I apologise for not keeping my promise of posting regularly here. I was very busy the whole of 2008, with some very intensive consulting engagements that often demanded 50 to 60 hour work weeks. I am making a new start and renewing my commitment to share my experience & knowledge through this forum as much as I can.

I was recently engaged by an online retailer in the US to audit their internet marketing programs and to recommend ways to improve them. My client has an in-house marketing team of 4 persons and has outsourced the search engine optimization and search engine marketing to a service provider in Canada. While I found scope for improvement in many areas, the single area that offered quick wins as well as remarkable improvement in ROI was Search Engine Marketing. The client was spending over sixty thousand dollars every month on two search engines. And my quick estimate was that they could achieve the same results as they are doing now with a spend of just $45,000 a month, that is a saving of 25%! That is a lot of money going down the drain. So, I thought I could share the common mistakes which are often ignored or missed out by most search engine marketers.

First, let me list the top 5 mistakes that I often find and then elaborate each of them. Most of what I discuss here is relevant for internet retailers who sell products and for whom conversion of clicks to sale is of paramount importance and the principal objective of Pay Per Click advertising is to convert the click to a sale. So these mistakes dont apply if brand-building or lead generation are the objectives.

  1. Inappropriate Landing Page
  2. Unwarranted Cost Escalation
  3. Limited or No Use of Negative Keywords
  4. Lack of experimentation and data analysis
  5. Serving Ads without Inventory

In this article I will discuss the first mistake. Customers search using keywords. The keywords can be classified into 5 categories: 1. product specific keywords, 2. brand specific keywords, 3 generique sildenafil citrate. product category specific keywords, 4. brand & product category specific keywords, and 5. generic & theme based keywords.

If a consumer searches for “HP Pavillion DV5T” (product keyword), she would expect to land on a page where she can see the specific product that she searched for. As a retailer, I would direct her to a page that displays the DV5T prominently. If I do not carry the DV5T (which is unlikely if I sell HP Laptops) or if I do not carry HP Laptops, I would try and take her to a page with laptops from other competing brands of similar class.

Since most websites do not have a sophisticated product search feature which will help the user find the specific product easily, it is important to land them in the page that is most relevant for the keyword searched. Else the shoppers get frustrated as they are unable to find the product that they want to buy.

I searched for “powell armoire” and clicked through the top 5 ads on Google. Only one took me to a page where I could find “Powell Armoires”; I had to search further in each of the other sites even though 3 of the 4 had a page where only Powell Armoires where displayed. My user experience would have been better if I was directed to the specific page on the first click.

It is a good practice to categorize your keywords and direct them to the most appropriate page on your site. If the search is for a brand, direct them to the specific brand page if you carry the brand. If you don’t, you will need to seriously consider if it is worth bidding for the brand specific keywords.

Similarly, if you are bidding for a brand-category keyword, your best option is to use a landing page where the specific brand & category are available. That is, if a consumer searches for “Oregon Scientific Heart Rate Monitor”, show them a page where Oregon Scientific’s Heart Rate Monitors are available. If you can, avoid taking them to Oregon Scientific Brand page or Heart Rate Monitor category page.

I agree that it is not always easy to do this. It takes some effort to restructure one’s advertising campaigns and to fine-tune them as the product portfolio keeps changing with discontinuation of existing products, introduction of new products and replacement of existing products with new ones. However, the return on investment on the effort is very significant. Addressing this one mistake alone will surely improve your conversion rates. This mistake also has a strong connection with the 5th mistake – Running Ads without Inventory.

I will continue to discuss the other common mistakes in the next article which you can expect very soon.