20 More Mistakes Made By SEM Newbies

Two weeks ago, I shared the first half of a "Do-Not-Do" list for SEM neophytes that I crowd-sourced from fellow SEM geeks on Facebook, Google+, and Twitter. And now, the rest of the story...

1.     Spend 80% of your budget on places "other" than Google. Erik Engman, the man with the best goatee in the biz, humors us with this 80/20 rule. I don't think even the freshest meat are making this error -- but, just in case anyone out there thinks it might be a good strategy to avoid the Big G, think again.



2.     Ignore Bing and Yahoo. Despite its market share, Google ain't the only game in town. There are many brands/campaigns that perform very well through adCenter -- sometimes, even better than on Google.

3.    Ignore Ask and AOL. Ditto here. The tier-2 engines can work hard for you and, if you don't give them a look, you're hardly working.

4.     Ignore other PPC channels. There's no SE in PPC. And there are plenty of good sources of pay-per-click traffic beyond search engines.

5.     Not applying insights to other channels. SEM can be a fantastic way to learn more about your business, your customers, their needs, and your value prop. Here are 10 ways to use search data beyond SEM.

6.     Let someone else claim ownership of social network ads. Sure, you'll need different metrics to evaluate Facebook ads, but the same rigor of campaign setup and optimization (as well as third-party tech platforms) can and must be applied to both search and social. Don't let anyone tell you that social network advertising should be managed by the "display" team. No-one puts Baby in an SEM corner!

7.     Manage SEO separately from PPC. Would you ever let two different people pick out your shirt and your pants without one coordinating with the other? No way, Jose. (Although my daughter might be better off!) So, if you let two different people manage your SEO and PPC without working together, don't complain when your SERP is a total clash.

8.     Creating dummy social media accounts to generate link popularity. Not surprisingly, Jenn Mathews, aka SEO Goddess, pointed out a number of SEO mistakes made by freshies. Hey, kids, creating dummy profiles just makes you a dummy. K, thx, bye.

9.     Not implementing Meta Tags. Seems like SEO 101 here  -- but Jenn wisely reminds us that, even though these are no longer the most important ranking factor, they're still an important signal. Bottom line, ya betta meta!

10.  Get paralyzed by data. The beauty of SEM is that everything's trackable. It's a sin not to use all the data at your fingertips. A wise man once said, "What doesn't get measured doesn't get done." But an even wiser man once said, "Analytics is not a tool, it's a discipline."

11.  Assume you know who your competitors are. @Aaron Friedman reminds us that your competition is broader than you think. Your SEM competitors are anyone that may appear on the SERP for keywords relevant to your brand/product. Don't just focus on your traditional competitors and make an "ass" out of "u" and "me."

12.  Take things at face value. This one comes via +Melanie Mitchell. "It is important to know who is a reliable source in the industry (there are many) and to understand the bigger implication of what [you] are doing rather than just focus on a specific task. That way you can prioritize to tackle the things that will have the biggest impact." Of course she'd never say it, so I will: Melanie is one of the reliable ones. Definitely a face to follow.

13.  Spend time on anything but the keywords that make you the most money first. Let @cohlhoff tell you how to prioritize. First and foremost, focus on the keywords that drive top revenue, impressions, and clicks. "Everything else comes 2nd." @DavidBLevy agrees.

14.    Don't overlook the long tail. Even though you can have the most immediate impact by patting the head, sometimes the tail can wag the dog, per @AaronFriedman.

15.    Not going through the AdWords learning program. Knoch,Knoch. Who's there? AdWords exam. AdWords exam who? If you have to ask, you're fired.

16.    Thinking Google certification is all you need. Congrats! You passed. Now let's see how you do in the "real world."

17.    Don't read the trades. Make sure to carve out 30 minutes every day to read articles like this one. Being too busy is no excuse. We're all busy. Especially those of us who write these things.

18.    Attend only one search conference. I know it's hard to find time (and budget!) to go to SEM shows, but there's no one show that fits all.  Get your SES or SMX on to dive deep into tactics, but come up for air (one mile above sea level!) with SIS to dive deep into conversation.

19.    Toil away on social media. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know you're just doing "research" on YouTube advertising -- but does it really take you two hours of Lollapalooza Live to figure out how out how Promoted Videos work?

20.    Not leveraging free tools. There are too many to name, so I won't try. C'mon newbie, be resourceful. I can't spoon-feed you everything! 

OK, there's your Top 40, America. Seacrest out.

6 comments about "20 More Mistakes Made By SEM Newbies".
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  1. Andy Giordano from Terri Bennett Enterprises, LLC, August 24, 2011 at 12:40 p.m.

    Hey Seacrest - Where are the other 20?

  2. Stephanie Rach-wilson from IAGmedia, August 24, 2011 at 1:23 p.m.

    Best article ever!

  3. Andries De villiers from, August 24, 2011 at 1:44 p.m.

    Great article Aaron. PPC channels outside of Google can often be the best channels for small marketers who can't compete on Google, as well as for large brands who can't get more volume on their top keywords.

  4. Dan Evans from Saelig Company Inc, August 24, 2011 at 1:54 p.m.

    Hi Aaron,

    Regarding mistake #3: Since I was unfamiliar with Ask or AOL PPC, I googled " ppc" - Could you please comment on the resulting links from that search to very negative comments from users of Ask PPC or people who could not find how to place PPC on Ask?

    Also, when I googled " ppc" what seemed to be the most relevant link implied that the AOL network is now encompassed by Google. Is that right?


  5. Aaron Goldman from Mediaocean, August 24, 2011 at 3:52 p.m.

    Andy - click the first hyperlink in the first sentence.

    Stephanie - best comment ever!

    Andries - definitely had you guys in mind when writing #4.

    Dan - good googling! My best advice with Ask and AOL is to try it for yourself and form your own opinion based on how it works for your business. Indeed, you can get ads on AOL via Google syndication but you can also buy direct for more control.

  6. Alex Edlund from, August 24, 2011 at 6:05 p.m.

    I have to commend you on the idea of crowdsourcing your articles. This is the new way to go as long as you hang around the right crowd.. Great article and advice. Newbies, print this out and place it on your wall.

    #15. It's amazing to hear how few PPC advertisers have actually taken the AdWords Professional exam. It's a great way to really get to know all aspects of AdWords.


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