Ah yes, the New Year. A magical time when anything seems possible. If the weeks between Thanksgiving and Dec 31st are a time to reflect, the start of January is a time to act. Ideally, you’ve organized all those thoughts into a plan of action. Call it a to-do list or resolutions, it’s all the same thing. Whether you’re trying to better yourself or the community around you, it’s the time to ride the wave of optimism and turn it into something productive.

Since I’m turning 30 at the end of the year, I feel doubly incentivized to get all my houses in order before December 6th. While I’m a bit of a traditionalist with resolutions – lose weight, save money – I figured I’d put together some SEM-specific resolutions to get the year started off right. It all makes sense, really: turning 30, the Mayan apocalypse, sharing the same initials as my trade, 12.12.12…the whole shebang.

In any case, here goes nothing.

1)      Lay off the refresh button – I’m a data junkie. I love the instant gratification of paid search. Launch a keyword, rack up new spend and conversions. New LP and Ad – watch CTR and CVR flourish (ideally). Monitoring your account is essential, and you should be intimately familiar with the ins and outs of your campaigns. You just don’t need to sweat conversions every 15 minutes. I do this too much, and 2012 is the year to stop. Checking accounts metrics every hour or two is more reasonable.

2)      Stop Launching on Fridays – Sometimes there’s no choice, but you shouldn’t be doing this that much. Even if you’re OK with the prospect of checking data on weekends (and if you’re in paid search, you should) – avoid pre-weekend launches. Let’s face it: you just don’t have the same level of focus on your accounts Sat./Sun. as you do during the week. Deadlines are deadlines, and sometimes promotions require running new content on weekends. Just avoid it if you can.

3)      Don’t Forget the Sitelinks – As valuable as these have become, they’re too often forgotten. Anytime a new parameter needs to be added or a URL has to be switched out altogether, sitelinks are usually the last thing to get updated. Maybe it’s the lack of data Google provides around sitelink conversions, maybe it’s just because they’re in a separate ad – neither ad or keyword – either way, these have been around long enough to get more love!

4)      Remember, You Are Not Your Audience – An oldie but goodie that always bears repeating (perhaps more often than once a year). In most cases, you will not be marketing products to people like yourself. SEMs need to channel the qualitative skills that make their display counterparts so valuable and get in the minds of the audience. Data will tell the tale, so don’t strike down an idea because it doesn’t appeal to your own sensibilities.

5)      Test, Test, Test – Even if you are already testing, you aren’t testing enough. Lack of data holding you back? Test in other areas! The reality is that SEM experimentation doesn’t stop with ads and landing pages. Are you hovering near the top of the right rail for a head term? Try pushing the boundaries to see how much margin you’re giving up by jumping to the top. With PLAs and map extensions taking over, position 4 isn’t what it used to be. Pause a poor-performing keyword a few months ago or bid a few others below the first page? Try bringing them back up! Chances are you’ve improved your site by now, so why not give them another shot? Go international, give mobile PPC a shot, try some totally different audiences, change your remarketing message, re-segment your remarketing lists…the list goes on and on and on and on.

SEM has evolved to the point where yesterday’s advanced techniques are already old hat. If it was cutting-edge a year ago, it’s standard practice now. Never stop innovating!

Happy New Year!

- Sean Marshall, Director of Search Engine Marketing
– Questions? Comments? Email us at blog at ppcassociates dot com.

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