Is Your SEM Vendor Doing A Good Job? Here Are 5 tips To Evaluate Whether They Are Up To Par.

Having run many search engine marketing (SEM) campaigns, we often find it peculiar that many clients are simply obsessed with clicks. Many seem to assume that clicks = traffic = sales. Well, that’s almost like saying that people who visit your store will most definitely make a purchase!

This unhealthy obsession for clicks is often most pervasive when companies hire Media agencies to run their campaigns. Media agencies often report statistics as they would with traditional media. E.g. buying $X ads will bring you X impressions. Likewise paying $X dollars will bring you X clicks or X impressions.


At first glance, their marketing reports often seem impressive with actual impressions running into hundreds of thousands. And clients are happy when the impressions for their online campaigns seem higher than those reported from print campaigns. However, is there more than meets the eye?

Here are 5 tips to assess whether your SEM vendor is actually doing a good job.

1. Campaign Type

Most search engines run two types of campaigns – Search and Display. Search campaigns show text ads to users searching for keywords, while Display campaigns show text or banner ads on websites that have opt-in to the search engine’s inventory.

Since users have an intent to look for your services on the search engine, the clickthrough rate (CTR) for search campaigns will always be higher than Display campaigns.

As best practice, the CTR for Search Campaigns should be above 1%. A good CTR helps to improve your quality score and ad position. What’s more, you get to pay less for your ads.

2. Cost Per Click (CPC)

Each campaign can vary in its average CPC, depending on the bid competition for the keyword. What is important to note is that while the average CPC for search campaigns tends to be higher than that for display campaigns, the quality of traffic it brings is often better than that for display campaigns. Users from search traffic tend to be more ready to commit as compared to users from display traffic.
While it is common for SEM vendors to benchmark their campaign against the CPC metric of previous campaigns, it is more important to know how your money is being spent online. A lower CPC can be due to many factors such as reduced competition; a shift in media budget from search to display; or targeting cheaper, less competitive keywords.

Thus a lower CPC may not necessary mean that you are getting more bang for your buck. Ask yourself, would you rather spend more on people who want to buy your product, or less on people who are less keen on buying your product?

3. Ad positions

Ad positions matter most on search campaigns. The higher your ad rank, the higher the odds that your ad will be seen by more people. As best practice, online marketers often place bids that are high enough to ensure that they achieve the top 3 ad positions for keywords that they target.

While ad positions are largely dependent on your keyword bids, an experienced online marketer would be able to garner a high quality score to ensure that you pay less than your closest competitor for a high ad ranking.

4. Ad Extensions

As best practice, ad extensions are often included in search campaigns. Ad extensions are a great way of including more information about your services along with your ad.

Sitelink extensions allow you to include other links from your website, while call extensions allow users to click on a button to call you. In addition, location extensions lets users find your nearest store. What’s more, callout extensions allow you to add additional short marketing messages to tell people what you have to offer. The addition of such extensions can most definitely drive more traffic to your website.

What’s more, ad extensions can also impact your ad ranking on Google. According to Google, “the ad with the more positive expected impact from extensions will generally appear in a higher position than the other.”

5. Website Placements

Many clients love seeing a string of zeros. Some of them think, “Wow, my ads have had a million impressions!” But what they often forget is that it’s easy to garner impressions online.
Most websites have an incentive to serve ads to earn revenue. What’s more important is the kind of websites that your ads are appearing on. Are your ads appearing on websites with real content, the kind that attracts the visitors that you want? Or would you rather receive traffic from spam blogs?

Ultimately, while clicks matter, driving the right traffic to your website matters more in securing potential leads.

Are you frustrated by the lack of business traction from your online marketing campaigns? Find out how you can drive and improve traffic to your website while managing SEM costs. Sign up for a free consultation today!

photo credit: minifig via photopin cc

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