A millionaire friend once told me, "What it all boils down to, Paul, is that I always keep my shovel in the manure pile." He went on to explain that he keeps track of every single aspect of his business-- bottom up, top down and in every nook and cranny. It is a management style I admire, and one that distinguishes todayís successful C-level managers.

C-level Managers Need SEM Knowledge

As we all know, search engine marketing (SEM) is a critical and effective marketing strategy that provides an excellent return on investment (ROI). Savvy marketers understand SEMís value by virtue of the improved KPIs (key performance indicators) in their web analytics reports. But what about your C-level execs? Do they know? Do they care? A word of advice: They better.

Your Internet Presence

Your website touches virtually every aspect of your business, as well as every one of your employees, new and old customers, vendors, investors and business associates Ė even your competitors. Your site has a tremendous impact on successful achievement of your business goals. It is the workhorse that pumps up your bottom line. This means its health and maintenance are key to your company's success.

While your website is the engine that drives success, search marketing is what fuels that engine. That's because search engines drive qualified prospects to your site that are likely to convert. This is something you can quantify and bring to the attention of your company leadership. It will quickly show them the value (ROI) of your marketing efforts.

While you can direct customers to your website through online and offline marketing campaigns, just imagine the implication of this statistic reported by comScore recently:

U.S. residents conducted 5.48 billion searches in January 2006, up 11 percent from January 2004. Google's search sites processed 2.3 billion of those searches (41.4 percent of web traffic), followed by Yahoo sites with 1.6 billion (28.7 percent).

Both your corporate image (brand), and your company's product/service, is being viewed and sought while you sleep at night, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Where Is Your Shovel?

Search is a great place to start digging, and if you don't like to dig, then delegate to your VP of marketing, asking him or her to keep you informed. Whatever you do, you must get your website and its search marketing strategy under tight control. You must understand every aspect of search marketing as it relates to your business and its competitors.

Know all the search strategies available that can drive unique visitors and conversions to your site. With search engine optimization (SEO) as your foundation, you can also take advantage of various paid search strategies including paid inclusion, pay-per-click, search contextual ads, pay-per-call and more.

Don't play Russian roulette with your marketing program; get educated on how search marketing can enhance your internet presence while improving your bottom line. Research shows that national advertisers are creating a new budget item for SEM while other companies are shifting money from existing marketing and website development programs to search marketing. As a C-level decision maker, you need to be eminently aware of the marketing programs that provide the best ROI.

Don't Do the Hokey Pokie

Do not "put your left foot in, take your left foot out." Jump in with both feet and familiarize yourself with the features and benefits of all search marketing strategies.

While the uninitiated may simply grab the low-hanging fruit of pay-per-click, savvy marketers will lay the foundation with organic SEO. Research shows that 70 percent of Internet users click on natural listings, versus 30 percent on paid listings. Organic links are perceived as unbiased, therefore more credible than paid links. Recent research shows that SEO is the best driver of latent conversions. If you have an e-commerce site, take note.

When you don't have SEO in your marketing mix, you incur an opportunity cost as search rankings and keywords become more competitive from year to year. For example, I had a client who wanted to be well ranked for a keyword with 1.5 million pages indexed in Google two years ago, relying only on sponsored links. Today, that keyword has over 80 million pages indexed in Google. According to Yahoo Search Marketing, that keyword is now searched over 1 million times each month, averaging about $2 per click. Currently, it can take up to two years to become well ranked in the natural listings -- that's your opportunity cost.

Empowerment With Analytics

Web analytics both validates and empowers search marketing. Search is the first step toward improving your Internet presence. That's because most users start with search engines to get where they're going, and search is the most popular Internet activity after email. This means most of your traffic comes from search.

The first step after setting up your KPIs through web analytics is to address your organic search results before your sponsored search results. According to Jupiter Research, 87 percent of commercial traffic from major search engines is organic or natural, non- sponsored traffic results.

Your analytics KPI reports are the first line item to check off your list. KPIs are one of several items on the dashboard. If you're going to drive company profits, make sure you have a dashboard to look at Ė and a rear-view mirror to see where your business comes from. This data is available with web analytics, the tool that contributes to the continuous improvement of your website performance and marketing campaign performance as well. Analytics is an extremely useful tool for C-level executives.

Discuss this article in the Small Business Ideas forum.

March 22, 2006

Paul J. Bruemmer has provided search engine marketing expertise and consulting services to prominent American businesses since 1995. As Director of Search Marketing at Red Door Interactive, he is responsible for strategizing and implementing search engine marketing activities within Red Door's Internet Presence Management (IPM) services.

Search Engine Guide > Paul Bruemmer > Search Marketing for C-Level Managers - Part 1