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Defining SEO Success

Mark Jackson
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In my way of thinking, search engine optimization is just one way to help market a company’s products and/or services. Certainly, some folks are more concerned with branding implications. Generally speaking, however, people get into search engine optimization because they want to make more money by marketing themselves where people are actively searching.

Search engine marketing is, in my mind, the most cost-effective form of marketing. Where else can you position yourself in a place where people are actively searching for your products and services? This type of “pull” marketing strategy is great because it’s noninvasive and is highly relevant for the user, as opposed to radio or television advertising. It’s been my experience that organic search engine optimization delivers even more value in that you’re not paying for each and every click and not having to compete on a daily basis with the bidding whims of others in your Industry.

Different Measures of Success

If there is one thing that gets under my skin, it’s how some folks choose to measure success from their search engine optimization efforts.

Let’s go back to my thesis that most people get into search engine optimization to drive relevant traffic that delivers concrete sales/leads to their sites. With the analytics tools available today, it is very easy to determine how these efforts are affecting sales/lead numbers.

Despite this, there are still those who choose to measure success by individual keyword rankings or Google PageRank.

Perhaps I’m on an island with my view, but to me, it’s more about how many relevant unique visitors you’ve been able to drive through to your Web site and how these visitors are converting into a customer, reader, subscriber, etc. Call me crazy...

With the advent of Google’s Big Daddy update, search engine rankings can vary greatly, depending on the data center you may be on at your current location at any given time. The search engine ranking report that you receive from your SEO firm may not look accurate to you, because you may be on a different data center in a different part of the world. This is why you should be looking more at your analytics reports than your ranking reports to determine the effectiveness of your campaign.

The Ego-Centric Customer

I should say that I love all of my clients, here. So, please don’t take offense to this. Okay... disclaimer out of the way.

Even though we at Vizion Interactive try very hard to set realistic expectations for our clients, there are times when someone high-up in command will say, “Why aren’t we ranking for this word?” No matter that the word may or may not be popular (receive many searches), or whether PPC efforts have shown that the word does not convert as well as others that we’ve decided to focus on. This person is bound and determined to get that ranking. Sound the alarms! All hands on deck!

In this case, we do try to temper the expectations (many times these are singular keywords) and explain what is going to be necessary to make this happen. Success for one keyword does not constitute success in growing the business. And, if that is what our clients are paying us for, we will change our course and do our level best to achieve this goal. Invariably, once we’ve achieved this ranking, there will be another hot keyword right around the corner. Quality search engine optimization should be a set strategy that grows over time, so keeping these types of “success” metrics in place will, more than likely, affect the long-term growth strategy of the search engine optimization campaign.

For these types of “strategies,” you should know who you are.

I recently met with a prospect who wanted to rank in the top ten search results for mortgages. This is a regional company (not a current client) that had 20 pages to its site and very little authority in the search engines. I tried to explain that they should consider a different strategy. They can’t even process loans outside of their region, so why the focus on mortgages?

Measuring SEO Success

At the end of the day, you should measure your SEO efforts as you would any other marketing campaign. Ask yourself, “How much did it cost for me to do this? What was the return on investment?”

If your experience is anything like mine (I’m guessing that I’ve overseen 200 search engine optimization programs), you’ll find that SEO can deliver better ROI than just about anything else that you’ve tried.


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