Checklist: The 15 worst practices in paid search

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The five best ways to ruin your search program efforts in 2009
The five best ways to ruin your search program efforts in 2009

Think your paid search campaign is perfect? I wouldn't be so sure. Have a look at these fifteen common campaign flaws I've encountered over my years in search.

Giving free reign to affiliates Affiliates can compete with you without you realizing it — even outbidding you on your own branded terms. You should have strict affiliate guidelines in place.

Contractual obligations Be careful who you've locked yourself in with — you don't want to tie your horse to the wrong cart. Be cautious of package deals from media holding companies.

Google default settings These are great for reach — but can go so broad that they hurt targeting. Check default settings like “extended broad match” to make sure they're right for you.

Geo-targeting to the wrong geography If your business is in Manhattan, NY, avoid geo-targeting Manhattan, KS.

Not having a goal If you don't know what you want to achieve from your paid search campaign, you can't develop a strategy.

A hasty launch You'll feel better if you organize your ad groups early on, and design a good Web site before you launch.

Lack of internal tracking If you don't track conversions and click paths, how do you know what's working?

Killing good keywords Is it a bad keyword — or a bad ad or bad landing page? Test before tossing away good inventory.

Ignoring lifetime value Don't ignore your best customers. Learn which searchers enter loyalty programs and sign up for long-term memberships — and optimize toward them.

Manual campaigns Without the technology to optimize bids, manage keywords, track and test, you cannot win in paid search.

Multichannel advertising without search Make sure this doesn't happen: Your flawless branding drives would-be custom­ers to search for your brand — only to find your competitors.

Optimizing to average costs per click Optimizing to averages is like injecting waste into your campaign — overspending on low-ROI terms and under­spending on your best ones.

Failing to be proactive If the team you've hired isn't guiding you as to where your search campaign should go next, you may need to replace them.

Small search team If you don't have enough manpower behind your great search ideas, you won't get the work done.

Broken URLs If your search ad leads to a dead page, even a 100% clickthrough rate is use­less. Triple-check that every link — and every detail in your campaign — is completely functional.

If any of these items strikes a chord, have a chat with your search team ASAP. You don't want to fall prey to worst practice No. 16: Hoping your search problems just go away.

Gerry Bavaro is VP, client services at Didit. Reach him at gerry.bavaro@didit.com.

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