How Your Search Data Can Make You Look Like a Star

In many respects, search engine marketing is a late-bloomer in the online advertising industry. In the early days of web development, it seemed much more important to build a website for your business or product and just get in on the whole cool “Internet thing” than it was to figure out how to get people to the site. Back then we talked in “eyeballs,” not impressions and clicks. Buzzwords and trends were plentiful (as they are today).

Demonstrating Success Through Ranking

Not everything has changed when it comes to search engine marketing. In the early days of SEO (back then, there was no paid search), it was a struggle to explain to clients exactly what it was and why they needed it. I tended to boil it down to the bottom line. I’d basically explain it in terms the end user could get.

  • Me: You know how when you go online and type a word into the search box in Yahoo or AltaVista (again, no Google in the old days) and you come up with a list of websites?
  • Client: (head nodding) Yes, I do that all the time
  • Me: Well search engine optimization is the process that gets your site to show up in that list of results.
  • Client: Ok, where do I sign?

The problem with that very simplified explanation was that when the client’s site was not number one in Yahoo the very next week after they signed the contract, I had a lot more explaining to do. Luckily, these days most clients are somewhat savvy about the process of SEO. There is no lack of information on the topic and SEOs often approach clients who have a good understanding of what the service is and why it is not a quick fix.

All clients are excited about seeing their website show up in the search results; there is value in that to be sure. That’s understandable. If a client spends $100,000 on building a website, they want people to find it. This is the first and most basic way that SEO can help a client look like a star to his or her manager, senior manager and (most importantly) company president. After all, if the president types “blue widgets” into her search engine of choice, she is delighted when her company website comes up #1. If she doesn’t see her website, she will most certainly communicate her displeasure to the overworked internal eMarketing Manager whose job is loosely defined as, “in charge of the website.”

My article titled Six Ways to Measure SEO Success discusses some specific metrics that SEOs use to track website positioning and gauge the success of their optimization efforts. Rather than repeat the metrics I listed in this article, I’ll explain some examples of how you can communicate them to upper management or a not-so-web-savvy client. The goal here, of course, is to make you look like a star. If your SEO has done his or her job, this shouldn’t be too difficult. Here are some quick statistics that look great in a slide presentation or a quick one-page progress report.

  1. The number of pages indexed by Google has increased by 35% in the past three months.

    It’s easy to see how many pages from your website are included in Google’s index. Just use the “site” command in the search field. The syntax would look like this: site:yoursite.com or site:www.yoursite.com. These are called “inclusion” numbers and it is important that your SEO agency or consultant track these numbers at the start of the campaign so that when the time comes to present results to your manager, you are armed with some concrete success metrics. Here’s an example of how simple it is to present this as a measurable example of SEO success.

    Pages included in Google for Website.com:
    April ’05 – 400
    May ’05 – 560
    June ’05 – 710

    This type of data looks delightful in a line graph with a simple one-line summary that would read something like this, “The total number of pages from website.com indexed in Google increased 77.5% from April to June 2005.” This is a fairly clear indicator of success for most people. You might take it a step further and determine what percentage of the site is actually indexed (e.g., 40% of the pages are indexed and our long term goal is to get 99.9% of pages in Google).

  2. The number of #1 rankings has increased by 15% and the number of top 10 positions has increased by 30% in Yahoo, MSN and Google.

    It is an industry best practice to track a website’s positioning when performing SEO on that site. However, SEO reports can look quite daunting when there are hundreds of keywords included across many different search engines. An easy way to boil it down to the bottom line is to provide your manager with a total amount of #1 positions and top 10 positions now, compared to when SEO began. This is easy to translate into percentages and provides another quick snapshot of whether or not your SEO is working.

  3. The number of total visitors has doubled since SEO was implemented.

    Traffic gained from increased search engine ranking is what makes it all worthwhile. You may see your traffic begin to increase before you see your ranking increase. This is because your website is probably showing up for keywords that you’re not directly targeting. Monthly traffic tracking is essential when trying to demonstrate the success of SEO. This an easy metric to obtain, translates well into a graph and is sure to make your manager happy, particularly if your website earns revenue from ad sales.

Search marketing data can communicate a lot of things about your business that goes beyond the success metrics and statistics listed in the previous section. Data available from paid search, in particular, can provide a goldmine of information that can not only help you streamline your natural search optimization efforts, but your overall marketing initiatives and even your core business model.

Data available via Google, Overture and other PPC campaigns such as the highest traffic-generating keywords, highest conversion-oriented keywords, and best performing ad copy and landing pages can provide a lot of insight about your website visitors and your marketing initiatives.

For example, you may think that your top revenue-generating product is “blue widgets,” but after one month of running a PPC ad campaign which focuses on this keyword and derivatives thereof, you may find that traffic for this keyword is not converting well at all. However, this same data may disclose that you are getting a lot of conversions for the term “green widgets.” Your site may provide consumers with twenty different varieties of blue widgets and only one or two green widgets, with very little search engine friendly copy written about it.

This is certainly interesting information. Here’s what you might communicate to your manager based on this information.

  1. People who search for “blue widgets” are not spending as much money as we thought – why is this? Let’s do a competitive assessment of our products and see what, if anything we are missing.
  2. Our conversion rate for the term “green widgets” is very high, but we don’t offer this product extensively on our website and it’s not very easy to find from the home page. We also don’t rank very well for it in the search engines. Let’s add some more green widgets to our product line, highlight the product throughout the site, and add copy so that search engines pick it up.
  3. Is there possibly a way to convert the “blue widget” traffic to “green widget” buyers? How can we demonstrate the value of our green widgets to customers seeking blue widgets? I think we should roll out a pilot campaign with the end goal of converting more blue widget traffic by up selling/cross selling green widgets.

So here you are presenting actionable next steps that have the potential to impact your company’s revenue stream. Wow, you certainly look like a star to me.

Conclusion

The bottom line goal with presenting success metrics to your manager or VP, is to demonstrate not only the need for SEM, but that it’s working. If you are the person who has convinced upper management that they absolutely need to incorporate search into their marketing mix, then you’ll also benefit from understanding how to communicate your campaign data into language that sales personnel, marketing managers and senior staff can understand.

Online marketing is a highly accountable medium, and search is no exception. Visitor actions are traceable and metrics are available almost instantly, something unique to the online medium. You can make this accountability work for you! The data is there; your job is to spin it so that your manager understands how much SEM contributes to your website’s bottom line, and what that means for your business in the long run.

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