People who first hear about SEM (Search Engine Marketing) typically have two responses: “That’s amazing!” and “It sounds so easy!” If you have poured money into print ads or some other hard-to-track advertising, Pay Per Click (PPC) marketing may seem too good to be true. With PPC, you are guaranteed traffic to your site or you don’t pay. (BTW, if you’re thinking “SEM? PPC? What the heck’s he talking about?” skip over to my intro post on SEM)
Search Engine Marketing is a great opportunity but it is not a “set it and forget it” solution. Success in SEM means ongoing testing and data analysis. And one of the pieces of data you really want to pay attention to is your quality score. This will directly affect your ad rank and how much you pay when someone clicks your ad. Yes, you can actually be listed above a competitor and pay considerably less then them if you’ve got the edge in ad rank. Conversely, Google won’t show your ad at all if your quality score is too low. So, what is it? Essentially, your quality score is Google’s rating on how relevant your ads (and the webpages they link to) are to the keywords you’re bidding on. But don’t assume. You might take it for granted that your website selling hand-knit, neck warmers for cats will be relevant for the keyword “neck warmers for cats”, but you might be wrong. They question is not whether you see the relevance but whether Google does.
Related to quality score, Google leaves a fair bit shrouded in mystery, but at least they make it easy to check. In your Adwords account, select the Keywords tab. If you hover over the white speech bubble next to each Keyword’s status, you will see a box showing your quality score along with an indication of some of the major factors at play.
If your quality score looks like the the one pictured here, you’ve got some work to do. A below average landing page indicates that Google doesn’t think that page of your website is relevant to your targeted keyword. Finding out why may require help from a web expert familiar with SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and utilization of tools like Google Webmaster Tools.
Closer inspection might reveal easy wins like tweaking your title text and header tags. Perhaps you were a little too creative in the text you incorporated into your page and only actually mentioned cats once. Maybe you need to add alt text to your images. All of these are common SEO issues which we may touch on in a future post.
Wait, I thought we were talking about SEM, not SEO… Well, yes. But there’s a lot of crossover. Some basic, technical SEO will improve your SEM performance. Conversely, one of the tangential benefits of Search Engine Marketing is how it can inform your efforts in Search Engine Optimization. For instance, you may notice certain keywords generate a lot of quality contacts in your Paid Search advertising and decide to incorporate those keywords in various places on your website, maybe even focusing on them in a blog post or piece of sharable content.
At some point in the future, we should talk in more detail about the balance between too many keywords and too few. For now, just remember to incorporate enough relevant terms on each webpage that Google knows what it’s about, without being it being forced.