How many times have you heard the question from a key decision-maker: “So, after we do this optimization, what will our rankings be?” The answer is complex, and requires much more than simply “better than it was before” for your reply to be meaningful to the CMO tasked with moving the needle on a billion dollars in sales. Rankings are certainly one tangible way to measure SEO’s success, but at Agency.com we are working to move clients away from focusing on rankings and towards focusing on positive results that can be more accurately measured.
In today’s search environment, placement is completely dynamic and state-dependent. Everyone is looking at different data centers for starters. Add in search history, geotargeted results based on IP and universal search, and then compound that with Google’s SearchWiki, and pretty much everyone is going to get measurably different results when looking for the same terms.
Use site analytics to your advantage
For the most part, industrial strength websites have top-end analytics installed. As a rule, when negotiating an agreement with a new client, be certain that a part of the terms includes access to site analytics. If they don’t run (or pay attention to) site analytics, try to set up Google analytics. This will provide you with meaningful measurement and will allow for you to build a case for your success on a level playing field with other traffic channels. Once we get over the vanity of rankings, we need to be sure that our communications with the executive level marketers are rooted in tangible, conversion-based metrics.
Don’t simply track visitors from search engines or referring keywords. Build your case with key performance indicators that help to prove the quality of the visitors you are generating.Many brand sites don’t have ecommerce transactions to associate with success, so track white paper downloads or contact form completions or other “finish line” activities that prove the value of the visitors that are arriving. Don’t forget to benchmark everything at the beginning of the process so that you can clearly demonstrate where you have moved the needle.
Communicate, communicate, communicate!
The larger the organization, the more likely it is that there are managerial layers between you and the purse-string holders who will determine the longevity of your search marketing engagement. It is up to you to drive the conversation around the value of the services you provide. Even seasoned marketers don’t know the right questions to ask, and as a result, a passive approach to communications can spell disaster even if the work that you are doing is helping to push forward the client’s agenda.
Arrange for regular reporting to be generated and discussed on the phone. Prepare overview presentations on a quarterly basis and ask that you have the opportunity to present to the executive level decision-makers. Drive the initiative forward with the next generation of ideas, and be fully prepared when your client does ask “so what’s next?” Optimization is a never-ending process, but to those who do not fully appreciate this fact, it is your responsibility to be sure that you are making next steps clear.
Senior marketers are fundamentally curious about the “SEO thing,” so take full advantage of this opportunity to positively position your success stories in the organization. The bottom line is that you need to control aspects of your scorecard. SEO is not just about placement and traffic volume, it is about traffic quality and the measurement of successful engagements over time. Sure, placement reports are interesting in a recreational sense, but to make the case for that six-or-more figure budget next year, be certain that your report card is firmly rooted in meaningful onsite analytics.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.