As the world of search evolves and the SEO industry matures, marketers face both a ranking challenge and a revenue opportunity.
Not only have the search engine algorithms changed, but the consumer – and the digital and marketing mindset – has shifted.
The fragmentation of SERP results and convergence of search, social, and content marketing means marketers must become adaptive to new ways of measuring SEO and earned media performance.
Privacy and personalization have further fueled change. While search rankings still matter in relation to driving traffic to your website, it is essential to shift focus from not just rank but also to revenue in order to adapt to new CMO imperatives – rank and revenue.
Anyone who uses SEO techniques to increase their organic search engine visibility and traffic should be measuring their results. However, there is a massive difference between what you measure (rank) and how you measure (revenue).
Every searcher uses different search queries to find what they're looking for. Since August last year, for some keywords Google has been serving SERPs with seven organic listings instead of the usual 10 listings.
In 2013, as Google rewards quality and relevancy to address a better customer experience, there are many opportunities to rank across multiple search types, and in multiple formats to dominate the new Google SERP results across image, video, places, news, social and mobile results.
However, this fragmentation of search results means that the consistency and predictability of measuring rankings becomes a huge challenge in itself as the effectiveness of measuring rankings alone reduces. Personalized search has also meant that rankings are different from state to state and person to person with search results based on your ISP, search history and location. Take mobile as an example, rankings change via location, personalization, and type of device.
Personalized search results are also influenced by social signals. Bing integrates with Facebook, Google+ results show in SERP, Twitter activity informs search decisions and all these social indicators are heavily influencing search results.
Add to this the rapid adoption and renewed interest in content, part cause and part consequence, of Google changes (Panda and Penguin). It is clear that SEO tactics, tools, and business processes have changed dramatically.
The SERP results are no longer siloed. People no longer consume media in silos and marketers can no longer run campaigns in silo’s and rely on the predictability of ranking alone.
In October 2011, marketers lost direct access to search data (not provided) and queries that come through Google secure search. Marketers are no longer able to receive information about each individual search term that users typed under the Google secure search environment. Many SEO analysts used to be able measure referral traffic and track the ranking of that keyword as a measure of success.
Image via Adobe
From an initial estimate of 10 percent, several marketers now see that (not provided) searches can represent 50 percent of total search volume for some brands.
Clearly, marketers need to look at new ways to prove search ROI. A recent MarketingSherpa study discovered that more than half (53 percent) of B2B marketers surveyed indicated they couldn't (or didn't) calculate the ROI of their web campaigns.
Revenue and Earned Media
Marketers now also have an ever-increasing number of channels to understand and influence customers. Earned media initiatives can reach further than ever, enabling you to drive awareness, demand, and revenue.
Rank, although an important metric – Google has over 200 "signals" or ranking factors rank – can become a confusing and seemingly meaningless metric for the CMO who also needs to see revenue related to rank.
According to Forrester Research's report, "Mix Art And Science For Marketing Success" from January:
Marketing investments will be based on business outcomes rather than habits and power plays. Marketing spending has long been based on user consumption of media – or worse yet, simply on how budgets were allocated last year and the year before that. But unimaginable access to data and powerful technology make this old model obsolete.
The growth and importance of enterprise SEO, and the fusion of search, content, and social media brings a great opportunity to scale our earned media and integrated marketed efforts.
Note: On August 22 and 23 at Share13, many of the leading minds in the search and social industry will be talking through positive solutions and business outcomes that will shape our Industry in the years to come. Digital marketing innovators from brands such as Google, Bing, Facebook, Adobe, Microsoft, SAP, EA, Salesforce, Cisco, Gap, Macy’s, Performics, iProspect, Resolution Media and others will share solutions with over 400 brand marketers on how they organize and drive holistic and measurable business results with earned media and search. Our very own Mike Grehan will be speaking and moderating the Digital CMO panel. SEW and ClickZ will be reporting live from #Share13 and interviewing key brands at the event.