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Search Engine Marketing is one of the most misunderstood marketing acronyms, and often confused with Search Engine Optimisation (which is actually a small fragment of SEM).

With so much information about Search Engine Marketing available, it can be hard to distinguish what is fact and what is fiction.

So today I’m busting the top 10 myths I hear the most frequently about Search Engine Marketing.

Myth #1: Search Engine Marketing doesn’t work

SEM doesnt work Batman meme

Search was the biggest component of digital marketing revenue in 2015, and when you include mobile search, equates to almost 50 per cent of all digital marketing revenue. 

This tells us that companies are investing more of their budget on search than any other digital marketing channel. With consumers moving into an ‘always-on’ digital age and an increasingly heavier dependence on mobile, search engine marketing dominates as one of the most cost-effective methods to getting your business in front of the right target audience at the right time.

If you are still sceptical, it’s worth considering why successful brands and new disruptors continue to invest billions into it year-on-year, more than any other digital channel.

You can read more about IAB’s report here.


Myth #2: My Search Engine Marketing is at capacity

Have you…

  • carefully considered every setting in your campaign, and how each one affects the other?
  • investigated every possible keyword that could deliver valuable traffic?
  • adjusted all your bids to account for changes in competition, time of day, seasonality and a plethora of other factors that impact any given bid auction?
  • stumbled onto the perfect ad creative, landing page and conversion funnel combination that guarantees 100 per cent conversion rate?
  • re-done all of this every hour or two because a lot has changed since you last checked?
  • and the other long list of tweaks needed to optimise your campaigns?

Oh, you have? Okay, I fully agree that your campaigns can’t get any better.

Everyone else could get better results. Search Engine Marketing can help most of us see significant improvements without going to the extremes outlined above.


Myth #3: My Search Engine Marketing doesn’t provide good ROI

Dunno..try SEM meme

SEM delivers the third highest ROI according to CampaignMonitor research, with only email and affiliate marketing delivering better results.

Additionally, search engine marketing is also much more scalable than other forms of marketing, including email and affiliate. The volume of valuable traffic available is immense.

So if you are not seeing good ROI from your SEM, but are get results from social media, video, and SEO, you may want to have a closer look at what your SEM campaign is doing.


Myth #4: My business shows up on free listings, so I don’t need SEM

Back in 2010, roughly 20 per cent of clicks on search engine results were paid, and 80 per cent were organic. Now it is 40 per cent paid and 60 per cent organic.

We should also keep in mind that paid results are clicked on more often for keywords with high commercial intent, and on mobile devices, which now make up more than half of all searches. So depending on the situation, it could be closer to 50 per cent.

If you are not advertising on search engines, then who is getting the 40 to 50 per cent of clicks that you are missing out on? Your competitors are!

So if you don’t want the profit and market share, and are quite happy to fund your competitors’ aggressive growth, then forget SEM.


Myth #5: I’m happy with my current keywords

Keywords are one of the primary ways that you can target audiences based on intent in search engine marketing. You may have thousands, or even millions of keywords but that doesn’t mean you are reaching everyone you want – or worse, you are reaching the wrong people who are searching the same keywords.

Keyword research is an ongoing process in SEM, with new trends and changes in searcher behaviour uncovering more and more niches and opportunities for your business.

If your positive and negative targeted keywords do not change daily (or at least weekly), then your campaign is not performing as well as it should.


Myth #6: I can manage my own SEM

Do you and your staff have the time to do the following?

  • Learn and stay up-to-date with SEM platforms, features and updates on a daily basis?
  • Analyse your search engine marketing data daily to make sure your campaigns are at peak performance?
  • Learn & manage optimisation and automation tools to improve efficiency and performance?
  • Learn how to use analytics software and then spend hours on it daily to gain insights and further improve campaign performance?
  • Perform A/B or multi-variant tests and then evaluate the statistical significance of the data to determine which ads perform better?
  • Perform the multitude of maintenance & management tasks such as keyword research, restructuring campaigns, adding negative targeting, and more, required to keep a campaign performing well?
  • Gain experience managing a variety of SEM accounts in a range of industries, and work with other SEM specialists to increase your knowledge and experience?

Nearly all companies lack the expertise and time to manage SEM with the level of attention that specialist marketers can provide. Even if you have an internal team, getting an external agency to add perspective and experience from managing diverse accounts is a great way to boost performance.


Myth #7: SEM doesn’t apply to my business

The rock driving SEM meme

Search engines are everywhere, and with new targeting features such as remarketing, all companies can accurately find their target audience on a search engine. Here are some broad types of business and examples of how they can find their target markets online:


There is absolutely no excuse for a B2C company not to be on search. Any product or service you provide can be displayed to the right person at the right time. Only service a local area? No problem, use location targeting. Niche product? No problem, although you will have low search volume, your click-through and conversion rates are likely to be very high.


This is really no different than B2C, because the same people who look for personal products and services, also work for companies who need business products and services.

Extreme niches

Okay, let’s say as an example, your company specialises in creating custom widgets that fit into 1 specific type of machine only used in the textile industry, SEM isn’t for you right? Wrong! You can use search and display network remarketing to target people who have viewed your “textile widget specifications” page and key pages of your website.


Myth #8: It’s always best to be in the first position in search results

There are some significant benefits to being in position 1, including getting the majority of clicks, brand exposure and higher click-through-rates. However, depending on competition, this could be very expensive.

The best position for your company on any keyword is the position that brings you the best return on investment. If competition is not too tough, and your website conversion funnel is well optimised, that may be position 1.

If there is heavy competition, you could be losing money on position 1 while a competitor pays significantly less at position 2, making more profit from fewer clicks.


Myth #9: There’s no point in doing ads on other search engines other than Google

Google is the dominant search engine in Australia, but there are still a significant number of people using Bing and Yahoo. While these numbers may be smaller, they are far from insignificant.

Bing ads tend to deliver less traffic, but with higher click-through and conversion rates than Google, and usually at lower CPCs.

Yahoo, who primarily uses bing ads to serve ads with their search results, occasionally displays Google Adwords ads instead. This means that when you advertise on both Adwords and Bing ads, you are covering Yahoo as well.

Depending on your product or service and target audience, you may find that a more niche search engine like Yandex or Baidu would be better for your company.


Myth #10: I can’t grow my business using SEM

SEM can deliver positive return-on-investment and is one of the easiest marketing channels to scale up. If you need to drive business growth, SEM is a fantastic way to do it quickly.

Originally published at Metrixa blog.

Oleksiy Kuryliak

Founder of Rioks. Marketing Strategist & Auditor. Advising startups and enterprises on digital transformation, marketing operations and go-to-market strategies.

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