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Soumik Kar

Big Idea

High Precision
Semly Pro's 'negative keywords' tracker saves money on digital marketing

Debangana Ghosh

“These days companies are spending around 80% of their marketing budget on online advertising and reach,” says Anil Varma. But the problem arises when 17-30% of this budget gets wasted when the company’s advertisement repeatedly appears on irrelevant searches on Google. To solve the problem, the company must flag and exclude the unrelated search terms or phrases, otherwise known as ‘negative keywords.’

Interestingly, the volume of negative search terms rises with the amount spent on Google Ads. For instance, 100,000 spent on ads can generate anywhere between 27,000 and 30,000 negative keywords a month. The online tools available at present can track these keywords but the entire process of removing them or categorising them as negative, is a manual process.

To address this issue, Varma and his co-founder Surya Pillai developed Semly Pro, a tool that automates the entire process of tracking and removing negative keywords without human intervention and promises to save 15-30% on marketing. The user only needs to log in to the website, and at the end of the day, Semly Pro will send a notification email to the user listing all the irrelevant keywords tracked and removed. With the help of machine learning, the tool can also identify and separate colloquial references for certain products.

Prior to their venture, the duo handled advertising management services for digital marketing. In 2017, they lost a client, Care24, for not being able to fulfil their demand of tracking negative search terms on a daily basis. Pillai recalls, “We tried to look for an automated tool to do the same. Upon not finding any, we came up with a short code and ran it manually, testing on our existing clients.” This encouraged the duo to make the tool commercially available. She adds, “The initial challenge was to segregate necessary search terms from the list of negative keywords. Tata Ace is popularly referred to as ‘chota hathi’. However, there was a case where the search term ‘chota hathi’ was categorised as a negative keyword.”

The start-up was recently incubated by the Centre for Incubation and Business Acceleration (CIBA). The Navi Mumbai-based start-up is targeting website owners who advertise without the help of digital marketing experts. The tool will also help marketing freelancers, consultants and agencies to handle more accounts in less time. The platform has managed to get 180 subscribers till date and is aiming to acquire close to 1,000 paid customers over the next six months. The paid subscribers will pay $69 per month for each Google Ads account, while the tool is free for anybody who spends less than 20,000 a month on Google Ads.

The founders will optionally continue to offer their advertisement management services to their subscribed clients at a fee of 15% of their marketing spend. At present, their clientele includes Audi Mumbai, Ford Mumbai, Hyundai, Voonik and a project with the United Nations Industrial Development Organization.

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