Search engine marketing is simultaneously an intense game of taking action to increase sales while also a patient intermission of waiting to see the results. There is almost always something that can be done to improve your site and your search rankings, but after making specific changes you must be patient enough to wait for the results of those changes to come back and be compared against the previous changes.

This is the same whether you're making changes to improve your engine rankings or to increase conversion rates. The changes you can make to your site are virtually endless but making many changes too quickly without testing comparing the results of those changes will almost always lead to a less than optimal marketing campaign.

When you make changes without performing proper tracking and testing, you will often get both positive and negative results (or a combination of both) within your marketing campaign, but you won't be in a position to pinpoint which of those changes were effective and which weren't.

Making Measured Changes

Let's say you made two changes to your home page, one was for rankings, the other for usability. If both rankings and conversions increase you probably have performed two winning changes. But what if rankings went up while conversions went down? Simple, go back and undo the usability changes, right? Not necessarily. It may be that your optimization changes did in fact improve rankings but negatively effected usability, despite having made other usability changes. The usability changes you made may have actually resulted in a positive improvement, but that improvement was counteracted by the optimization changes that, while improving rankings, had a larger negative effect on conversions. Performing both of these changes at the same time makes this hard to pinpoint (and, uh, sometimes difficult to explain!)

Had you performed these changes separately, say the usability changes first, you might have seen an increase in conversion rates with little or no effect on rankings. The following week you would then make your optimization changes only to find, a week later, that your rankings went up but your conversions dropped to levels lower than they were previously. Now you know what to do! You undo your optimization changes, because in this case better rankings are not necessarily translating into better conversions. Just the opposite. But knowing this you can easily undo the changes and then perhaps try something different to improve rankings, something that won't have a negative impact on conversions.

While changes to your site should be ongoing, as an endless effort to improve conversions, get more sales and broaden your exposure, these changes need to be paced for proper tracking. Search engine marketing and life in general pretty much work the same way. If there is a problem, you can't sit on your hands and do nothing, you've got to get in there and do something about it. But once you do something, you have to be patient in order to see the results. In business, too much too soon can often have disastrous consequences. I've found this out many times the hard way, as I suspect many other business owners and SEMs have as well.

Understanding the Goals

In search engine marketing there are often many goals; improve rankings, get more sales, increase conversions, drive more traffic, etc. Each of those goals can have one or more paths, many of them intersecting. But really, these are more the paths themselves and the goal--the ultimate goal--is to get more conversions for less money. You can do that through improved rankings, higher sales, increasing conversions, driving more traffic, etc. but while each one of these may be achieved individually you'll find that it might actually have a negative impact on the real goal of getting more conversions for less money.

Now we all know that it takes money to make money, so when I say more conversions for less money, I don't necessarily mean being able to spend less money, though that would be nice. But getting more conversions for less usually requires spending more money. But that increased spending should go towards the goal of improving conversions in such a way that you will be paying less for each conversion than you were before. Actually, the way I see it, if marketing works they way it should, your marketing budget should always be increasing rather than decreasing, assuming, of course, that you can handle the increased business that the increased budget manages to bring in.

But with anything, you should never jump in too quickly, and you need to be sure you are using a measured approach to all your marketing efforts. That goes the same for when you want to expand into multiple marketing avenues, online, TV, radio, etc. you should approach each one individually or ensure you can measure each individually, so you know which works for you and which don't. Ideally, they all work well, but you still need to know which provide the best return on investment, so you can allocate your marketing budget accordingly.

When it's all said and done, it comes back to doing all that you can to improve your business, but being willing to wait for the results to be measured. Measuring only the end result without measuring the success or failures of the processes in between will only result in a nice tasting goulash of a marketing campaign when you can have the prime rib instead.

Discuss this article in the Small Business Ideas forum.

October 3, 2006

Stoney deGeyter is the President of Pole Position Marketing, a leading search engine optimization and marketing firm helping businesses grow since 1998. Stoney is a frequent speaker at website marketing conferences and has published hundreds of helpful SEO, SEM and small business articles.

If you'd like Stoney deGeyter to speak at your conference, seminar, workshop or provide in-house training to your team, contact him via his site or by phone at 866-685-3374.

Stoney pioneered the concept of Destination Search Engine Marketing which is the driving philosophy of how Pole Position Marketing helps clients expand their online presence and grow their businesses. Stoney is Associate Editor at Search Engine Guide and has written several SEO and SEM e-books including E-Marketing Performance; The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist, Period!; Keyword Research and Selection, Destination Search Engine Marketing, and more.

Stoney has five wonderful children and spends his free time reviewing restaurants and other things to do in Canton, Ohio.

Search Engine Guide > Stoney deGeyter > Hurry up and Do Nothing for Measured SEM Success