Do’s and Don’ts for Your Search Campaigns

I’m often asked what the do’s and don’ts are of successful search marketing campaigns. It’s a difficult question to answer without a lot of caveats and assumptions. There’s a multitude of factors that come into play when undertaking search marketing, many of which are outside of your control. That said, there are some key best practices or guidelines that 99 percent of the time will hold true and help you achieve success.

While not exhaustive, I’ve attempted to hone in on the most important take-aways to keep in mind when developing and running your search marketing programs..

I have broken these do’s and don’ts into two categories:

  • Paid search: pay per click (PPC)
  • Organic search: search engine optimization (SEO)

PPC

Do…

  • Feel free to take a test-and-prove approach by starting with a small pilot program.
  • Consider starting with one search vendor and then rolling out to others once your campaign is well-honed.
  • Employ keyword research tools to help you uncover niche or obscure keywords you may never have thought of.
  • Try to always use the query/keyword in your ad copy (preferably in the title).
  • Ensure you deep-link to the most relevant page on your site based on the query.
  • Add “negative” keywords to your campaign to filter out irrelevant or inappropriate traffic.
  • Test multiple ad copies to determine message efficacy.

Don’t…

  • Forget to set a daily budget – you don’t want to spend your entire budget in one week.
  • Underestimate the value of simple, engine-provided conversion tools – these tools will help you quickly see what’s working and optimize your campaign accordingly.
  • Disregard match types – a keyword on exact match might perform very differently than one on broad match.
  • Launch a campaign without appropriate analytics/tracking in place.
  • Skimp on campaign management and analysis. This is where true value is uncovered.
  • Look at PPC (define) in isolation. Attempt to understand the impact of other marketing activities, including online and offline advertising, on search performance.

Search Engine Optimization

Do…

  • Leverage all of your external partners/vendors/suppliers, etc. to garner relevant and credible inbound links.
  • Create amazing, valuable, hard-to-find-elsewhere content and tools that other websites will naturally want to link to.
  • Explore the possibility of syndicating your content on other websites (which will typically include a link back to the source).
  • Ensure your website is built in a search engine friendly manner using coding best practices.
  • Employ unique page titles and descriptions on every page of your website.
  • Consider optimizing your site for niche or narrowly focused keywords, to increase your chances of obtaining desirable positioning.

Don’t…

  • Assume you can do it all yourself unless you are truly an expert in the field.
  • Build a site without thinking about the search engine perspective – in addition to the user perspective.
  • Undertake sneaky black hat tactics such as keyword stuffing, hidden text, etc.
  • Anticipate that change will happen overnight. SEO is a waiting game – it takes time to see results.
  • Obsess about your rankings. Only the metrics that relate to your objectives matter…organic traffic and conversions should mean more than a number five keyword ranking.
  • Expect to invest nothing. Although SEO appears “free” at the outset due to the lack of media expenditure, the ongoing maintenance effort/investment can be deceptively high.

Julie is off today. This column was originally published on June 21, 2010 on ClickZ.

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