How To Prove The Value Of SEO

Having a tough time communicating the value of SEO to your C-Suite? Erin Everhart provides some tips on how to tackle this common issue.

We’ve come a long way as an industry.

Since our humble beginnings in 1995 – arguably the birth year of SEO — to the serious identity crisis we’re in today, it’s sometimes easy to forget how much progress we’ve actually made in making this a “legitimate marketing tactic.”

We’ve moved past the hat identifiers and (most of us) have given up spam tactics. We’re better than keyword stuffing and keyword density, over-optimized anchor text and the mentality that “links aren’t for driving traffic, just providing link juice.”

The number of people that call SEO a Jedi magic trick are dwindling every day, but that far from means they get it. They may recognize SEO as important, but when it comes to allocating budgets or making business decisions about the website, it’s usually the first thing to get pushed to the side.

That just means we have to fight harder to prove SEO’s value – and thankfully, we have the data to prove it. Now, it’s about using it correctly to tell the right story.

Drowning In Data

The amount of data we have available to us as SEOs is both helping and hurting us. On one hand, we have more actionable proof that what we’re doing drives more traffic, engagement and revenue than most marketing channels out there. Entries, visits, instances, page views, bounce rate, exit rate, pathing, conversion rate, AOV, revenue – each is important in their own regard, as they each tell a slightly different story.

The problem is that we have no idea what to do with it, so we end up reporting on every number available, which is both meaningless and will fall on deaf ears.

No one likes data as much as SEOs (especially the C-suite), so if you go into a meeting armed with 15 different numbers, you’ll be on the receiving end of a handful of blank stares. Reporting on everything is meaningless. Just because you have the numbers doesn’t mean you have to use them.

Isolate & Dominate Your Base Metric

The best way to avoid this data puke (hat tip to Avinash Kaushik for coining the phrase) is isolating your most important metric or metrics and only reporting on that. Most of the time, that’s going to be:

  • Organic revenue
  • Visits compared to last month
  • Visits compared year-over-year

Regardless of whether things are up or down, some of your stakeholders are going to want to know why — and that’s where you can either keep your supporting metrics in your back pocket or put them in an addendum to your main report.

A good rule of thumb whenever you’re reporting is to start with the highest level possible (revenue and visits) and then drill down to the metrics that support that story.

Relate Back To The Overall Business

Every marketing segment gets stuck in their own world, and far too often we search marketing professionals only think about SEO. We view it and report on it myopically, without thinking of the overall business impact.

Now that you’ve isolated organic visits and revenue, the next step is comparing that to overall traffic and the other individual traffic-driving channels. Saying that SEO accounted for $20,000 in revenue in great, but showing that SEO accounts for 45% of your total revenue is an even more powerful statement.

The same goes for the reverse if you’re showing the negative impact of what happens if you stop doing SEO. Don’t just show loss of ranking or traffic and how that affected just organic search. Show the bigger picture – how the lack of SEO has impacted the whole business — and you’ll have an easier chance of fixing the problem.

Remember: SEO Extends Offline

According to its annual multi-channel shopping survey, PWC found that 88% of US respondents first research online before buying a product, where they’ll either buy it online, buy online and pick up in the store, or go to the store and then pick it up.

SEO plays a key role in that. If you’re not ranking while people are researching, you’re immediately out of consideration for when they decide to buy the product offline. Customers can’t buy what they can’t find, so whenever you’re showing revenue, don’t forget to mention the assumed offline impact that SEO brings for the online researchers.

Getting hard data on those numbers is murkier, because alas, we can’t have cookies following them and tagging their source code when they’re note wired into the Internet.

How else can you prove SEO’s value to your overall business?



5 Social Marketing Tactics That Need to Be Retired

Marketing has, thankfully, evolved since the dark, early days of social media. Back then we were stumbling newborns, desperately crawling and clinging to anything that would get us those coveted likes and shares. Companies just weren’t sure how to market using this new media, and so many committed huge gaffs like hijacking trending tags or blasting updates every hour. Some lessons have, thankfully, sunk in, and most brands now know how to behave on social media. But in researching this article, I found a five hackneyed, tired tactics that are still being used, and that need to be put to rest.

Let’s play a game…

This is starting to die out, but some smaller businesses still use it so I feel it’s worth mentioning. Now, I don’t mean sweepstakes or contests or anything like that. Rather, I can’t stand games created as an obvious, last-ditch effort to create engagement – something like ‘Can you name a business that doesn’t use an A in its name?!’ Yes, I can. But what possible reason do I have for writing it in the comments? How does this have anything to do with your wider marketing strategy? A crummy game is not the way to boost visibility.


I understand that people are split on click-baiting, and I do understand why news and article aggregators like Buzz Feed and UpWorthy do it. They are driving an audience to a light, simple, easy topic, and raking in the ad revenue. But, for most companies, click-baiting makes absolutely no sense. I know it’s hard to drive traffic to company blogs or smaller articles, but writing everything under headers like ‘What our CEO says about fiscal solvency will change your life!’ is not the answer. Even if you do see a small uptick in traffic, people are going to catch on and stop clicking.

Look at me!

It is absolutely and perfectly acceptable to post pictures of your office and staff on your feeds – in fact, I recommend it. What’s not okay is polluting your feeds with nothing but these pictures. I think the problem lies in initial reaction, rather than vanity. A CEO will want to post the picture of an office party, and a bunch of people like, share, and comment. Then they say okay, well let’s post pictures of people working. Next it’s the CEO, hanging out in the office, or someone’s kids visiting. Eventually their social feeds are nothing but pictures of people looking exasperated and bored.

Hashtag Overload

#We #all #want #our #content #to #be #seen. But throwing a hashtag in front of every, single word of every, single update is not going to drive traffic. In fact, you are shooting yourself in the foot by using too many hashtags. Hashtags should be used, but sparingly, and only when relevant to the content or status you’re posting. Not only will this help up engagement, but your hashtag campaigns will be way easier to track, and you’ll start to make an impact on the larger social communities built around those tags.

The Selfie

Selfie-based marketing reeks of corporate pandering. I can just imagine a 40 year old executive, telling the boardroom that their teenage daughter takes selfies all the time, and how they should capitalize on that. It’s a desperate, obvious attempt to force people to engage with your brand, and even if it does increase chatter, it just looks tacky. Wheat Thins was actually dealt some heavy criticism for their own, arguably failed attempt to capitalize on the selfie. Selfies are meant to be fun, spontaneous ways to capture of a moment, but when you try to force branding into it, that spontaneity is lost and all you’re left with is a boring picture with an oversized box of crackers.

Now, I know that there are marketers out there who will disagree with my list, and there are people who will be upset that I called out one of their favorite tools. Heck, I admit that I’ve used a couple of the above myself. But one of the coolest things about social marketing is how quickly it evolves, and I’m hoping that, as things change, the above five tactics will finally be put out to pasture. Trust me, we’ll all be better off without them.



What the Ice Bucket Challenge Can Teach Us About Engagement

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has been the viral event of the summer, but what can it teach social media marketers about engagement?

If you’ve paid attention to social media at all in the past several weeks, chances are you’ve seen video of everyone from Bill Gates to Oprah dumping buckets of ice water over their heads all in the name of a good cause. The “Ice Bucket Challenge” has been the viral event of the summer, just as bizarre as planking or the cinnamon challenge, but this time, the fad is for a good cause.

The Ice Bucket Challenge began in Boston in honor of Pete Frates, the 29-year-old former captain of Boston College’s baseball team who was diagnosed with ALS (or Lou Gehrig’s disease) two years ago. The rules are simple; if challenged, participants have a choice: either douse themselves with a bucket of freezing water or donate $100 to an ALS charity.

President Obama chose the latter; however, most participants are choosing to do both. The results of the grassroots viral campaign have been astounding. The ALS Association reported $31.5 million in donations between July 29 and August 20 from both participants in the Ice Bucket Challenge and those who simply enjoyed the videos, a significant increase from just $1.9 million in donations during the same time period last year.

While the ALS Association has certainly benefited from the Ice Bucket Challenge, they didn’t launch it. The challenge is completely user-driven; however, social media marketers as well as fundraisers can take away a valuable lesson in grassroots marketing from the hottest campaign of the summer.

According to Gene Lewis, partner and chief creative officer of Digital Pulp, the secret to the Ice Bucket Challenge’s success is the fact that its call to action is nearly impossible to avoid.

“Like so many things that are simple and successful, the Ice Bucket Challenge now seems inevitable; it makes us all wonder why we didn’t think about trying something like it sooner,” he says. “It has the perfect mix of elements to make it viral: it’s fun (and funny), it’s personal and broadly relevant, it’s for kids and adults, it’s intensely shareable, and most critically, it includes a dare. And not just a simple text dare. When you’re challenged, you’re called out, on video, for the world to see. It’s not just a small status update that will soon pass – it’s a personal challenge that must be addressed.”

According to Bob Cargill, director of social media at Overdrive Interactive, another crucial aspect to the success of the Ice Bucket Challenge is its social nature. “What both social media marketers and fundraisers alike can learn from the success of this campaign is to realize that in the era of the selfie, more people than ever are glad to show off their support for a cause or passion for a brand, especially if they have something to gain in the process,” he says. The gain for the user, in this case, is to see him or herself as a part of the cause, namely “the personal satisfaction that comes from any philanthropic effort and the public acclaim they receive from their friends.”

And finally, a major aspect of the challenge’s impact stems from its brevity, explains Rob Moritz, managing editor of the social newsroom at Innocean USA. He says, “The key from a social media marketing perspective is the fact it only takes a few seconds to do — or watch — and generates consistently entertaining, super-short-form content that’s as easy to replicate as it is to share.”

Of course, the viral success of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge was completely unanticipated. And while social media marketers should surely note the psychology behind its success, they should also be wary of creating content with the intention of going viral, because the expectation all too often results in customer backlash. A safer solution is to focus on consistent production of brand-specific, quality content.

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