The ability to test a marketing campaign before launching is important to a marketer as it can mean the difference between profitability and heavy financial loss on a product. The ability to test market does not end with direct mail marketing, direct response radio or television marketing, or other traditional forms. There are a number of ways that you can test market a search engine optimization campaign before plunging in.
One way to test market with a search engine optimization campaign is to launch a small-scale campaign (one or two pages) that only targets one search engine. This is best executed with a search engine that offers a paid spidering program (Inktomi, Fast/AllTheWeb) so that the start-up time is minimized. Within a few days you can have your pages properly optimized and within the database, and the length of testing time can be anywhere from 1 week to a month. This will allow for the marketer to gauge the level of response and success that the campaign is receiving. While this will only show the results from one search engine, the traffic results are coupled with extensive competitor, keyword, and conversion numbers, a marketer can get a feel for the market that they will be entering and what kind of sales to expect.
The audience reach of your search engine optimization is limited only by the skill and performance of your service provider. Theoretically you could target as many keywords as you desired, potentially placing your web site in front of a number of markets and audiences. This is only the case in a select few other forms of marketing. Direct mail and television marketing are two other forms of marketing that share this attribute.
While this is true, we will discuss in the next section why extending a campaign's reach this far is not always a good thing.
Segmentation and Selectivity
Marketing a specific service or product to a broad market without segmenting the target group can be counter-productive and can result in monetary loss. We can segment a market geographically, demographically, psychographically, sociographically, by other forms, or by combinations of the different types. Taking a market as a whole and segmenting it into a refined target market is not limited to traditional direct marketing mediums.
To effectively apply market segmentation to your search engine optimization campaign you will need to include certain procedures in your initial campaign research. The first process is to research, evaluate, and identify your target audience and customer. Once your target market and customer is identified, a keyword list must be developed that will enable this target market to reach the web site through the search engines and directories. The development of a strong keyword list is one of the most important aspects of not only segmenting the market reach, but also your search engine optimization campaign.
The start-up time of a search engine optimization campaign has decreased in recent months as more and more search engines roll out their paid spidering and submission programs, and as Google has set its update process to a monthly occurrence. In the past, and still for certain search engines, the time it takes to see noticeable results that can be measured averaged from 2-4 months.
In the current search engine landscape, it is feasible to have a site indexed and ranking within almost all search engines and directories within a week due to these programs. Therefore, the start-up time for a search engine optimization campaign is equal to the time it takes to optimize the web site plus a week for most engines and a month (give or take) for Google.
The time that it takes to optimize a web site is dependant on a number of variables, including web site size, amount of content, site construction, competitiveness, and more.
The cost to start an optimization campaign is dependant on the company that is offering the service. There are numerous ways that SEO companies structure their pricing:
Regardless of the pricing structure, the start-up cost for a search engine optimization campaign is dramatically lower than other forms of direct marketing. For example, a direct mail marketing campaign or TV marketing campaign may be 10-100 times more in terms of start-up costs. While some may think that it is ridiculous to compare a search engine optimization campaign to a direct mail marketing campaign, think of the comparison in these terms:
It is tough to predict the actual CPM (cost per thousand) of a campaign as a result of the pricing structure involved with search engine optimization, and also because the results of a search engine optimization campaign are relative to the service provider and the market entered.
Instead of predicting the CPM, we can easily measure the CPM after time and the result can then be used in future cases.
Personalization is simply delivering a personalized marketing message or advertisement to your target market. The personalization of your search engine optimization is rather limited. One of the only forms of personalization is to use technology to track a user on the site. When the same user returns the information that you collected can be used to present the user with personalized data. One example of personalization is displayed or recommending products to user based on their last visit.
Although the personalization options are limited for a search engine optimization campaign, there are many successful forms of marketing and advertising that have low personalization capacity (radio, TV, magazine, newspaper, etc.). In fact, one of the only marketing mediums that have a truly high level of personalization is direct mail marketing.
Delivery and Quality (copy and presentation)
The quality of your presentation and copy are entirely dependant on the marketer or advertiser. While there are restrictions with other forms of marketing, there are very few restrictions with a web site and a search engine optimization campaign.
The sky is the limit when it comes to producing quality copy that has high selling or customer retaining power. As the search engines feed off of large amounts of content, developing large amount of copy, for whatever purpose, is not only highly recommended by SEOs, but also sometimes mandatory.
The quality of your marketing presentation and delivery also has few limitations. Unlike newspaper, magazine, or radio, a marketer can produce their advertisement and message any way they like, taking up as much or as little space as needed. With a web site, the marketer has pure creative freedom as the only restraint is technology, but in today's age there is little that cannot be done.
A web site is one of the best ways to communicate and interact with your target market and customers.
Response and Conversion Rates
The response time of a marketing campaign is the time that it takes to see results that can be measured to gauge success. The response rate for a search engine optimization campaign is relative to the start-up time that was discussed above, as well as the budget for the campaign. If the budget allows for paid search engine submissions and spidering programs, the response time will be dramatically quicker. The amount of time to see results can be reduced to one to two weeks with paid spidering and submission programs. For other direct marketing mediums like direct mail, the response times are longer. A high response rate is important to marketing as it allows for success to be measured and adjustments made accordingly.
Conversion rates are only connected to a search engine optimization campaign on certain plateaus, as most of the variables involved with conversion rates are within the website. Page Titles play a large role in drawing search engine users to your web site when they are searching through search engine results pages. A good title can mean the difference between being passed over and getting the user to click through to the site.
The variables that we discussed above are all used in examining forms of direct marketing. Search engine optimization, also called search engine promotion and search engine marketing, is an essential form of marketing a web site and business online. As we proved throughout this article, search engine optimization stands in line with other tried and true forms of marketing.
June 3, 2002
Andrew is the Director of Search Engine Optimization Operations for a market leading company. Since the Fall of 2001, Andrew has served as the moderator of the Search Engine Promotion forum within Webmasterworld.com - a leading online community of web professionals. Andrew's articles appear regularly on informative sites including Search Engine Guide, SEO Today, SitePoint and others.
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