Overlooking valuable benchmarks to evaluate SEM success.

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Frequently, marketers focus on just the point of conversion when reviewing their SEM campaigns, overlooking the rest of the buying cycle. Additionally, most benchmarking looks at search data in a silo, preventing a holistic understanding of how paid and natural search results work together.

In order to fully benchmark and monitor SEM and SEO campaigns, marketers must take a more holistic approach to quantify the total return on advertising spending of their campaigns. To start, you should clearly define goals for each step of the buying cycle (research, engagement, activation and retention, for example).

Once your goals are defined, these often-overlooked tactics will help you gain an accurate picture of campaign performance.

  • Create a classification system for keywords that mirrors the buying cycle—a benchmark and baseline for each stage in the cycle. This will enable you to understand the value of keywords that might be on the fence between consumer- and business-facing terms, and will enable you to set unique goals for each stage in the buying cycle as well as evaluate terms and their cost-per-acquisition accordingly.

  • Monitor the natural search (SEO) visibility and performance for these terms as well. This can be measured in terms of increase in rank on the engines that are important to the campaign. To accurately calculate the value of an increase for a specific word on a specific engine, apply analysis on the relative importance of the term, the market share of the engine and the rank of the term on that engine.

  • Understand the relationship between SEM and SEO. There is a clear, proven connection between the two. If you are in a high natural search position for a term and purchasing this same term in paid search, your click-through rate and your online performance metrics will increase significantly. You cannot evaluate these individually and get the full picture.

Jorie Waterman is strategy director at digital marketing agency iCrossing (

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