Looking for the Best ROI

Wouldnt it be great to be able to monitor your search-engine positioning campaign to answer the following questions?

  • What was my return on investment (ROI) at GoTo.com versus Inktomi.com?
  • What happened today versus last week at Google.com?
  • How does search-engine optimization (SEO) compare with my vertical portal banner campaign?

What if you could measure the effectiveness of all your advertising, not just banner advertising? Measure outcomes, or actions, not just click-through? Would you like to measure your traffic sales conversion rates from SEO campaigns as well as banners and email? I sure would.

This would allow me to increase my ROI by choosing the most effective promotional vehicles.

Real-time campaign data on SEO is becoming available through several third-party services. Two services I’ve recently become aware of are Orb Digital and ADProve (under construction). With these services, you can review your advertising results for all campaigns SEO, banners, email, print and TV immediately; there’s no need to wait for monthly reports.

I was able to gather preliminary data only; however, it’s just enough to whet your appetite for the future of this technology, which ultimately will be able to provide a complete analysis of all your web site advertising campaigns.

My interest is in search-engine traffic and accessing information about the conversion of actions per click with search-engine-optimization services versus banners and other forms of advertising. The results of a small case study conducted by a small start-up called ADProve showed that SEO services produced three times more actions per click when compared to the banner campaign.

The study involved a very small sample of visitors, less than 15,000. The client, a Honda business-to-consumer site, ran a banner campaign through a vertical portal; the SEO campaign focused on several specific keyword phrases. Both campaigns targeted Honda automobile owners.

ADProve President John Jones was able to track to point of action (outcome). In this case, several actions were monitored: 1) in-shop orders, 2) quote orders, 3) database orders, and 4) quotes.

  • The banner-campaign yield was 0.46 percent of click-throughs (CTs) converted into positive outcomes.
  • The SEO-campaign yield was 1.22 percent of CTs converted into positive outcomes.

Of course, this was far too small a sample, and, frankly, there are several aspects of the study I’d like to know more about. However, at first glance, the SEO campaign looks like a winner in this case study.

Another company blazing a trail into tracking search-engine- optimization campaigns is Orb Digital. In a teleconference with Orb Digital cofounder Laura Berland, she described ORBit 5.0 as a leading ad serving-and-tracking system that optimizes campaigns in real time based on transaction results. “You can never second-guess where your best customers come from, and you must always keep testing,” Berland says.

I have to agree, the best-laid plans must always be subject to immediate change based on results.

If certain keywords in a search-engine-optimization plan prove more productive or if certain engines produce an audience that favors a particular genre or demographic, then that’s where SEO efforts should focus.

Berland was quick to point out that “Real-time results and analysis are key to making smart spending decisions.” By analyzing transactions in addition to traffic results, marketers can quickly determine their best options. Most important, you can then modify your marketing campaign in real time to improve efficiency and deliver maximum ROI.

Tools such as Orb Digital and AdProve help provide information that gives better direction for SEO campaigns. For instance, should you discover a better conversion rate with traffic from Inktomi.com versus GoTo.com, you can make adjustments to your spending and direction.

This information can also help you identify potential problem areas within your own organization and web site. For instance, when search-engine traffic is coming but few actions are recorded, you might take a serious look at your web site functionality, navigation, professional appearance, content and copy, specific offering(s), the quality of forms on your site, security, privacy policy, and so forth.

Being able to quickly determine higher-quality traffic sources and/or trouble spots within your business model will produce the best outcomes, and being able to do this through tools such as Orb Digital and AdProve could be a fantastic breakthrough in campaign optimization technology.

Media planners have been optimizing banner campaigns for quite a while now. They test media placements on the fly to improve response and can also test one piece of creative against another to determine what creative factors contribute to response, optimizing accordingly. Targeting banners in ad campaigns by any number of variables is a powerful tool.

The breakthrough with this new technology is that marketers can also use optimization to fine-tune the quality of search-engine traffic. This tracking and optimization establishes real value for SEO traffic. It also provides accountability and standardization for the industry in general.

You will hear people talk, and you will read articles recommending numerous promotional strategies. Ive read articles written by credible people in the industry recommending SEO options that range from a minute $100 monthly budget to purchase pay-for-position traffic at GoTo.com to a sophisticated one-million click-through commitment costing $250,000. Tracking your SEO campaign and learning about the value and deliverability of SEO traffic as it applies to your business model and web site will empower you to make the right decisions without having to trust the judgment of others.

I’d love to hear some success stories from search engine traffic agencies for possible use in this column. Please email me with case studies you’d like to share.

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