Growth-report tools — they are not just for the big guys
There are sophisticated and expensive analytical Web reporting tools that can help steer you successfully through your toughest Internet marketing decisions. Affording these tools is tough when you are still fairly small; but having the right information can help you to play in the big leagues.
There are two ways to get started. You could purchase online software that provides essential data on traffic, conversions and ROI. That cost can easily run as much as $5,000 a month for licensing fees. The downside is you may misinterpret the data, since you don't have the expertise and probably don't have the time or inclination to learn.
Or, by partnering with a search agency, you can get access to advanced bidding and analytics tools for significantly less than the licensing fees you would pay individually. Plus, you get agency search engine marketing (SEM) expertise and campaign management assistance, essentially for free.
The most sophisticated analytical Web reporting tools allow you to make informed decisions on keywords, bidding and ad copy. Tracking conversions based on specific ad text will enable you to see what really motivates potential buyers not only to click through to your site, but to take further action once they get there. Your most successful competitors probably already have this information and are using a search marketing agency to access and interpret the data most intelligently. You also can do this, less expensively, with an agency.
When you can quickly and cost-effectively test search engine placement, keywords, ad copy and landing pages, you can know exactly how to position yourself in the market to get the best ROI for your online spending.
A good search marketing agency can give you access to these tools as part of their service contract. For a small business, your monthly contract will be far less than it would be if you licensed the reporting tools yourself. A better SEM agency will recommend the analytical Web reporting tools that best fit your individual business needs and that do not limit you to their own proprietary tools. The best search marketers have the expertise to really understand the data; to see trends early and to capitalize on them; and to customize the reporting so it is relevant and understandable to you. In many cases, all of that expertise is included in a monthly service contract that gets you access to the tools, manages your campaigns and provides you with customized data at a cost below what you would pay to get the tools on your own.
Brian Gulledge is GM of Idearc. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org .