What is the single most frequent concern I hear from business owners?
“I don’t know if the Internet Marketing we are doing is working?”
What they mean can be 2-fold, but the bottom line is always the same – is someone doing anything and is it having any affect?
The shortest path between the question and the answer you seek is Reporting. (and a quick test…more on that in a moment)
The only way to know you are getting what you pay for is in the reporting, because you often cannot see “the work”. And even if you are shown “the work”, its still about the bottom line – sales. But measuring online visitors converting into in-store sales is not easy. ( and don’t let them tell you it is )
I’m going to let you in on a secret you probably already suspect is true, The SEO business is more about “lies, damned lies, and statistics” than actually doing the work and honestly reporting the results of that work.
So here are my back-of-napkin statics : 90% of SEOs (including SEO agencies ) don’t actually do much “effective” work, and 90% of SEOs (including SEO agencies ) work harder on pretty reports than doing the actual Work. Work is hard. Re-reporting Google Analytics is much easier and scales better.
I have been amazed to see how often the magic tricks (pretty reporting) sells better than the hard work. But it makes sense. Pretty reports make people feel good and provides cover for the subordinates whose job it is to hire and manage the Internet Marketing portion of the business. Thats why we at HARTENSTINE would rather work directly with hard-nosed owners rather their “expert” employees. ( we welcome hard-nosed expert employees )
Here is one scenario you may be familiar with :
You hire an SEO, SEO firm or advertising agency (that also does SEO). After some time has passed you are given a report or presentation which shows all the keywords your website now ranks for and how you dominate your target market. Everything is “Green” and improvements are abundant. The problem is, you probably didn’t get a report on these keywords BEFORE you hired them. And “dominate your market” is often based on some kinda logic you can’t quiet get your head around – but it sure is a pretty report.
It dawns on you that you might have fallen victim to “lies, damned SEO lies, and pretty reports”. Now what do you do? You either continue in the relationship spending money on feel good reporting, or you tell them you are having a sales crisis and can’t afford them anymore. Both of these scenarios play out everyday. But either way, you are not happy.
It does not have to be that way (or end that way). You only need someone who does the work and who reports in a transparent and honest way.
I use this litmus test because we can get our hands on the data. If your SEO is working, your CPV should decline. (Cost Per Visitor)
Take a look at your past PPC campaign Average CPC ( Average Cost Per Click ). All things being equal, Average Cost Per Visitor should decline as your Internet Marketing initiative kicks in. A better website, et al, with better PPC campaigns will get lower-cost clicks. This is an especially useful test if you suddenly turned everything over to an agency and increased your budget at the same time – everything changed and the reporting will look
pretty different – but the Average Cost Per Visitor test will cut right through that lying reporting.
You can get a little more complex (and more accurate) by taking your Total Website Visitors and dividing that by your Total Online Spend. Thats a bit more meaningful way to calculate your Cost Per Visitor. Then do some calculations integrating In-Store Sales, and you should start to see a pattern emerge. Regardless of how you go about it, if you are not seeing more efficiency ( lower cost per visitor / increased sales ), you now know what to do to make things right.
Don’t fall for the magic tricks of pretty reporting.
2 thoughts on “Lies and Pretty SEO Reports”
I think the last section could benefit from more granularity, in my humble opinion:
A business could have one agency doing SEO, one agency doing PCC, and perhaps another entirely who developed and manages their website.
Someone reading this could get confused if their cost-per-click isn’t improving, and mistakenly associate the SEO agency (or vice versa, with the relevant SEO metric).
Enjoyed reading this article. Thank you.
Christopher, Thanks for reading and for your insight. You are correct. The ending is a bit unfocused and might leave someone new to digital marketing at a dead-end.
…and that is my intention. It might provoke a “That’s complicated. I’m a busy business owner and I need your help managing my Internet Marketing…” response. That is why I blog about the numerous Internet Marketing rabbit-holes one must venture down in order to be good at this work – to illustrate that the “granularity” is overwhelming for the typical business – because it is. And that is why I have clients paying me to attend to their Internet Marketing rabbit-holes.
I gave up doing “How to” blogs when I realized the great majority reading SEO,PPC,SEM blogs, are other Internet Marketeers ( which might describe you, because you are not asking “How does one go about lowering cost-per-visitor?”)
Publishing ALL my knowledge online to help others in the Internet Marketing space will not pay the bills. Quit the opposite. ( have you tried to make a living with Adsense on your blog? )
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