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Most Search Engine Marketing is Measured Using the Wrong Metrics, Here’s How to Change That
Tying Search Marketing Results to Campaign Objectives
By Peter DeLegge
Online marketers handling search engine marketing campaigns often chase after what their gut tells them are the most important keywords (I’ll use the term keywords for single keywords and keyword phrases for the sake of simplicity) for their products and services or the keywords that attain the highest click through rate (CTR) at the search engine or a combination of high CTR at the lowest cost to achieve a desirable listing position. But this model tells a marketer nothing about a keyword’s ability to perform on campaign objectives.  After all, a keyword with a CTR of 35% at $.30 per click might look great on the surface, but this says nothing of that keyword’s performance on campaign objectives.
At best, e-commerce marketers track which keywords lead to a sale and which don’t, dropping a cookie to track behavior over say 30 days. But this approach neglects the value of other brand events. After all, there is a value to moving prospects further down the purchase funnel – and shouldn’t those visitors who don’t purchase but complete certain events that indicate movement down the purchase funnel be valued, monitored, and managed?
To use a direct mail marketing analogy, the sponsored search listing copy is a lot like the teaser copy on the outside of the envelope. The click is similar to the recipient opening the envelope and the landing page and user flow through the website pages to the end desired action (s) (or conversion event) is a lot like direct mail recipient’s actions opening the inserts inside the envelope.
While direct mail marketers commonly limit measurement to actions tied to response and  conversion, not actions that have brand value or that push recipients further down the purchase funnel. Simply put, measuring these kinds of actions offline isn’t simple, it takes research and may push a campaign over budget. However, online, it’s an entirely different story.
Online metrics enable measuring user paths through click actions and time spent, two very valuable indicators of visitor behavior. While most search engine marketing campaigns focus, at best, on conversion events, few also measure the value of activity that pushes visitors further down the purchase funnel and events that have brand value.
The Search Engine Marketing Scorecard: An Objectives Based Approach
Online ad server applications like Dart (tm) and Atlas (tm) enable detailed keyword tracking and custom scoring of click events for campaigns possible. A handful of very savvy internet marketers and agencies are beginning to score actions on landing pages for paid search campaigns and online banner ads. This enables the keyword purchasing choices to be made based on campaign objectives, not merely click through percentages or the lowest cost per click – two methods commonly used by search engine marketers that have little connection to a keyword’s ability to perform on campaign objectives. (Note: The scorecard method can be applied to other types of online marketing, not just search engine marketing.)
For example, if you’re a B2B widget marketer, you may see the keyword phrase “size a red widgets" as perfect because you’re getting a click through rate of 15% at a cost of around $.35 per click. However, this approach neglects to take into account whether or not that keyword phrase is effective at bringing visitors to take the actions you desire – and that’s critical to an effective campaign. Whereas, if you have scored website actions according to your objectives and say, there are ten potential actions a visitor could take once at the landing page and a total possible score of 100, you will be able to determine that keyword’s ability to deliver on your objectives at the lowest possible cost. Let’s say that your two most important actions are subscribing to your email newsletter and registering for a webinar, you will want to give these two items a higher score than other events to signify their importance to your objectives.

Scoring actions according to campaign objectives enables your search engine marketing agency or in-house team to optimize all search marketing tactics around your objective of attaining the highest possible score at the lowest possible cost. Even more, it provides the campaign manager with more meaningful metrics than click through rates from search engines and web operational metrics, metrics that can be used to determine and manage campaign effectiveness and ROI. 

Simple Example of Scoring Actions

Action Score
Request Sales Contact 40
Subscribe to Email Newsletter 30
Download White Paper 20
>3 Minutes User Session 10
Max Score 100

Peter DeLegge is the publisher of Marketing Today and has more than twenty years experience in marketing, marketing communications and more than ten years of it managing online marketing. He has managed online marketing at two Fortune 500 and has had numerous marketing programs hailed as marketing best practices. He is a regular speaker at marketing events. His bio is available at www.businessmarketing.net.

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