Study: Most Marketers Not Measuring Right SEM Results

Most companies are not using the appropriate metrics to evaluate the success of their search marketing employees — and thus their search marketing programs — according to a study commissioned by Isobar’s iProspect and conducted by JupiterResearch.

The iProspect Search Marketer Performance Study found that only four out of 10 search marketers are being evaluated based on business goals, such as ROI or total sales generated. Instead, most marketers are being measured against intermediate metrics, like Web site traffic volume or top search engine ranking.

“It should be more like eight out of 10,” Rob Murray, iProspect’s president, told ClickZ News. “I would expect more companies to look at end results than focus on the means to the end.”

Murray attributes the lack of measurement of business goals to the inability of many marketers to adequately tie conversions — especially offline conversions — to search marketing activities. The study found that less than two in 10 search marketers are being evaluated on offline results generated by their SEM efforts.

“You can’t judge what you can’t measure,” Murray said. “Most people build a Web site to have an impact on the buying continuum. If someone converts offline, and you’re not linking it with your search marketing efforts, you’re not evaluating the full returns you’re generating, and you can’t make a full evaluation.”

According to Bill Muller, iProspect’s VP of marketing, that could effect not just the company, but the individual marketer. “Over time, I can’t believe there will be a lot of companies who will continue to spend money on SEM on blind faith,” he said. “If I were a marketer responsible for SEM, I would want to measure my own success based on business results to justify my existence in the organization.”

Much of the problems stem from immaturity of search marketing within the overall marketing organization, said Gary Stein, senior analyst for online advertising and marketing at JupiterResearch.

“Search, despite its popularity, is still a satellite, distinct from the overall business. So it’s measured solely on its own merits — clickthroughs and conversions,” Stein said. “Search needs to be considered as a core part of the marketing plan, not as a separate initiative.”

Because search marketing efforts are not tied in to other kinds of marketing campaigns, they don’t always get considered alongside other initiatives, like branding campaigns, he said. “The majority only measure clickthroughs, which is kind of crazy — clicks don’t make you any money!”

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