In industrial marketing we often find that search advertising is used to enhance or support other activities. Whether you are running an industrial PR campaign, want to drive leads to a landing page for marketing automation, or are running a campaign for online e-commerce sales, search marketing can be an important part of the campaign mix.

At Napier we’ve reviewed a wide range of different search engine marketing (sometimes called AdWords) campaigns and found the same mistakes repeating across different campaigns and clients. If you want to make sure your search campaign is a success, we’d recommend avoiding the most common reasons for campaigns to fail.

Focus on Clicks

Focussing on clicks, or traffic to the website is possibly the worst mistake you can make in search advertising. It’s not just that clicks are a terrible metric, it’s also because this approach often leads people to make poor decisions in other areas.

If there is one thing you should remember from this article, it’s that when you are marketing an industrial product, most people who click on your search advert are not interested in your product. In fact, most people clicking on the advert are probably never going to buy a product like the one you offer. Google does a great job of selling the idea of “intent”: if someone searches then that shows they have intent, and in the case of the keywords you are targeting Google would like you to think they have intent to buy a product. This is so wrong. Yes, there are people who are perfect prospects, but also you will have an army of irrelevant searchers. More importantly, even if your advert makes it crystal-clear what you are offering, there will be clicks on the ad from people who are simply not interested. Sorry, but even Google isn’t perfect.

If you focus on clicks, you are going to want as many clicks as possible, and sometimes it’s easier to drive clicks from people who will never be customers. You’ll be boosting Google’s profits, probably boosting your ego with large numbers of clicks and actually optimising the campaign to reduce return on investment.

Forget the Maths

This is closely related to focussing on clicks, or any other “ego metric”. Think about the maths before you start planning a campaign. Ask yourself how many potential customers there are for your product, and how many you can service each month. This gives you the size of the target audience and the volume of sales that you can deal with. The most important number will depend on the industry: high-touch products or services (for example a PR agency) will be limited in how many new customers the business can take on each month, whereas an eCommerce distributor might be able to scale up to service different customers easily, and therefore be more interested in how many potential customers are likely to search each month.

These numbers are important. If you can only take on two customers per month, driving 5000 visits a month is probably a bad idea: you’d get better results by being more targeted and concentrating on increasing conversion rates. Alternatively, if you are selling a major infrastructure product you might only have a handful of people in the audience you want to target, so generating millions of impressions will tell you that you must be spending most of your advertising budget on people who will never be a potential customers.

Finally, a great way to forget the maths is to ignore statistical significance. We have a great blog post explaining what is meant by statistical significance, and how to test for it, as well as an easy-to-use calculator on the website. It’s not always an easy concept, but the golden rule is not to automatically assume that more conversions, more clicks or a higher CTR necessarily means that one ad is performing better than another. It may be better, but if the difference is small then you may be basing your assessment of “better” on results that are more likely to happen due to chance than a real difference in performance.

Forget Geography

Search advertising lets you target by geography because it’s really important. If you sell in one country only, the best way to ensure your campaign fails is to advertise globally. Even if you think you sell globally, you probably don’t: for example, there will be export controls on technology products to certain markets.

Even if you can sell globally there are countries where you will generate huge numbers of clicks (and therefore spend large amounts of money) without generating any interest or sales of the product. Countries such as India, Bangladesh, etc. should be targeted with the proportion of the search marketing budget that represents their current value to you or realistic potential value.

Treating every country as if it is the same is a great way to ensure your campaign fails.

Forget the Language

It’s true that in many industrial markets people will search in English, even if it isn’t their primary language, but assuming language doesn’t matter is a great way to destroy your search campaign.

Firstly, words can have different meanings in other languages. Let’s assume you make semiconductor products for the LIN standard: a pretty niche market that isn’t going to see any irrelevant searches? Unfortunately, this isn’t the case in France, where “Lin” means “linen”, and so your campaigns will need to be very different in France if you want to avoid targeting people buying tablecloths and linen suits!

Forget Negative Keywords

Ignoring negative keywords is another great way to set your industrial search marketing campaign up for failure. I’m always surprised how many technical terms have different meanings in other fields.

A great example we dealt with for one client who made software development tools was the term coding standards. If you are coding (writing code) to a standard then surely this has to be a great keyword to target. Well perhaps not, as “coding” not only can be used to refer to writing software, but also the classification of blood. If you’re not checking the search terms actually triggering your search ads, it’s easy to be showing the ad for completely irrelevant searches. As I’ve also mentioned before, it’s not just going to impact your CTR negatively: people will click on the ads even when they have no interest in software development and a scary fascination with blood types!

Use Broad Match Keywords

In general, the only use for broad match keywords in industrial search marketing is to waste your search advertising budget. They are terrible and should be avoided at all costs.

Please don’t think that I’m referring to modified broad match, where you insert a plus sign in front of one or more words. These are fantastic and work brilliantly for industrial search campaigns.

If you’re not sure about the difference, you really need to learn: it’s vital to understand match types to optimise campaigns.

Don’t Test

I could go on and on about ways to waste your search marketing budget. But I’m going to finish off with the pro tip that will ensure you screw up any industrial SEM campaign you create: don’t test. It’s pretty much impossible to foresee every issue and opportunity surrounding a campaign at the start while creating perfectly optimised advert text. So, if you are not prepared to review the campaign, test ideas and optimise, you will be guaranteeing below-par results.

I always love the insights you get when good testing is done around a campaign: what works well is often a surprise to us and our clients. It’s always humbling when the beautifully-crafted ad text I wrote is out-performed by something that feels rather crass, but I’d rather get results for clients than wallow in the misguided belief that I completely understand the mind of everyone using the internet.


Creating Great Industrial SEM Campaigns

So how do you create great industrial SEM campaigns? Well, it really requires you to work through a process that ensures you don’t ignore the things that can harm the performance of the campaign, and then methodically test to ensure everything is optimised (and then keep testing to respond to any changes in the market). It is simple to avoid the pitfalls I’ve described in this post, but almost every campaign we review includes at least one of the mistakes, meaning it will deliver poor results.

This is reflected in a comment I heard from a dedicated PPC agency. Despite the team being experts in search marketing, I was told the business was basically built on correcting silly mistakes: although there were gains that were made through deep knowledge of the platform, the biggest improvements were typically eliminating the bad decisions that wreck the performance of campaigns. So, you don’t have to be a Google Ads guru to deliver a high-performance search marketing campaign, just eliminate the things that are likely to destroy performance. Simple!