SEM Olympics

Faster, higher, smarter.

I love big sporting events. Olympics, World Cup, Super Bowl – I’m a sucker for the drama that elite competition creates. Like most people, I’ve spent a few hours in front of the television watching the London games, and aside from making me feel lazy, they’ll serve as the inspiration for this week’s blog.  With apologies to everyone for giving in to another blog cliché, I give you:


The Search Marketer’s Guide to the Olympics

50m FreeStyleThe Sprint – Sometimes speed is key in PPC. Nothing feels more like a sprint than seasonal peaks.  Whether it’s Cyber Monday in ecomm, Valentine’s Day in dating or the mid-August rush in Edu, some scenarios force SEMs to move fast. Every hour counts, and your competitors are never far behind (unless your name is Bolt).

400m TrackNot Quite All Out – The 400 is a very tricky event. While pure sprinters have no restraints and must push, 400 runners need to go just hard enough to stay ahead without completely gassing out.  Managing fixed budgets can feel like that sometimes. There’s an art to maximizing volume and getting the most out of a finite amount of dollars.

GymnasticsFlexibility – In a world of process and automation, you can’t forget to stay flexible. Things don’t always go according to plan in PPC so you need to stay limber and loose so you can contort to the requirements of the task (or apparatus) you’re working on.

Team SportsTeamwork (duh) – Working together towards a common goal (literally in sports). Any PPC program worth anything requires teamwork.  Whether you’re splitting day-to-day AdWords execution or collaborating with engineers to deploy code, if you can’t get along with others, you can’t get the job done.

Judo/BoxingCombat – Our co-founder Will Lin likes to compare SEM to mixed martial arts. In the absence of MMA at the Olympics, a hybrid will have to do.  Auctions are a fight, and direct attacks (minus trademarks) are fair game. Competitor pushing price? Let the people know price doesn’t equal quality. Ad testing is a counter-puncher’s dream.

WeightliftingMoving Mountains – Building something from scratch can feel like moving a big boulder (or giant weights): lots of exertion, not a lot of movement. Whether you’re fighting low QS, entrenched competitors, or a niche audience, it feels like people are just piling on the weight. Power through, and the gold – err, conversions – can be yours.

DivingJumping Right In – We aren’t exactly talking cliff diving here, but jumping in from high places can be scary. Nothing creates that feeling more than starting a brand-new account. Unless you have already done work in the vertical, breaking into a new space is scary.

Synchronized DivingKeeping Together – Different parts of your program need to move in synch.  Coordinating a display push with search buys and remarketing requires alignment on message and creative. Mismatches create friction and damage the user’s experience (and will surely lead to point deductions).

Pole VaultRaising the Bar (with technology) – We can jump high….but we can jump higher with the aid of technology. Outsourcing bidding to an algo, automating reporting, whatever it gives, it enables SEMs to do MORE.

Beach VolleyballPlaying on a Tricky Surface – Even on sand, you need to move fast. It’s hard to be elite when you’re working on shaky ground. That could mean having unclear directions from a client or working with unstable tech tools.

ArcheryAccuracy – SEMs need to be on point. Simple as that. If your work isn’t accurate, you’re doomed. Whether it’s pivot table errors, forgotten URL parameters, or typos in ads, there’s no margin for error.

MarathonThe Long Grind – Paid search is a race that never ends, but the marathon will have to do (it’s the longest). It can feel like a long, tiring exercise, but push through the pain. You won’t quite get runner’s high, but there’s almost always a sweet reward at the end of all the hard work.

DecathlonA Little Bit of Everything – Perhaps a forgotten event (well, it’s going on right now, so I guess people will start remembering) – certainly an underappreciated one. Well rounded, versatile, SEMs have to be good at more than one thing. (What does that make SEM, an icosathlon?)

Now if only we had an anthem…

Sean Marshall, Director of Client Services

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Sean Marshall
Sean Marshall is the CEO of Intended, an SEM agency founded in 2013 to provide industry-best service for SMB clients. Before Intended, Sean was the VP of Business Development of PPC Associates (now 3Q Digital). He is a huge Cal fan and has been known to win a buck or two playing online poker.