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Trust me. I know the right way to do organic search marketing. I know that you start with metrics. I know that you must measure the traffic that comes to the site and see how many people convert. I've even written a couple of books that have a strong metrics focus to Internet marketing, organic search marketing in particular. But when I talk to small businesses, I am more and more wondering if search metrics are optional, at least at first.

Yeah, I know that this is crazy talk. Blasphemy against everything I stand for. I know.

But I've found myself chatting with several small business owners recently who have no idea how to do search marketing and I found myself reluctant to make metrics the first step for search marketing, as I always do for a larger firm.

I spoke with one small business owner that asked, "What should I do first for organic search marketing?" And I knew that he has very little money to spend on consultants or fancy tools. And he has less time than money. So, could I, with a straight face, tell him to figure out his conversions and implement Google Analytics? He has no chance of being able to do that on his own and no money to pay someone to do it. So, is that really the first step?

I'm forcing myself to say, "No." We need to tell people how to do something tangible that might cause money to roll in.

So, I found myself asking him what keywords he thinks his customers use. (No, I didn't suggest keyword research, because he doesn't know how and can't afford someone who does.) And I found myself suggesting that he change the titles to emphasize those keywords. And just putting a new phone number on the Web site so that anyone who called it he would know is from the Web.

These are things he could do. And some money would start to appear in the cash register. I know that my advice was "wrong" but I hope it was wrong in the sense of "do it wrong quickly." Let's get started doing it wrong to drive some value and then later we can come back and invest more to really do it right.

So, if the boss is already convinced search is a good idea, do you need to start with numbers that prove it? Or can you start by doing some of it and only later coming back and investing in measurement (and keyword research and all the other important stuff we do)? Or is that new phone number enough of a measurement that we can live off that for a while? I don't swear I know the answers, but I continue to realize that if the advice given doesn't reflect the real client needs, it doesn't matter how many best practices you know. The ultimate best practice is to give clients something that they can do.

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December 10, 2009

Mike is an expert in search marketing, search technology, social media, publishing, text analytics, and web metrics, who regularly makes speaking appearances.

Mike's previous appearances include Text Analytics World, Rutgers Business School, SEMRush webinar, ClickZ Live.

Mike also founded and writes for Biznology, is the co-author of Outside-In Marketing (with James Mathewson) and the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (now in its 3rd edition, and sole author of Do It Wrong Quickly, named by the Miami Herald as one of the 11 best business books of 2007.


Probably search metrics can be optional at start. But if you really are trying to optimize, then you must at some point add search metrics.

Not having search metrics, is like you are missing half of the whole point.

Thanks for the post! :)

Many of the small business owners that I work with have never tracked the traffic let alone online conversions. I can usually work out the amount of traffic and conversions they receive from their website by looking at such things as back-links, rankings in the search engines etc. In most cases the amount of traffic is negligable and therefore, there is our baseline.

I then start by doing tangible things that the owner can understand and get involved in: set up local business listings, submissions to relevant directories, improve content etc. We also set up Google Analytics! Once I can show traffic flowing into the website the owner starts to get excited and is then more inclined to devote more time and resources to the more in depth aspects of SEO.

I really enjoy working with small businesses because the positive impact you can have on a business is usually pretty quick and dramatic.

Finally, someone who gets it! There is no way you are going to get a small business owner to pay for analytics until AFTER they see an up-tic in sales from website ownership. It's backwards, but its the way it works!

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