Measuring Search Engine Marketing ROI

Spending on search engine marketing is rising dramatically, yet surprisingly few companies are measuring the effectiveness of their campaigns.

In a short survey conducted by web analytics vendor NetIQ, more than 800 participants responded to questions about their search engine marketing efforts, and their attempts to measure success. The survey responses provide interesting insights into the state of search engine marketing ROI.

Some of the findings include:


  • 77% of users surveyed are currently using or evaluating paid search strategies
  • 41% are actively running paid search campaigns
  • 31% of users don’t measure their SEM activities at all
  • Of the ones that do measure, 60% are only measuring basic click-through results and general traffic activity
  • 27% are measuring through to conversion, but only 11% are conducting detailed ROI analysis looking at revenue by search phrase and lifetime value

“What surprised us was that people were doing search engine marketing but not measuring it,” said Brent Hieggelke, Vice President of WebTrends Marketing for NetIQ. Hieggelke believes that many search marketers are still grappling with the basic challenges of understanding and implementing a search marketing campaign, and have not yet progressed to the next step of measuring whether the efforts are working or not.

The survey questions were embedded within a ten-minute Web presentation called Take 10 on Search Engine Marketing. Here are the actual results from the two questions.

How are you currently leveraging paid search campaigns?

  • It’s a significant part of our marketing mix 23%
  • It’s a small part of our marketing mix 18%
  • Currently evaluating 35%
  • Not at all 23%
  • Total: 100%

How do you currently measure the results of your SEM campaigns?

  • Not at all 31%
  • Track click-through & general traffic 41%
  • Measure web activity through to conversion 16%
  • Detailed ROI analysis including lifetime value, revenue by phrase 11%
  • Total: 100%

“It’s showing that we’re still squarely in the infancy of the market,” said Hieggelke.

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