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Evaluating Client SEM Readiness

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Experienced client side and agency search marketers know that today’s SMB and enterprise SEO projects involve much more than single event “SEO triage” and link building.

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 A quick look at the topics on the top search marketing forums, newsletters, conferences, blogs and even print magazines shows an increasing variety of strategies ranging from marketing with social media to SEO and usability to leveraging user generated content.

As companies look for the right online marketing resources to help navigate the ever changing and increasingly complex world of search marketing, what variables, channels and outcomes should be considered?

In order for companies to realize the maximum benefit from a search marketing initiative, there must be a certain level of understanding about how various online marketing channels work. One of the most effective ways our SEO firm has found to assess current understanding and to introduce important concepts is through a discovery process including questions.

Here are a few questions companies might ask themselves and answer before embarking on a “search” for a trusted search marketing consultant:

Resources:

  • Is there a person or committee that “owns” the search marketing initiative?
  • What client side resources are available for support and implementation of search marketing initiatives?

Marketing:

  • How is the web site/business currently marketed? Direct mail, email, trade shows, advertising in print-radio-TV, email marketing, word of mouth, PPC, SEO, interactive marketing, etc.
  • Is the company open to additional online marketing channels outside of standard search?

Web Site:

  • How long has the web site been live in its current form/design?
  • What platform and content management system is used?
  • In what ways and how often is web site content added/updated? By whom?
  • How many unique pages are there? How many primary categories of content?
  • Is the company willing/able to change the web site content to improve relevancy?
  • Would the SEO consultant make changes directly to a copy of the site or would they go through a web developer or agency for implementation?

Understanding the Target Audience:

  • Describe the target market/industry
  • Describe the target audience/prospect (person that makes the buying decision)
  • What unique value does the web site offer clients/prospective clients? What need does it satisfy better than the competition?
  • List the top keyword concepts that are most representative of the target product/service offering
  • Are specific geographical areas targeted? Where?

Measuring Success:

  • What measures of success will be used to evaluate the search engine marketing program?
  • What are the specific benchmarks and goals? i.e. % increase in traffic, sales, etc.
  • What type of web site analytics software is used and what are the key performance indicators?
  • How does a prospective buyer typically make contact? (web form, phone, email, in person)
  • Describe the typical web lead sales cycle
  • How are web leads to conversions tracked?
  • What is the average cost per web lead? Per sale?

Content:

  • How many press releases are distributed each month and through what distribution channels?
  • Is there a blog? If so, what is the URL and what is its purpose?
  • Is a podcast or any other type of audio recordings published?
  • Is there a print or email newsletter? If so, how often is it published and in what format? Is it archived to the web?
  • Does anyone in the company author articles pertaining to your company and/or industry?
  • Are images related to the business, products or services published on a regular basis? Ex: candids, product shots, staff, collateral, direct mail
  • Does the company produce or outsource the creation of video content?

Outside Influences:

  • Please list up to 3 competitor web sites
  • Has a SEO firm previously been engaged? If yes, describe the experience
  • Is an outside PR firm and/or ad agency currently engaged?

Time and $:

  • Time frame to start program
  • Which cost centers are funding the search marketing initiative?
  • Overall budget allocated annually for search marketing – organic, PPC.

Obviously each situation is as unique as the company and its objectives, but the list above can provide valuable insight into a company’s state of SEM readiness as well as provoking new thoughts and concepts. The more informed companies are about search marketing, the more successful they will be at qualifying and managing SEM agency engagements.

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Evaluating Client SEM Readiness
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About Lee Odden
Lee Odden is CEO of TopRank Online Marketing, a digital marketing and public relations firm in Minnesota that specializes in search, social and online PR consulting and training for companies worldwide. Odden has been cited for his internet marketing expertise over the past 10 years by the Economist, Forbes and U.S. News and contributed a chapter to the book, "Online Marketing Heroes" published by Wiley. For the past 5 years he has also been the editor of TopRank's Online Marketing Blog, a Technorati 100 favorite blog and one of the top marketing blogs according to Advertising Age. WebProNews Writer
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