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Lessons of Hurricane Sandy: 5 tips to disaster-proof your SEM campaign

By Mark Simon, senior VP-sales and marketing, Didit

Mark Simon
Senior VP-sales and marketing

Disasters—either natural or human-made—are rare, unpleasant, but inevitable. Even if dire forecasts of climate change don’t come true, it’s clear that global sea levels aren’t about to recede anytime soon. Weather patterns appear to be growing increasingly erratic, and even carefully planned events such as the Super Bowl aren’t immune to unscripted power failures.

Organizations running search engine marketing campaigns are charged with the weighty responsibility of providing ROI, sales and other mission-critical business objectives for their clients. We need to be prepared for disruptions. Here are five planning tips that I found to be helpful for clients in light of Hurricane Sandy, whose impact on many businesses and people was truly catastrophic.

Avoid single points of failure. A disaster can prevent key personnel from reaching the workplace. So it's critically important that more than one member of your staff becomes familiar with the workings of the campaign and has administrative privileges. This issue can be critical with in-house SEM teams that already may be understaffed. Make sure that more than one person on staff has "the keys to the car." You’ll also be prepared for the day when a key staffer moves to another job.

Document your practices. Running efficient SEM campaigns is demanding. The first priority is the achievement of success metrics. Make sure that team leaders are documenting campaign methods and establishing mechanisms to easily share these methods. This provides a crucial backstop against chaos in the event of a disaster and can provide valuable information to help you streamline any inefficiency in your operations.

Prepare for technology failures. Disasters can cause key technology components to fail. Your campaign management system may use multiple technologies that communicate with search engine APIs, and this communication can be disrupted. Make sure you have the ability to run manually or with minimal technology, at least on a temporary basis. It may not be efficient, but you'll be in the game until normalcy is restored.

Back up your data. Backing up SEM campaign data doesn't take long and should be part of your routine. Both Google and Bing provide editors that can be locally installed to automatically provide back-up functionality. Use bulk sheets to archive snapshots of your campaigns that can be restored in the event of an emergency.

Drill, baby, drill. Fire drills are mandatory in most business locations for a good reason. It's critical that people know the location of exits and the protocols for communications. Drilling your teams to uncover their response to a critical loss of human or technology resources will expose gaps and weaknesses in your disaster defenses. This information strengthens your operations against disaster.

Even the best-prepared organizations will find their operations disrupted in a crisis. But if you’ve followed the five steps above, you’ll be able to weather the storm and quickly emerge with business operations intact.

Mark Simon is senior VP-sales and marketing at Didit, a digital advertising agency specializing in paid search, online display advertising, CSE feed management, SEO and social media. He has served as co-chair of the IAB Search Evangelism Committee, on the member services committee and on the DMA Research Forum Panel. Follow him on Twitter @msimon or @DiditSEM, or contact him at

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