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10 Common Mistakes that Will Kill Your Self-Managed SEM Campaign

10-mistakesWe come across a fair number of AdWords accounts that have been self-managed in an attempt to cut costs or due to the belief that managing an SEM program is “easy”.

If you’re managing your own SEM campaign, make sure you’re not committing one of these critical, yet common mistakes:

1. Poor campaign structure without themed ad groups. This is the biggest and most common mistake that we run into.  Structuring your campaign properly will provide maximum flexibility and control and allow you to understand what’s working and what’s not.  Proper structuring does take some time at the beginning but it’s time well spent.

2. Google Analytics is not linked to the AdWords Account. Analytics and AdWords are designed to work together.  If they are not linked properly, you lose out on the opportunity to gather additional insights and ultimately improve performance.

3. Not tracking conversions.  Focusing on click-through rate (CTR) or cost per click (CPC) is easy but it doesn’t tell the whole story.  Failing to track user behaviour after they arrive at your site means that you never really know if the traffic you’re paying for is worth it.  A conversion doesn’t have to be a sale, it can be submissions of the “Contact Us” form, a subscription to the newsletter, requests for a quote, maybe even views of the location page.

4. Improper match type. In AdWords, the default match type is broad, which means that your ad can be triggered by any close variation of any of the keywords you’re bidding on.  Broad match type almost always leads to large amounts of irrelevant traffic, and spend.

5. Not making use of negative keywords. Negative keywords are ones where you DON’T want your ad to show up.  Adding negatives ensures that spend is allocated only to the most relevant traffic. 

6. Keyword Duplicates. Keyword research is a bit of an art and it starts from selecting the right set of words, choosing the keyword matching type and breaking down your campaign into themed ad groups. If the same keyword phrase ends up in multiple ad groups, AdWords will choose which ad group the phrase belongs to.

7. Not following AdWords policies.  Every AdWords campaign needs to adhere to Google’s policies in order to get approved.  If you’re not following the rules, you risk wasting a lot of time and opportunity.

8. Failing to test. The beauty of online marketing is in it’s ability to constantly test, refine, and improve.  If you’re not testing, you’re missing out on the opportunity to drastically improve results.  At an absolute minimum you should be running two different ads against each other.  Keep in mind, you can only test one variable at a time otherwise you won’t know what change was responsible for the increase in performance.

9. Search and Display running together. The Search and Display networks operate very differently in Google AdWords. With Search, people have an immediate need that they are looking to satisfy.  Display is interruption marketing, your ads are served contextually, but people may not actually have an immediate need.  Unfortunately, there is no a feasible way to optimize a campaign when both networks are running together.

10. Lack of strategy.  Your AdWords campaign is just one part of your online marketing presence.  It’s easy to throw money at SEM because AdWords will spend it, but the best campaigns are designed carefully with alignment to the overall objectives of the organization in mind.

Self-managed campaigns might seem like a great way to save money but the reality is that the industry is changing so quickly that an SEM professional can reduce irrelevant spend and increase conversion rates.  If you’ve been managing your SEM program but are curious on how we can help, then get in touch or leave us a note in the comments!