Your SEM management probably knows more about search than you do. So how can you evaluate whether they're doing a good job? This article suggest four areas to look into that give you a hint of how healthy your search engine marketing campaign really is.

Are your ads in good positions? Your ad position determines your ad visibility, which determines your click-through volume. If you don't get a good click-through volume, you can't drive conversions.

The only exception to the rule is SEM purely for brand exposure: All you care about, in SEM for branding, is being seen. Immediate conversions, in branding, don't matter as much. But if you're trying to get noticed, visibility is more important -- not less important.

So take a look at where your search ads are. Are they in high positions? If not, there's a good chance that your ads are invisible to searchers. We're not saying you should throw all your money out the window to get the top position on every term -- and there are actually times when the top position is less valuable, not more. But if your ads are consistently showing up low, it's worthwhile to have a talk with your SEM manager about why that's the case.

Do your searchers convert? Take a look at your site's logs and do a quick comparison: How many people came to your site through paid search ads, and how many conversions have you gained?

The name of the game in search is to get as close as possible to a 1:1 ratio of click-throughs to conversions. Click-throughs cost you money; you need conversions if you want to get ROI. If you're getting a strong click-through rate but a low conversion rate, you're wasting money on non-converting PPC traffic.

Of course, a 100 percent conversion rate is highly unlikely. And there's often a lag -- searchers might come to your site, leave and take some time before they return to convert on your site. Or they might never convert on your site, but they'll convert through your call center or your store (higher-level SEM metrics would be able to track that kind of information). But comparing your conversion volume -- however well you can track it -- to your click-through volume will give you a ballpark answer to whether you're making money in search or if you're losing money.

How are you doing on your branded terms? How are your competitors doing on those terms? Take a quick peek at your branded terms. Do your ads appear on them? Do your competitors' ads appear on them? As we've stressed a lot in this space, your branded terms are often the most valuable terms you've got. They're the terms that are likely to attract your highest levels of qualified traffic because people searching on those terms already know about you and are interested in finding you.

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