As we have entered our seventh year as a search marketing company, we have noticed how much the market has changed in that time. The evolution of the metrics used to define the levels of success in a campaign, is a great example of change. It’s hard to imagine that any other metric than the eternal concept of Return On Investment (ROI). Yet while digital marketing platforms have the benefit of a very high level of traceability, it is still open to a degree of the traditional marketing’s fuzzy numbers syndrome. While the various analytics platforms have become more complex, they have arguably added more data but not solved this matter. Take for example the inclusion of Interaction models into GA. Depending on which way you want to split the data, evidence can be found to benefit the method the search marketing company is using. Is last click conversion more relevant than first click? At which point of the process is the benefits of the investment, allowed to be classed as aiding a return? This makes the linear concept of ROI somewhat of abstract, when applied to a live campaign. Unless you strip it into simplistic figures, such as profit made from the website and then spilt on a percentage basis for the types of online marketing used. But that is a very simple model.
Back in the day, ranking position was the show piece metric touted by most search marketing companies. With terms such as “Vanity over Sanity” being applied to vanity terms, which were generated for no reason other than the business owner wanted them. This was before the massive overhauls in terms of Google’s filters, updates and algorithm in general. So attaining good rankings was generally more attainable. Now even the notion of SERP positions is being threatened. The major search engines now look to provide answers rather than websites. Widgets such as the knowledge graph, answers or Accelerated Mobile Page (AMP) results, are starting to massively encroach on the front page real estate. While the full ramifications are yet to be seen, it could potentially no longer be a race to reach and maintain a top 5 position. But rather to attain a position that is simply above the fold. Another answer could be to get on board and invest your search marketing budget into tasks such as creating AMP versions of your articles, adding structured data throughout your site or creating content designed to answer the question in the most direct manner. Another outcome could be that users will react by actually scrolling further into the SERP to find different (less complied by the highest bidder style) content and products. With the drive to make sites load quicker across platforms, nipping on to a number of sites to look at what is on offer is perhaps no longer such a chore.
Traffic is also another metric that on the surface makes sense to use as a gauge of success, but again has its limitations. “You can lead a horse to water” and all that jazz. This would lead us back to actual onsite conversions in the form of ecommerce or goals.
So how can a search marketing company monitor success? I suspect that the answer is to incorporate all of the metrics detailed above. By using a number of parameters, the actual health of the campaign as a whole can be monitored. Another key aspect is to discuss how success will be measured and defined with the client at the start of the project. If you would like to discuss a fully reported campaign, contact the team.