Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Beyond Traffic and Conversions

Search Marketing 2.0 – Beyond Traffic and Conversions

As sophisticated businesses and marketing agencies embrace the world of Internet Marketing, Search Engine Marketers are being asked to deliver a level of strategy and value never before expected. With the bar raised, we must now focus on targeted business goals to prove ROI.

In today's market, it has become important to prove how SEM will

- increase sales,
- lower customer acquisition costs,
- decrease customer service expenditures, and
- achieve or exceed overall, pre-set, business goals.

I've even been asked to provide accurately projected and guaranteed ROI ratios from one enterprise client. That can be a dangerous corner to stand in when your success relies on Search Engine response.

Though someone within your client's organization is likely accountable for broad planning, budget creation, and ROI development, they will most likely not have the expertise to understand how

- various search patterns,
- landing pages, and
- targeted conversion paths will affect their bottom line.

If you're a Search Engine Optimizer who knows how to get top organic rankings on the Search Engine Results Page through ethical, white-hat methods, great!

If you're a Pay-per-Click expert who understands how to drive traffic through thousands of word variations, geo-targeting, and broad/exact phrase settings, excellent!

But if that's all you know, then your future in this industry is limited.

Here are the some facts:

If your skills do not include business analysis and strategic consulting, even though they may be well developed and important, you're missing the big-picture.

Right now, Directors, VP's, and C-level executives all tell the same thing:

"If you expect us to transfer 10 – 20% of our traditional marketing budgets to the Internet, you must be able to substantiate the broad and granular successes - both in the short-term, as well as through on-going trends."

I could just say, "Sure, we can do that." – But how do I know what I'm promising, unless I truly understand what "success" means for the client?

When you engage a new client for Search Engine Marketing, what's the first step in your campaign?

Is it…Keywords?


It should be an analysis of the client's business.

Some items from the list to investigate:

Marketing plan
Branding initiatives
Sales channels
Prior successes/failures
Past goal patterns
Current goals (broken down by variables)
Obstacles to these goals
Current audience segmentation
Internal structure
External image
Site metrics (usability, trends, baseline)

The thorough business analysis you perform will allow you to build a targeted list of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) based on

- the type of site,
- conversion points,
- branding, and
- several factors specific to the site in question.

The assigned KPIs will then be used to track the success of the campaign and your work.

Finally, once you and your client are in agreement on the KPIs and the broad and granular goals of the campaign, then, and only then, should you begin working on key term development.

I understand many will say that's way too much work to go into a campaign before even starting search term development.

If that's your stance, that's okay, but realize that the rest of the industry is developing sophisticated ROI processes and demanding 10 to 20 times the professional service fees of those stuck in the old, simple-ways of SEM.

So, to review, what is the overall goal of an SEM campaign?

A. Drive traffic to the site
B. Create exposure on the search engines (branding)
C. Improve online sales (e-commerce)
D. Improve offline sales (leads to phone, form, or other contact)
E. Elicit downloads (indirect conversion)
F. All of the above
G. None of the above

Goals of a campaign differ for each client. If you don't develop KPIs and business goals with your clients in the beginning, you'll have no idea what successes to strive for; nor will you know whether or not your clients agree with your assessment of success.

Know your client's business, and understand their goals.

Most importantly, get the client's sign-off on the goals of your campaign and stick to them. If the direction changes mid-stream, get new sign-off; ensuring that you are always on the same page as your client.

By Scott Orth

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