Prioritizing Your Search Marketing Efforts (#smx #21B)

This session is all about weighing your options and learning how to tackle SEM projects that offer the most bang for the buck first. To guide the way, Amy Gesenhues (@amygesenhues, General Assignment Correspondent, Search Engine Land) moderates and veteran search marketers Andy Atkins-Kruger, (@andyatkinskruge, Group CEO, WebCertain) and Sean Quadlin (@seanquadlin, Senior Account Manager, Hanapin Marketing) share their strategies for planning and prioritization success.

SMX East 2013 SponsorAndy Atkins-Kruger is kicking it off.

Andy says this is “one of the most important sessions of the whole conference” and it comes complete with “hair styling” (he is referring to the giant, ragingly loud fan that is “cooling” this room in lieu of air conditioning). He also notes that your hair style should be a priority for sure, since we’re talking about priorities….

I can dig it.

So — you just went to this conference; you have a long list of SEO and PPC to-dos. Where the heck do you start?? What do you dig into first?

SMX Prioritization session 21B - SEO ALL OF THE THINGZ!

We need a method to guide our prioritization. Andy’s going to show us three approaches:

1. The Scorecard Method
2. The Matrix workshop Method
3. The Brussel Sprout Method

If you’re not sure whether to pick one or two – you can do both! And combine them. They are not mutually exclusive of one another. (You can’t really do number three and number two, or number three and number one, though. You’ll get it as you continue to read…)

1. Scorecard Method

The 3 easy steps to prioritization with the ScoreCard Method
1) List all the things you want to do/have to deal with.
(Andy reference the SE Periodic Table and points out that each element has a weight in the upper right hand corner that can help direct what you work on first.)

The Building Blocks of SEO:

SMX Prioritization session 21B - building blocks of SEO

Popularity & Quality (tiny at the top)
Architecture and Code

2) Analyze your site and your market and give each a color code: Red, Yellow, or Green – from MUST HAVE (red) to nice to have (green).

SMX Prioritization session 21B - color rating scale

3) Rate all the yellow issues using a 5-point scale (from very bad to very good). In other words, a “nice to have” scorecard. Rate based on:

  • Impact on Results – how much do you estimate the changes will impact your results (based on indexing, ranking traffic, and actions)
  • Time – How much time do you estimate it will take to make the changes
  • Impact on Resources – How much will it cost you to fix it (using internal or external resources)?


SMX Prioritization session 21B - prioritzation scoring examples

By using the scorecard method you can start to get a visual, ORDERED sense of all of your to-do items, and where to start.

Prioritization -- scorecard Andy


2. Matrix Workshop Method

Start by looking at data and analyzing our own data and performance. The idea is to grade your initiatives based on research so you have a jumping off point to start larger conversations with your internal teams about where to go next.

If you have a team that’s always dragging their feet, get them involved in the solution conversations; in the prioritization workshop. When you bring them into the project you get them interested and engaged, then, by piquing their interest/engaging them you’re making them active and a part of the solution rather than part of the problem. Note: Andy says talking about what your competitors are doing is a great way to get uninterested parties interested.

The idea is to create a visual matrix of your priorities – based on effort/impact/time and all of the essentials mentioned in the ScoreCard method.

Don’t forget to link things together as necessary. IE: If more content is a red hot priority, but you need a new CMS to make more content happen, then you have to link new CMS and more content together as red hot priorities because they’re contingent on one another. Accordingly, new CMS has to be a red hot priority.

If you don’t like either there’s…..

3. The Brussel Sprout Method

The idea is to pick off the most difficult things first. The things you hate….just get them out of the way. (like brussel sprouts, get it?)


Amanda (@Amanda_WestBook) is up now – she’s filling in for Sean Quadlin and she’s going to talk about the prioritization of your PPC efforts.

Amanda says SEO and SEM are a lot like a black and white cookie. Both halves compliment each other and they are delicious together. (I like where this is going…mmm…cookies…)

SMX Prioritization session 21B - SEO PPC Black and White Cookie

PPC’s Guiding Formula is spend over CPC times conversion rate yields leads. When we optimize PPC, we want the CPC to be lower and the conversion rate to be higher to yield more leads:

SMX Prioritization session 21B - why we optimize PPC

Some PPC foundational background

AdRank Determines your CPC. And AdRank is contingent on: Quality Score (CTR, Account structure, Landing page experience) and Band Management (Bidding options, frequency, device management, competitor analysis)

There are lots of factors that determine conversion rate, like: Landing pages (reviews to match keyword performance, design, required fields, how ad text interacts with Landing Pages) and targeting options (networks, keywords, geotargeting, dayparting, negative keywords).

SMX Prioritization session 21B - adrank determines ppc

Amanda emphasizes the importance of Dayparting and mentions people don’t really talk about it a lot (but they should talk about it more so you’re not wasting time/money on a worthless click).

The PPC Matrix Prioritization Grid

Amanda’s prioritization guide looks a lot like Andy’s Matrix:

SMX Prioritization session 21B - PPC Matrix

You want to score change in CPA on the Y (vertical) axis and Effort along the X (horizontal) axis.

She reiterates –again – that the matrix above is ONLY AN EXAMPLE. Your matrix is going to look different and what’s in these fields doesn’t necessarily represent what priorities should be tackled first for every organization. For instance, for some people Negative Keyword research can be a HUGE benefit and really effective; for others it can be a complete waste of time.

High Effort low CPA tasks you might want to avoid
Competitor analysis – She says you don’t come back with a lot of really actionable data from these endeavors often

Account restructures – Amanda says she finds these take a lot of time and usually don’t result in the most CPA impact

Always ask yourself: Will it reduce my CPC will it increase my conversion?

Think about what you’re doing; actually write out the positives and the negatives. Which do you have more of?

Remember Life and PPC are complicated! Higher CTR can affect other stats. What else could change? Make sure to think through all the angles.

The Be Like Kids In Science Class Approach to PPC Prioritization

4 steps to science project prioritization:
1) List all of the cool conference stuff you have/want to tackle
2) Identify what that cool conference stuff is supposed to change (IE: Make a hypothesis)
3) See if it works
4) Record results, report to superiors, keep doing what works (and – after noting why it’s a huge failire – stop doing what doesn’t!)

Be like kids in science class. Remember to hypothesize, try some things, and take notes. If things don’t go exactly right, take a note of it and make sure you don’t do the same thing wrong a second time. Even if you get better, you want to know WHY You got better so that you can repeat it next time.

SMX Prioritization session 21B - science class

Final thoughts

The more you test, the more you will learn, and then the more you will know, then you can make better projections, then you can prioritize better. It’s a big holistic process, really.

Make sure to decide if your conference lessons are actionable or theoretical.

For example: Did you learn a new way to make good changes? Did you learn a new way to think about bidding?

Theoretical stuff isn’t going to direct affect CPA as much, but it is valuable because it will change the way you think about and approach your actions.

Chelsea Adams Brooks is a long-distance cyclist, aspiring cob house builder, schema/analytics/algorithm obsessor, and a former senior content writer at Bruce Clay Inc.

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

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