ANYONE WHO KNOWS me would know that I love cycling. I follow all the Spring Classic races, Grand Tours and catch local races like the Philly International as much as possible. My love of cycling combined with my work online lead me recently to discover the Velominati – Keepers of the Cog. The Keepers of the Cog are Frank Strack and Bett Kennedy, amongst others, and they have Rules.
The following is a search engine marketing variation of the Rules as it relates to this industry – something all Keepers of the Clicks or the Search Queries or the SERPS should obey…
Obey the Rules. Easy enough.
If you have to break the Rules admit your mistakes and be honest with your client.
Stop trying to out-smart Google – you are just wasting time and you will never win.
Google AdWords certification is nice, but passing the test does not make you an expert in pay-per-click advertising. All it means is that you passed the test and you probably cheated anyway.
If you have been in the search industry long enough to really know how to implement SEO, PPC, Affiliate Marketing, Email Marketing, Display Advertising or Social Media right the first time then you are obligated to educate your clients or your boss when they don’t know what they are talking about. You were hired for a reason so teach them the way of Search.
Internal and external clients also hired you to be effective and efficient and are paying you for your time. Don’t waste it by doing things that do not matter.
If you or your client wants to implement any type of online marketing strategy make sure the analytics are in place to measure it BEFORE it goes live. If you wan to waste money feel free to send me a check instead.
Don’t be afraid to fail. It’s part of becoming an expert in Search Engine Marketing. Actually it’s a much more important part to becoming an educated search professional than RULE #4.
Test everything. And test it again. And again… The only way to learn and improve results is through a rigorous testing process. It also ensures that your agency is not setting and forgetting about your account. If testing isn’t happening then management and optimization probably isn’t either.
AdWords conversion data compared to Google Analytics conversion data compared to any third party tool conversion data will never be 100% accurate. Don’t waste time trying to make them all report the same numbers (See RULE #6). Instead, understand the variation between the reporting tools and make sure the variation stays around 5 – 10%.
If your websites title tag includes only the words Home, About, Contact or only includes the company name your SEO vendor is not paying attention to basic SEO best practices and is probably robbing you blind. Title tags must be descriptive and unique to each page.
If you consider automated bid management ‘actively managing’ a pay-per-click account and you charge your client a % of ad spend, it’s only a matter of time until you are fired.
If an ad group has keywords with multiple modifiers that are not reflected in the ad text then you clearly cheated on the AdWords certification exam (See RULE #4).
If your SEM agency implements a pay-per-click ad group with 100′s of keywords in it, look for another agency to manage your account. It is not possible to have targeted ads that are relevant to the keywords and landing page if you are stuffing an ad group with keywords like Joey Chestnut stuffs his face with hot dogs.
Quality Score is important but it is not the only thing that matters. Do not get caught up in trying to make every keyword have a Quality Score of 10.
The same keyword with different match types should never have the same MAX CPC. When this happens you are mostly competing against yourself for the same keyword. Each match type has a different intent and you should be more willing to pay more for an Exact match keyword than a Broad Match one.
If you are using keyword destination URLs and embed the keyword in the URL parameters you are just looking for busy work. In most cases keyword destination URLs are redundant and are a waste of time.
If you spend more than 25% of your time tweeting, blogging, sitting on conference panels and not doing actual work whatever you are yapping about probably isn’t credible. Doing actual work means more than regurgitating other peoples ideas.
Be original and get your own ideas. The more meaningful and creative ideas you share by doing actual work carries more weight than passing the AdWords test or attending every conference under the sun. (Okay, so this list of RULES is not entirely original… See RULE #2.)
The search industry is new and innovative but in most cases you don’t need to recreate the wheel. Look to industries outside of search for proven ideas and practices to apply to what you are doing.
Building a findable website is more important than building a pretty website that no one will ever see. If a user can’t find your site what’s the point?
If you have a problem with your website or reporting tools, stop and fix the problem. And don’t ‘fix’ the problem with work-arounds – you are only creating a bigger problem. Stopping to fix a problem before wasting more time and money is a solid long-term, sustainable practice.
Have redundant analytics tools in place. Analytics tools don’t always work so having a back-up is critical to avoid the risk of loosing valuable data.
Keep your URL structure simple. As Google states – Consider using punctuation in your URLs. The URL http://www.example.com/green-dress.html is much more useful to us than http://www.example.com/greendress.html. We recommend that you use hyphens (-) instead of underscores (_) in your URLs.
And let’s not even get into the us of dynamically generated URLs and session ids…
Robots.txt files are important. And it’s important to use them right.
Transparency builds trust. If your agency does not provide you with full access to the AdWords or adCenter account they are managing for you, find another agency.
Building social networking and customer loyalty through social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube is great. However, it should not be used as a work-around for poor search engine results. Before engaging in social media make sure your website’s structure is properly engineered. (See RULE #22)
Some automated search tools for bid management, etc. can be useful however ‘autonomation‘ – automation with a human touch – is a better approach. Relying solely on automated tools to do your job can lead to problems that may go undetected until it’s too late. And then you’ll need to come clean about why you were paying an Avg. CPC of $10.32 for a keyword that historically only cost an Avg. CPC of $1.73.
Dynamic Keyword Insertion (DKI) usage should be kept to a minimum. If it is used as a work-around to having 100′s of keywords in an ad group then you are playing to Google’s advantage by paying too much for your click. (See RULEs #4 & #13)
There are no guarantees in search. If an agency approaches with you with guarantees of improving search results by X% you might want to run the other way. Instead look to work with people who guarantee their work by following best practices, testing and transparency.
Focusing too much on results can be a waste of time. Results are important but following a process of continuous improvement adds value. If you follow a solid process, results will follow.
Get over yourself – it’s not about you. The search industry, by comparison, is still very young. We could do with a lot fewer egos and self promoters and more innovation and meaningful collaboration. Only by working together, promoting ideas instead of people, will the industry begin to gain more trust. (See RULE #18)
Get out and play. Don’t forget to develop your body, along with your mind, through regular exercise. Sitting behind a computer all day can rot your brain and body and no one wants to hire an unhealthy troll.
Be relevant. Please make sure when managing pay-per-click ads that not only do text ads reflect a users search query, but that the ads also takes a user to a relevant landing page. 401 error pages, outdated sales or discounts and pages with a laundry list of ‘like’ items does not make for a good user experience.
Don’t make SEO an afterthought. Too many times a project launches with out involving the ‘search guy/gal’ because they might be a little weird. Nerdy even…
Not only do you need to be descriptive with your title tags (See RULE #11) but also with your <h1,2,3…> tags, alt image tags, video tags and anchor text tags. These are all places to describe your website to web crawlers and can help you achieve or maintain high search results.
Learn by doing. This might be redundant with RULE #18, but it cannot be stressed enough. Doing actual work makes you a better leader. Paying your dues today by getting your hands ‘dirty’ with implementation is an investment in your future to educate others in the future. Leaning by doing – both doing things right and learning from mistakes – commands much more respect from your peers than spouting out untested theories you read about in a book.
The term ‘hit’ is not synonymous with a ‘visit’. If you hear anyone use the term ‘hit’ when referring to a visit it is your obligation as a representative of the search industry to constructively correct the violator. (See RULE #5)
If your boss keeps asking you why ads don’t appear when they search on random keywords tell them you’ve taken the ad hostage until you either get a raise or they get a clue (See RULES #5 & #41)
Make reporting actionable. Top keywords, ad groups, campaigns, etc without any context to them is useless information. Better top provide data that shows what changes were made, how they were changed and why that lead to results either improving or tanking.
If you set and forget your PPC accounts you should be spade and neutered. AdWords and other PPC accounts should be treated as living systems that need constant attention. Continuous process improvement of the account is essential. Otherwise you will most certainly pay too much for your traffic and conversions, get frustrated and blame Google for your lack of involvement with your account.
Be mindful of how you use Google AdWords automated campaign rules. These can either help you tremendously or send you scrambling to try and uncover problems that might not seem so obvious. If you have a well structure and managed account you should not have to rely on automated rule settings. (See RULE #32)
This is just a start to an evolving list of RULES – the list will evolve over time. Got a RULE you’d like to share? Leave it in the comments section and it will be added, with credit, if it’s approved by the Keepers of the Click.