Top 10 Ways to Sabotage Your Search Engine Marketing

search-bombOver the past year, I’ve had quite a bit of interaction with Covario clients and prospects, industry analysts, paid search and SEO professionals at Covario and other agencies. Many of these interactions centered on data-driven insights for improving search marketing.  Most of my contemporaries are looking for incremental gains in efficiency, effectiveness, and/or program growth. A few are looking for “game changers” that will increase the role of search in their company’s marketing mix.

Well, the opportunities exist, and this posting is my list of the top 10 ways I have seen advertisers sub-optimize their performance in search.  Some are due to technology limitations, misunderstanding of how the search engine algorithms work, or limited resources.  However, deployment of these tactics does drive results — we’ve done them and measured what happens.  They really do work.

Now, I realize that nothing is quite as irritating as when someone looks you in the eye and says “Just do these 10 seemingly impossible things and you’ll be fine”.  A few years ago, I stumbled across a book with a title something like 50 Ways to Sabotage Your Relationships with sage advice like “If you want to put someone in a bad mood, just ask them: ‘Why are you always in such a bad mood?’”  As I thumbed through the book, I found myself laughing, but also realizing “oh my… I do that!”  On the way to learning how to make search marketing as effective as possible, some of us have to “explore” what can go wrong first.  We have done a lot of exploring…  So here they are… The Top 10 Ways To Sabotage Your SEM.    (drumroll please)

10. Compete against yourself

9. Pay to rank #1

8. Hit daily budget limits

7. Optimize for paid-only performance

6. Use creative that pre-qualifies visitors

5. Focus on a call to action

4. Be careless with broad match

3. Ignore your customers’ queries

2. Focus SEO efforts on low-volume queries

1. Use last click, first click, or linear attribution

Some of these may seem stupid to do (#10?), and some may seem stupid not to do (#5?). Hopefully this list will incite a little bit of controversy and an exchange of ideas.  Several items are pertinent to paid search only, #2 is specific to SEO, #7 and #3 deal with paid search and SEO, and #1 is critical for all marketing including paid and organic search, display advertising, and social media.  I plan to explore each of these topics in a series of upcoming blogs – with specific attention to “why do people do these things?”  What is known is that attention to these issues by SEM and SEO professionals will drive results – and that is the goal.

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