Lee Odden

Measuring Search Marketing Success


I was recently taking a survey from Jupiter or ClickZ (I don’t recall which) and one of the questions asked about measurement of success for search marketing. While a lot of what you hear from search marketers involves talk about fundamentals ranging from links to rankings to visitors and conversions, the answers offered in this survey included a pretty interesting mix:

  • Increasing brand awareness
  • Building buzz
  • Search share of voice
  • Improving brand favorability
  • Increasing intent to purchase
  • Maintaining brand exposure alongside competitors
  • Engagement with rich media (i.e. video, animation)
  • Engagement with photo galleries, social features, interactive calendars, local or destination information
  • Maximizing value of sponsorships, celebrity endorsements
  • Online purchase
  • Lifetime revenue per user
  • Profit per user
  • Call center calls
  • In-store purchases
  • Call-center purchases
  • Online registrations
  • Generate leads for products/services sold offline
  • Click-thrus
  • Impressions

Web site metrics and “key performance indicators” for a search marketing program are going to vary depending on the industry, type of site, market and business. Yet many of the goals listed above are either not measured, not valued or just damn hard to measure for most web sites.

I’ve written several times before that with many SEO engagements, clients have come to the conclusion that they need better rankings in the search engines, when what they need first is a good strategy, objectives and mechanisms in place to measure success. What good is it to drive increased traffic if you don’t have the mechanisms in place to properly measure results?

Shortly after taking the survey, I came upon and listened to an excellent podcast with Mike Moran of IBM on RSS Ray, “Critical Metrics with Search marketing“. Mike has some great things to say in the interview and talks about how lot of marketers grew up in brand marketing, but really need to learn more about direct marketing, where things are tested, measured and tested again.

He points out that with web sites, you can measure just about anything. Not just conversions but the things that lead up to the conversion. For example, you can measure the effectiveness of your content in terms of meta tagging, keywords, links working, getting links, inclusion in search engine databases, keyword rankings, visitors, referrals and conversions.

Mike also makes a good point about benchmark data. He says it doesn’t make sense to compare yourself to others in a particular industry an that it’s more important to track your own performance trends and compare your progress to your own historical performance.

If you would like to read more about Mike Moran’s thoughts on search marketing, be sure to visit his blog, Biznology.

What core metrics do you use to measure your search marketing success? Have you incorporated any unique metrics not normally associated with traditional web analytics or web site performance?

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Lee Odden About Lee Odden

@LeeOdden is the CEO of TopRank Marketing and editor of Online Marketing Blog. Cited for his expertise by The Economist, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, he's the author of the book Optimize and presents internationally on B2B marketing topics including content, search, social media and influencer marketing. When not at conferences, consulting, or working with his talented team, he's likely running, traveling or cooking up something new.


  1. Now if I could just get my clients to realize all these things matter. The only metric they seem to care about is direct sales with no consideration for the lifetime value of a visitor that doesn’t buy on the first go around.

  2. In my web business that I run (10 months old so far) getting visitors in the beginning was hard. Now that it has achieved search engine visibility it’s easier to concentrate on how to fine tune the traffic to a conversion by monitoring a bunch of factors, some of which are listed above.

    Though time consuming it is bearing fruit.

  3. We asked some of our customers a few months ago as well on their “success factors” for Search Engine Marketing campaigns. Of course most cited direct sales or leads (goes without saying). Also cited were metrics specific to search (getting more granular than your original list) – for example, improvement in ROAS, site conversion rate, budget efficiency.

    To another point in your post, agreed, it IS absolutely critical to get accurate benchmarks for your company and measure improvement from there. (don’t rely on “industry averages.”) The improvement metrics noted above need to be benchmarked before even questioning SEM campaign performance.

  4. Lee,
    Given the game-changing personalized SERP transition, will next-gen organic prominence reporting tools aggregate and “score” a URL’s presence for keywords (and topics) across major search engines and multiple social media channels in reporting engines?

    I am used to reaching for classic tools like WebPosition, WebCEO, or SEO Toolkit to report organic prominence. These tools seem to be growing less relevant by the minute except to “get a feel.” There are also other interesting tools like CrossEngine.com to quickly look through lots of channels and have quick access to a cross section of specialty social search services. Of course this goes hand in hand with site analytics, feedburner stats, etc…

    In your opinion will there be next gen apps which aggregate “traditional” organic prominence along with social media penetration for a URL and topic? In general, what do you make of organic prominence reporting in the new personalized SERP enviroment?

  5. Growth in subscribers
    Overall Reach
    Number of comments

    Matt of WordPress fame frequently quotes the percentage of comments that are spam. I am happy that on my blogs I have a much higher number of real comments compared to spam.


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