SEO and ROI - Return on Investment of Search Engine Optimization
In addition to rich media marketing, wom and buzz, I've been heavily working on SEO and SEM projects over the past several years. It's an exciting area of online marketing and the SEO part has been enlightening. (It's also fun, which is an added benefit!) That said, I've had several executives ask me, "What would be the return on investment (ROI) for launching an SEO initiative for my business?" That's not an easy question to answer and one that cannot be answered in a short amount of time. There is a lot of work to be done up front before you can even attempt to answer that question, from performing a thorough SEO assessment to keyword research to mapping out technical changes to analyzing the competitive landscape. Then, you might find out that the website needs to be revamped before any significant changes can take place. For example, if a site lacks a robust text navigation, which will enable each page to be properly accessed and indexed, then you've got some technical hurdles to overcome (especially before telling a CEO that he can expect a 250% SEO ROI).
When it comes to hard ROI (revenue-driven), you need a robust web analytics program that provides detailed reporting on your SEO initiative. I've been working extensively with Coremetrics recently and I can tell that it does a phenomenal job at tracking your organic listings. Once in the application, just click through to "Natural Search" and you are given a drilldown into your organic terms broken down by search engine, conversion rate, sessions, sales, orders, and new visitors. That alone would make most executives happy. I've been part of enough internet marketing strategy meetings to know that everyone thinks a given set of organic terms are their "money" terms. With Coremetrics, you can call them on it! The report I am looking at right now has 120 pages of organic terms, sorted by revenue. Drill down into a given term and you can see the search engines that visitors came from, and then you can select the terms for trending. Click the trending report and you can see revenue over time for the selected keywords. Now give that report to someone who thinks their terms rule! :-) I guess my point is that you don't have to guess anymore. When starting an SEO initiative (or any online marketing initiative for that matter), the first thing you need to do is to get your web analytics situation in order. Without it, you are flying blind.
More Detail on Organic Search Analytics in Coremetrics:
There's more to learn in Coremetrics than what I listed above. Using Clickstream reporting, you can take a hard look at pages that rank highly for organic terms. Run a clickstream report and you can see where people are going after visiting that page. This will enable you to notice trends in visitor behavior, which can help you increase conversion on your e-commerce website. For example, if you saw that one page is ranking highly for a competitive keyword, then you could set up a clickstream report to see where visitors go after hitting that page. You can keep drilling down to see where the highest abandonment takes place (where people leave your site). Maybe there is a flaw in your navigation, calls to action, or creative.
The Obvious Benefit:
Well, the completely obvious benefit of using a robust web analytics program to analyze organic search is that you get to see all of the keywords that visitors are entering to get to your site. I'll bet you had no idea that you ranked well for some of those keywords. Then you can take a look at your site to see why that is, tweak other pages to rank higher, and to help your SEM campaigns (like turning off keywords you are paying for in AdWords or YSM when you rank organically for them!) Don't laugh, this happens more than you think...
In closing, SEO shouldn't be solely about ranking for keywords (even though it is fun to see a website start to rank highly), it should be about the return on investment of the project. Set up your analytics, track your natural search terms, and document everything. Then you can show off your cool rankings, but back them up with hard numbers...and dollar signs!
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