6 common search engine marketing mistakes—and how to avoid them

Overpaying for keywords and phrases, sending visitors to irrelevant webpages and overlooking long-tail keywords are common mistakes that can quickly make your ROI plummet.

Search engine marketing—or pay-per-click efforts—can help increase your organization’s website traffic, boost sales and give you powerful ROI.

However, your efforts can be easily undermined by common pitfalls.

Avoid the frustration of a digital communications headache by avoiding these search engine marketing mistakes:

1. You don’t choose your keywords carefully.

There’s an art in selecting the right keywords and key phrases to use for a particular campaign.

Paul Hunter, marketing manager of Liberty Marketing, says many communicators slip up when they target too many keywords in their pay-per-click efforts.

“Basics such as relevancy, the user-experience and consumer expectations haven’t been considered, which should be at the forefront of any PPC campaign,” Hunter says.

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Put your consumers first when you select your keywords or phrases—and when you write your ad’s copy. Just as content should be valuable to those whose attention you seek, your SEM efforts should be just as contentious.

2. You overlook long-tail keywords.

“A common misstep is not taking advantage of long-tail searches and lesser-used keywords,” says Anh Nguyen, owner of Amplified Marketing.

Long-tail keywords are longer phrases that are more specific to a certain product, service or solution. Consumers use them more frequently when they’re close to making a purchase or register for a service.

On top of selecting your keywords carefully, employing long-tail phrases can help you save money and increase your success.

Nguyen says:

Trying to be competitive with widely used keywords for your industry will be costly and probably not yield the results you want. Update your blog content periodically with different (but still relevant) keywords.

3. You pay a flat fee.

Just as you shouldn’t autopilot your online engagement, don’t set a standard cost for SEM efforts and forget about it.

Liam Solomon, marketing lead at Lovethesales.com, said deciding on a flat cost per action (CPA) or acquisition—the price you pay on each ad for a particular action, such as a click or sign-up—can be a costly mistake.

“Different ads will be triggered by different phrases, which will all have differing costs,” Solomon says. “Setting a single CPA means you’ll over bid on cheap phrases and under bid on expensive ones.”

Do your research on each keyword or key phrase you use, and be willing to adjust your amounts after you measure your efforts.

4. You skip negative keywords.

Stephen Hart, chief executive of Cardswitcher, says the money wasted on unrelated and meaningless keywords and phrases is “staggering.”

However, many brand managers can avoid overpaying for underperforming terms—thus increasing their ROI—by employing negative keywords.

“A negative keyword is basically any keyword that you don’t want your adverts shown against,” Hart says. “A very common negative keyword is ‘free’, which helps to avoid all non-transactional search terms.”

Instead of fighting over heavily used keywords (especially those used by your biggest competitors), include negative keywords to further refine your ads and help them reach the eyeballs of interested consumers ready to purchase or subscribe.

5. You send traffic to irrelevant webpages.

Many brand managers create effective ads, only to lead online traffic to pages on their website that don’t deliver the promise in the ad.

Hart says:

If someone had completed a search and then clicked on your advert, they are probably looking for a very targeted service or product. After all, few companies advertise on AdWords to raise their general profile. So, if someone clicks your ad and is directed to a non-specific page on your website — for example, your homepage or your contact page — they’re going to wonder what’s going on. I wouldn’t be surprised if that user clicked back and tried another result.

Hunter says that the mistake of targeting too many keywords can be compounded by sending those visitors to low-performing or irrelevant pages on your website, as well—making it even more important to avoid this pitfall.

Instead of selecting the front page of your website or another generic equivalent, Hart advises to select “dedicated, targeted landing pages” that correspond to each ad you run. These include specific product pages, testimonials or blog posts that help consumers find the solutions to their problems.

6. You select the wrong metrics to analyze.

Many brand managers struggle to measure their efforts, and SEM campaigns are no different.

Sabrina Ram, president of Blu Lotus, says it’s crucial for communicators to track the right key performance indicators, otherwise the metrics you gather won’t tell you if you’re successful or not.

She says that a common benchmark is the number of inbound links, but simply gathering that analytic won’t show you the whole story. Instead of striving to get the most inbound links, focus instead on getting links from high-quality (and high-performing) websites.

Ram says:

If 50 new links to your website were acquired in a given month, it doesn’t necessarily mean that’s a success. Marketers need to look past the face-value number and explore if those links came from quality websites. In addition, did those links come from 50 different websites or a handful of websites that linked multiple times? Lastly, comment spam also needs to be taken into consideration as it’s not a quality source of inbound links.

What additional mistakes would you add to the list, PR Daily readers?

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