5 Things no one will tell you about SEM – SES

This in-depth SEM session tried to debunk some of the myths floating around the industry (and many of the halls around SES). I found this one of the most interesting sessions and it did actually cover interesting points that fly in the face of conventional wisdom.

Moderator:
Chris Zacharias, VP Search Sales, Omniture

Panel:
David Rodnitzky, VP, Strategy, PPCAdBuying.com
Terry Whalen, SEM & Internet Marketing Expert, Founder, TDW Consulting
Chris Knoch, Principal Consultant, Best Practices Group, Omniture
Vinny Lingham, CEO, Synthasite

Chris Z:

Myth 1: The long tail keeps growing
Data from OneStat shows that over the last year, shorter queries (ie. 1-2 words in length) are becoming more common. This is a departure from trends over the last few years where the word-length of queries had been growing.

Why is this happening? According to data from Hitwise (Apr 2008), growth in navigational (branded) search has been growing. In the UK this now represents 88% of all searches (it was only 68% in 2005). Search is becoming more about direct navigation, and this is being seen in SEM campaigns, so don’t fixate on the long-tail terms – think of the head terms too.

Vinny:

Myth 2: Optimize every campaign
Focus on what will give you the best profit – ie. don’t spread the net too wide.

Work out what kind of costs you are saving for the work you put in. You can potentially get a lot more benefit by optimizing a $200K campaign vs. a $20K campaign. If you are a small advertiser, focus on fewer engines. Start with the head words before going after the tail.

Dave:

Myth 3: SEM works for everything
For some businesses, SEM just doesn’t work.

SEM is not good for mindshare marketing (eg. not good for products with a latent demand), that is where you want to get your idea out to the world at large. John Battelle has said that search is the database of intentions. So if the intention doesn’t exist, you are not going to reach your audience through search. Image ads can be more compelling in this instance.

Chris K:

Myth 4: All PPC Search traffic is equal
For PPC advertisers, the search network represents permission marketing. Searchers are actively seeking information and are looking for sites like yours. The content network is quite different. Your ads are competing with the content from the site publisher. Therefore there is a vast difference in quality between search and content.

Sometimes what Google calls the search network is not even strictly the search engines you might expect. So it makes sense when you organize your Google Adwords campaigns to keep the content separate – even to the degree of separating out the accounts for search and content.

When it comes to the content network, there are ways to keep out of the made-for-Adsense (MFA) domains – that is the domains that just exist to drive traffic through the ads by offering spurious, low-quality content). Use the search query report to analyze your kewords. Beyond finding out what keywords are working for you, you can also figure out which are the red herring terms that you don’t want to be found for and add these to your negative keyword lists.

Google also pushes Youtube and Myspace advertising onto its advertisers. Both of these sites may not perform as well as you expect and need to be treated carefully.

Terry:

Myth 5: Search is opaque
There is a lot you can learn about what is happening in your industry.

Take a look at what your compeitors are doing. If big advertisers are bidding on head terms, they are probably profitable: look at what they are doing – their keywords, ad text, landing pages. Find out where in the flow you can make the biggest benefits. Look at microconversions (each click along the conversion path).

Useful tools for competitive analysis include Compete, Quantcast and Hitwise.

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