SEM Tips for Startups/SMEs [3 Mistakes To Avoid]

Many startups and SMEs(particularly those who self-manage campaigns) take a while before getting Search Engine Marketing right. Many sign up for Adwords, blow money on it, and then realize that just setting it up doesn’t give the revenue boost you hoped for.

However, there still are things you can do to make immediate improvements in your campaign click-throughs and conversions.

Here are 3 mistakes and quick tips to fix them, based on my experience of what most new advertisers do wrong.

Mistake #1 Missing negative keywords

It’s important to exclude your non-customers. Let’s say you’re offering a paid software download and you don’t use negative keywords, you will end up showing ads to people seeking free downloads.

Below is another example of an advertiser who hasn’t used negative keywords.


Therefore, make an exhaustive list of negative keywords. Spend some time and think about ALL the types of customers you want to exclude.

Mistake #2 Overspending on the Google display network websites

.There are broadly two types of web properties in which you can serve your ads:

1. Google search.

2. Google’s display network. These are other sites like Orkut, Indiatimes, NDTV etc.

Now, if you’re a startup focusing on a niche, you’re not likely to get great RoI if you advertise on broad-based, mass-interest websites like say .

But because that is Google’s default option, it is easy to end up advertising on all websites, wake up the next morning and see their entire budget gone without any conversions to show for it.


Take control over where you show ads. Until you get a sense of where you want your ads to show, show ads ONLY on Google Search(and partners).

If you think there are sites that are likely to be visited by your prospects(development forums, discussion boards), pick those sites manually on the Adwords system. Don’t let Google take your targeting decisions, at least in the beginning.


Mistake #3 Not testing

Many advertisers run only one variation of an ad, so you can end up missing out opportunities to improve conversions and click-throughs.

Test different messages. Find out what gives you higher conversions – does the ‘affordable’ message work better than the ‘convenience’ message?


(Actual ad copy has been masked).

Above, you see that the ad emphasizing affordability has a higher conversion rate and lower cost per conversion. On the basis of this(assuming the data is statistically significant), you might want to show only affordability-related messages to this segment of customers.

What do you think? What other tips/pointers do you recommend for new advertisers?

[Guest article contributed by Shamanth Rao,  He blogs at]

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