September 13, 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
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
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 ]