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Search Engine Marketing Mistakes Retailers Need to Avoid

Search Engine Marketing Mistakes Retailers Need to Avoid

According to a recent survey conducted by and Forrester, in 2003, online retail sales jumped 51% to reach $114 billion with 79% of all online retailers (etailers) were profitable. Online sales are expected to reach 6.6 percent of total retail sales in 2004, up from 5.4 percent in 2003. So Internet retailing is no longer a passing fad. In order to stay on top, etailers must learn how to effectively pull in not only new visitors but qualified, paying customers, as well. Search engine marketing has proven to be an extremely successful and effective means of achieving online sales growth, but not all etailers know how to properly execute their search engine marketing campaigns.

1. Having No Search Marketing Strategy – This may seem obvious, but all too often companies barely have a specific budget line item for search engine marketing let alone a strategy. Is the strategy to target certain terms for high natural search engine rankings and to buy visibility for the others with pay-per-click listings? Or is it to identify high-cost PPC terms and target those for SEO? What means of measuring ad-cost-to-sales will be implemented, and is this tool an end-to-end solution? And is there a realistic timeline associated with achieving these goals? Before spending time or money, put together a solid plan.

2. Not Doing a Thorough Job of Keyword Research (& Forgetting to Think Like A Searcher) – For each keyword that you identify for search engine marketing initiatives, there are probably two or three others that can deliver better, more targeted traffic. Misspellings, odd spacing, and product feature- specific variations should also be considered. And while some experts espouse a “more-is-better” approach to keywords, we feel this is not always the case, especially when you’re paying for all that traffic. Thorough keyword research can save money and future disappointments.

3. Not Establishing Performance Expectations Ahead of Time – Sure, everyone talks about ROI, but the reality is that there are many metrics that go into successful getting a ROI and not everyone has done the “back math” to know what is even realistic. And if you launch search engine marketing campaigns without establishing benchmarks (e.g., do you really know what your max CPC could be??) and performance expectations, how will you know if you can continue your search engine marketing efforts as is??

4. Not Enough Testing – Setting up keyword campaigns without a testing plan is likely to result in unnecessary ad spending and poorer sales conversions than could be attained. You should be testing multiple factors: search terms, ad copy, match type, landing page content, offers, calls-to-action, etc., and there are a variety of tools that allow you to do testing: ad groups or categories in search engines, unique landing pages, and page optimizer tools.

5. Not Utilizing Tracking – The blessing and curse of the Internet is how much measurable data can be tracked and collected. For search marketing, treat this as a blessing and use tracking to optimize your efforts and get the most ROI out of the money you spend. Most web site traffic analytic tools still can’t put a price on the head of your average user, so you’ll need more sophisticated methods. Shopping cart, affiliate management and conversion software are some solutions; so is third party ad servers. Choose the solution that gives you the most usable data for your needs.

6. Not Attempting to Reduce the Prequalification Cycle – The less qualified your search engine traffic, the less likely you’ll be to make sales from that traffic. Instead of trying to optimizing your site for broad terms which attract a lot of visitors but not targeted buyers, focus on terms and demographics that lead to sales. Apply the same strategy when buying PPC keyword listings, and use your ad copy to help weed out unqualified buyers. Don’t just rely on general search engines for qualified traffic either — go where your buying audience shops: on shopping comparison search engines like, MSN Shopping or Yahoo Shopping, and in vertical portals like travel sites.

7. The #1 Spot Isn’t Always the Best Location – Not only does the #1 paid listing cost more, it sometimes isn’t always the best one visibility-wise. For example, in Google, the top two paid listings may be “bumped” up above the natural listings and this location might be overlooked by the searcher suffering from “banner blindness” syndrome. Conversely, Yahoo lays out its paid listings from Overture quite differently — the #5 paid listing is actually at the top of the small right-hand boxes. We suggest testing to see what placement yields you the best results.

For the remaining seven SEM mistskes for retailers to look out for, see the full list: Top 14 Search Engine Marketing Mistakes Etailers Should Avoid, compiled by Hollis Thomases, president of

Category SEO
SEJ STAFF Loren Baker Founder at Foundation Digital

Loren Baker is the Founder of SEJ, an Advisor at Alpha Brand Media and runs Foundation Digital, a digital marketing ...

Search Engine Marketing Mistakes Retailers Need to Avoid

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