Why Search Marketing Silos Are Conversion Killers

Courtesy bitzcelt via Flickr

Courtesy bitzcelt via Flickr

The conversion rate for your site is the number of conversions divided by visitors. Quality traffic is half of the equation (the bottom half). No matter how well optimized a site is, if the traffic isn’t qualified, conversion rates will falter.

I recently commented to Chris Robino* of SearchRanking.net that companies rarely get our conversion optimization team and search marketing team together. I thought this odd.

This hit a nerve with Chris. So I asked him to outline the problem and tell us how to best deal with it.

In a recent white paper, Integrating the New Digital Team, it was suggested that most companies categorize pay-per-click advertising and search engine optimization in two separate departments: PPC as a marketing function, and SEO as a technical one. Most companies don’t even have conversion optimization defined, let alone a department to manage it.

How often do your developers and your marketing staff get together to review data, strategy and landing pages?

If the collaboration between the two departments is strong, you don’t have time to read this article, because your business is growing so fast.

For the rest of us, the disconnect between tech and marketing is killing our conversion rate. Translated into business-babble, “You are leaving money on the table.”

The Distance Between Us

These days websites serve many purposes, from marketing to e-commerce and complete SAAS businesses. In the beginning, most corporate websites were the digital equivalent of a tri-fold brochure.

As simple as a website was to build circa 1997, it was still considered development. If it involved code, instructions to servers, uploading, testing and so on, it was left up to the tech folks to develop, test and deploy. Marketing was in charge of design, copy and where emails or form submissions might go, but it was still a technical job to launch and maintain the pages.

In heady 2011, this is still the case for many organizations. Tech is in charge of developing, testing and deploying the website. Marketing still creates the design, writes the copy and receives the feedback.

It’s possible that new technology is just coming at us too fast. The digital age just hasn’t settled down enough for us to write the best practices when it comes to collaborating within our organizations. I don’t suggest using this assumption the next time you are talking to your boss about slowing sales.

Whatever the reason for the separation, the longer you place it behind several competing priorities, the more it can chip away at the website traffic you are working so hard to obtain.

Throughout the years tech has continued to evolve, but IT is still in charge of anything that involves, code, development, testing and deployment. Today that includes SEO and setting up analytics code.

Tech usually creates standard reports that marketing will get, but IT isn’t going to create the reports that marketing needs, and marketing doesn’t know the analytics solution well enough to tell them different.

What Are We Missing?

We recently took over a PPC campaign for one of our existing clients, and after two weeks of reviewing the Google AdWords, account we determined that the company managing the PPC campaign was classifying sales incorrectly.

The marketing company in charge of the PPC campaign classified an “Add To Cart” as a sale, so every Add To Cart was listed as a completed transaction and a sale on the report they sent to our client.

This went on for over six months and cost several hundred thousand dollars. We were not seeing the overall growth in our top line revenue numbers that the reports would have suggested.

What were we missing? It turns out that 4 out of 5 users that went to our “Add To Cart” page left before they completed the sale, which means marketing was reporting 80% more sales than actually occurred.

This is one of the most obvious examples of how disconnection between departments can be damaging to the bottom line. Here’s a less obvious example.

How big is our page size, and how does that affect our load time? Tech will know this, but who should they report that information to? This is the perfect example of how tech and marketing must communicate, and both departments need to understand what the overall online marketing goal is.

Dollars & Sense

Let’s just say for the sake of example that one of the goals is to increase the conversion rate from 0.7% to 1.0% within the year. Tech would constantly work on improving the load time of the site, optimizing the images, researching keywords and working with marketing to update the relevant content as often as possible.

Marketing would work with tech to write copy, find the best images that represent the product or service, and review the analytic reports for user statistics. Based on the data, marketing will edit content and message, create new landing pages and test everything.

These are the details, and this is the collaboration a company needs if the goal is to increase the conversion rate.

If tech and marketing were not working on the goal of improving the conversion rate, tech wouldn’t be as motivated to work with marketing to optimize images and load time.

Marketing would select the best images, but they could compromise load time. Tech wouldn’t be as motivated to load new content to improve the rankings, or constantly review analytics and research new keywords.

If each department is splintered off into its own camp and motivated by different objectives, the company can still grow. But show me another statistic where you can grow annual revenues significantly without increasing the number of people who see your stuff?

Use your department’s subject matter expertise, but coordinate your expertise with everyone on the team, and make conversion rate optimization a critical factor in your online marketing plan.

The best examples of integrating the various teams within an organization are when everyone understands the goal. Other important factors include:

  • That everyone understand the core goal
  • The level of individual buy-in
  • Agreement on how best to accomplish the goal
  • Financial incentives if the larger group meets its goals

If your organization is dealing with the challenges of department politics and segmentation when it comes to improvement, start with a smaller project. Select a small project that involves multiple teams and keep constant and open communication throughout the project. Sometimes 1,000 baby steps can get you a lot farther than no steps at all.

The line between conversions and visitors doesn’t have to exist within your organization. In fact, if you separate search engine marketing and conversion optimization, you are probably impairing your ability to attract and convert prospects. Eliminate the IT and marketing silos to open up the promise of a high-converting website.

*Chris Robino is the chief digital strategist at SearchRankings.Net, a full-service SEO management company. Chris is a serial entrepreneur with seven start-up companies under his belt in 20 years. You can follow Chris at chrisrobino.com.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Analytics | Search & Conversion


About The Author: is the Conversion Scientist at Conversion Sciences and author of Your Customer Creation Equation: Unexpected Website Forumulas of The Conversion Scientist. Follow Brian at The Conversion Scientist blog and on Twitter @bmassey

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  • http://www.rimmkaufman.com George Michie

    Good stuff, Brian, internal communication is key. One point I’d raise is that the closer the shared goal is to money in the bank the better, because any other KPI is probably deceptive. Conversion rate is a perfect example. If you do no marketing online or off, the only folks who find your site will be your loyal customers. Conversion rates will be fantastic on your way out of business. Search marketing activities (paid and organic) will bring in traffic that doesn’t know you and isn’t as likely to convert. Done cost effectively it puts money in the bank while it tremendously reduces conversion rates. Evaluating the success of all endeavors by $ keeps us from optimizing for the wrong goal.

  • http://ConversionScientist.com Brian Massey

    George, thanks for the kind words. Just got back from the Conversion Conference, and there was a LOT of talk on your point: bottom line KPIs. The best analogy was testing margaritas: Many marketing departments are interested in the ingredients. IT is interested in the glass, mixer, etc. They both should be focused on making the best margarita. Props to Jennifer Veesenmeyer for the margarita analogy. (@pimpyourreports)


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