educational

Developing Successful ROI

Michael Murray
Are you really measuring for Return On Investment (ROI) with Search Engine Optimization (SEO)? Puzzling studies and reports suggest that businesses are missing out when it comes to ROI, including a whole host of metrics that should confirm or shape Search Engine Marketing (SEM) strategies.

You can't accomplish much if you're not even implementing SEO the right way. We've seen website after website that includes scores of individual keywords in the META keyword set, which many search engines ignore anyway. The SEO team not only used the wrong individual keywords (search phrases are better), but they didn't bother to include keywords in the page title or description. And, of course, they didn't think it was worth their time to focus on multiple pages — not just the homepage.

Here's a hint: If you're selling dinnerware, "laundry" probably shouldn't be one of your keywords.

A WebTrends report cited by eMarketer in 2004 showed the following ROI:

  • Using complete ROI analysis: 35.4 percent
  • Click-through rates: 24.2 percent
  • Conversion metrics: 18.7 percent
  • Don't measure: 21.7 percent

Barely one-third figured a thorough ROI analysis was worth the effort.

More than 80 percent of companies surveyed are dissatisfied with their "ability to benchmark their marketing programs," according to "Measures + Metrics: Assessing Marketing Value + Impact" – a stunning report based on a 2004 survey by the CMO Council, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based organization. The CMO Council represents senior marketing and brand decision-makers in the global technology industry.

"Less than 20 percent have developed any meaningful and comprehensive measures and metrics for their marketing organizations," the report said.

It's possible, Fathom SEO believes, that companies just settle for what's easiest. If getting high rankings offers enough satisfaction, that's where the measurement ends. Or, maybe a business will look at total traffic (maybe even unique visitor trends). With PPC, they're apt to take up Google's offer and post an ad within 15 minutes, cranking out the common reports Google offers.

Businesses have a whole host of metrics that can serve them as long as the data doesn't fly over their heads.

SEM and Corporate Marketing Strategies
You should start by knowing how your SEM goals relate to your corporate marketing strategy. Which of the following do you want to accomplish?

  • Generate leads
  • Sell online
  • Build brands
  • Grab more market share
  • Conversions

You absolutely must track pages that allow visitors to take some kind of action, including:

  • Requesting a quote
  • Filling out a contact form
  • Placing an order
  • Registering for a newsletter
  • Ordering a catalog
  • Establishing Your Metrics

Determine which of the following will be the metrics that will mean the most to you:

  • Online sales (broken down by category)
  • Repeat visits
  • Profits on sales
  • Customer satisfaction
  • Length of visits
  • Cost per click (CPC)
  • Click-through rate (CTR)
  • Cost per conversion (CPC)

Get plugged into online consumers' behavior patterns. For example, studies show that consumers start researching products online several weeks (12 weeks in some business-to-business scenarios) before they make a purchase – which is then often done offline. Enquiro, based in Kelowna, British Columbia, found in 2004 that 68.3 percent of those surveyed used search engines for "consideration or research." The results are detailed in Enquiro's "Inside the Mind of a Searcher" research report that looks at issues including four distinct types of searchers and the frequency with which people search during the buying process.

ROI should be an integral part of any search engine optimization strategy, not something that sounds foreign. Make it work for your business.

Michael Murray is vice president of Fathom SEO, a Cleveland, Ohio-based search engine marketing (SEM) firm. A member of Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization (SEMPO), he also authored the white paper, "Search Engine Marketing: Get in the Game."

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