Putting Marketing Back in SEM


Google is a publicly traded company. Publicly traded companies, for better or worse, are judged by their ability to grow, and grow consistently at that. Google’s core product (search) already has the lion’s share of the market across the world; aside from their insane expansions into driverless cars and dust-powered wireless internet and phones, the majority of revenue still comes from AdWords.

It only makes sense that Google and other search engines would try to extract as much revenue as possible by encouraging people to click on paid ads rather than organic. Sorry SEOs!

Enter: ad extensions. Extensions are essentially designed to draw the eye and give users a “richer” search experience and a better opportunity to dive deeper into your site. As PPC managers, we all jump for joy knowing that we can get better click-through rates and more volume.

As a marketer, or as a brand, however, you must use a much different lens. When do all of these extensions, piled on top of one another, lead to a complete mess of an ad? When will we find that our tests rendered useless because there are simply too many going on at once. Do you really want to wind up with an ad that looks like it was built in Geocities?

For reference, I hacked together a collection of the major extensions and betas (that I know of) into a single ad, below.


In this single ad, I count five different headlines, seven different calls to action, four different locations, two phone numbers and eight total links. Now, this ad was obviously fabricated and likely wouldn’t appear in the wild, but it’s meant to make a point. Take a look at your own ads — extensions and all — and count the number of different messages you present your users with.

The irony of course is that we as PPC managers tend to preach minimalism: we aim to direct users to a single standalone landing page that drives a single with a key call to action.In most cases, we track one primary conversion type, one point of entry into the sales funnel and one bread-and-butter success metric. Why don’t we apply the same single-message concept to our ads?

Take a look at this carefully crafted ad from Mazda. It may not include a call-to-action (poor form!) and is definitely more dedicated towards a unified brand message. Now the ad is obviously more directed towards branding and lacks a call to action…


…but look at it! The unique sitelinks show off the different models of Mazda3 that are available, as well as offering more information and top new pieces of technology. The image extensions show important things about the car and truly add value to the searcher. It’s fun. It’s new/reinvented. It’s a blast to drive. And it has SKYACTIV!!! (whatever that means).

Full disclosure, I drive a Mazda 3, so I love the ad by association. But doesn’t an ad like this have far more value when crafted as one cohesive unit vs. a smattering of extensions just because they’re available? I do confess that I don’t have any data to support my rant, but I want to stress to all marketers that PPC is NOT a standalone channel. What you put in your AdWords ads is, whether you like it or not, a direct reflection of a brand.

Do you really want your brand to bring up shades of Ling’s Cars just to drop CPA by 2%?



Aaron Levy brings nearly a decade of experience guiding digital marketing and PPC strategies for clients of all shapes and sizes - from internationally recognized brands and institutions to regional spas and local adoption agencies. Aaron prides himself on the ability to transcend digital advertising, instead focusing on using digital tools to develop data driven marketing strategies while always maintaining a customer focus.

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