Search Marketing Horror Tales

scream-bwThis time of year, everyone enjoys a good scare. Ghosts are around every corner, goblins meet you at your door and you are likely to face more tricks than treats. But that doesn’t mean everything has to be frightful, especially when it comes to your search campaign.

In honor of Halloween, here are some search marketing mistakes that should make you scream.

Budget Caps

Not all budget caps are bad. But using them as a means to manage your spend is like trying to perform surgery with Michael Myers’ butcher knife. It’s inexact, messy and likely to not end well.

Budget caps are a great safety device, but the most effective way to control your spend is through keyword-level bids. This ensures much greater control and helps you avoid missing demand and conversions.

Unfortunately, just like some kids have to stop trick or treating at a specified time and miss out on more candy, some companies insist on caps even when there are more sales to be had. It’s our job to make sure they know what they’re making us give up.

Shooting For The Top

Sometimes we’re under the gun to “own” a category or idea. Too often, that leads to a misplaced notion that we have to bid to position 1 for those related keywords. When they’re your brand terms, it’s OK, but for non-brand, it’s often overkill and leads to a bloodletting of your money.

Very few tactics are more quantitative than search engine marketing, so if the data shows running in position 1 for a top of the funnel non-brand term is wasting money – and, even worse, preventing you from spending intelligently on high performers – don’t do it. For most businesses, nothing’s scarier than wasting money.

Running in a Silo

Silos make for great autumn landscapes and backdrops for horror movies. But managing search from inside a silo – without a deep understanding of how search interacts with your other channels – is like wearing one of these cheap plastic masks where the holes don’t actually line up with your eyes. You don’t know what’s out there, who’s got candy, and who’s about to spray you with shaving cream.

Optimizing paid search without looking at how exposures from display, social, organic search, email and any other trackable media are helping move the user through the conversion funnel is a frightening concept.

At a minimum, deduping credit across channels is absolutely necessary. Done right, integration can help you run all of your media far more efficiently.

Owning the Neighborhood

The search engines give you plenty of opportunity to dominate the landing page. Product listings, ad extensions, and sitelinks are just some examples of easy and efficient ways to take up more space.

Missing out on these would be like trick or treating in a one-block radius. Don’t miss out on valuable real estate. But like every smart kid, know which houses will have the most candy and invest your time and budget where it will help the most.

Are You Scared Searchless Yet?

There are a more ways to turn your SEM efforts into a bloody mess than there are bodies in Crystal Lake or nightmares on Elm Street.

Do you have a horror story to share? What search mistakes have made you release a blood-curdling scream? Gather around the campfire and use the comments section to tell your most harrowing tale.

About the author

Dave Ragals serves as Senior Vice President of Client Services for IgnitionOne, where he oversees the company's client services operations and is co-author of “The Integrated Marketing Playbook.” Mr. Ragals has more than 13 years of online experience.

He began his online career with CNN, where he served as V.P., News Features at CNN Interactive, managing the creation of highly-customized content as well as several large business relationships with advertisers and partners. In addition, he developed the paid search marketing strategy for the American Cancer Society, where he was in charge of Web Marketing. Mr. Ragals graduated from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism, where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree.