Zen and the Art of Paid Search Maintenance

One of the key components of Zen Buddhism is the discipline to meditate regularly in order to achieve spiritual enlightenment. Discipline is also the key to achieving paid search enlightenment – or as I like to call it, success.

I have to give a tip of the hat to my colleague Brandy Eddings, who suggested I write a column about why throwing your money into the proverbial search engine toilet is probably not a good idea. She came to that conclusion after dealing with one too many new paid search clients who let their campaigns go without any maintenance.

Discipline Rules in Paid Search Campaigns

I am not a Zen Buddhist. My religious upbringing was filled with broadcasts of Billy Graham rather than Taoist meditation. But I have to admire a religion where the basis of success is rooted in a discipline that I, for one, think would be difficult to maintain. Yet, I strive for that type of discipline when it comes to paid search marketing.

When a new search campaign is first developed, there is a honeymoon period for both the client and agency. This is so cool, so new… Everyone has so many ideas for different ways to phrase the creative and for the different landing pages they want to test. What about this keyword? Should we try that word as an exact match for a couple of days and see how it goes? At this point, there is no problem getting everyone involved.

After a couple of months, the excitement dies down, even if the results are great. Let’s face it, there are only so many ways you can write a search ad. There are only so many times you can jump up and down about a certain keyword achieving a click-through rate goal. Maintenance becomes less and less. Keywords that aren’t performing continue to run unabated. Landing pages aren’t touched. I even had one client come in who was still running Hanukah-themed ads in the middle of June. Can you guess how well those were converting?

Paid Search Maintenance Yields Top Performance

That’s why it’s important to put regular processes in place to instill discipline in the maintenance of your paid search campaigns. Below are a few tips that make for a good way to ensure that you are maintaining discipline. This puts you on your way to paid search enlightenment and top campaign performance.

  1. Switch up responsibilities every once in a while. Everyone gets bored of the same thing over and over. You may have a subject matter expert who knows your business better than anyone, but that doesn’t mean s/he wants to spend her/his entire day looking at search campaigns. Every once in a while, it’s a good idea to bring a fresh set of eyes in temporarily to see what changes can be made.
  2. Create a schedule to check every word. Some of you have campaigns that are so huge you could never check the whole thing in even a year’s time. Long-tail campaigns are popular and effective. But even if you are working a portfolio approach with 500,000 key phrases, it’s a good idea to slog through each campaign as often as possible. Create a schedule and just start going through everything. Once you finish, go back and start again. Of course, your most important keywords must be maintained daily, but the long tail can be put on a schedule.
  3. Big ideas create excitement. At least once a month, we try to come up with a “big idea” for each of our clients. That idea may be completely far-fetched, and the client may never go for it for budgetary or branding reasons, but it gives us a chance to flex our creative search marketing muscles and look outside the box for solutions to problems we sometimes didn’t even know existed.
  4. Do daily goal updates. Nothing brings back excitement to a search campaign more than achieving a goal previously thought to be impossible. And nothing kicks a search marketer in the pants more than realizing s/he isn’t anywhere near meeting her/his goals. Create a daily goal “thermometer” report and make sure that everyone is aware of it. Celebrate the victories and pull together to avoid the big losses.
  5. Maintain your course. One of the biggest deflators of search campaigns is the quick knee-jerk reaction to a temporary problem. Stick with your plan until you know it’s not working. Don’t yank down bids after one bad day. Look for trends and long-term success.

Once again, discipline is the key to achieving paid search enlightenment. So don’t throw your money down the toilet by not putting the above processes in place. Ohmmm…

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