Meeting Customers on Their Own Terms...Their Search Terms (Part 1)

"Top-down" marketing was dying a slow, unattractive death, even before the Web took over the world. The advertising dollars, creativity, number of repetitions needed for retention, and everything else needed to launch, maintain, and build a brand were increasing every year, along with the odds against success.

Enter the Web, where everybody could find everything and talk about it to everybody else for no marginal cost. The idea of "bottom-up," word of mouth marketing, generally not much more than a gleam in some marketing professors' eyes, became a reality. In business-to-business, it has become more than that—it has become THE decision-making environment. For a major purchase, 98% of the people involved in making that decision will have accessed Google before the decision is made (Enquiro B2B Survey, 2007).

For most B2B purchases, particularly first-time purchases and technology products, the Web is the only source for information. Studies show that, in the B2B market, over 75 percent of purchasers searching for a new solution begin their search on the Web. Since 92 percent of all U.S. search traffic occurs on Google, Yahoo and MSN, we really need to gain an understanding of performance on these three search engines. (comScore data, 6/2007) The issue is how to measure search, to provide our clients with an objective measure of their performance on the major search engines.

Rankings, Visibility and Readership:

How Many People Are You Reaching? When someone uses a search engine to find a solution, typically he opens up a search engine, usually Google (over 77 % of B2B searches), inputs a search phrase of two to five words, and gets a whole bunch of search results back—often millions of listings assembled ten at a time on separate pages. The searcher then clicks on listings—or, as is increasingly the case (especially with young men), refines the search and then clicks, refines and clicks—until he finds his topic. To the searcher, the efficiency of a search engine is probably measured by how few listings he needs to explore to find what he is looking for.

There has been considerable research on the "readership" of each page of search results. In the B2B arena, we believe 100% of searchers see the first three listings, up to 90% review listings 4 through 10, and about 50% go on to the second page. After that, readership declines rapidly—a small fraction of searchers reach the third page.

So how do we measure this process? It is important to know that the number of incidences of search phrases is carefully measured. We developed the Total Available Search Market™ metric, or TASM™, to evaluate our clients' potential search phrases to find the best candidates. We make a list of our client's search phrases, measure the number of times that phrase was used in the course of a month, measure the client's position on a search engine result page for that phrase, and do the math to measure out how many people will see the client's listing when they input a particular search phrase. The math is easy—what is not immediately intuitive is the reality that creating a useful metric means not trying to do too much. What makes for good marketing intelligence is "actionability"—a metric that is too reductive decreases the ability of our clients to act on the data we are giving them. We need to keep our eyes trained on the performance of the important keyword phrases in order to have a sense that we are attracting the "most, best targeted" traffic to the website. That kind of focus—keyword by keyword—is critical to developing an effective natural search strategy. It is even more important when adjusting and tweaking the website.

(This is Part 1 of a two-part article. Next: The Relentless Art and Sweet Science of Keyword Selection)

Specializing in marketing technology-based companies since 1987, and active in Internet marketing since 1992, John Rasco's skills as a marketer, team leader and strategist are key to successful client engagements. Founder of Brand X Austin and RefreshWeb, a national B2B internet marketing agency, John has an entrepreneurial gene, a creative bent and a passion for challenging projects.

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