In my previous post I discussed the advantages of working with a search marketing specialist (versus a general digital marketing agency). I’d like to take the concept of specialization one step further and explore the benefits of working with an agency that specializes in a particular industry or type of solution – namely B2B lead generation. Read more
There are many questions that should be asked during an RFP or interview process for hiring a Digital/Search Marketing Agency. After executing countless client on-board processes, I have found that ensuring a good fit between a client and an agency comes down to asking the right questions. I recommend that you ask these 4 critical questions before you select a digital/search partner… Read more
In a previous blog, “The Power of an Expert Search Team”, I explained our agency’s philosophy regarding hiring subject matter experts in each search marketing discipline – paid search, SEO, conversion, analytics, content, etc. In this post, I’ll discuss how clients benefit from information sharing across their team of specialists. Here are three specific integration examples that have improved clients’ online marketing results.
For some time now, there’s been a growing buzz in the SEO community regarding organic ranking reports. The conversation focuses on a significant short list of controversial topics including: accuracy of data, use of tools that violate terms of service to scrape data, necessity for client reporting, and the foundational question: are ranking reports essential for performance monitoring. There are strong — and relevant — opinions on both sides of the debate. Read more
All search marketing programs are not created equally. This rings true most profoundly in the B2B marketing arena where shifting corporate demands, streamlined staffs and reduced budgets produce unique challenges for both B2B companies and the search marketing agencies they hire.
Follow this B2B search marketing agency hiring checklist to find a long-term partner that can deliver success, get you noticed online and secure more quality leads.
Ensure your search marketing agency understands the nuances of your industry, the complexities behind the long lead cycle, and the demands of B2B corporate reporting and quarterly goal attainment.
Hire an integrated search marketing agency with a talented and experienced team to manage your B2B search program. For a comprehensive effort your agency roster should include technical Web design experts, content generators, SEO experts, conversion specialists, user interface experts, and link-building specialists, to list a few.
Hire an agency that is a Google AdWords Certified Partner with a team of “individually qualified” paid search experts certified by Google — you’ll then be better connected to Google intelligentsia, and positioned to gain maximum results.
According to MarketingSherpa’s 2012 B2B Marketing Benchmark Report lack of resources is the greatest obstacle for B2B marketers to reaching their goals.
In order to combat the resource issue head-on, hire an agency as an extension of your team. Share corporate plans, invite them to meetings, and hold them accountable.
You’ll also want to understand the agency’s entire team from end-to-end. Meet the wizards behind the curtain who will be dialing-in keywords, fine-tuning ad placements, and securing links — all in the interest of producing quality leads for your company.
Ensure your agency has a history of credibility and success with its current customer base. You’ll want to see their proven track record, speak to their current customers, and review their monthly reporting.
What tools do they use? Understand the technology behind the agency’s products and services. Does the agency partner with leading technology companies to deliver services? Has the agency created propriety tools in order to deliver the best results possible to their customers?
Hire a search marketing agency that can think strategically and deliver tactically. Meet the big brains on your search marketing team to feel confident about the plan. Talk to them in terms of one, three and five year plans to ensure they see a future — a partnership — with you, and can deliver both a detailed strategic plan and the tactics behind it.
What do they deliver? Make sure it is not ‘one size fits all’, but a custom program matched to your company’s needs based on goals, budget, and resources.
Ask for a demo of the agency’s monthly and yearly customer reports. Delve deep into how — and when — reports are provided, ROI is measured, and program adjustments are put into place, such as keyword fine-tuning, to garner improved results. I recommend an agency that hosts a customer reporting dashboard to help you easily grab data when presenting results to your C-level management or simply reviewing with your in-house team.
According to MarketingSherpa’s 2012 B2B Marketing Benchmark Report, B2B Marketers found the top methods to present results included consistent reviews of program metrics with C-level executives as well as creating internal program support by reporting results at company meetings or via a company intranet.
It’s also important to distill the metrics — pull out the marketing speak to ensure your program successes are easy to spot and easy to understand by non-marketers.
Meet your new agency in person. Get off the phone, out of the office and meet the individuals who will become an extension of your marketing team.
If someone is going to work hand-in-hand with your corporate team to ensure your success then you should get to know the team — even like them. You want to make sure they are professional, match your corporate sensibilities, and can present to the C-level if called upon.
To find a search marketing agency that can respond to the diverse challenges of B2B marketing, sync with corporate culture, and deliver on the goods – you’ll need to do your homework — but the pay-off is potentially huge.
It’s not enough for an agency to say they know your market and can perform. The agency will need to show they are a professional team with proven B2B search marketing experience and documented results.
Your diligent homework will guarantee you’ve found a professional agency to meet your goals now, and grow with your company into the future. It also means you won’t have to repeat the agency hiring and on-boarding process yearly.
If you feel confident about your selection and work closely with your agency to help reach your goals, you’ll achieve maximum results and become the star of your marketing team!
B2B marketers, if you’re measuring and evaluating “conversions” only — such as white paper downloads, webinar registrations, or contact forms — you are likely not seeing the big picture in terms of true return on your search marketing investment.
Today, savvy business marketers are defining search marketing success not just in terms of pre-defined conversions… but rather, based on the value of multiple, desirable online actions.
That’s right — they are thinking beyond the white paper!
I urge you to ask these four questions when considering how to evaluate your search marketing efforts:
This is particularly important for B2B companies selling high consideration, complex products or services, and companies with long sales cycles. B2B marketers at these firms need to think in terms of engagement and relationship building — not simply registrations forms.
In addition to the obvious tasks (i.e. conversions) such as form completions, evaluate all the other actions website visitors can take. For example, most business marketers would agree that there is definite value in getting a prospect to:
All of these actions are indeed valuable. All of these actions indicate interest. All of these actions involve some level of engagement.
et, most are not considered “conversions”, do not require a registration form (hopefully), and are not tracked nor evaluated in the vast majority of B2B search marketing programs.
The website engagement process also provides clues as to where a prospect may be in the buying cycle.
Business marketers, make sure your website offers information that is helpful and meaningful to prospects at all phases of the buying cycle. It is important to get your brand in front of potential customers early and often as they research, compare, select and purchase products and services.
In terms of online registration forms and other conversions, typically B2B marketers start with the lifetime value of a customer and then work backward through the lead funnel to determine an estimated value.
For instance, the value of a white paper registration is probably based on:
The lead management and sales process described above can take months for many B2B firms.
Regardless of the time required, B2B search marketing leads can deliver big results.
Point in case: I work with a software firm that recently obtained a new customer. The initial sale was worth nearly half a million dollars. The origin of the contact was a $3.50 PPC click that resulted in a white paper download.
Tracking and evaluating search-generated conversions can be difficult enough, but what about all those other online actions? We’ve determined that they do represent engagement and interest, and we know that these actions help prospects move through the buying process.
So, why wouldn’t you want to estimate the value? After all, getting prospects to take these steps is a direct result of your search marketing and website investment. But what’s the best way to estimate the value of all these possible website actions?
Here’s a crazy idea: Guess!
That’s right… estimate a small, but reasonable value associated with each web site action. Base it on other marketing efforts, if possible. Talk with your marketing team. Start with a very conservative value that everyone can agree on.
Ask yourself: what is it worth to your company to:
…you get the idea!
Perhaps a search engine impression is only worth a few cents. A search visitor is worth a few dollars. Getting the visitor to move beyond the landing page is worth even more; and viewing a product demo or accessing a case study – provides even more value yet.
I encourage you to assign small, estimated values to all of these actions – defined as goals or events via your analytics platform.
We used to encourage online marketers to “think beyond the click”. Now it’s – “think beyond the conversion”.
B2B marketers should take these steps to estimate your true search marketing ROI:
Tracking online conversions is important… but there’s more to the search marketing value equation.
Most of the time an increase in search engine visibility does generate additional organic traffic, but what should a B2B marketer do if it doesn’t? Have you ever been a victim of this scenario?
Below are three aspects of your SEO Program to analyze and improve to ensure that your SEO investment is generating website visitors, prospects and ultimately leads and customers.
Too often, B2B SEO programs are focused solely on increasing search engine rankings, and success is measured via ranking software and some type of “visibility score”.
In my opinion rankings should be tracked, but only as a secondary metric. It’s fine to track and report position (or rank), by keyword, and by engine — in order to understand the impact of your specific SEO efforts, but the ultimate goal of any B2B SEO Program is traffic, leads, customers and sales.
I’m not suggesting that search engine ranking scores are a bad thing. Our agency uses this type of analysis as one data point in a comprehensive SEO solution. The point – organic search rankings are a contributing factor, not a primary success indicator.
Even more importantly, I believe that ranking metrics allow B2B search marketers to use as a way to gauge whether or not their efforts are having a positive or negative impact and to find out if the pages they’re optimizing for a certain term are actually ranking, or is it another page on the site that’s ranking well, but isn’t the most ideal page for conversions.
The real question is: if your SEO Program is generating increased search rankings yet you’re not receiving any additional traffic, what might be the problem?
If rankings are increasing but organic traffic is not, here are three aspects of your SEO program to analyze:
1) Are you focusing on the wrong keywords?
This should always be one of your first considerations. Are you targeting internal “marketing speak” words and phrases versus the words people actually search for?
For example, one B2B firm insisted on targeting the keyword: ‘claims re-pricing’, which is how everyone in the organization described their business.
However, keyword research indicated that virtually no one searched for this phrase. Rather, there was 10 times the search volume for the phrase: ‘medical claims re-pricing’.
This insight alone allowed us to refocus the SEO program and generate not just visibility (on a non-used phrase) — but traffic and results (on the words people actually search for).
Think outside your “marketing box”. You have one way of describing your products and services, but potential customers may have a different way of thinking about what they need. Survey your customers and ask them how they would go about finding you online.
2) Analyze search query volume and intent
The way people search, and the words they use, definitely changes over time. Make sure you are analyzing search query trends.
One aspect of B2B SEO that’s very challenging is conducting keyword research and understanding the intent behind search queries. This is particularly true for B2B firms with long, complicated sales cycles. PPC campaign data (if available) can help you gain a better understanding of which keywords convert, and which keywords are more research oriented.
As another example, one firm wanted to target the keyword: ‘business satellite internet’. This is exactly what they provide, and they have been referring to their business this way for years.
But, an in-depth analysis of searcher behavior shows that overall volume for search terms related to ‘business satellite internet’ has been steadily decreasing over the past 5 years, and new search queries including Mobile, Broadband, and Wireless-related terms are on the rise.
There is a fundamental shift taking place in this industry and the way customers think about these services. This firms SEO program needs to be revised to reflect this shift in buyers’ behavior.
3) How does your listing appear in the SERPs?
It’s easy to become fixated on SEO metrics such as visibility and traffic, but don’t forget to review the Search Engine Results Page (SERP)! Is your organic listing accurate, unique and compelling? How does it compare to the other listings on the page?
Here is one example. If you are searching for:’B2B Search Marketing Agency‘which of these listings would you click on?
The second listing is much more readable, unique and compelling.
B2B SEO experts must utilize the Title tag to optimize for keywords you’re targeting, but also make sure your title is captivating and entices a click-through. Same for your Meta Description tag – though there’s very little optimization benefit to the Meta Description anymore, but the description is still very important in terms of how searchers perceive your firm. Utilize these 155 characters to their fullest potential and make sure your listing is captivating and entices action.
An increase in search rankings should translate to an increase in organic traffic. But, if this is not the case, B2B marketers should analyze:
B) Search query trends
C) Your actual listing as it appears in the SERPs.
My final thought on why improved rankings might not be correlating to increased traffic is how searcher behavior has changed in the past several years. Today, not only do most searchers not visit pages 2 and 3, evidence is suggesting that most people don’t even scroll down the first page.
What that means is if you’re not listed in the top 1-5 results, you’re probably not getting the clicks. So, even if your SEO efforts have taken you from oblivion to the bottom of Page 1, you’ve still got a mountain to climb to get in the top 3!
B2B search marketers should continue to track visibility as a contributing factor…but remember — the success of your SEO programs will ultimately be judged based on ROI metrics related to leads, customers and sales.