SES San Jose Day 1 – Benchmarking an SEM Campaign

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I won’t begin to tell you how often prospective clients want to skip the research phase and go straight to site optimization and setting up PPC campaigns. Are you one of those companies simply because you don’t know where to begin to benchmark your site? This session did a great job laying out how to determine how visible your site is, how effectively you are reaching your target audience, and how to determine your ROI.

Matt Miller, Senior Manager, for DoubleClick Performics Search started out the session by laying out the foundation on how to benchmark your site against competitors with the goal of establishing a position relative to the industry in which you compete and create a baseline set of metrics. The first step is to determine where you rank and what kind of coverage you have in the SERP’s. Matt uses AdGooroo’s tool to find out how visible the site is in paid search versus other advertisers, who else is showing up for strategic keywords, what are competitors’ bid strategies, and to determine what level of coverage he should maintain on high volume/ high cost keywords. The next step of benchmarking is to use Compete’s keyword traffic tool to establish keyword share and answer what proportion of search visits he is getting and what percentage of search referrals this represents. The third step involves some budget, as he uses Hitwise’s tool for competitive information such as how much traffic is coming from search versus competitor’s traffic and how much traffic could he get. The last step in benchmarking is to use another tool such as qSearch’s that will tell him how much of the search traffic comes from paid versus natural.

Michael Sack, Director, SEM Technology and Development, for Idearc Media was next up and talked about researching “performance gaps” and a new term called “velocity rate”. Performance gaps are just that – gaps in your performance. But how do you find said gaps? Michael suggested you look externally by benchmarking competitors similar to what Matt laid out and to research industry averages by looking at survey’s such as those of MarketingSherpa. The other place to look is internally, such as how many impressions (use new Impression Share report in Google AdWords reports), clicks, etc your campaigns are getting and then compare those against other forms of marketing you are utilizing. He said you should benchmark those campaigns to see which ones are retaining traffic and users, have low bounce rates, have low rate of shopping cart abandonment, etc. His grand idea of velocity rate comes into play once you’ve benchmarked all campaigns across weeks and months, then you can determine how quickly your tweaks to these campaigns will make a difference. The velocity rate is the speed at which you can make changes – the higher the velocity rate the more successful that channel will be in the long run.

The final presenter was Martin Laetsch, Senior Director of Search Strategy, of SEMDirector. Although Martin is from SEMDirector, he referenced his eleven years at Intel and how he instituted benchmarks by moving the analytics department out of the IT department and into the Marketing department. He said they literally rebuilt their organizational chart to support KPI’s and defined metrics. Each one of the KPI’s needed someone to support it. He gave some great advice on how to sell the benchmarking data to upper management with the end goal of getting more budget. He recommended creating easy to understand, executive dashboards and learn to talk “CMO or CFO” speak.

Sara Holoubek, the session moderator, also gave some great tips such as: don’t wait until the Fall to start budgeting, start in July or August to plant the seeds early; make friends with other marketing counterparts as they might have budget to give to you instead; and don’t bash other forms of media since traditional media is still the most understood by upper management.

Great panel – off to the next!

About the Author

Hallie Janssen is Vice President at Anvil Media, Inc., a search and social media marketing agency. Janssen also teaches a social media class with the Online Marketing Institute in conjunction with Wharton Interactive. Contact Hallie at 503.595.6050 x221 or Twitter.com/Hallie_Janssen.

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  1. Google Analytics benchmarking is a great service. Altough you won't be able to gather the type of data that a professional SEO firm can provide, it can be used to help compare your site to a variety of metrics. I go in to a rather in depth discussion on the subject of Benchmarking your blog.But this tool is no just for blogs. And the information in my post can be applied to any web site.