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Search marketing by the numbers

I definitely had a problem. I had signed to do a corporate training session on search marketing. As I often do, I spent time on the phone with the event organizer and several of the attendees before the session, so that I would understand what the organizational problems were. That way, I know what the participants know and what they don’t know, and I can tailor the information to their actual level of knowledge. I can also customize the topics to address the real problems that they face instead of a “once over lightly on everything.” But I ran into a problem. This team knew zero about analytics and they were adamant that they wanted to stay that way. Yeah, I definitely had a problem.

Most of you know that I am a nut about analytics. If you want to do it, then you want to measure it. But not this team. They wanted to do it, but they didn’t want any part of measuring it. They insisted that they didn’t measure any of their marketing and that it wasn’t their responsibility.

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Photo credit: Search Engine People Blog

I could have let this go. I mean, it wouldn’t have been hard to teach search marketing and just leave out all the number parts. But it wouldn’t have been very helpful. In fact, it is more helpful to teach search marketing with only the metrics parts and leave out the search parts–you actually get more out of that than the reverse. (If you don’t believe me, tune in when Rob Petersen, Tim Peter, and I take a shot at it on March 13 in a special Biznology webinar, “Using Web Analytics and Search Marketing for Better Decision Making.”)

So, I asked a few questions, such as, “How has your marketing budget changed the last few years?” (It’s been cut about 20%.) “Why do you think that happened?” (Sales were down, so they had to cut something.) “Did they cut the sales team?” (No, sales would have dropped even more.) “Oh. Did they cut the IT team?” (No, they are working on a big project to provide sales data that is up-to-the-minute.)

“Oh, but they cut you. Is it possible that they cut you because they can’t understand what bad things happen to sales when they cut you?”

There was a long pause at the other end of the phone. Uncomfortably long. Long enough that waves of regret started to wash over me. Now, you’ve done it, Mike. They will fire you and you will lose all the money they promised you. But something made me wait out that long pause–not breaking that tension.

Finally, the voice at the other end said, “Do other companies know how their marketing affects sales?”

Now, I was off to the races. I quickly explained that with offline marketing, it isn’t always easy to know what marketing tactics affect sales, unless you are doing direct marketing. I sold him on including direct marketing training in the workshop so that they could re-engineer their sales process to make sure that marketing tactics get attributed for actual sales. And the first digital tactic they used? Search marketing, of course. They tracked referrals from search engines to their site, bounce rates, page views, online conversions, and (most of the time) actual offline sales, too.

I know that there is a lot of knowledge required to do search marketing right, and I don’t mean to minimize that. But search marketing is a lot more about marketing than about search–direct marketing at that. If you don’t understand your direct marketing metrics, then you are fighting your search battle blindfolded. Sometimes you can feel that you got a punch in, but it would be a lot easier to see it. And you might be able to avoid some punches aimed at you if you can see them coming. That is what measurements do.

So, you probably know that you need to measure your search marketing, but if your company doesn’t do a very good job of it, come check out our search and analytics webinar on March 13. Maybe invite your boss, too.

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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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