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November 4, 2020 - By Hawke Media

Marketing Mythbusters: 5 Myths that Could Derail Your SEM Strategy

Search engine marketing (SEM) is a critical element to the growth of any digital business. However, there are some dangerous assumptions that even seasoned SEM specialists make far too often. Not to worry – we’ll break down these myths and give you the truth behind successful SEM strategy:

Related content: 4 Effective Non-Search Google Ads (and How to Use Them)

1 – You Shouldn’t Trust Google’s SMART/AI Bidding

Nope! The data is here: on average, SMART bidding outperforms manual bidding. Yes, handing the reins over to Google can be uncomfortable because you don’t know exactly why the system bids the way it does. Still, SMART bidding is input- and output- driven and focuses only on results. Trust the results and you don’t have to worry about the methods behind them.

2 – Facebook and Google Ads Revenue Are Mutually Exclusive

False! The overlap between Google Ads and Facebook ads can often be large. For example, you might see a large portion of Facebook revenue from view-through conversions on your remarketing campaigns after users discovered your brand on Google search. Not only are Facebook and Google ads not mutually exclusive, they more often than not work together in moving your customers toward purchase by hitting users at different parts of their journey.

3 – Spending More Means Better Results

Not so! Now, don’t get us wrong, we love to scale budgets – strategically! But, if you don’t scale with past data, future goals and key performance indicators (KPIs) in mind, you could be flushing your money down the toilet. It’s crucial to learn from how your ads have performed in the past and from the successes and failures of your biggest competitors to allocate your additional spend most effectively.

4 – You Shouldn’t Waste Money on Your Own Branded Keywords

Nonsense! Here are five reasons why you should bid on your branded terms:

  • Bidding on branded terms helps maximize your above-the-fold real estate. Also, showing up twice in search results (once organically and once in ad form) gives your searcher more opportunity to click on your links (and less space for a competitor’s ad – more on this below), while also letting your user know you have a strong digital presence.
  • Search ad listings are much more easily customizable than organic listings. With a branded ad, you can test copy variants to see what resonates best with your audience. You can also include ad extensions, such as site links or phone numbers, which will help better qualify your traffic and send users to your top-performing pages.
  • Competitors may be invading your territory. Smart SEM specialists bid on key competitor branded terms, which could put your traffic in jeopardy of heading for your competitor’s sites even when they search for your brand. This is especially the case if their paid ad shows in a higher position than your very own organic positioning.
  • Branded terms are cheap. Simple as that.
  • Branded search ads help you capitalize on the bottom of your funnel. By bidding on branded terms like your company name, you’ll be reaching primarily those folks further down your sales funnel – they’re searching specifically for your brand, showing strong intent to purchase from you. Sure, they were likely headed to your site, anyway, but for only a few extra cents per click, it’s a way to make sure those big fish don’t slip out of your net now that you’ve got them hooked.

5 – Having the Highest-Ranked Search Ad Is Ideal

This one isn’t 100% false – the top-positioned ad does earn the most clicks, but it’s also the most expensive placement. Our data suggest that the #3 position often has a lower cost per acquisition (CPAs) and higher conversion rates. While the #1 spot does earn the most traffic, many of these clicks are from users who are less qualified in what they are looking for. Searchers who click on the third ad after not finding what they were looking for from the first two have higher intent, as they’ve proven to be discerning in what they’re looking for.


There you have it. Five SEM myths busted, five SEM truths revealed. But these are only today’s realities – in the ever-shifting landscape of digital marketing, realities change every day. No matter what you do, always test your strategies and pay attention to the data so you can adjust and optimize for your current circumstances, no matter what they are.