Before you dive into search metrics, you need to first choose a project to measure. To do so, you must decide the area of your site that you want to drive search traffic to. Which product sale? Which marketing program? A sign-up form? You have to pick something.
You might be saying to yourself, "How should I know where to start search marketing in my business?" Don't worry. It's not as hard as it sounds. And, you can always change your mind. As you read through this chapter, you might realize that you should have started search marketing somewhere else in your organization. If so, just retrace your steps and figure out the new campaign.
To choose your first campaign, go back to the goals of your Web site from Chapter 5, "Identify Your Web Site's Goals." If your site sells online, pick a top-selling product and try to raise sales. If you generate leads for offline sales, choose a hot new product and work on increasing leads. No matter what your site's goals are, you can choose some area of your Web site and declare, "This is the best place to start." After you choose the target area, you will then discover what search queries to target in your campaign.
Choose the Target Area of Your Site
What makes a particular area of your Web site the best place? After all, your first campaign is important. You want it to succeed and to persuade others that it succeeded. To choose your "best place," follow these rules when you make your selection:
So take some time and think it over. Which part of your Web site offers the best tradeoff between business impact and degree of difficulty? Answer that question and keep that answer in mind as we explore search metrics. As you look deeper into your current situation, you might find that you have chosen a project too difficult for your first one. If so, you will realize it while you read this chapter, and you can always change your mind and circle back.
While you are thinking through your target project, we walk you through a fictional case study of our own. Imagine what you would do for Snap Electronics, a large consumer electronics manufacturer with a well-known brand name and an equally large Web site (www.snapelectronics.com) that does brisk online sales. (Snap is a completely imaginary company not patterned after any existing corporation.)
Snap Electronics has a long history of innovative consumer electronics designs ranging from TVs to DVD players to home theater systems. Snap is well known for its breakthroughs in ease of useits tag line is, "Our products are a snap." As you look at our rules for choosing the right product area to target, Snap's evaluation is shown in Table 7-1.
As we consider the contenders, we realize that most of Snap's TVs and home theater systems are sold offline, so it is harder to measure the impact of your search marketing campaign for those products. We also remember that the group that handles DVD players is redesigning its entire site for a launch in two months, so they are probably not in the mood to hear from us now. We dismiss VCRs because the technology is fading, so it is not as high profile as the others. But digital cameras might be promising.
Snap was late to the digital camera party, but introduced several innovative models under a new SnapShot brand that (as usual) were markedly easier to use than competing models. Snap blanketed TV and magazines with advertising touting SnapShot's easy design, raising brand awareness. But after the successful launch, marketing costs need to come down this year. Snap cannot continue to spend so much on advertising year after year. Each of these factors make SnapShot digital cameras a strong candidate for Snap's first search marketing campaign.
As we sum up the factors we considered in Table 7-1, we see that the digital camera product area is high profile, we can measure its online sales, and the product team seems practical to work with, but Snap's one concern is simplicity. No complicating paid search campaigns are underway for digital cameras, which is good. But it is still hard to judge the difficulty of changing the digital camera content to rank well in search, because we have not yet investigated the site deeply enough. We will have to wait for the assessment to find out how simple this campaign might be.
Focus on the Keywords Searchers Use
Perhaps you are not sure what searchers might enter into search engines when they want to buy a digital camera. Fortunately, there are lots of ways to find out, which we cover in Chapter 11, "Choose Your Target Keywords." But you do not need that much sophistication yet.
Which keywords do you think are the most popular for finding a digital camera? Kind of obvious that "digital camera" might be one of the phrases, huh? After you have settled on one or more phrases, it's time to find variations. Again, you will learn much more about this process in Chapter 11, but for now we will use a simple approach that employs the Yahoo! suggestion tool. (As we write this, Yahoo! is changing its Overture brand name to Yahoo! Search Marketing Solutions, but they did not have the newly branded screens and URLs available in time for publication.)
Yahoo! offers a free Keyword Selector Tool (inventory.overture.com/d/searchinventory/suggestion) for you to research keyword variations. Figure 7-1 shows how it works for the phrase "digital camera." If you type that phrase into the suggestion tool, Yahoo! displays the most popular search queries containing those words in the past month. The tool also shows the count for each keywordthe number of searches made in the last month for each query on Yahoo! and its partner sites.
Figure 7-1. Choosing your keywords. See the variants searchers use when looking for a phrase such as "digital camera"and how often they use them.
Reproduced with permission of Yahoo! Inc. © 2005 by Yahoo! Inc. YAHOO! and the YAHOO! logo are trademarks of Yahoo! Inc.
It was easy for Snap to think of "digital camera" as the phrase searchers are likely to enter, but your site might be a bit harder than that. You might need to do some brainstorming. Ask other people, look at your Web pages, and check out your competitors' pages. Think about what words you use to describe your products to your family. What do industry pundits call this kind of product?
It is tempting to settle for the names your company uses for its productssometimes those are the most popular names. (Searchers do use some brand names a lot, such as iPod or Windows.) But most companies are not blessed with a product whose brand name overshadows its generic name. Try to think of the generic (not proper name) phrases people use to find youdo not use the name of your company or your product. Brand names are also good keywords to target, but your goal with this tool is to identify variations on the most common search query, so try to think of the most popular way to refer to your product. In Snap's case, the most popular query is "digital camera" rather than their brand name, "SnapShot."
So, after you have amassed your generic keywords and variations, what do you do with this list? Well, it is clear from looking at the "count" column from the suggestion tool (in Figure 7-1) that lots of folks are searching for "digital camera" all by itself. All of Snap's competitors are trying to rank #1 for the query "digital camera"anyone in their business would want thatbut maybe they are overlooking these other keyword combinations.
You might be dreaming about ranking #1 for "digital camera" (and someone does rank #1, so it is possible). But it takes quite a bit of work to get that top ranking because so many others want that ranking, too. Although we will not drop the idea of getting a high ranking for an extremely popular keyword such as "digital camera," we need to look at less-popular queries, too. These less-popular queries generate plenty of traffic, but fewer companies target them, making it easier to get a high ranking for them. You will see that these medium-popularity keywords are often the perfect targets, generating just enough traffic to be noticeable but without the intense competition for high rankings that comes with the top keywords. Some of the queries on this list might be perfect for Snap, whereas others might not, which we will determine by analyzing each one.
So, let's look at the list of Yahoo! suggestions shown in Figure 7-1. The first disappointment is that Snap's competitors are being searched for by nameSony, Canon, Kodak, and even the "Cannon" misspellingbut Snap is not. Searches for Snap's brand names (such as "snapdigital camera" and "snapshot digital camera") are apparently lower on the list. Regardless, brand name phrases are important for Snap, and one that its competitors cannot rank well for. That means that even though fewer people search for those brand names, Snap has a good chance at a top ranking, so it can drive substantial traffic.
Next, we see that some of these queries are for accessories: "digital camera accessory" or "digital camera memory" or "digital camera battery." Those searchers might buy accessories, but that is a different campaign from cameras. Because there are so many competing cameras in the marketplace, most of these searchers are looking for accessories to cameras Snap does not manufacture anyway. Cross those queries out, too.
We also see that one of the queries, for "digital video camera" is not for the right product. That is a query for a different producta different search campaign. Delete that one, too.
What's left? After wiping out the competing brands, accessories, and incorrect products, there are only a few left, but these are the most important keywords to look at:
For some companies, all of these might be good targets for search marketing. They all bring heavy traffic and they all seem like queries that informational and transactional searchers usethose are the ones most qualified to sell to.
But for Snap, two of them do not belong"discount digital camera" and "cheap digital camera"because Snap is a premium brand that offers innovative easy-to-use designs, but at a price. The SnapShot models are not cheap, and it is futile to try to sell them that way. So cross those two off, too, leaving us with the list of targeted keywords shown in Table 7-2.
Don't read too much into the wide variation in the numbers. Although the query for "digital camera" receives far more traffic than the others, we're fooling ourselves if we think Snap can swoop right in and get a top ten ranking for that keyword. Remember that the competition for these "mega-keywords" is fierce, so a top ten ranking is hard to achieve without a lot of work. Moreover, you recall that many of those searchers are seeking information about how to use digital cameras, rather than buy them, so those searchers are not as highly qualified as someone searching for "digital camera review," for example. Each of these keywords gets enough traffic for Snap to target, and it is easier to get good rankings for less-popular keywords that have fewer other companies targeting them.
Take a deep breath. That wasn't too hard, was it? You can do the same thing with the area of your own site that you picked. Brainstorm the right words and come up with seven to ten phrases that will generate more traffic to your site. You will likely find that your top keywords fall into the same types: your brand name and a generic category name, along with a few variations. This is true regardless of whether you are driving traffic to a site for a product or not. The Police Athletic League will want to capture queries for "police athletic league," of course, but also wants to generate traffic for "boys' clubs" and "children's sports," too. Most of the time, your organization has a "brand" name (what you call it) and a generic name (what most people call it). You will rank higher for your brand name, but fewer people will search for it, so you need to target both brand names and generic names to maximize your success. Remember, prospective customers who are not searching for your brand name can find your site only if you target the generic name. Otherwise they will find your competitors.
Perhaps you are already so familiar with your Web site that you know your first campaign is simple to conduct, but many people cannot tell. They need to assess the simplicity of the campaign to be sure. Armed with our target keywords, now we're ready to assess our site on how well it draws search traffic for each of those queries.