Search Marketing, Not Metrics

    August 14, 2007

Most of you know that I do a lot of teaching and speaking on the subject of search marketing, and that my approach is not what people expect. Yes, I know all the dials to turn and levers to pull. I can talk about robots.txt and Max CPC and latent semantic indexing and blah blah blah. But, honestly, it’s not what most people need to know. The problem I sometimes find is that when you tell people what they need to know, they think it’s not what they need.

She came up to me after I spoke and was quite clear: "I really came here to learn about search marketing, not metrics—none of this marketing metrics stuff applies to me."

I tried to be gracious about her point of view ("the customer is always right, the customers is always right…") but she’s just not right. Search marketing is more about marketing than search.

If you don’t know what your conversions are or you don’t know what they are worth, or you don’t know your conversion rate, then how do you know what it is worth to get a new visitor to come to your site? And if you don’t know what each new visitor is worth, then how do you know what to spend on search marketing?

And if you don’t know how well you are doing in search, or you can’t peg each change in your approach to a change in response, then how do you know when you’ve plateaued? How do you know when you’ve done enough search marketing and you ought to turn your attention to something with more potential?

To me that is the problem with dealing with search in a vacuum instead of search as an integrated part of your marketing metrics. When you know the business value of what you are achieving, then you know how much to do and when to stop and do something else. Without that, you are in an endless spin of tweaking ad copy and optimizing titles and on and on—when all the while you may have reached diminishing returns and need to spend your time and money elsewhere for a while.

If you say to yourself that you are working on search optimization because you believe it will make you money, that’s not a business, that’s a religion. Instead, put search on the same footing as every other business decision and optimize your business instead of your search campaign.