negative Keywords

As explored in a previous post, negative keywords can be just as important as positive ones when it comes to attracting and keeping the right customers.

Negative keywords are the words that you don’t want to pull up your ads. If, for example, your ad was for a print calendar featuring steam trains, you wouldn’t want search terms such as online calendar, printable calendar, or model steam train to bring up your ad – remember, when a searcher clicks on an irrelevant ad, the advertiser pays.

These useless terms should therefore be added to your frequently updated list of negative keywords.

While using Google Keyword Planner represents one of the easiest ways to manage your positive and negative keywords, competitive intelligence tools like Adthena have proven more effective and comprehensive in providing crucial insight into the keyword trends your competitors apply.

6. Avoiding the Automated Rules

As the name suggests, automated rules allow you to set algorithms and make changes to your account automatically. Moreover, the rules save you the time of manually adjusting settings like maximum CPC bids according to the busiest shopping times, or even landing pages based on promotions or new products.

The feature is immensely useful and makes campaign optimisation for budget-friendly efficiency a lot easier.

According to Abhijit Gogoi of Zopim Blog, failing to use automated rules on AdWords campaigns can drastically overwork the ad manager, rendering the entire ad program inefficient.

Keeping in mind how your customer base works, set up rules for all the repetitive tasks you currently run manually and prepare to watch your campaign run more efficiently according to a new, easier, and more profitable dynamic.

7. Failing to Use Ad Extensions

Ad extension options allow you to offer the searcher a choice of landing pages. Appearing in a neat horizontal column beneath your spot on the search results page, sitelinks ad extensions offer the visitor a variety of locations within your company site that efficiently direct them towards the product or service they need.

Contact information, featured products, and company blog pages are all examples of frequently visited pages that you could include as ad extensions.

According to Google, including sitelinks ad extensions has proven to increase click-through rates (CTR) by approximately 30%. A higher CTR naturally means more conversions and, thus, more efficient ad spending.

8. Not Calling Your Customers to Action

A call-to-action (CTA) in your ad can be a powerful means of enticing searchers to click through to your site, and removing it from your marketing arsenal qualifies as a huge mistake.

The CTA in the text of your ad could include an offer, an exciting feature or product, or anything else you think will interest the customer enough to click on your ad, but it’s essential that you encourage them to take action instead of merely poking around your site.

Action words like “25% Off” or “Valentines Day Offer” might just be that little extra something the searcher needs to click through onto your ad instead of an ad listed by your main competitor.

When taking this route, be sure to make it as obvious as possible what your customer needs to do in order to benefit from the offer. Lead them through the purchasing process quickly and smoothly, or they may lose interest.

9. Not Making the Most of Local Searches

A 2012 study conducted by the ad network Chitika found that 43% of Google search queries qualified as local. We’ve already addressed ad extensions, but if your ad relates to a local business, the inclusion of relevant local information will guarantee improved CTR. After all, users won’t want to waste time clicking on an ad unless they’re sure it relates to their search.

10. Failing to Make Use of Remarketing

Put simply, remarketing lets you direct your ads at those who have visited the site before. Google Ads places display ads on various publisher websites in an effort to tempt shoppers to return for more deals.

The logic behind using remarketing is fairly obvious: ads reach those with a proven interest in the type of product or service you’re selling. A well-timed visual reminder could be just the thing to entice a customer back to the site and finally make the purchase they’ve been mulling over.

11. Getting Lazy

Your SEM is not something you can set and forget – it should be an ongoing project with the potential to yield uncapped results in terms of visibility, conversions, and profitability. Getting lazy and assuming your initial efforts will suffice spells doom for any campaign.

You should be perfecting your ad copy as much as possible, constantly revising your AdWords settings, and closely monitoring your competition to the best of your ability. Which brings us to…

12. Ignoring Your Competitors

Your competition can provide the best indication of where you stand within your market. In a constantly shifting marketplace, a well-informed marketing strategy is absolutely essential. In order to maximise and optimise their SEM efforts, companies should be carefully analysing search data relevant to their entire market.

Here at Adthena, we’re committed to providing you with all the information you need to stay in line with your market. Our advanced paid search metrics will deliver detailed analyses of your search performance, including how your stats measure up to those of your competitors.

This information has the potential to save you a great deal of cash, as it has for many of our current clients.

(Main image credit: Herman Yung/flickr)

About the author

Lorna Gill
Lorna Gill
Lorna is responsible for acquisition marketing at Adthena, communicating their award-winning product and generating demand. She has developed her career in fast-paced, start-up environments, including two tech track 100 companies and is passionate about translating technical information into stories that excite and delight.