As marketers, we spend our professional lives striving to gain as much visibility for our clients or products as possible, so it seems silly to think that being number one can actually be dangerous to the health of our businesses.

But it's true—it can be, especially when it comes to paid search engine marketing. But wait: isn't paid search marketing the holy grail of Internet marketing? Not necessarily.

Paid search is a great tool, and when planned, executed and analyzed properly it can lead to a very high return on your investment. Be warned, though: to get the most from paid search marketing, you need to leave your ego at the door and get over your “I must be No. 1” complex.

Cleaning House

Success begins at home, as they say. A good way to make sure that paid search engine marketing pays off for you is to make sure that your own site is clean and easy to navigate. You can spend millions on paid search marketing and never see even the slightest return if your site annoys users with things like flash intros or difficult navigation.

People want the Internet to be fast and easy. When it isn't, they get frustrated and look for alternative sites that are. If the sites ranking above you are hard to use, slow to load, or just plain unprofessional, don't outbid them to rank higher in the search engines.

Be obsessed with usability, and all of your marketing that focuses on driving users to the Web site will have a greater impact.

Researching Keywords

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Wil Reynolds is the founder and head marketing strategist of SEER Interactive (, a search optimization and Web marketing firm located in Philadelphia.