Benchmarking An SEM Campaign

Back from lunch (I have to pretend I had lunch otherwise Susan gets nervous) and it’s time for this afternoon’s Benchmarking An SEM Campaign session. [Someone please feed her?–Susan]

[Danny Sullivan is chatting about 3 feet from me; I wonder if I’ll ever gather the courage to introduce myself. Sigh. I doubt it. Especially not with the theme song to Dirty Dancing playing in the background. It’s far too cheesy, even for me.]

Enough about my sad existence, this afternoon’s session is all about how to tell if your search marketing campaign is working the way it’s supposed to be and offering up ideas and techniques for establishing benchmarks in the search marketing space.

Alan Dick (Vintage Tub & Bath) will be in charge of keeping Cam Balzer (Performics Inc. and nominee for Coolest Name Evar), Mike Moran (IBM) and Martin Laetsch (SEMDirector) under control. We’ll see if he’s up to the task.

Cam "My Name Is Cooler Than Yours" Balzer is up first.

Cam has decided he wants to be like Bruce and has coined a new search term; it’s called "Search Benchmarketing" and I think it’s going to catch on. Way to be, Cam!

While I’m daydreaming about all the cool plays I can make on Cam’s name, he’s busy outlining the four layers of the Benchmarketing Search Funnel:

How visible am I in search results compared to my competition?

How effectively am I reaching searchers?

How’s my return?


There are two ways to think about these metrics. First, you want to benchmark yourself. Place value on your impressions, clicks & CTR, leads, CPC, total cost, ROI, etc. Evaluating your own progress over time (year over year, month over month, etc) allows you to look at trends and see where you can improve.

After you’ve examined yourself, you want to benchmark your campaigns against your competitions. Look at their coverage, share of voice, share of wallet, overall cost, ROI, etc and compare it to your own. You want to do this for both your online and offline competitors. Don’t limit yourself to just the information you’re getting from the search engines. Tap into sources of additional information, information that can help you understand your level of coverage on the search engines, etc.

One of things you’ll want to do is benchmark your visibility. Look at how many impressions you’re getting, how many keywords, what’s your rank for those keywords?

To do this you’ll want to track the keywords that are most important to you. There’s an assortment of tools that will help you see how visible you are for certain terms and who else is showing up. As a savvy marketer, you should know the percentage of impressions different advertisers are showing up for. It’ll also help you manage your own costs through the day. You’ll learn what level of coverage you need to maintain on high volume/high cost keywords. Do you need to show up all the time? Where do you want to land on the benefit/tradeoff curve and help with your dayparting strategy?

The next thing to look at is your traffic benchmark:

  • How much of my traffic is coming from search vs. how much is my competitors getting. How much traffic is the getting overall?
  • What other types of marketing drive significant visit volume?

Once you know this information, combine it with your market share data to find out how much overall traffic your site could get from searching and how well your competitors are tapping the potential.

You’ll also want to keep in mind your natural traffic vs. your paid traffic. Not every industry will see the same benefit from paid search. If you’re finding you’re only attracting a small number of users through paid search, benchmark your campaign against your competition. Are they seeing similar numbers? It may be that your industry is more organic-based than pay per click-based and that there will be little you can do to improve. You’ll want to know this before you spend thousands of dollars revamping paid search.

Mike Moran is up next and he concentrates on the search engine optimization side of things.

He first talks about IBM and how even though it’s in 83 countries and 31 languages, in 2001 you couldn’t find it on Google. In fact, only 1 percent of their traffic came from a search engine. Kinda scary.

This sounds obvious but it’s worth nothing: Before you can benchmark your campaign, whatever it may be, you need to define what you’re trying to do. Do you want users to find a store, to call you, find a partner, find a dealer, buy something online, click on an affiliate link? You need to know.

Next, Mike almost wins my heart by dumbing down search marketing into four easy-to-follow steps:

Step 1: Make sure pages are including in index — Decide which engines you want to be in and determine your inclusion ratio.
Step 2: Choose Keywords — Know that the keywords that match your site best are what you care about and check your keyword usage on your page. Focus on keywords in titles and throughout your text.
Step 3: Optimize Campaign – Check rankings
Step 4: Attract Links – Use free link audit tools. Make your site a link magnet.

See how easy that sounds? It really is as easy as pie! (Please don’t throw stones.)

For those of you reading even this small list and screaming, "I don’t have time for all these tools, idiot". First, calm down. It’s not nice to call people names. Second, outsource it. I happen to know a good search engine optimization company if you need a referral. I kid, I kid.

Next up is Martin Laetsch

Martin is up to discuss what he’s learning about benchmarking search campaigns. He’s basically our voice of reason in all this mess.

Martin offers up some great excellent words of wisdom.

His first sage words are to know what your company is doing at all times. This includes what all the other segments of your company are doing. You don’t want to be spending thousands of dollars on PPC because you are outbidding yourself. There is no SEM’s Dumbest award.

Martin shares the sad truth that for most managers it is more difficult to get info about what is going on in their own company than what’s going on in their competitors. Produce actionable reports. Log files and Excel sheets are not going to help you benchmark your campaign if no one knows how to read them.

Have consistent reporting. Across business unit, geographies and all the search engines. Answers questions like, what’s your share of voice, what’s working best – paid or organic?

Put a structure in place to build out your search engine strategy. Create standards and best practices.

Marketing is changing. Measurable online campaigns will become increasingly more important in the mix. Metrics are critical component of the success for any online marketing campaign. Tracking the data isn’t enough. It needs to be organized in a way that marketing managers can use.

The motto for this session was to monitor your campaigns and your competitors’ campaigns so you can recognize the difference between how well they are performing and how well they could be performing.

Oh, and concentrate on producing expert, relevant content. Don’t chase the search algorithms because by the time you finally think you’re getting it, the engines will be on to something else.

Since we’ve got you, Bruce Clay offers industry-leading PPC and SEM services. Get in touch today!

Lisa Barone is a writer, content marketer & VP of strategy at Overit Media. She's also a very active Twitterer, much to the dismay of the rest of the world.

See Lisa's author page for links to connect on social media.

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