*Originally published 5.4.2016; updated 9.7.2018.
Your company has just started its first paid search or SEO campaign, and you can’t wait to see results. You may feel the impulse to start Googling brand terms and other keywords to ensure your ads are serving and the copy looks correct. Or maybe you’ll scroll down past the ads to see how your site is ranking in organic search.
We see this happen all the time, but it’s actually a bad idea to search for yourself to verify your PPC and SEO campaigns. Of all the tools on the Internet, personal search results are perhaps the least reliable performance metrics. In fact, performing these searches actually can do more harm than good. Read on to learn more about why searching for yourself online isn’t a productive way to measure your Internet marketing campaigns.
How Searching for Yourself Damages Your Business
At the very least, searching for your ads and clicking through to check the landing page costs money. If you check your ads and the extensions daily on Google and Bing, then you could be wasting more than $500 a year.
Except for a few brand terms, most of your keywords and campaigns will have an impression share below 100%. This means your ads aren’t showing all of the time due to budget and bidding factors. If you’re constantly searching for your ads, then you’re taking away the opportunity for a customer who actually wants to buy your product to see your branding.
For both PPC and SEO, these searches hyper-inflate demand for certain terms. While larger businesses won’t have to worry about a few clicks increasing their demand, this is a real problem for companies that only get a few hundred clicks a day.
Why Your Personal Search Results are Irrelevant
Most likely, you won’t find any results if you search for yourself or keywords that you feel you should be ranking for. And even if searching for yourself yields amazing results in first position on your computer, it could mean nothing to everyone else — including people in the same geographic location.
Google is in the business of learning what people want and serving it up on the first try. If the Google algorithm knows that you’re interested in ads or results about your business based on your search history, then Google will show them to you. The search engine doesn’t connect the dots that you work for the company; it just focuses on the demand and CTR.
Even if you search for your terms without clicking on them, you could be skewing your results in the future. Google will eventually stop serving ads altogether, and assume that you’re the type of user who avoids ads. In this case, your ads are still showing, just not to you — and that’s a direct result of all that self-Googling behavior.
Finally, searching in incognito won’t make your results any more accurate. Even though Google doesn’t store the search data, the sites you visit are able to.
You Think Differently than Your Customers
Just because you optimize for a keyword or bid it to first position doesn’t mean those are the results that you’re showing for. On the PPC side, your match type dictates which searches your ads can be seen. On the SEO side, the odds that people search for your exact keyword before they convert are slim.
The fact is, your customers don’t think like you do. They make spelling errors and type more naturalistic, query-driven phrases into the search bar. Ultimately, it takes a great deal of experience with paid search and SEO to interpret the data and determine the terms for which your customers are actually searching.
Unless you know how to properly research keywords based on traffic volume and conversion data, Googling yourself just wastes your time by providing unrealistic results for unrealistic searches.
Understanding Why You Might Not See Your Ads in Search and Display
Aside from everything we’ve already mentioned, there are many, many reasons you may not see your ads. But the explanation usually will come down to these four core mechanics of paid search and display:
- Targeting: The first reason is that you may simply not be part of the targeted demographic, or you might not physically be in the geographical area that is being targeted. Advertisers can set parameters like “lives in” or “everyone in” an area, so depending on your physical location or place of residence, you could be included or disincluded from an ad’s targeting. The same goes for age, income, affinities, etc. The potential targeting factors that dictate who does and does not see an ad are practically endless.
- Impression Share: When thinking about impression share, think of the total number of impressions that Google serves as being like a pie. The larger your budget, the larger piece of pie an advertiser will get and the more often their ad will get shown to users in that market. In very competitive markets (NYC, London, Miami, etc), it’s possible for ads to show to tens and even hundreds of thousands of people, but you may never be one of the people exposed to that ad, even if you’re in the target audience and meet the exact demographics. It’s the proverbial “needle in a haystack” conundrum; it can take many millions of dollars to achieve a very high impression share in hyper-competitive markets so that most of the people in that market see your ads most of the time.
- Personalization of Search Results: Google, Facebook and other platforms algorithmically serve ads based on your own user behavior. There could be a hundred reasons that you personally might not be served an ad – maybe you’re the type of user who always skips down to the organic results, or maybe you clicked on a similar ad recently and immediately bounced from the page. Whatever those reasons, these platforms have used machine learning to determine that users who display similar behavior are not high value targets.
- Keyword Bidding/Match Types: This only applies to paid search, but it’s not always wise to bid on every term that is relevant to your business. The competition for a certain search term may be too fierce for the economics to make sense for your business – in some cases, bidding on a term could go higher than $100 a click! In those cases, it may be best to leave those terms for other competitors to fight over while you target ones with better conversion opportunities. Paid search also uses what are known as “match types” that can either go very narrow or very broad in terms of capturing search behavior and related key terms. As a general rule, “narrow” tends to mean less waste from an investment standpoint, so failure to see an ad may come down to the fact that you just aren’t searching for terms that are actively being bid for.
- Google Support, “Why You May Not See Your Ad” — Key Excerpt:“[the Ad Preview and Diagnosis tool] can help you confirm that your Search ad is running without affecting your impressions (which will lower your click-through rate).”
- Adwords Express Help from Google, “My Ad Doesn’t show up in Search Results” — Key Excerpt: “Your AdWords Express ad won’t appear every time you search for it. Whether your AdWords Express ad appears depends on a number of factors, such as your budget and other advertisers’ ads competing to appear for the same search phrases. The best way to confirm that your ad is showing for customers (even if you can’t see it every time) is to look at your AdWords Express dashboard.”
- WordStream: “Why Can’t I See My Ads Online?” — Key Excerpt: “…this is a really, really common question I get from my clients. Often what I find that they’re doing upon asking that question is frantically searching their keywords, trying to find their ads on the Google SERP. So, my first disclaimer here is don’t do that! Never search for yourself. It’s going to give you unwanted impressions, it could wreak havoc on your account.”
Valuing the Right Metrics to Achieve Your Business’ Actual Goals
At the end of the day, Googling yourself and seeing keyword rankings is not the most accurate way to check on the success of a campaign. Agencies that emphasize the importance of finding yourself online usually are optimizing for vanity terms that won’t get any real traffic or generate any actual revenue.
By contrast, Mediagistic’s main success metric is the number of unique leads being driven to clients. Our Internet marketing campaigns are optimized so that all elements — whether they’re organic or paid search — are coordinated to achieve this end goal. Find out how we can get started doing this for your business today.
Richard Zuckerwar is an Account Development Manager at Mediagistic. He’s a results-driven sales and marketing leader who is passionate and determined in his efforts to help local businesses grow. Connect with him on Linkedin.