Question: My site isn't designed around direct sales. What other metrics should I measure to evaluate my search engine marketing efforts?
Answer: There are many metrics you can analyze to determine the success of search engine marketing campaigns, depending on what line of business you're in and the content on your Web site.
• Information giveaways: Offering a free newsletter or white paper is a reliable way to capture the contact information of visitors to your site. A paid search campaign can direct people straight to the signup or download page, and you can then measure the leads generated with the ultimate test being how well those leads convert to sales down the road.
• Making contact: If you communicate a clear value proposition through search, you can direct visitors to your "contact us" page, encouraging them to e-mail or call for more information. Establish a unique e-mail address and/or phone number to measure the contacts generated, and then you can tag those leads as coming from search.
• Site interaction: Measure the length of time visitors spend on your site, the number of pages per visitor and how frequently they return. Compare the visitors coming from search (natural or paid) to your site's averages. Do visitors from search drill down and visit product- or service-level pages, or do they quickly exit the site from the page where they entered? If your search campaign is successful, you may wish to replicate that messaging in other marketing programs. If the metrics are disappointing, perhaps it's time to test new copy and landing pages.
With search, you can quickly build on the knowledge you've already amassed, and you can constantly test and change messaging, design and offers to keep increasing your site's effectiveness as a marketing vehicle.
Regardless of what you measure, the insight and intelligence you can reap for search can be as valuable as the leads and sales themselves.
David Berkowitz is director of marketing at icrossing, a search engine marketing agency.