In previous articles, we covered Structuring an In-House Team and Creating the Search Engine Marketing Needs Assessment Report. So now your in-house search team is in place and the search department has gained insight into the key performance indicators (KPIs) they are responsible for influencing, as well as the resources available to accomplish search engine optimization (SEO) and social media marketing (SMM) objectives. After establishing these fundamental requirements, the in-house team and trainer will need to prove that SEO and SMM are driving an increase in the previously established goals and metrics. Two powerful strategies can help demonstrate that search and social media are providing value to the organization: natural search analytics and buzz monitoring.
The evolution of organic measurement
Traditional search measurement involves simply monitoring rankings for improvement. Ranking improvements are still a nice indicator as long as you have selected the right keywords, but search analytics has evolved to include more sophisticated metrics. Depending on the type of site (i.e. content/ad-oriented, lead generation, or e-commerce), you will want to measure many other data points, including visitor demographics, visitor engagement, average click-depth, organic landing page bounce rate, organic (brand and non-brand) traffic, and organic (brand and non-brand) KPI conversions. Furthermore, in the rapidly-emerging social media sphere, you better be measuring the buzz that your company and brand have created (and hopefully have actively maintained) within the online community surrounding your brand, industry, and target market.
Three steps to launch SEO analytics in-house
Defining the metrics to be measured is one thing, but getting access to accurate and meaningful data provides a separate set of challenges. Outlined below are three steps that will help your in-house team put a leash on organic analytics data.
1. Align your resources. Refer back to the SEMNAR Discovery Brief and determine which departments and people are responsible for gathering web analytics data. Does the search team have buy-in from those people? Scenarios often exist where multiple agencies or internal departments handle web analytics or drain the resources of the analytics team. As such, a compelling argument for natural search analytics must be made to the right people. You may even need to ask an executive evangelist to apply pressure on the analytics team or expand the team’s size.
2. Assess maturity and audit accuracy. Once buy-in is established, find out how long analytics have been in place. Life will be a lot easier if analytics software has been installed and tracking properly for more than a year. Moreover, if analytics is not currently set up in an appropriate way, then an expert consultant should be brought in to straighten things out ASAP. As the saying goes, “Garbage in, garbage out.” There is nothing worse than making decisions based on faulty data.
3. Manage expectations. If analytics are not in place or were set up improperly, then you will need to start from scratch and look at monthly increases for the time being. If this is the case, expectations must be managed because the seasonality of search can create false impressions about the success or failure of SEO in the short-term. The executives receiving search marketing reports need to understand that the true lift created by SEO cannot be measured unless there is more than one year of data. And even then, SEO tactics can take 90 days or more to affect traffic and rankings. However, armed with tools like the Discovery Brief and Google Trends, you may be able to make assumptions about seasonality and estimate lift.
Making the case for buzz monitoring
When it comes to buzz monitoring, it often takes more than the Search Engine Marketing Needs Assessment Report (SEMNAR) to get the ball rolling. In many cases, companies have operated successfully on the web for years without giving a second thought to the online conversations that surround their company and industry. Why should they care now? You should make the case that if the company expects to create a powerful and sustainable presence in the search engines and on the web in general, resources will have to be dedicated to buzz monitoring and active online engagement.
As blogs, social news sites, and social networking sites continue to steal mindshare and search engine shelf-space from conventional web publishers, traditional opinion-makers and venues are losing their impact on web audiences. Their influence is being siphoned off by blogs and social sites in the form of the long tail. Most in-house public relations and marketing departments are failing to adapt and extend their tactics to meet the challenges of this new paradigm. Since these emerging mediums represent organic traffic and often affect search engine rankings, the search team is usually the best department to engage the online community and monitor the company’s influence on relevant conversations.
The argument here is not that the in-house search team should be solely responsible for creating buzz, but that the search department should be the command center for monitoring and disseminating information about online conversations which are company-related, industry-related, and keyword-related non-brand.
Aggregate and summarize
While the search team should use granular analyses of data to closely measure and tweak SEO and SMM tactics, the company executives can’t be bothered with such details. They need a high-level overview of trends and an executive summary of strategy recommendations. The best way to put things into perspective for executives is to compare SEO and SMM to other web-based and offline strategies. The objective is to show executives that the search department is affecting the company’s business goals in a positive way and providing a solid return on investment. If you can establish this in the mind of key decision-makers, then you will be able to expand the influence of the search department and push for more budget in the next quarter.
Paul J. Bruemmer has provided search engine marketing expertise and in-house consulting services to prominent American businesses since 1995. As Director of Search Marketing at Red Door Interactive, he is responsible for the strategic implementation of search engine marketing activities within Red Door’s Internet Presence Management (IPM) services. John Faris, who co-authored this article, is Senior Search Analyst at Red Door Interactive. He helps plan, implement, test, measure, and optimize traffic acquisition strategies and tactics for Red Door’s clients. The In House column appears periodically at Search Engine Land.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.