The news that Internet marketers will no longer be able to receive certain keyword-specific search referral data from logged-in Google.com users should be a concern to B2B marketers. With such an emphasis on lead evaluation and the importance of ROI in their marketing programs, every bit of data helps.
Take a look at the top priorities for CMOs in the B2B space via MarketingSherpa’s 2011 B2B Benchmark Survey:
Arguably five of the top ten priorities for CMO will be impacted in some capacity by this search engine change.
Will this make B2B SEO irrelevant?
That certainly will not be the case. At least for our clients (and hopefully for yours or your organization), organic search engine traffic represents a significant percentage of traffic that contributes quality leads for respective organizations.
But what makes organic search traffic valuable?
Key performance indicators (KPIs) are critical for measuring B2B SEO success. B2B search engine marketers need to consider how they are currently measuring performance and its impact in the marketing mix.
This article seeks to provide recommendations for B2B search engine marketers looking to redefine KPIs for their initiatives, in the wake of enhancements to Google search behavior.
First Things First: Set Proper Benchmarks
The first step is tracking “not provided” metrics to get an idea of the percentage of organic search traffic actually impacted by this change. Google has indicated that this shift will impact less than ten percent of searches, but keep in mind the following:
- In February 2010, it was projected Google was processing more than 80 billion searches per month.
- We know Google is proactively encouraging more searchers to try Google+. Assuming adoption grows, so will users interested in encrypted search.
Bottom line: Get an understanding of how encrypted search is impacting organic search engine traffic immediately. Seek to educate management ahead of time on the change and what is being done in adjustment.
Year Over Year Traffic Metrics
Build a stronger case for the evaluation of annual trends and improvements. Some of the measurements we evaluate year over year include:
- Overall organic search engine traffic
- Branded versus non-branded keyword referrals
- Leads via organic search (branded and non-branded where possible)
- Keyword visibility (IE, rankings and keyword referral traffic)
Year over year, metrics help set the stage for annual growth goals in traffic, keyword visibility and lead generation from organic search. They also help better explain or support seasonal changes specific to the industry.
Keyword Referral Data
Keyword information will always be important; it just gets a bit cloudier with and when more users adopt encrypted search. Keyword metrics we follow for the typical SEO client:
- Traffic and leads from primary keyword targets and competitive keyword themes
- Traffic and leads via branded versus non-branded keywords
- Keyword ranking for primary keyword targets
Your metrics for keyword reporting remain the same, but my recommendation is to clearly identify specific benchmarks that were impacted by encrypted search, where appropriate.
For many of our clients, we now measure individual keyword performance and the overall impact a keyword phrase might have for a client’s website. This is especially important when targeting very broad terminology, which takes a much longer period of time to show significant results for the individual keyword phrase.
Third Party Referral Traffic
SEO’s know that quality links bring more impact to the overall internet marketing strategy, not just search engine optimization. Focusing more on the measurement of third party traffic referral and lead data if possible, as a KPI for SEO, is another way to demonstrate value.
Examples where this would be important for SEO’s to assume impact:
- Links acquired via competitive analysis and/or link reclamation techniques
- Link acquisition in coordination with marketing communication tactics (examples might be byline, guest blog outreach or promotional efforts)
- Viral content promotion via social media platforms
In addition to immediate value, this type of benchmark can help solidify relationships with other departments in the organization, improving the overall significance of the B2B SEO program.
Visitor Performance Metrics
SEO value does not always come from traffic increases or top keyword rankings. B2B search engine marketers should seek to improve the quality of traffic coming to the site through organic search engines as well.
Benchmarks to consider:
- Organic search engine traffic bounce rate
- Pages per visit via organic search
- Percentage of new visits via organic search
Examples of onsite initiatives B2B search engine marketers can review to improve these benchmarks include:
- Evaluation of search engine results in coordination with keyword strategies, to better define search intent.
- Review of titles, headings, meta descriptions, copy and cross-links between related web pages.
As illustrated in the top chart, these types of benchmarks can play very well in the B2B organization’s overall marketing strategy. Visitor performance metrics aid in the gathering of customer and prospect insight as it pertains to the quality of content on the website.
While Google’s enhancements to encrypted search make the B2B SEO’s job more problematic, steps need to be taken to proactively address this change and evaluate KPIs in place.
Keyword and traffic benchmarks will still be present, but B2B SEOs should also consider emphasizing their value with third-party referral traffic and visitor performance metrics.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.