New Archenemies? SEO and ROI – Say It Ain’t So, Joe



By Michael Murray.

 

Marketers: Wisen up and stop treating search engine optimization (SEO) and return on investment (ROI) like they should be on separate planets.

Obviously ROI can work well with many marketing options. Search engine optimization can still deliver the goods if people are horrible at tracking what happened.

More website promoters should view search engine optimization and ROI as friends, not as a not-so-funny oxymoron. They’re not sports rivals and they don’t snarl behind demilitarized zone fences.

Search engine optimization can start the race and let ROI finish it. SEO determines how to run in the next contest (i.e. ongoing updates and keyword refinement).

Yes, search engine optimization has credibility issues. Marketers also prove daily that they lack the brainpower, time or cash to do a thorough job.

Some people dismiss SEO as a one-time task or hardly “rocket science.” A new SMX Expo session in June will explore whether SEO is B.S. Additionally, many websites with slivers of SEO still lack ROI signals (visible phone numbers and clear calls to action would be nice).

Ignorance and the lack of accountability are the biggest culprits. Without pressure to measure, what can you expect?

You’ve got IT staffers with little or no marketing backgrounds overseeing websites. Companies let zealous marketers run amok amid a minefield of design and architecture flaws. Owners try to personally bridge both the technical side with lame content because they won’t or can’t pay experts.

Search engine optimization can help with conversions (SEO and paid search take turns with first place in different reports). Among ROI marketing tactics, SEO came out on top for product offerings (68.7%) and lead generation campaigns (69.7%), according to MarketingSherpa’s 2006 Search Marketing Benchmark Survey.

Marketers do care. They just need to work on the execution.

Here are 10 ways to help ensure that search engine optimization ties in nicely with ROI. Tip: Leave your thin skin and pride at the door; they’re not welcome.

1. Television’s Ugly Betty May Not Be Too Ugly, But What About Your Website?
If your website is ugly, don’t pretend otherwise. You can get high rankings, but what good are they if you turn people off with a hideous design? The topic recently was covered in a benchmark hoteliers survey from Hospitality eBusiness Strategies (HeBS). Website optimization, including usability, edged out SEO as the option that delivers the best ROI results (71.9%).

2. Take Your Head Out of [Any Hole Will Do)
Search engines have been around 13 years or so. In the latest Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization survey (mostly North America businesses), natural search engine optimization accounted for just over $1 billion of the $9.3 billion spent on search marketing in 2006 (paid search got the bulk of the money).

If you put reasonable search engine optimization tactics in motion, you can get more traffic. At Fathom SEO, I speak with B2B and B2C owners who just won’t make the effort (software and furniture companies come to mind).

3. Don’t Shoot for the Stars (They’re Too Far Away)
Do you really want to rank for a broad search term like “gift baskets” and others like it? Maybe you don’t deserve those rankings. Is your website new? Have search engines indexed only a fraction of it? How bad is your link reputation? Go for low-hanging fruit (longer search terms) that aren’t as competitive. They convert well (and seem to taste better too). A good bet may be “executive gift baskets.”

4. Just Say “No” to Greed
If you have five outstanding keywords/phrases ranking on a page, don’t ruin a good scenario by trying to rank for more.

5. What’s in Your Title?
Use keywords and phrases in your page titles (near meta descriptions). Decorate titles with cute calls to action and/or your company name AFTER you get a great ranking. If you rank #65 for the perfect page title phrasing, who cares?

6. Overlooked Content
Optimize corporate pages like “Contact Us.” They’re often ignored. The content can help a keyword rank. Once someone reaches the page, they may call or fill out a form.

7. Forms That Shout: “Please Leave My Website!!”
If you ask website visitors for data, offer something compelling. Less is more (as in more leads). Someone may just leave if 23 million fields turn them off.

8. Put Your Name in Lights
Fame isn’t evil. Become an expert. Write articles for industry newsletters. Invent and distribute guides and white papers. Conduct a study. Issue news releases. Plug into social search communities. All of this attention may get you some extra links, deliver traffic and may improve your search engine rankings.

9. Make Extra Content (You’re Allowed – Really)
Maybe you rank well for singular keywords. But do plural forms that lack visibility make you frown? Me too. Extra content is the “secret” remedy for those blues. Make sure it’s part of the website (internal links and the same look and feel). Add testimonials. Establish a Featured Products section.

10. Learn Web Analytics (MBA Stats Class Not Required)
Web analytics can seem a little intimidating. Regardless of the traffic product you use, you really need to understand website visitor behavior – everything from the keywords they enter to the pages they like (or hate).

Dedicate resources (or consultants) to the tedious but rewarding work of search engine optimization and ROI. True success depends on a team effort involving multiple skills.

Ask yourself (and others) some tough questions:

Is our website design a laughingstock?
Do we bury the phone number on any pages?
Do our forms capture how visitors found the website?
If someone calls about a product, does anyone ask how they discovered the company?
If a lead comes in, how do we chart the sale?
Do we have clear calls to action? Do we test them?

Care to learn more? Just send an email to mmurray @ fathomseo.com and I’ll send you my 40-page white paper on search engine optimization and ROI.

[This has been an entry for Marketing Pilgrim’s SEM Scholarship contest. Keep up to date with all entries and other marketing news by subscribing to our rss feed.]