Evaluate your marketing campaign by how closely it meets your intended outcomes.
Ahead of SES London, which gets underway today, I've been giving some thought to SEO metrics and the importance of being able to prove the return on investment achieved through web marketing efforts.
Web analytics packages make it relatively easy to track visitors from their entry to your site until their completion of purchase; this can be made even more specific if you have an e-commerce site that requires a login. However, when you promote the site elsewhere online, you need to know whether the customers who purchase the most arrive via your PPC ads or your organic SEO efforts - and, most importantly, how much it costs to get them to your landing page.
Know Your Ambitions
Define your web marketing campaign in terms of its intended outcomes. Positive ROI is an obvious element, but if your initial aim is to build brand awareness, you might be willing to accept a period of negative ROI in monetary terms in exchange for an increase in visitor numbers and positive mentions in discussion forums, chat rooms, and social networks.
If you are hoping to build traffic, think about what type of traffic you want. A high percentage of new unique visitors indicates that you are reaching a new audience, while a lot of repeat visitors suggests that your site is well established, at least in the minds of those who have seen it before.
Fill Your Funnels
Make sure that you have clearly defined funnels in your analytics in order to track visitors from arrival to checkout. This way, you can clearly see whether those arriving via PPC ads are more likely to make a purchase, whether their average order size is greater, and whether the typical amount spent on your site is greater or less than your average cost per click.
Even a modestly positive ROI is an inherently good thing: PPC is scalable, limited only by the available cash flow in a given month, so these small profits can soon add up if your site has large numbers of visitors.
Target Your Keywords
In terms of natural search optimization, the work you do is a long-term investment. A highly ranked page will continue to attract traffic for some time to come, without requiring any additional cost. This is at odds with the cost-per-click nature of PPC campaigns, and makes both unique and repeat visitors relevant in tracking performance. Consider creating entire microsites or collections of landing pages that are targeted at specific keywords but not used as destination URLs in your PPC settings.
By focusing on the performance of these pages, you can see which keywords are most effective among your natural search traffic, and focus on these topic areas for the future.
Marketing Beyond Search
While it is easy to think of search marketing as the only kind of web marketing for the modern-day era, it is still important to build your brand - and to receive more type-in traffic as a result.
As your brand equity grows, look out for people searching specifically for your company name rather than the generic name of the product or service you supply. Also, be aware of incoming links from social networks and other websites. These not only drive traffic to your site, but also help your site appear more authoritative to the search engines and raise its ranking as a result.
A truly holistic web marketing campaign can address all areas at once:
Bring It Back to ROI
Whatever your ambitions, the nature of modern business - particularly for companies that operate solely online - is such that you will probably have to prove positive ROI.
Remember to include repeat custom: the lifetime value of each visitor, rather than only their first purchase. If many of your customers return time after time, this could be a deciding factor in whether your ROI is positive or not. Also, consider the organic benefits achieved; for example, if a new PPC landing page ranks highly for organic keywords, you may receive a boost to your visitor numbers via your natural search listing, without having to pay for those clicks.
Ultimately, if you know from the outset what you are trying to achieve, your work is "worth it" as long as you achieve those ambitions - and you should be careful not to be distracted by other types of traffic or by outcomes you had never planned to aim toward.
This article was originally published in SES magazine. Get the complete magazine here.
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Kevin Gibbons is Managing Director of digital marketing agency BlueGlass UK. A highly respected blogger on search engine marketing and social media, Kevin also speaks frequently at leading industry events.
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12:00pm ET/9:00am PT