Tis the season…to wrap up budgeting and forecasting for 2012. As the year begins to draw towards a close, the hope is that your search engine marketing initiatives have an upward trend attached to them. According to MarketingSherpa’s 2011 B2B Marketing Advanced Practices Handbook, SEO ranked as the fourth most effective B2B marketing tactic.
For many of us, B2B SEO now includes some component of social media marketing. Even though social media was only the tenth most effective B2B marketing tactic in the chart above, 66% of organizations with a formal SEO process were integrating social media into their overall SEO strategy (see chart below).
While most will agree that social media delivers value outside of SEO, it is up to B2B marketers to demonstrate that value to executive teams, particularly when budgets are proposed in the new year.
As you’re planning for 2012 marketing initiatives, here are four ways to make sure that social media strategy, which helps improve SEO and beyond, stays on the budget in the new year.
Conversion Metrics For B2B Social Media
At least one of the benchmarks used when evaluating social media campaigns must be in relation to lead acquisition. The chart below shows an example of a clients Google Analytics report, highlighting a select group of conversion rates, based on third party referrals where social media campaigns were initiated.
What is not noted in this data, but should be considered is the level of sales-readiness in a lead being sent via social media. We are working with many of our clients more on developing specific benchmarks highlighting the type of leads, and their place in the sales funnel.
For example, white paper requests or embeds of an infographic are much different conversions than webinar registrations or demo requests, as it pertains to the ability of a sales professional to initiate contact and potentially close a deal.
The point is that while leads via social media initiatives might not lead to immediate ROI, there is value in building an ever expanding contact list, which may convert (or help support) more sales-specific content marketing initiatives down the road.
Link Building Acquisition
The ability to acquire links through social media initiatives should certainly be a priority, and a benchmark that can help support the value of social media moving forward.
Networking connections built in Twitter and LinkedIn, as well as social bookmarking sites such as Reddit, StumbleUpon, and Digg, can open the door to site owners or marketers for various online publications.
Simply noting links acquired via social media outreach or networking initiatives is a first step. Below is a screenshot from RavenTools Link Manager tool, but even notation in Excel would suffice.
As the year draws to a close, re-evaluate the sources of inbound links, to determine whether social media marketing played a part in link acquisition.
Brand Based Keyword Searches
While ranking well for the brand may not be an important KPI for general B2B SEO success, growth in brand based keyword search referrals might make sense for social media.
Why? Generally speaking, brand based keyword referrals should have higher conversion rates and traffic performance metrics.
Take a look at a comparison between branded and non-branded keyword referral traffic and conversion rates for one client (year to date metrics):
- Conversion Rate on All Organic Search Traffic: 4.05%
- Branded Keywords: 9.52%
- Non-Branded Keywords: 1.75%
- “Not Provided” Keywords: 3.70%
Building brand awareness over time through social media, by way of a consistent growth in keyword traffic, makes sense when evaluated in combination with site conversion goals.
The chart below highlights how we have grown this same client’s overall branded search referral traffic, in part through social media initiatives.
New Visitor Traffic
Finally, new visitor traffic plays a role in benchmarking social media campaign performance. As long as visitor performance metrics, such as bounce rate, time on site, etc. are consistent with other channels, the percentage of new visitors to a website, via social media campaigns, is something worth noting.
Growth in quality new visitor traffic through social media initiatives infers that your campaigns are opening up doors and new areas of visibility for the organizations overall Web presence. The hope is that this traffic in turn can be developed into more qualified returning visitors and lead nurturing opportunities.
Hopefully, these recommendations prove to be valuable, but I would love to read your thoughts and perspective via comments below as well. How are you benchmarking social media performance this year and into 2012?
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.