Like Fine Wine, SEM Takes Time

A successful Search Engine Marketing (SEM) program is much like a fine wine: it only gets better with age. Despite the inherent wisdom in that statement, allowing sufficient time for your SEM initiative to flourish can leave you both antsy and wanting more.  After investing precious time and money (i.e. blood, sweat and tears if you’re an SEM Geek like me) in creating a new campaign, the desire for immediate results has the potential to spur a maddening flurry of Keyword, Ad Copy, and Landing Page modifications grounded on unfounded data.  The somewhat overwhelming temptation to implement such quick “fixes” not only impedes the optimal development of your SEM efforts, but it may also lead to poor decision making regarding your entire marketing strategy.  To put it another light, would the Chateau Latour in France, home of some of the finest red wine in the world, want to downgrade its product by not granting the time needed for aging?  I doubt it. The Chateau Latour doesn’t sell the cheap, grape-flavored alcohol/water mixture that you can find at the corner gas station.  They sell a damn good wine.

In order to develop a truly stellar SEM program—a Chateau Latour-grade wine, if you will—optimization should occur based on a data set covering at least 45-60 days.  After allowing ample time for natural campaign growth, you can then begin to execute SEM adjustments with a degree of confidence and accuracy.  Now, you can simply nod your head and believe what you just read, which is fine, but I would much rather add value and proof to my words by showing you exactly what I mean.  Please direct your attention to the table and graph below, which depict eight months of SEM activity for one of our awesome clients: A New Hampshire automotive dealer seeking to attain an increased number of web conversions (lead form completions) across five franchise websites:

As seen in the above figures, our client’s SEM initiative has more than improved since its introduction in May; it has completely exploded.  The program’s Click-Thru-Rate in December (2.89%) was nearly 5 times higher than the May figure of 0.58%, which speaks nothing of the Click-Thru-Rate jump over 3.5% witnessed in October and November.  More importantly, the dealership’s Conversion Rate exhibited steady growth nearly every month, and almost broke 5% in December—a value over three times larger than the May rate of 1.60%

Obviously, numerous factors pertaining to Keyword, Ad Copy and Landing Page improvements, as well as influence from the automotive industry as a whole (i.e. seasonal fluctuations and manufacturer incentives), played a role in shaping the success of our client’s SEM efforts.  However, I will not be sharing such insight today; you will have to check back for that at a later date, at which point I will take you on the thrill ride that is SEM optimization.  But, I will reveal this: all of the “tweaks” that occurred during the months following the program’s May launch had one in thing in common—they were made only after the campaign had been bestowed with the time necessary to develop on its own, and amass the data needed for smart revisions.  Although it required a bit of restraint (especially for me), we refused to give in to temptation; we refrained from jumping the gun on the SEM optimization process.

So, if you find yourself disappointed with the first 30-60 days of your brand spankin’ new SEM initiative, keep your cool and wait it out.  Effective optimization cannot happen immediately.  If you provide your SEM program with the time needed to develop naturally during those first few weeks, you can then begin to make clear-cut decisions that will have a surefire impact.  Just like you would never give a bottle of cheap wine from a “bad year” as a gift to your loved ones (except maybe your in-laws), you should not allow your prospects and customers to sip on an SEM campaign that has failed to age properly; instead, give em’ some of the good stuff.

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