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Mar 03, 2003

Search Marketing Metrics & Tactics from Dakota Sullivan

SUMMARY: Search marketing is the #1 thing we hear marketers of all types say they are investing more money in this year. This article is a useful primer for you on:
-> Metrics on which listings consumers click
-> Paid Placement vs. Paid Inclusion vs. Optimization
-> Buying and budgeting search marketing
-> Three copywriting tips for search marketing
Every day in the US, Internet users search specifically for goods, merchants, and services more than 112 million times on major search engines. (In addition they search 168 million times for stuff like photos of Brittany Spears, but that is another story.)

We interviewed Dakota Sullivan, VP LookSmart, to hear about the latest metrics and tactics in search marketing.

-> Paid Placement vs. Paid Inclusion vs. Optimization

If you are not a search marketing expert, the differences between the various ways to get your site listed are confusing. Here is a quick definition of each:

a. Paid placement:

You generally pay per click for these listings, and search engines promise they will run your brief text ad and hotlink on the first page of results listings (and sometimes subsequent pages) under the search word or phrase you choose. You control the placement, the hotlink and the copy.

However, these listings are usually separated from the body of the search results page and visually marked as being paid for by the advertiser.

b. Paid inclusion (A.K.A. paid submission):

With these listings, search engines guarantee review your site on a frequent basis (for some this is far more frequently than they review sites that have not anted up) and include your info in their database from which search listings are drawn. Basically it means they will notice you more quickly (or even at all).

However, your payment does not ensure how they will rank your listing. You may end up at the end of thousands of listings, or on the first page. You have to use optimization tactics to increase your odds of getting a high ranking.

c. Optimization tactics (A.K.A. "organic" or "editorial" listings)

This is the art and science of constructing and copywriting your Web site pages in such a manner than search engines will be more apt to notice them, and more apt to rank your pages higher for relative search terms.

This is referred to as a "free" process because you are not paying the search engines anything to get your listing. However, it is complicated enough that most major sites pay on expert consultants to help them with it these days. There still may be a cost for you to be optimized.

-> Buying and budgeting search marketing

Sullivan strongly recommends that you blend a mixture of all three to make sure you get the search engine traffic you deserve at a cost that is reasonable.

If you rely 100% on paid inclusion listings, you will probably pay too much for certain clicks, or you may not be able to afford to cast as wide a net of search terms as you should be listed under. "A lot of advertisers started with pay for placement, and then shifted 60-70% to inclusion because it's cheaper," notes Sullivan.

Pay for terms that convert to sales at the highest rate, and move the rest of your terms to an inclusion basis. Plus of course yoursite requires optimization as a backbone to make sure your paid inclusions get decent rankings.

-> Metrics on which listings consumers click

Although in general post-click conversion rates appear to be about the same for clicks from paid inclusion listings versus others (note: This data is variable, so measure it for your own site carefully), only one out of four consumers are likely to click on listings that are clearly paid.

In fact 77% of all search engine clicks are on the "editorial" listings (including paid inclusion) that consumers perceive as being somewhat "better" than the obviously sponsored results.

22% of clicks go to the paid placement ads, and 1% or so go to banners (if the search engine site has them).

However, these numbers are somewhat deceptive, because click decisions are interrelated. For example, if your banner appears on the same page as search results, your listing links may get higher clicks even if your banner clicks are low.

Banners and paid inclusion may be influencers pushing more traffic through your "editorial" listing.

Also, Sullivan agrees with other search marketing experts on the power of highly targeted search terms. It is absolutely worth getting yourself listed under tight niche terms which get very little traffic, because that traffic will click and convert at such a higher rate that it is worth more to you.

“More savvy advertisers enjoy low traffic pages,” Sullivan says. “A page might only get eight clicks a month, but every click converts.”

-> Three copywriting tips for search marketing

Tip #1: Optimize your title

Your title is simply the name of your business or the product you are promoting. However, if this name does not clearly describe the products and services you sell (and most do not) then you will want to zero in on the one key phrase or word that best describes your business, and include it in wherever you note your company name.


Business name Business sells Optimized title
Mysterious Stories Used books Mysterious Stories Used Books
TellTel ISP TellTel Internet Service

Tip #2. Improve your product descriptions

Include descriptions in your title tags, visible page copy and submission listings that will likely match the exact phrases that your customers will enter when they search the Web.

If you sell debt consolidation management counseling:

Example bad description:
Our services offer you a great way to get out of debt. Sign up now.

Example good description:
Specializes in debt consolidation and settlement, bill consolidation, and credit counseling. Learn how to consolidate credit card payments.

If you sell Asian collectibles, jewelry, and gems:

Example bad description:
Receive a great price on authentic collectibles, such as jewelry, globes, and gems.

Example good description:
Shop for Asian collectibles, including feng shui products, Buddhas, animal carvings, jade jewelry, gemstone globes, incense burners, and Chinese crystal.

Tip #3. "Seasonalize" your relevancy keywords

If you are marketing anything relating to holiday or seasonal shopping, include related terms in your relevancy keywords. For example, generic "flower arrangements" could be expanded to "holiday wreaths" and "Valentine bouquets."
See Also:

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