The Search Engine Marketing (SEM) Survival Guide

The Search Engine Marketing (SEM) Survival Guide

5 Questions Every Business Owner Needs to Ask…

Whether you employ an agency or are attempting to do it yourself, search engine marketing can be extremely tricky without a deep understanding of the tricks and tips that work best.

Here are the top 5 questions that every business owner needs to be asking to run SEM campaigns like a pro.


How are you tracking my online and offline results?

There is an almost infinite number of ways to set up your campaign with Google AdWords, but if you’re not paying close attention to tracking your results you could be seriously wasting your money.

As Lewis Carroll wrote “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there” – except with AdWords, you are paying for all of those “roads.”

So how can you make sure you’re putting your money where it matters most?

Many people think of successful tracking as the number of clicks displayed on the Google AdWords console, but an experienced marketer knows that this is just an approximation for what you really want: outcomes.

Depending on your business, your desired outcome could be a quality lead, an appointment, a closed sale, or a request for an estimate. The best search engine marketing agency will zero-in on your most important success metric and then re-prioritize its bidding based on this focus – automatically and at very high speeds.

Does your agency employ this laser-like focus in tracking your results?

Try inquiring about these specific tactics:

Online Tracking

If your business is exclusively online, your search engine marketing agency should be tracking conversions on your site. This may be through specific web forms (1), where customers can enter their data to book an appointment, request information, or get a quote.

Offline Tracking

Online consumer behavior is often erratic – and not everything occurs on the Internet. This is why offline tracking is just as imperative as online.

Is your agency tracking offline click-to-sale? At the very least, they should be employing the bare minimum techniques of tracking lines (2) (assigning unique phone numbers to each Google Ad) and adding UTM (3) parameters on your links. But the most precise SEM (4) strategists employ the “gold standard” of GCLID (5) – a globally unique tracking parameter (Google Click Identifier) used by Google to pass information back and forth between Google AdWords and Google Analytics.

Latest Trends

The best SEM agencies stay on top of cutting edge tracking technologies. For example: a shopper might click your ad, view your site, and then drive to your business ten days later. Google’s latest technology allows for precise tracking of this type of conversion through a new feature that leverages your registered Google store location. Does your agency keep up-to-date with the latest tech developments?


What is your mobile strategy for my business?

Did you know that 93% of people who use their smartphone to research a product or service go on to make that purchase – and that more than half of these searchers intend to make that purchase within the hour?*

It is no surprise that in today’s marketing landscape, mobile matters most.

Local Mobile Strategy

For local businesses, mobile PPC (6) has become the priority. With a phone already in their hand, searchers are exponentially more likely to call you the moment they see your ad.

Your search engine marketing agency should be keenly aware of the impact of mobile and prioritize it within your SEM campaign. They should also be able to clearly justify mobile’s impact on your specific industry. (Bonus points if they use the phrase “Micro Moments (7)” – they’ve been doing their reading!)

Your industry specific mobile strategy should be rooted in four qualities:

  • Urgency
  • Time of Day
  • Location
  • Demographic

If your agency glosses over any of these factors, without asking you detailed questions, they might have an outdated view of SEM.

The Golden Ticket

Does your SEM agency offer website optimization services?

If so, they should be offering a mobile optimized experience. But don’t just stop there. While most people these days talk about “mobile optimization,” the golden ticket is actually “mobile conversion optimization.”

Think of it like this: while mobile optimization keeps your website looking great on any mobile device, conversion optimization enables easy click-to-call features and sophisticated conversion tracking on your web forms.

Desktop vs. Mobile

Your SEM agency should be analyzing your AdWords performance via a two pronged approach: desktop and mobile. Each requires vastly different strategies, such as tailored bid adjustments, optimization for peak performance hours, display ad copy, and calls-to-action. Does your agency focus on the nuances of strategies per devices?

*Source: Think With Google –


How will you make sure that i hit my budget?

This question is often a tricky one, but listen up: If your SEM agency answers this by replying: “We always spend to the budget!,” or “We just set the limits in AdWords!” it’s a big red flag.

What you really want is for them to say, “Let’s discuss this further,” as AdWords budgeting needs constant monitoring and daily adjustments.

Your Monthly AdWords Budget

It’s easy to “set and forget” your monthly budget within the AdWords console: the monthly maximum spend is your daily budget multiplied by 30.4 (the average amount of days in a month). Your daily AdWords spend may vary – sometimes exceeding the daily limit by up to 20% – but your monthly maximum will not be exceeded.

This is a basic technique that can be used as an easy-to-implement safeguard against rampant spend, but if you’re losing more than a percent or two of your impression share (8) due to budget constraints, your AdWords agency is being lazy by relying on budgets to limit spend.

While you may want them to hit your monthly budget, they should be looking at results on a regular basis and adjusting bids daily. For example, if you are in the snow plow business and a big storm hits, you may want to spend more in the days leading up versus the rest of the month. The same is true with specific phrases that may trend up or down depending on what others are bidding.

Overspending and underspending are both detrimental to your campaign – and your business. On one hand, you risk blowing your marketing budget early and over-paying for clicks and leads in the process. On the other, if you’re too conservative with your spend your ads never get served and you see no results at all. A savvy AdWords marketer will ensure that you hit exactly your budget while maximizing results.


How will you determine my dayparting strategy?

“Dayparting” refers to the powerful strategy behind timing your ads to display at certain hours, days, or seasons to maximize results. With a clever AdWords agency, you’re able to reduce ad spend during times that don’t convert while emphasizing specific services at optimal (read: “high converting”) moments.

Dayparting is only as powerful as the SEM agency behind it. If they are new to your business, ask for a thorough walkthrough of their dayparting strategy. You’ll want to listen for rigorous, methodical testing; most agencies that don’t specialize in your industry won’t have enough historical data to make informed decisions here, so the testing aspect is crucial. Expect to hear that they will want to run these tests for up to three months – that’s a good thing, as it indicates their insistence on precision.

While the obvious move would be to scale back on nights and weekends and ramp up your budget on peak hours, be sure that your AdWords agency is taking the nature of your business into account. For example, divorce lawyers might have few leads reach out late at night, but the ones that do may be worth more money. Similarly, locksmiths appear to have a small audience late at night, but the lead who calls you at 11:00pm is definitely ready to do business with you.

If your agency can’t outline some specific scenarios that buck the obvious trends – and prepare their dayparting strategy accordingly – they might not the best fit for your industry.


What keywords will you bid for and why?

Keywords are the bread and butter of an AdWords marketer. More than any other factor, your keyword strategy will inform the quantity and quality of the leads you get from your AdWords investment.

For this question, be wary of any answer that rattles off a list of generic keywords to implement. Your agency should explain that they’ll be using many different keywords on many different audiences – and slowly narrowing down and optimizing for results. They should test hundreds of different keyword combinations and monitor, tweak, and optimize consistently.

If the agency does not discuss the constant process of catching large amounts of traffic and optimizing down to ideal keywords, they clearly don’t have a solid grasp on the fundamentals of keyword strategy.

In your follow-up question, you’ll want to ask how they would determine which keywords to bid on initially to ensure that they’ve done a deep dive on your business and each of your services. Bidding for keywords relevant to every service your business offers is extremely important, but here’s the red flag: people don’t search for services. Instead, they search for problems in their own words.

For example, a smart marketer knows that people don’t search for “UV pipe repair” – they search for “broken pipe” or “drain repairs.” If your agency explicitly bids for service names instead of thinking through the problems that searchers are looking to fix, they might not have the perspective of a talented AdWords marketer.

Tying it All Together

While these 5 questions are a great start to ensuring your marketing spend is in the right hands, they only begin to crack the surface of a profitable Google AdWords strategy.

Online marketing has evolved into a pretty complex business, and finding the right person to handle your account is crucial. If you’re curious to learn more about search engine marketing – and stay updated on the latest AdWords tips and tricks – visit me on my website.

To learn more about how I can help you directly, give me a call +353894436071.

My name is George Oliveira, I am responsible for building and optimizing hundreds of websites and paid advertising product and services. I’ve spent the past fourteen years running and learning from thousands of campaigns for small and medium, local and nationwide businesses, and now I want to share that experience to help you.

I’ll be going over a number of tactics that will help you get great traffic from interested customers and ultimately grow your business. Curious about the company I helped build? Discover how Web Sales Promotion can boost your business. ▶


  1. Web forms: HTML form on a web page allows a user to enter data that is sent to a server for processing.
  2. Tracking lines: Unique phone numbers utilized to measure the success of an ad campaign.
  3. UTM parameter: A simple tag added to a URL — when your link is clicked, the tags are sent back to Google Analytics and tracked.
  4. SEM: Search Engine Marketing, an Internet marketing method that focuses on purchasing ads which appear on the result pages of search engines such as Google.
  5. GCLID: A globally unique tracking parameter (Google Click Identifier) used by Google to pass information back and forth between Google AdWords and Google Analytics.
  6. PPC: An acronym for “pay-per-click”, a business model whereby a company that has placed an advertisement on a website pays a sum of money to the host website when a user clicks on to the advertisement.
  7. Micro Moments: A critical opportunity for brands to shape decisions and preferences by being present in their moments of on-demand need.
  8. Impression Share: The number of impressions you’ve received divided by the estimated number of impressions you were eligible to receive.


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