ROI Equals Search Engine Positioning

During the Internet boom, aesthetically pleasing Web sites with flashy technologies were seen as the future of marketing and e-commerce. Some companies, once eager to build an online presence and funnel significant sums of money into their Web sites, are now scrutinizing every dollar and measuring how expenditures will advance corporate goals and profitability.

Companies develop Web sites for a variety of reasons. Be it sales, information or user registration, there is a particular action companies want to elicit from visitors. To achieve these goals, companies need to drive qualified traffic to their sites. Initially, people turned to banner, print and broadcast advertisements to generate interest and promote the sites. But these tactics failed to attract the type of visitor that was willing to engage in activity on the site. More importantly, this traffic was not traceable back to the ads, leaving companies to wonder whether the money spent on both the site and ads was worthwhile.

With no clear understanding of how best to drive qualified traffic or what these visitors represent, companies risk losing any hope of measuring return on their Web investments. Enter search engine positioning — the only way to ensure a Web site achieves measurable ROI.

Though it may seem more intuitive to use advertising or direct mail to increase a company's Web site visibility, the reality is that people rely on the Internet for information, and more often than not they begin their research at a search engine. According to IMT Strategies, search engines create more awareness about Web sites than all advertising combined, including banners, newspapers, television and radio. However, for companies to use search portals to their full potential, they need to ensure their sites are positioned prominently across a strategically defined set of keywords for maximum visibility aimed at their target audiences.

A Web site is an investment, and search engine positioning is a commitment to put your message in front of the right audience, at the right time, in the right place. A comprehensive search engine positioning campaign will make your Web site accessible to your ideal visitor. Why is this person the ideal visitor? Search engine users have already made four choices before even arriving at your home page. They have chosen to use the Internet to research a problem; they chose one of the many search engines or directories; they chose a specific word or phrase to query; and they chose from a list of millions of search results. This is the ultimate qualified visitor — exactly the type you want to attract.

A strategic search engine positioning process begins with thorough research and analysis to identify the keywords and phrases your target audiences are using in their queries. In doing so, the behavior and linguistic habits of your Web audience are studied, and information on the variety of queries conducted by users is collected, also noting how long they stay on the site and where they go after visiting the home page. A comprehensive SEP campaign will also illustrate which leads came from which search engines and on which keyword.

This type of lead tracking is invaluable to companies because they can measure the success of their SEP campaign against the stated goals of the Web site. At first glance, a company might not be able to attach a dollar value to the following:

· A No. 1 ranking in Google.

· A 300 percent increase in site traffic.

· Thousands of rankings on target keywords.

· Better-qualified traffic numbers than the competition.

After tracking these types of results, companies can prove that search engine positioning significantly boosts brand awareness, lead generation and sales. This is the strategic online marketing function that SEP plays as companies are forced to answer the questions: Why did I build a Web site? What do I want from my audience? What is a visitor worth to me?

Beyond qualified traffic and lead tracking, SEP is a long-term tactic for achieving maximum visibility and exercising the full potential of your Web site. Because marketing budgets are constantly shrinking, marketing professionals are responsible for ensuring each marketing dollar is stretched as far as possible. If companies prominently and strategically position their sites in the major search engines and directories, they will experience lasting results, thereby leveraging long-term Web investments. In comparison, ad campaigns or paid listing programs last only as long as a company continues to pay for those positions. Companies that implement comprehensive SEP campaigns pay for visibility that lasts much longer and reaches more people than businesses paying for listing programs that reach few and cost more.

In many businesses, there has been a movement to consider the success of all investments in light of their dollar-value return. However, ROI is not just about money. Real value derives from the ability to see results that directly affect a business' success. This does not mean that SEP does not have its own ROI. Search engine positioning allows Web sites to work, perform their intended duty and ensure that you have the right message, at the right time, in front of the right audience.

Without a properly conducted SEP campaign, you risk losing prospective customers or, even worse, handing business to your competition. Any business that wants its Web site to thrive must implement a strategic search engine positioning campaign.

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