The Dozen Most Common Search Marketing Mistakes That CMOs Make

February 10, 2009
By Lisa Barone in Internet Marketing Conferences

And we’re back. I hope you enjoyed your lunch. I spent my lunch retracing my steps to find Rae’s laptop power cables. I don’t think she would have appreciated it had I lost them. And by “not appreciate” I really mean “she would have hung me by my toes in the middle of the conference center”.  Crisis averted. Back to blogging.

I’m not sure how this session is gonna go. It’s sponsored by iProspect, but hopefully that doesn’t mean it’s bought and paid for.  If it does, I’m throwing Rae’s prized laptop at the speakers. Fight!

Er, um. But I digress…

Chris Sherman is moderating speakers Keith Dieruff, Jody Farmer, Bill Muller, Brian Kaminski, and Karen Weber. Let’s get to it!

Why CMOs need to pay attention:

  • Search marketing should now be an integral part of an overall marketing strategy.
  • Distinguishing mistakes from best practices.
  • Enabling 360 degree communication, not just from the top down.

Mistake 1: Failing to Set Measurable Goals for your Campaign

This is the worst mistake you can make.

Karen: If you don’t set measurable goals, how are you going to measure the success of your campaign? You need to justify the expense to the executive level. How do you improve results if you don’t have measurable goals? As you establish goals, you need to set a baseline measurement. Break down your measurements between natural search and paid search.

Keith: Without goals, you have no way to gauge success. With that, you play a dangerous game. PPC is what people are most comfortable setting goals around. SEO flies under the radar. It’s just as important to set goals on both sides of that equation. It helps you make a case for why you should be increasing budget. Increase resource support. You need to continually trend and measure yourself to help you find things that are working or not working.

Jody: It’s easy for a lay search person to make sparse observations. Unless you can bring it back to a measurable result, you’re going to lose control of the conversation.

Mistake #2: Failing to assign dollar values to every conversion action on your Web site

Brian: Set intermediate benchmarks to find conversion indicators. Things like someone subscribing to a newsletter or an RSS feed.  They track and weight those types of actions and assign monetary value to them. That way keywords that cause those activities, will continue to get attention.

Keith: Understand that your audience is going to be engaging with you at different points and increasing your funnel. Your Web site is going to facilitate different experiences for different people. It increases your story. You should be looking at more than one conversion metric.

Chris: Is it important to have precise values or just a benchmark?

Keith: It depends on your understanding. Start pulling it in and figure out what story it tells. Then work with the different departments to see what value you’re bringing.

Brian: It’s incredibly difficult to start out with a hard set of numbers. Make assumptions and evolve the metrics over time. Get started with what you have and realize it’ll evolve.

Mistake #3: Assessing the success of search marketing using solely a direct marketing model

Jody: He loves the direct marketing model, but if you only look at the immediate hard ROI of your program, you’re going to miss the much bigger picture [Future Blog Topic!].  They play a game called, “what do you have to believe?”. Ask yourself what you have to believe about your metrics to continue.  What do you need to keep going? You need to build things like Quality Scores over time. You don’t get that overnight.

Chris: Research shows a very strong branding effect with search, which is surprising.  If you combine SEO + PCC, you get a stronger effect.

Bill: Another core issue is that all conversions that get generated by online activity do not happen online. There was a study done by Yahoo and comScore that found that in electronics, 92 percent of conversions took place because of online research happened offline.

Mistakes #4: Treating SEO as a project and not an ongoing process

Brian: Don’t get too caught up in the immediate performance.

Bill: SEO is not a ‘set it and forget it’ medium. The algorithm is constantly changing. Your competitors are always changing.  You have new products that you want to add to your Web site. You have new messaging. You have news about your company that you want to add to your Web site.  They have a practice of following up on clients who leave them and choose to set it and forget it. They track their rankings for a year after they leave (awesome!). After 6 months, old clients lost 1/3 of their first page rankings. After a year, 85 percent of their page one rankings disappear. [Those are seriously awesome stats!]

Karen: Things change. You can’t do paid links anymore. We have universal search that includes video and blogs in the search results. Even keyword density has changed since she started. You have to be constantly working your SEO.

Jody: Their mantra is “relevance wins over time”.

Keith: Look at the ROI that you get on any of your programs and then dig deeper into the ROI you see on your SEO programs.  Take the time to understand it, set benchmarks, etc. Get in there.

Mistake #5: Making a number ranking your most important objective when it may be costing you business

Jody:  Sometimes the cost of ranking first is greater than the benefit. In the credit card industry, he tries to bid a top three or top five position. There’s an element of gamesmenship for where you want to rank and who you’ll let rank above you.

Brian: The objective of your campaign is to attain a certain ROI. Don’t let your desire to be position 1 on a certain keyword blind you. You have a finite amount of resources and money.  It’s a matter of setting your objectives and not getting lost in those objectives. We all have a CEO or CMO who’s searching on a specific list of keywords and it’s important to sit down and explain to them why they’re finding you or why they’re not finding you.

Mistakes #6: Focusing on “big” keywords and forgetting the long tail

Karen: The long tail keywords are using less competitive, lower priced and the terms being used by folks further along in the buying cycle. By having the long tail keywords, you make it easier for people to find your less known keywords.  They use PPC to go after the long tail keywords because you can do all the iterations and all the misspellings.

Brian: It boils down to a matter of completeness. People search a variety of terms. You really want to make sure that you’re touching all these people along the way. Some of the long tail terms are closer to the point of purchase. Wherever someone is along the continuum, you want to make sure you’re reaching out to them.

Jody: He heard a stat that 28 percent of searched in 2008 had never been searched before. It speaks to the opportunities available to the long tail.

Mistake #7: Engaging in paid or natural SEM, but not both

Jody: If you’re not leveraging both, you’re not getting all the benefit. There’s so much commonality in both the research and in how people perform on your site. It also gives you more credibility when you show up in both the paid and organic results.

Karen: You want to own the search results page. If you’re not doing one or the other you’re missing a huge chunk of opportunity.

Bill: It’s not always possible to get a page one ranking for every term you’re targeting in organic. Paid search can help you pick up the rest.

Jody: It’s a way to normalize revenue. If the algorithm changes and there’s a shakeup in the organic result, at least you still have the paid result. Or if CPC costs go through the roof, at least you have the organic to fall back on.

Karen: If you’re just doing organic, how do you get into the market quickly?

Mistakes #8 Using your language and not that of your customers

Keith: At the end of the day, you need to communicate to the different business partners that search is different than the other marketing channels. You’re not trying to push a product. You’re trying to bridge the gap between how you speak about things and how consumers speak about them. They use keyword mapping to map out the keywords that are important to them organically.

Bill: IBM targets “notebook computer” instead of laptop. Nursing homes target “senior living facility” instead of nursing home. 3M targets “rubbing compound” when people are looking for a scratch remover. You need to look at your log files to see what people are searching for and how they’re searching for it.

Brian: This is a huge area of internal communication. You need to solve the thought process. You have to show people the opportunity and what they’re missing. Show them volumes.

Mistake #9: Optimizing only your Web pages and not your other digital assets

Keith: Universal search is only growing. Start prepping your assets to start working for you. We’re talking about video, blogs, PR, local and wiki pages. Two of the largest opportunities are either local or PR because they already exist.  It increases your share of voice and helps with reputation management issues. You can stack the results in your favor using your digital assets.

Chris: Press releases are a good example of a low hanging fruit because you can link like crazy.

Brian: Most PR teams have been fairly receptive to it. You’re not changing how they write, just to make some minor changes. Proceed with caution initially, but most PR groups will be excited about it.

Keith: The success metric they sold through their PR team was exposure.  Optimizing a handful of press releases showed them they can double their exposure. Other people will pick it up and run with it. The whole dynamic of PR has really changed. Going in and testing these things, you’ll be surprised.

Mistake #10: Treating your search marketing and other channels separately instead of integrating them.

Bill: He talks about the SuperBowl. Search is great at capturing demand, 67 percent of searchers were driven to perform a search based on some offline channel. And of that number, 39 percent eventually made a purchase. That’s huge!  Make sure you’re utlilizing the same keywords in your search channels as your offline channels.  Don’t be afraid to include search-related calls to action.

Brian: Understand how to marry your offline and your online. It’s a matter of making sure that everyone knows what everyone else is doing.

Mistake #11: Failing to bid on terms for which your site ranks highly within the organic results

Brian: Having a number one ranking combined with a solid paid placement often bolsters the effect.

Keith:  It’s not always about a direct marketing model. It’s the art and science. You can look at your ROI and DR metrics, but you can also look at the research that’s out there.  Understand the branding implications, too.  Let the customers qualify themselves for the experience they want to see.

Mistake #12: Bidding solely on branding terms and ignoring nonbranding terms

Karen: They use the nonbranded to drive new traffic to their site. They use SEO to go after the branded terms.

Brian: Bidding on only branded terms means you’re only communicating with people who already know you.  You want to put your content in front of people who aren’t familiar with your brand. A lot of brand searches are problem-oriented.

Jody: Once someone’s moved to a branded search, they’ve already expressed a product interest. If someone is searching [laptop] they may be looking for something different than the person who searches for [Dell laptop].

BONUS – Mistake #13: Attributing conversions to the last click when there may have been many clicks along the way

Keith: At the end of the day, consumers aren’t one dimensional.  Attribution is hard because at the end of the day, no one wants more data.

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