Why You’re Losing Money on Paid Search

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Paid Search

Paid Search

Paid search isn’t a game of chance, but the wisdom of The Gambler holds: “If you’re gonna play the game, boy, ya gotta learn to play it right…”


Don’t forget that paid search platforms like Google AdWords and Microsoft adCenter are businesses that want your precious marketing dollars first and foremost. They urge you to “expand your reach” with less-targeted campaigns on broader networks (there goes your budget) while letting documentation on cost-saving, performance-enhancing techniques sit quietly in the background.


Take negative keywords for example: We brought on an adventure travel client that runs trips for teens, and because they hadn’t set up negative keywords in their account (keywords that you don’t want to show ads for), Google was showing their Teen Adventure Travel ads on “nudist colony” and “nudist camp” search queries. The scary thing is that they had no idea it was happening! The actual search terms that trigger ads are buried in an obscure report while impressions and clicks accrue on the “keyword” that you’re bidding on. That’s how the engines do business – Yikes!


Another important point to understand is that paid search is not the “land of opportunity” it once was. As one of the very first online marketing channels, it’s a sophisticated, mature market. Competition is fierce in the ad auctions, even for extremely narrow niches, and cost will only continue to rise. Is it any wonder that do-it-yourself advertisers are getting eaten for lunch out there? So before jumping headlong into paid search, or even if you already have, I strongly recommend you step back and do a few things first:


  • Establish context – What is your objective? Does paid search fit with your strategy? Is your product/service offering a fit for paid search? How will you measure success?
  • Get your account aligned – Keywords, ads, and landing pages have to be aligned with your objectives and strategies. Implement all the best practices up front so you can make the most of your ad spend.
  • Track what matters – If you’re doing ecommerce, make sure your account is set up to track conversions (purchases) and pull in real revenue numbers on every transaction. If you’re not doing ecommerce, define and track the actions that you see as valuable and, if possible, assign them a dollar value. This is the key to determining your return on investment.
  • Manage it right – Find a certified professional. Beware “consultants” without significant account management experience that produced real results.


We routinely bring on and overhaul client accounts to turn them around and increase ROI, so I know there’s opportunity for businesses using paid search; but it’s just one of the many online marketing tactics available. It’s right for some, but not all – “You got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em…” – be smart about it and you’ll be successful.

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