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Aug 28, 2006
Blog Post

Why You *Must* Track Delayed Search Impact - Real-Life Story

SUMMARY: No summary available.
By Anne Holland, President

I've seen a 180-degree change in marketers' attitudes toward search marketing in the past 12 months. Last year, marketers we spoke to in nearly every industry were busy expanding their search campaigns from hundreds to thousands and even tens of thousands of keyterms. The long tail was very much in fashion.

However, as 2006 has worn on, I'm more often hearing a new refrain. In part driven by excesses of 2005 as well as rising click costs, many marketers now tell me their revised SEM focus is about tightening focus.

If you're cutting your search budget to target only keywords with immediately obvious ROI (i.e. where clicks convert on the first visit), first consider this real-life story that Michael DeHaven, Ecommerce Marketing Manager at told me:

"We were beginning to cut the majority of our paid search budget, because we were struggling to get any ROI at all. Too many employers who clicked didn't buy on their first visit."

But, before the final SEM budget decision was made, DeHaven asked the tech team to create a new longer-term tracking system that combined multiple databases -- initial search tracking cookies, ecommerce activities, the site's registered user database and the business development and call center's CRM systems.

Measured results were beyond dramatic.

"For one paid search team, there was maybe $10K in immediate revenues. When we evaluated it after 15 days, it was $120K. When we looked at the delayed impact 30 days out, there was about $1.2 million. Going further out to 45 days, it was over $3 million. It blew me away when I saw this."

That one revelation not only changed's SEM plans, but it also propelled the marketing team to re-vamp the home page and email tactics they had in place to convert those delaying employers. Look below for Sherpa exclusive Case Studies on both of these revamp projects.

I hope you find this data as inspirational as I do.

BTW: Do you have interesting stats of your own tests to share with the Sherpa community? We're accepting posted comments on *all* MarketingSherpa stories and Case Studies now at our site so that you can share your know-how with the community. Just click on the "Post a Comment" link on any story.

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Useful links related to this article:

Case Study: How to Raise Email Newsletter Clickthroughs by Testing Content Types

Case Study: B-to-B Home Page Design Tests to Turn More Clicks Into Accounts

See Also:

Comments about this Blog Entry

Aug 28, 2006 - Mark McClendon of says:
This holds true for the travel industry as well, where the average booking window is 14-30 days. It is a real disadvantage to a paid search advertiser if they cannot track deferred conversions or track a call conversion, including revenue, back to a marketing campaign. Mark Mcclendon Sr. Manager Search Engine Marketing

Aug 28, 2006 - Jim Oliver of eBay says:
The results look impressive, but click-tracking has two shortcomings. One, it undercounts true impact by not crediting viewthru impact -- positive impact on those who see, but don't click. Second, clickthru metrics overcount by not subtracting out the natural activity that would have occurred without SEM. Unfortunately, these effects are very difficult to measure. But best practice dedupes against other marketing efforts (SEM and otherwise) and recognizes that longer windows for crediting SEM creates greater risk of mismeasurement.

Aug 28, 2006 - Ophir Prusak of says:
I thought this was general knowledge :) Google's own conversion tracking cookies lasts for 90 days (I think). We NEVER look at just visit based conversions. One very important thing to keep in mind is how double counting effects your numbers. The if someone did a search for apples and then a week later oranges and then a week later made a sale, depending on how your BI system is setup - you might see the sale in both.

Aug 28, 2006 - Leigh Ann Thompson of Disney Destinations says:
I agree that there is a delayed impact for search engine marketing. The consumer buying process would suggest that this is to be expected... "I am searching because I have just become aware of a product or service", "I am interested", "I have a preference", "I am ready to purchase", etc. To truly determine the return on SEM, one must establish some measure of incrementality. I have often seen too many SEM experts claim 200% to 2000% return on investment. In my experience, when analyzing the numbers, they are always gross figures based on a relatively low cost-per-click and a premium priced product. The stated ROI in no way addresses all the other forces in the marketplace attempting to influence a purchase decision (e.g. What influenced the customer to search for your product in the first place?). So it is largely dismissed by the rest of the marketing organization. To provide greater integrity behind the ROI analysis of SEM, I would recommend further exploring lifts and gains seen when comparing the behavior of a control group (perhaps visitors to the website coming in from natural search) compared to the paid search respondents. Statistical validation may be difficult when determining the test groups, but at least it would provide directional information... "all else being equal, those visiting the website from SEM either did or didn't convert at a higher rate." As much as I am a Google fan, from a business standpoint, we should be asking ourselves the following questions... "Is my website fully optimized for natural search?" and "Do I have the right level of focus/investment in search engine optimization and search engine marketing?" These questions are vitally important as ISPs and search firms ultimately serve the consumer, providing the most relevant information possible based on their sophisticated algorithms. And yet their business model includes paid advertising. So do the math... as their algorithms and technology advance, if our natural search isn't in the top 10 listings, competitors may win out as they buy keyword terms placing them at the top of the list, which ultimately drives up costs as we compete in this space. It's a fascinating phenomenon, and one requiring a significant focus.

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