Marketing Mischief:

Chicke Fitzgerald
Nov 24, 2014 · 3 min read

SEM is killing your brand

Marketing Mischief — SEM is Killing your Brand


This is a new series that MK Marsden and I are co-authoring. It comes under the major heading of managing mischief in your business. Today’s topic is Marketing Mischief and we begin our myth busting with the marketing world’s darling, SEM.

No doubt about it. Search engine marketing is an easy way to drive traffic. And since over 43% of all ad spending in 2013 was through search, it must work, right?

According to PwC and the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), US companies spent $18.4 billion in 2013 on search, up from $16.9 billion in 2012.

One thing that is clear is that SEM works REALLY well for Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, ASK and AOL.

Google dominates the landscape with 67.4% of searches and Bing/Yahoo (which are jointly administered from a keyword buying perspective) produce 19.3% and 10% respectively. ASK and AOL hold 3.3% of US search market share combined, inconsequential when you look at the power of the other players.

So, to get started on using search engine marketing, all you need to do is:

1) determine how much you want to spend on SEM

2) divide your budget between the top platforms

3) choose your keywords

4) figure out your bid so that you can be in the top three

5) craft the most amazing ads that are sure to elicit a response, a click

Easy peasy.

SEM is mathematically predictable. Beautiful, right? It appeals to the scientific and analytical part of a marketer’s brain. Low risk, right? Results are immediate, measurable daily. What could be better?

But here’s the MISCHIEF. SEM does absolutely nothing to generate sustainable business. It is actually the polar opposite of brand building. And if you don’t do a job of grabbing them and converting them to a sale, your investment literally goes down the drain.

The dirty little secret about search is that it is building the brands of Google, Bing and Yahoo, but doing precious little for your business.

Here is their growth since 1996. Nice curves?

This is business mischief at its finest. The SEM crack dealers have you hooked. Admit it, you can’t live without them.

If you stop spending on keywords for even one day (or for some of you, even for a few hours), your business will collapse. If Google changes their algorithms and you are relying on SEM for a significant amount of your traffic, pardon the French, but you are screwed.

Search engine marketing may be bringing you traffic, but unless you find a way to turn those clicks into bookings/purchases, and then turn those customers into ZombieLoyalists, a term coined by our friend Peter Shankman, you are doing nothing but building the businesses of the search engine companies.

We think you marketing money is better spent building your brand.

STOP the mischief.


Build your brand.

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    Chicke Fitzgerald

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