Your SEM program is terrible. But that's all right because your boss doesn't understand a single thing you do -- he's just concerned that you are doing it and that your numbers look great.
So what are you doing wrong? First of all, stop patting yourself on the back with how great your SEM program is. You're really not that good. Seriously. Now let's move on.
A rock with arms can make SEM look good. Why? Because it's the last stop a consumer makes. By the time they type in a keyword on Google -- and it really is all about Google -- they've already decided what they're looking for. Television, radio, print, banners, events and billboards have all sucked their brains so dry that by the time they come to SEM, they are mindless lemmings.
"I must have product X. Must type in keyword to find product X. Must consume. More, more, more. It will make me happy."
What gets the credit for that last stop? SEM, of course. The consumer sees a television commercial, a print ad, an outdoor billboard and then goes online and types something into Google to find it. Voila!
Did SEM cause that sale or visit? Of course not. It is merely the conduit to it. It's like having an extra door to your store to let more people in. I always marvel at myopic managers who cut their other ad budgets and slowly see their SEM traffic drop and can't figure out why. The trickle may be slow at first, but the curve does become apparent over time. If you want to look like the hero in advertising on the brand side, go into SEM. It's just a shame the creative format requires the writing ability of five-year-old. But it's not about the creative, it's all in the strategy.
In SEM, if you are not maximizing the long tail you might as well be a rock with arms. Why? Google has become the de facto internet navigation engine. Forget portals. If someone wants to go somewhere online, they start at Google. A much smaller entity can compete in the niches of the bigger player's mass reach. It is precisely that "phenomena of choice" that makes the whole AdWords universe work. Unlike in product manufacturing, the price advantages of the long tail are huge in SEM. The fractured niche universe works here, because it's not about someone knowing your brand; it's about them knowing what they want. Going after the long tail in search is different than in product development, chasing after those consumers. As I wrote last week, the costs there can often be quite high, and your business model greatly dictates whether that is advisable.
So how and, more importantly, when do you go after that long tail?
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