Search Marketing 2010: Plan ahead by looking back

Happy New Year, SEWatchers! Hope you had brilliant holidays and a chance to relax. Now time to ease ourselves back into the driving seat and plan the year ahead. Here is one approach to get you started.

Go back to basics. Reflect on your successes and failures.
Start brainstorming your search marketing plans for the new decade by reflecting on what did and didn’t work in 2009. Think of it like a car’s rear view mirror, which allows you to plan your driving against hazards ahead.

Grab your pen and paper or just get plugged into your spreadsheet tool and start itemising last year’s search marketing efforts under some simple easy to understand headings, such as STRATEGY, SUCCESS & IMPACT. Start listing specific strategies in the STRATEGY column, and write a single sentence of every tactic you can think of that you used in that section. Aim to be as specific as possible.

In the SUCCESS column, simply list YES or NO next to every item in your STRATEGY list. Be really tough on yourself for best results. Be brutal in your assessment of your own performance about whether your strategies and tactics worked. Don’t be scared of declaring failures in this part of the exercise – search marketing professionals have to experiment all the time, so the more failures you identify, the more opportunity you create to become better at your job.

In the IMPACT column, think of a universal metric that gives a sense of what impact a specific strategy or tactic may have had when compared to others – visits or page impressions normally function well as a standard definition. Now start estimating the relative value of strategies and tactics. Use < or > with broad, very general, numeric estimations, in obvious multiples of each other, such as 10s compared to 100s or 1000s. This will help you instantly get a sense of the equivalent importance of one tactic over another.

You should end up with a table that looks like the one below.

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When the table seems complete and you can’t think of more things to add to it, review the document once over and immediately make notes of the insights that surface.

Most likely, you’ll want to make notes on why things failed so go ahead and do that. Again, the more honest you can be about your own time/deadline management, personal skill levels and team experience levels, the more opportunities you create to fix problems and excel in 2010. If you are keen to audit your performance more fully with this exercise, you can add COST and TIME columns, making sure to keep to simple multiplier/algebraic type numbers such as $1x – $10x and 1 – 10 days. It may also help to sit down with your team and review the document, see whether they agree with the assessment and have any insights to add.

The key questions you’ll want to find answers for are:

  • What tactics did not yield excellent results?
  • What strategies do we need more help with?
  • Which activities ate up our time for little reward?
  • What delivered the most bang for buck?
  • What did we spend the least time on, but got the most from?
  • What unexpected successes did we have?
  • Were there any unexpected failures?

Hope that gets you started! We’ll look at some more ways to plan your search marketing activities in 2010 over the next few days.

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