Over the past seven years, I have heard executive managers say over and over again that search engine optimization (SEO) is voodoo or black magic, and it will never work. This refrain comes from large corporations that often spend millions of dollars on traditional marketing and public relations. Yet, most traditional marketing and public relations programs do not drive an instant return on investment (ROI).
The best way around this obstacle is to get full buy-in from the client's marketing and public relations teams. Once you have these teams on your side, you can start approaching senior management. You can start with a paid search campaign for instant results, proving the basic concept that search drives traffic and ROI. Below are some tools that can help provide the data you need to convince senior managers of the value of search marketing.
Selling Senior Managers on Search
- Analytics Software – There are many options, but be sure to choose an analytics application with the ability to monitor conversion rates.
- Customer Retention Software– Requirements will vary, depending on whether your business is lead-based or direct sales-based.
- Beta Testing Environment – You must test multiple landing pages to see how well they convert. You can use an advanced system like Sales Builder, which has a multi-step lead form to improve conversion rates -- a must-have to ensure successful testing.
- Budgets – The easiest way to understand your potential costs is to contact Yahoo and Google, asking them for an estimate of your spend -- they will do the work for you.
- The Colorful Power Point Deck – To close the deal, you will need a ton of data, illustrated concisely in a colorful deck. Sending a plain document will only confuse them.
Hopefully, all goes well, and you get your funding for this pivotal test. It helps to communicate that phase two and three will include an increase in budget for paid search and an investment in a search engine optimization program.
Implementing the Test Strategy
There are several ways to approach the above testing strategy. One way would be to hire an experienced in-house search optimizer with at least three years experience and a proven track record. It is important to consider that this is a new field, and experienced search optimizers are hard to find. Your job requisition could be open for at least six to nine months, and that's if you are lucky.
Another approach would be to bring in a full-service SEO firm to handle everything for you. The risk here is you could wind up getting the junior new guy who is going to learn by experimenting with your site.
A third option would be to hire a consultant who can come in and design a custom strategy for your site. Most consultants will teach you everything you need to know to be self-sufficient. You can usually keep such consultants on retainer for asking questions as time goes on and things change.
Keep in mind that your optimization strategy should always revolve around analytics and traffic levels. Take some time to understand the concept of long tail keywords. If you focus solely on head-based keywords, your strategy is likely to fail. The quality of your content will make or break your site; poor content does not drive a tremendous amount of link popularity, which is a key factor in your SEO strategy.
More Tips for a Successful Strategy
Besides the above testing strategy, it helps to be well informed on search engine marketing. You can keep abreast of the search industry in various ways.
- Attend Conferences – You can learn a lot about SEO and SEM from experts in the industry. Many of the people you will meet can teach you tips and tricks as well as introduce you to others who can also help you out.
- Visit Forums – Stay active on the forums, you don't necessarily need to post, but you can pick up tons of great data from forums such as Search Engine Watch.
- Read Industry News – Subscribe to search newsletters or RSS feeds such as SEW Experts, SearchDay, or ClickZ Experts.
With this in mind, you are off to a great start. Remember, convincing the executive team to invest in search will not be easy. They will likely shoot this down the first time you ask. Keep gathering more data and get support from other departments to help your cause. This is a team battle and needs to be defended on all fronts.
Aaron is off this week. Today's column ran earlier on Search Engine Watch.