Much has been written about B2B search marketing programs designed for lead generation and customer acquisition purposes. For lead gen efforts, success metrics typically focus on volume of leads, cost per lead, and quality of lead. Many B2B marketers are starting to question this simplistic approach and are no longer willing to ignore the opportunity costs associated with not showing up in relevant search results, even if a listing doesn’t immediately produce an inquiry, lead or customer.
The value of search visibility
When a highly-qualified prospect proactively searches for information that is absolutely relevant to your product or service and your firm is nowhere to be found on the results page, how does this ultimately impact bottom line business results? No doubt about it, the value of search visibility can be very hard to determine.
Although difficult to measure, I believe that search visibility must not be ignored. Unfortunately, this is exactly what most B2B search marketers are doing today: focusing exclusively on lead generation and customer acquisition metrics at the expense of all other search marketing benefits.
I have recently been involved in several online lead gen campaigns that left marketing executives feeling short-changed. Even with stellar results around inquiries, contacts and leads, marketers started to question this myopic approach and begin wondering about additional potential benefits (and costs) associated with their search marketing efforts.
As search marketers know all too well, executives often conduct test searches and branded vanity searches just to see how their firm stacks-up relative to the competition. Often, these leaders are perplexed by the results they see and wonder why their firm isn’t showing up in a top position (organic or paid) for the most obvious, popular keywords in their industry. Shouldn’t these words be the cornerstone of any sound search marketing program?
But, experienced search marketers realize that the most popular, obvious keywords also tend to be the most expensive and don’t necessarily convert the best. Therefore, search marketers who are managing lead gen efforts, are usually not focusing on the most obvious words and phrases.
Rather, they focus their firm’s investment on the phrases that generate the highest volume of registrations, leads, or customers at an acceptable cost. Bottom line: lead gen programs are not focused on visibility, branding or market positioning.
Think beyond leads and customers
Perhaps it’s time for a new paradigm.
I find that it is always worthwhile to ask executives their opinion regarding the top 2-5 most important search phrases for their company. You may be surprised by their responses! Yet, B2B marketers should realize that these phrases are what executives view as important, and these are the words they will be watching and searching for.
So, even if you’re running a lead gen-oriented program, it is important to have some dialogue around this and make a business discussion about the importance of being visible for these search queries — regardless of lead generation or customer acquisition results.
Broaden your success metrics
I suggest that in addition to the standard lead and customer goals, B2B marketers also determine visibility, market positioning, response, and engagement metrics.
For example, visibility and branding goals should be set for only the most important words and phrases. Success metrics include: organic visibility score, average organic position, number of ad impressions, average ad position, and advertising market share.
Competitive positioning goals are very similar, but would measure your firm’s visibility relative to a few select competitors.
Market response goals primarily measure the percentage of viewers who click on organic or paid listings. Key metrics include click-through-rate (CTR), cost-per-click, and number of visitors.
Website engagement goals focus on what happens after the click. Metrics could be average time-on-site, number of pages viewed, visits to a specific page, and use of an online feature or function.
Tell the whole story
Most marketers agree that all of the above events or actions are valuable, but that this value is difficult to estimate. My suggestion is, at a minimum, take the value of a lead or a customer, and assign a very small portion of that value to each impression, each click (visitor), and each desired website interaction.
Marketers should report these secondary success metrics in addition to the lead gen and customer acquisition data you are already focused on.
The cost of NOT showing up
Most B2B marketing executives would be appalled at the suggestion that they skip their industry’s biggest trade show or stop advertising in the most popular trade publication, even though the value of these efforts can be hard to measure. Yet, they don’t manage their search marketing programs based on the same type of overarching, integrated marketing strategy.
B2B search marketers must ask themselves is search visibility really just icing on the cake or is there a more significant opportunity cost associated with not showing up?
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.