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Keep an eye on the forest (not just the trees) in SEM

Published: May 12, 2014

Author: Megan Gritzke

“You can’t see the forest for the trees.”

I never heard this expression before until I got into SEM. Now I think about it all the time because it describes all too well something with which I constantly struggle. It’s hard to work on accounts day after day and not get caught up in all the details. But after a recent experience in one of my accounts, I know how great seeing the forest can be.
One of my accounts offers eBook subscription services. For months, we focused on building out keywords related to the constantly expanding titles and growing inventory. This meant hundreds of titles transformed into long tail keywords in BMM that took hours to build out. We weren’t seeing much success in account performance, and attempts at other strategies like building out broader keywords didn’t work well either.  Looking back, it probably had a lot to do with this being a relatively new service that didn’t have much relevant data. We were also so caught up in making the current structure work that we weren’t seeing the bigger picture. This was a very dense forest!
Everything changed about six months ago.  After discussing strategy, we decided to give the generic keyword approach another shot. We built out a few new campaigns that had various “ebook” keywords in pure broad match. To say this was successful would be an understatement. It was like looking at a different account. Not only did the account volume increase dramatically, we were seeing huge increases in conversion volume as well. In the chart below, you can see the effect this had on the Bing account that we had newly tested. The improved performance was also mirrored in Google.
You can see the large spike in conversions in February after the new general campaigns were launched.  From the period of December to March, we saw great improvement:

-Clicks increased by 289%
-Impressions increased by 147%
-Conversions increased by 1753%
-CPA decreased by 79%

It’s not very often that you such a large shift in performance. I definitely never expected to see numbers like that when I first got on the account. That’s the exciting thing about this industry: things are constantly changing, so you never know what to expect.
The change in this account taught me two things. First, try not to get caught up in all the specific details. These are important, but making an effort to step back and look at the bigger picture once in a while can help keep you on track. Also, if you try out a strategy and it doesn’t work, don’t scratch it off the list forever.  Industries are constantly changing, so if something didn’t work before, it doesn’t mean it won’t work in the future.  If we hadn’t retried the general keyword strategy, we wouldn’t be seeing the success we are now. So take some time to look for those opportunities. You never know what you’ll find!

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