By Jill Whalen – September 14, 2006
I represent a golf accessory manufacturer considering doing some serious SEO/SEM. We are interested in determining the real efficacy of SEO/SEM as it translates into online unit sales growth or online revenue growth. I have searched through many, many sites and haven’t been able to come up with any good stats that demonstrate B2C improvements in eCommerce sales after applying SEO/SEM.
As the guru in SEO/SEM, I thought I’d contact you directly to see if you had any insight into concrete statistics that would convince a traditional manufacturer to consider these tools.
This is a great question and it’s definitely where search marketing is moving these days. I’m personally just starting to get into all the fun numbers and concrete statistics that are so important to our SEO efforts. So in an effort to answer your question completely and correctly, I’ve called upon my friend Michael Stebbins, VP of Marketing and Web Analyst at ClickTracks. If anyone knows about concrete stats, it’s Michael!
Here’s what he has to say…
This is a well stated question and an issue that is faced by most companies on the brink of investing in SEO/SEM.
I like to think that good SEO/SEM efforts bring quality traffic to a site that meets visitor expectations. Given this, here’s a different spin on measurements that web analysts typically look at first:
Revenue is the result of your value proposition, sales, and overall marketing (which includes your web site), so it really shouldn’t be a sole indicator of the benefits of your SEO/SEM efforts. Also, delayed revenue and offline revenue events can skew the accuracy of marketing decisions based on ROI measurements.
Conversions include events where the visitor indicates further interest in your product or service. This includes newsletter sign-ups, white-paper requests, carting an item, or on some sites, a complete purchase. Conversions happen in a shorter time span than most revenue events — often in a single visit — so the degree of accuracy can be higher than ROI measurements. While conversions are also affected by your proposition to the visitor, they can be a key indicator of whether or not the site meets visitor expectations.
Average time on site (ATOS) measures your site’s ability to successfully retain each visitor’s interest. It’s also a good indicator of the synergy between the expectations visitors had before clicking to your site, and what they found once they arrived. ATOS is not valuable when read by itself or when compared to visitor times on some other web site. ATOS is more valuable when you compare it among various visitor groups within your site. For example, if this month’s visitors from natural search stayed on site 30% longer than last month, then I could believe that my SEO efforts are successfully directing visitors who are interested in my content. I can also compare ATOS between PPC visitors and visitors from natural search results to judge PPC campaign and landing page effectiveness.
Hits and visitor counts are less valuable by themselves and more valuable when segmented by visitor behavior and then combined with revenue, conversion, and time on site. For example, a rising visitor count is a good thing unless the new visitors all stay on the site less than 5 seconds!
Don’t forget to monitor changes in keyword ranking for important keywords and phrases. Which ones are important? The important keywords are the ones that generate a combination of conversions and higher-than-average ATOS backed up with reasonable volume of visitors and revenue (sound familiar?).
Whenever I have made significant SEO/SEM investments, I check my work by using ClickTracks’ Robot Simulation View where I can view my site as a robot sees it (text with header tags, meta and alt text revealed). I often catch mistakes or missing data with this view. Lastly, I use ClickTracks’ Robot Report to see when and how often my important pages are getting spidered. A skipped page won’t get listed, so be sure to clean up any links that stop the robots from seeing your important pages.
There are many more ways to measure – including goal pages, return visits, lifetime customer value, email responses rates, comparison to PPC, and more. The keys are to (1) compare measurements for a specific type of visitor against the average and (2) recognize the limits of each measurement in the context of your marketing effort – in this case SEO/SEM.
Michael Stebbins, VP of Marketing and Web Analyst
[Thanks, Michael…great answer! If anyone would like to learn more about web analytics, we have a session devoted to it at our High Rankings® Search Marketing Seminar coming up in Dallas on October 19-20 presented by Matt Bailey of Site Logic Marketing. Matt will be talking about ClickTracks as well as other web analytic programs and how to best use them. You do NOT want to miss this presentation. I can honestly say that Matt is the absolute best speaker and presenter that I’ve ever seen. He has an amazing ability to make statistics fun! (And you know we’re all about the fun!) – Jill ]
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Jill Whalen of High Rankings is an internationally recognized search engine optimization consultant and editor of the free weekly High Rankings Advisor search engine marketing newsletter.
She specializes in search engine optimization, SEO consultations and seminars. Jill’s handbook, “The Nitty-gritty of Writing for the Search Engines” teaches business owners how and where to place relevant keyword phrases on their Web sites so that they make sense to users and gain high rankings in the major search engines.