By Marc Purtell | Director, SEO
Editor’s note: This is the eight post in a 13-part series on the newest search marketing strategies that will enhance your brand’s search strategy. All 10 search strategies, including 3 bonus search strategies, can be downloaded in our new report, “10 New Ideas for Enhancing Your Brand’s Search Strategy “. Download here.
In the early days of search marketing, many advertisers mistakenly thought of organic search traffic as free. They would build a website, design the user experience, and sometimes make the basic technical tweaks to be properly categorized by the search engines. The strategy for optimizing organic rankings was mainly “set it and forget it.”
This put SEO efforts in stark contrast with paid search marketing, which involved relatively large investments that were actively managed and optimized. As the competition for the search audience increased, savvy online marketers realized it was not only possible but necessary to actively manage and optimize both their SEO and paid search programs. This led to the second phase of SEO marketing: active management of organic rankings.
Best practices for organic search emerged. Practitioners started actively managing on-site technical aspects like site structure and meta tagging. They began ensuring appropriate configuration of existing and new content. For example, they started managing the density of attractive keywords in content and proactively developing inbound links to build authority.
As a result, SEO efforts have evolved from a technical discipline to a marketing discipline. With this evolution came the need for additional resources and expenditures to support the ongoing content optimization and link building efforts required to maintain high levels of organic traffic. According to Econsultancy, more than $1.5 billion was spent in 2010 to maintain “free” organic search traffic and keep the competition below you on the search results pages.
Justify Your SEO Efforts
This brings us to phase three of SEO marketing — the point where SEO efforts must justify their worth and compete for resources with other parts of a successful advertising program. Several key lessons have emerged in the debate over how to justify brands’ SEO efforts. SEO is now (finally) being subjected to rigorous demands of ROI and accountability, and is being evaluated just like any other part of a company’s marketing portfolio.
Combine this with the frequent requests we see from clients and prospects for the ROI metrics of their SEO programs, and it’s clear that “free” traffic from organic search and the money spent optimizing organic rankings are no longer getting a free pass in the marketing budget process. Companies’ financial chiefs are now holding SEO initiatives accountable and demanding to see the return they are getting from all this new spending
Competitors are spending time, energy and resources trying to crowd you out of top placements on the search engine results pages (SERPs). If that were not enough, your chief financial officer wants proof that your SEO program is paying off. So what is the CMO to do?
The answer, and good news for most online marketers, is to do your best to measure the ROI of your SEO program. We have seen clients generate millions of dollars in value spending tens of thousands on SEO; therefore, it’s likely, even with money spent to actively manage the program, that your SEO program can provide a considerable return.
As with any marketing channel, organic search ROI can be particularly tricky to calculate given that organic rankings are determined by many different factors. Nonetheless, an approximate answer is better than none at all.
Be sure to check back tomorrow when our expert, Marc Purtell, discusses the social search interplay.
Want more insight like this? Download our new report, “10 New Ideas For Enhancing Your Brand’s Search Strategy” today.