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Making your search marketing business case

A great deal of our book, Search Engine Marketing, Inc. turns on the business case for search marketing. We try to explain that search marketing is more search than marketing, but people who haven’t bought the book keep asking me questions. Mostly they want to know, “How can I get my company to invest in search marketing?” We spend a few chapters in the book on this, but I have a shorter answer here.


The simplest business case for search marketing is, “If they can’t find you, they can’t buy from you.” But most flinty-eyed accountants would not accept that for an answer.
What they want is hard numbers.
Here are a few ways for you to go about it:

  • Proclaim it. Sometimes, people listen when you show them enough studies and statistics. It’s the easiest way to get buy-in, so it’s the place to start first. We show a lot of persuasive evidence in our book, but the absolute best compendium of search marketing stats is MarketingSherpa’s Search Marketing Benchmark Guide.
  • Test it.. If your company spends any money on other forms of marketing, you’ll usually find search marketing to be more cost-effective. A 2003 study by Piper Jaffray & Co. showed the cost of a lead acquired through search marketing to be $0.45 vs. $0.55 for e-mail, $1.18 for Yellow Pages ads, $2 for banner ads, and $9.94 for direct mail. Suggest shifting a small amount of money to search and test this at your company.
  • Project it.. Every time someone searches for something you sell and you aren’t found, it might be costing you a sale. We developed a search opportunity spreadsheet you can download and customize to your situation.

One of these methods will probably work at your company. Consider what your company finds persuasive and pick the one that has succeeded in the past.

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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is an expert in digital marketing, search technology, social media, text analytics, web personalization, and web metrics, who, as a Certified Speaking Professional, regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide. Mike serves as a senior strategist for Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website, ibm.com, most recently as the Manager of ibm.com Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He is a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research. Mike worked at ibm.com from 1998 through 2006, pioneering IBM’s successful search marketing program. IBM’s website of over two million pages was a classic “big company” website that has traditionally been difficult to optimize for search marketing. Mike, working with Bill Hunt, developed a strategy for search engine marketing that works for any business, large or small. Moran and Hunt spearheaded IBM’s content improvement that has resulted in dramatic gains in traffic from Google and other internet portals.

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