Search Engine Optimization

Budgeting to Improve Web Conversions

Budgeting to Improve Web Conversions
By Paul J. Bruemmer,
May 10, 2005

A few months ago, Jupiter’s research found that six out of seven sales resulting from search engines originate in the organic search listings. This highlights the power of organic listings.

Other research (Enquiro, Did-It, comScore) shows that search engine users click on organic listings 70 percent of the time and on sponsored listings 30 percent of the time. Perhaps organic listings are preferred because most users respect unbiased search results more than paid placement.

However, organic search engine optimization services that result in prominent natural listings accounted for a mere pittance of search engine marketing (SEM) revenues in 2004; whereas paid placement collected the majority of these revenues.

What are Organic Search listings?

Also known as natural or algorithmic listings, organic search listings are the non-sponsored, free listings that appear in the major search engines as a result of a keyword query. Organic listings are derived from databases built by search engine spiders and ranked by proprietary search algorithms that usually give importance to relevant content, proper HTML coding and quality inbound links, among other variables.

Organic search listings are accountable. That is, you can track your return on investment, unique visitors and increased conversions. With good web analytics, you can take a baseline measure before your optimization campaign, and then again to see visible gains.

Based on the clickability of organic listings, it’s a safe bet that websites with prominent organic listings will experience a healthy profitability and bottom line. Industry research proven this time after time in case studies and research data.

Are Most Websites Optimized for Organic Search?

Surprisingly, all the research so far indicates 80 to 90 percent of corporate websites are not optimized to appear in the top three pages of the major search engines (Google, Yahoo! and MSN). In contrast, research shows properly optimized websites achieve the top listings that yield extraordinary increases in qualified traffic, conversions and profitability.

It seems like a no-brainer to invest in organic SEO but most websites opt for the immediate gratification of paid placement. Paid placement achieves top rankings based on per-click monetary bids on strategic key terms in auction-type bidding. The advertiser pays only when a prospect clicks to the website. Bid management tools or services are necessary, as well as guarding against click fraud.

At the end of last year, SEMPO reported that advertisers would spend 39 percent more on search engine marketing in 2005 (versus 2004). However, most of the money goes to paid search. In 2004, 83 percent of the search engine marketing spend went to paid placement, and only 9 percent went to organic SEO. Similar numbers are projected for 2005.

Why haven’t the majority of public company websites embraced organic SEO? Perhaps it’s lack of knowledge. Or maybe it’s hard to get funding for non-traditional marketing strategies. Whatever the reason, it’s time for corporate America to get educated on organic SEO because there is more to gain than to lose.

Finding the Funds for Organic SEO

SEMPO research shows that only 43 percent of advertisers created new budgets for organic SEO, and these were mostly large companies. Most advertisers shifted money from existing marketing programs to fund organic SEO or used a combination of new funding and shifted funds. The three tips below can help your funding efforts.

The first step is to convince the decision makers that organic SEO is an essential marketing strategy for improving the bottom line. One of the best ways to do this is to provide a senior-level manager who believes in your cause with the data and research to convince the others. This shouldn’t be hard to do because there is ample research that shows organic SEO generates more conversions compared to other marketing strategies. It is also pretty easy to validate organic SEO as it is cost-effective compared to TV advertising, radio ads and print. Organic SEO is accountable and can document gains in unique visitors, conversions and return on investment. Lastly, there is research showing organic SEO is effective for branding.

So, there’s plenty of ammunition. In fact, I’ve assembled everything your senior manager would need to evangelize. Just drop me an email or phone call and I’ll be happy to send you the data. It’s just a matter of finding the right person to influence the decision makers.

A second tip is to find or hire someone qualified to provide you with a competitor analysis identifying competitors who outperform your company’s website popularity. That is usually very motivating in itself and often leads to opportunities for improving your company’s website and conversions.

A third way to convince any skeptic is to estimate the lost-opportunity cost. You can use WordTracker or the Yahoo Search Marketing Keyword Selector Tool to learn the number of searches for your company’s strategic key terms, and then estimate the number of likely unique visitors and conversions that are being missed by not being listed at the top of the major search engines organic listings.

Once an organic SEO budget is established, the next steps are to select a reputable organic SEO firm for representation and to know what services will get the job done properly — topics for another article.

Paul J. Bruemmer is founder of trademarkSEO, a search engine optimization firm serving clients nationwide. His companies have provided search engine marketing services to over 10,000 websites, including many of the most prominent names in American business. His articles have appeared in ClickZ, MarketingProfs, WebProNews, SitePoint, Pandia and Search Engine Guide.

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