Search engine marketing is the biggest category of Internet marketing spending for good reason: it’s effective, it’s measurable, and it has low out-of-pocket costs. But before you jump into a paid search program with Google, ask yourself these three crucial questions.

Is search the right channel?

While search engine marketing is effective in driving online traffic, it’s not necessarily the right channel for every objective. If you can’t describe your product or service in 3 words, then search isn’t for you. Or if you’re launching a new product, search might not be for you. If people don’t know your product – if your product doesn’t exist – then people won’t know to do a search for it. Search is good for fulfilling demand. A new product launch requires generating awareness. Search is good for direct response; less so for generating awareness.

Where will you point people?

Obviously you have a website, so you’re going to point people there. But are you thinking of linking to your home page? That can be a mistake. Home pages are often the front door to a website – inviting but also broad and general. Think about people’s intentions when they are searching. They are task oriented and are on a mission. They’re looking for information. If you drop people off at your home page,  which makes them work even harder to find what they’re looking for. They have to click further through your website to find their information. Some people might take the time to do that. Others might just hit the back button. You’ve lost them.

Instead, link your search ad to a specific page on your website. Match the search query – and the user’s intent – to a particular page on your site. For example, if someone searches for “product lifecycle management software for aerospace” take them to your product page for the aerospace industry. Don’t drop them off on your home page and wish them good luck.

What action do you want people to take?

After people click on your ad and go to your website, what then? Your website should have calls-to-action and compelling offers and incentives to get people to take further action. If you’re a B2B organization, you should probably offer white papers, webinars, case studies, etc. Don’t miss the opportunity to further your relationship with them. They sought you out and visited your website, don’t let them leave without working to take your relationship with them to the next level.

Are you a savvy search marketer? What other questions would you ask?