Just Because You Can Doesn’t Mean You Should: Why DIY SEM Isn’t The Answer

Everywhere you look today you can find books, television programs, and websites specializing in do-it-yourself. While this may be a great thing for folks who want to refurbish their homes with stylish but affordable interiors, it is not always the best choice for all things. Just because you can re-wire your home doesn’t mean you should! Professional electricians exist for a reason and we should avail ourselves of their expertise. But what, you may ask, does this have to do with online advertising? I’ll tell you. Just because you can go online and create your own ad campaigns with a tool like Google AdWords, for example, doesn’t mean that you should!

Owners of small businesses usually need to devote all their time to their customers. They would be best served by letting experts in Internet advertising create and manage their online ad campaigns. This allows the local plumber to plumb and those in online advertising to advertise, drawing on their expertise to produce the most effective and cost-efficient ad campaigns for a local business.

Why do Joe Plumber and Andy Accountant think they are perfectly capable of running online ad campaigns? I believe that the accessibility of online ad tools like Google’s AdWords contributes to the idea that creating and managing online ads is easy. After all, anyone can go online and create an account, set up ad copy and keywords, determine targeting, and decide how much money to spend on a campaign. If everyone has access to these tools, how hard can it be to use them?

A Madison Avenue ad agency draws on previous campaign results and years of experience to determine what works best for a print or television ad campaign. It is doubtful that our local business owner would stroll in to a big agency and tell the ad exec how to do his or her job. People who work in online advertising do much the same thing, spending hours each day examining ad copy and keywords, targeting options, quality scores, page rankings, bid pricing, content development and a myriad of other elements that go into a successful online ad campaign. Familiarity with these elements allows those with this knowledge to craft campaigns, tweaking them as performance data is gathered in order to produce the best return on investment (ROI) for their client. There is a great deal of information to be sifted in order to create the cost effective—best performing—campaign. Simply having access to an online advertising service—Google AdWords or Microsoft AdCenter—should not lead business owners to believe they can do this work just as well as a paid professional. Just because you can do it doesn’t mean you should!

Here’s an example for you. Andy Accountant is one of my clients. He had been managing his own Google AdWords campaign for a year or so but after much effort on my part agreed to give us his online advertising business. While Andy’s efforts were not bad, I was sure that if allowed to manage the campaign I could achieve better results and save Andy the time and effort of managing his campaign online.

Among the first things I did was to remove the one-term keywords like accountant and accounting since I was confident that longer terms like income tax returns, tax accountant, income tax filing, business accountant, certified public accountant and other terms that were more specific would produce more effective results. Additionally, I set these for exact match rather than broad match, thus improving the likelihood of traffic producing real leads instead of just clicks to the website. While Andy was generating ample click traffic to his site the conversion to leads was minimal. After my revisions Andy realized fewer clicks but actually had more connections generated after potential customers clicked to his website and then followed that with a phone call or submitted an interest form.

Additionally, we were able to assign a call tracking number to Andy’s campaign, thus channeling calls through a trackable number that clearly matched calls to the campaign we were delivering. Over a period of six months, the campaign CTR improved from 0.07% (accounting) with Andy’s terms to 2.04% (income tax filing) to 4.82% (income tax returns) and an overall connection rate of over 30% (connections being all forms of contact with client). Thus, just because you can manage your online ad campaign yourself, doesn’t mean you should!

The ability to associate online ads with traffic to a website and to track clicks from a particular ad appearing on a specific search engine means that there is unprecedented accountability for performance in online advertising. In no other format does such a clear connection between an ad and a customer/sale exist. As such, online SEM experts are constantly required to demonstrate the efficacy of their work. They monitor performance and make adjustments in real time that no print ad exec has the option to do. The data gathered requires a time commitment to a level of scrutiny that no small business owner can afford. Thus, said business owner is best served by using an SEM professional and not setting up his or her own ad campaign.

Ultimately, there is no difference between the expertise of print advertising professionals and online advertising professionals, apart, of course, from their understanding of the unique elements of print and online ad campaigns. It’s just a matter of perception. Andy Accountant and Joe Plumber should not presume to know Samantha SEM-Expert’s business anymore than he should presume to know how to manage a print ad campaign better than an ad agency. Just because Andy and Joe have access to online advertising systems doesn’t mean they should use them.

Rely on experts! That is what they’re there for!

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Local | Features: Analysis | Search Marketing: Local Search Marketing


About The Author: is Director of Operations at MerchEngines. Dr. Northart’s experience spans nearly a decade of key management and implementation for large scale local online marketing initiatives.

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  • rebekah

    The DIY craze has hit many industries, including the one I am in, market research. On one hand, DIY products are great for small companies that could never afford an industry’s services, but on the other hand, it can be not good because DIY’ers can make mistakes that a specialist would not. For example, people who write their own questionnaires can create unintended bias, pull from faulty samples, use an improper methodology or analyze the data incorrectly. In addition, it takes time for someone to DIY that could or should be spent elsewhere in the business, but more importantly, the company could then rely on faulty data and hurt their company.


  • Stupidscript

    While I do agree with the basic premise, a question that went unanswered is:

    How much was Andy the Accountant paying (including PPC spend and hours spent working on PPC) before retaining your company?

    How much were they paying after?

    If they were paying $2000 per month for PPC before you came onboard, and $5000 per month after you came on board, you would need to generate an additional $3000 per month for them every month in order to justify hiring you.

    In other words, there is definitely an economic point under which it does not make sense to hire a professional. Sometimes DIY SEM IS the answer. ;)

  • Richard F

    I agree that a company can lose opportunity by not handling their PPC properly. A company can also lose a lot of money AND opportunity by hiring the wrong company to manage their PPC. I’ve been there.

    A company that simply handles PPC doesn’t have a lot of value either as all they do is send traffic. An agency that can do the PPC AND can work on your site to improve conversions is better.

    We brought this in-house and saved the 35% commission fee that many of the large PPC companies charge (which went toward salary) AND because we have all the data, continually improve our conversion rate, lowering our ROI and improving our service.

    If your an SEO agency outsourcing PPC, bring it in-house and you’ll improve your services tremendously… especially if you work with clients that work in local or regional markets.


  • Samg11

    Webvisible is a complete Rip Off, great at talking the talk and promising great results but the company is a fraud.

    Results and reports that were sent to us where falsified, encountered multiple ROI miscalculations. Cost per Click went up in every category they assisted us with. Continued to bill prepaid funds after the account was canceled. In regards to management we received many promised callbacks that took days to weeks to receive with no satisfactory outcome.

    BEWARE of smooth talking salespeople. Results were terrible and a waste of $15,000.00 in just two weeks.

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