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So, the metrics for measuring business objectives would be:
Typically, this may differ slightly, but, broadly speaking, we can always come back to these four. Often the objective from the business perspective would be to increase the number of leads at the lowest possible cost and turn this into revenue and profit. These principles apply equally to a search marketing strategy, so it is worth keeping all four of these in mind as you execute and review your plan.
Moving on to the audience objectives, we can categorize these in four ways:
Search marketing is a direct response channel, and this can sometimes mean that the focus is exclusively on acquisition. The business model that Google has built around Google Ads and that Bing has taken on is really around what you put in and what you get out the other end, and that is normally monetary, but there are other areas of marketing that directly affect that performance and we shouldn’t forget that. So, these include things like customer satisfaction, feedback, service, and referrals. We can use these to our advantage in a practical way, too. So, we can use schema markup to highlight customer reviews and have these show up in search results. You can either do that hard-coded, as in the page itself, as in the source code, or you can use Data Highlighter within Search console. Both are equally effective. One reason to use Schema over Data Highlighter is that it’s universally accepted by all search engines. Data Highlighter, anything you do in there will only be seen by Google.
So, if your focus is on Google and Bing, you’ll want to use schema.org markup. If we get this right, it can have a positive effect on click-through rate, both for SEO and with ad extensions that we can use to show reviews via paid search.
So, the objectives when we’re looking at SEO are quite numerous. We have seven here and could have more, but we’ve picked the most important ones for this section:
It would be hard to pull these apart in any real terms, but for the purpose of clarity, that’s what we’ve done in this section. So, the keyword rankings are the positions at which your domain is returned for specific search queries. These remain the fulcrum of SEO performance, monitoring, and other personalization and universal search make it harder to nail down what that true ranking position is. Rankings are so central to any SEO measurement framework. They are the entry point to the website from organic search. They will always be important. Traffic levels are typically assessed through the number of people who visit your site via organic search.
But, as the remit of an SEO strategist increases to include things like content marketing, you might want to include the levels of referral traffic from any of the link building that you do. We aren’t just building links for the sake of the benefit that we can have for our search rankings. We also want to generate traffic straight back to the site.
Talking about link building objectives, what you do here is take into account both the quality and the quantity of backlinks pointing to your site. Long gone are the days when we were looking for just the velocity of links that we were getting back to our website. Google’s smart enough to understand, these days, that just having a lot of links pointing back to your site doesn’t make you an authority. The system can’t be manipulated, and that cat-and-mouse game is long over. So, you really want to focus on the quality of the backlinks that you’re getting.
Domain Authority is a score that’s calculated by Moz, who are a real authority within the SEO industry, and it’s based on a logarithmic scale from 0 to 100. So, it’s much harder to get from 10 to 15 than it is to get from 80 to 82, for example. Obviously, it gets more difficult the higher you go. Zero is the lowest score you can have, 100 is the highest. It’s a really good metric to understand the strength of a website. If website A has a Domain Authority of 60, website B has a Domain Authority of 70, and if they both launch a page about, say, credit cards, within the top level of their site hierarchy, site B with a Domain Authority of 70 is much more likely to rank higher. So, it’s a way of predicting the performance of a site, were we to launch a new page.
As it sounds, Page Authority is similar, but it’s on a page level. That has its benefits. Domain Authority is really a branding. Page Authority is where you understand, especially coming to the acquisition pages, how well you’re going to do against the competition.
Local directory affiliations
Your SEO local directory affiliations are crucial if local SEO is a big part of what you’re trying to do. With the increases in mobile search, local SEO is becoming more important. It’s worth considering whether it is that important to your business. If you have physical locations, I would suggest that it is. If you don’t, and you maybe just have administrative offices, it might be something that you don’t want to look at too much. It can create conflicting signals for users.
And your site architecture is essential. So, as Google moves away from a lot of these spam signals in the past, and especially with the real-time roll-out of Penguin 4.0, you want to make sure your site experience is optimal. Your site architecture is your way of telling Google what’s important to you. So, if you have a website that is about credit cards, but you lead with membership rewards and, say, charge cards and Gold cards and Platinum cards, and credit cards are at the third or fourth level of the site hierarchy, that message is, that product isn’t that important to you as a business, and that’s what Google will read. So, within your objectives, you might want to look at how you would reframe that site architecture to reflect your business priorities.
So, if we look specifically at the product objectives, and again, some of these are interlinked, your product objectives may come back to something like Page Authority. You may have a specific product and you want to improve that authority by a certain amount of points on that logarithmic scale.
You also want to look specific search queries. There’s a certain element where ranking for search queries for the sake of it can be nothing more than a vanity metric, but to a lot of businesses it is really important. So, if you have a product that is just being launched, you’ll want to make sure you’ve got new pages high up in that site hierarchy, you’ve got links coming back, both internal and external, because, as a brand, you’ll want to be linked to those search queries, and your products will benefit from that, your click-through rates will be much higher.
The other three that we have within the product objectives (lead generation, conversions, and sales) should naturally flow from the search query objective. So, if you’re ranking for the right queries that are linked to your products and your brand, and you’re perceived to deliver good service on, that should translate it into lead generation, conversions and, ultimately, sales.
Setting objectives from a brand perspective is an increasingly interesting part of putting together a search strategy. We’ve come from a place where the average mechanism of knowing what our ROI is going to be has really shaped the way that we think about acquisition, we think about re-marketing, retargeting, but a lot of those budgets that were really the reserve of TV and out-of-home, are now starting to move over into the digital space. And we, as the digital experts, need to change our perspective a little bit if we’re going to avail of that, if we’re going to deliver on those promises.
There are three objectives that we can set around this:
And, from here, what you want to think about is, which channels would help you deliver on these? So, looking at reach, reputation, and awareness, you might want to think about the metrics that go along with that. So branded search volumes would be a very good way of judging this. The number of views for videos, particularly videos that may have been based on TV, and site traffic increasing will all be reflective of increases in reach, reputation, and brand awareness.
Moving on to the marketing perspective, and by marketing, of course, this encompasses search, but we’re thinking broader, at the really top level of marketing within your organization. Your goal should be tied to the direct performance of your activities.
So, typically the metrics that you would put together here would be based around:
Taken in isolation, each of these metrics won’t tell the full story and that’s what we really want to do at this stage. We’re looking to create a wider narrative of how marketing is performing for your company. We’re not just going into the minutiae of the click-through rate for a certain search query. We want to think a bit bigger than that. So, what we might want to do is go into the detail of this with our data analysts and our search strategists in each one of these areas. But, as an output, we would want a broader narrative that tells the story of how well is our brand performing, in a marketing sense, online.
When you’re thinking about your search marketing strategy, you’re going to think about the tools that can help you get to where you need to go with your plan. A really good way to do this is to begin with evaluating your target audience. So, where do you think you’re going to be communicating with them? What sort of messages will you be relaying to them? And, what actions would you like them to take? How does that match with the objectives that we set through all the other areas? Could be brand awareness we’re looking to increase. We may want more video views. And by looking at that interplay between the audience and the objectives, we should naturally come to an area that shows us which tools are the most relevant for us.
Now, those tools can be acquisition-focused, but you should also consider which tools you need for performance monitoring. Maybe competitor benchmarking, so something like SEMrush would work for both SEO and PPC. It may just be rank tracking where you look at something like a Searchmetrics or BrightEdge. You should consider that each of these tools will have a cost tied to them, of course. So weigh up the benefit that you’re going to get from these tools. Look at where the overlap is between some of them, because some are specialist, someone more generalist, and see where you can drive some efficiencies from that sense as well. You don’t want to lose out on anything, but you also don’t want to pay twice for the same tool, which can often happen.Back to Top
Clark Boyd is CEO and founder of marketing simulations company Novela. He is also a digital strategy consultant, author, and trainer. Over the last 12 years, he has devised and implemented international marketing strategies for brands including American Express, Adidas, and General Motors.
Today, Clark works with business schools at the University of Cambridge, Imperial College London, and Columbia University to design and deliver their executive-education courses on data analytics and digital marketing.
Clark is a certified Google trainer and runs Google workshops across Europe and the Middle East. This year, he has delivered keynote speeches at leadership events in Latin America, Europe, and the US. You can find him on Twitter (X), LinkedIn, and Slideshare. He writes regularly on Medium and you can subscribe to his email newsletter, hi,tech.
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ABOUT THIS DIGITAL MARKETING MODULE
This module covers the key steps for planning and implementing a search marketing strategy for your organization. It addresses the key components in an effective search marketing strategy and outlines best practices for planning and research. It also covers how to execute a strategy and evaluate the performance of a search marketing campaign.