Tuesday, July 6, 2010

4 Quick Steps to Understand Search Discoverability

We are not all natural search experts, nor should we be. There is a lot of art and science to the field that makes it worthy of having a specialist on your marketing team focus on consistently. However, that does not mean understanding how well you are performing is outside of the reach of non-experts.

Here are 4 quick steps to understand how well you are performing. Only step 4 requires any tools or techniques that are not immediately available.

Step 1: What Will Buyers Look For?
Define a list of around 10-15 terms that, when buyers are searching for them, you would ideally be discovered. This requires putting yourself in the mindset of a buyer and avoiding any “internal speak” or terms that are not the most common terms. As an example, buyers generally search for “laptops”, even if you happen to call them “netbooks” internally.

One Step Further: To take this a step further, think about how buyers might “broaden” the term slightly and expand each of your 10 terms. For example, while “marketing automation” is a key phrase for us, buyers may be looking for a “marketing automation platform” or “marketing automation software”.

Step 2: Where Are You Ranked?
For each of the terms in your list of 10-15, do a quick search on Google and/or Bing. Find the first piece of content from your web properties, and record the rank. Search rankings change over time and by location, but this will give you a sense of whether you are discoverable.

One Step Further: While you are doing this exercise, it can be interesting to jot down the search ranks of your main competitors so you can compare your performance to theirs over time.

Step 3: Who’s Looking?
Go to Google Trends and look up each phrase in order to understand rough volumes of searches. You will likely find that buyers tend to look for some phrases more often than others. This gives you a relative volume, but will help you understand what is important.
One Step Further: Narrow your analysis by country. You may find that the phrases used differ significantly by country.

Step 4: When Are You Found?
Look at the people who land on your site from a search, and categorize them by the search phrase used. For each of your 10 main phrases, how many people are finding your content each month. At a raw traffic level alone, this can provide a lot of insight into the success of your efforts to get content ranked on the search engines.

One Step Further: Traffic is great, but understanding who these visitors are and whether they progress towards being marketing qualified leads and ultimately revenue is even more of interest. For each search term, see how many leads, opportunities, and dollars of revenue are ultimately created.

Performing well in the natural/organic search results requires a good understanding of search optimization techniques, and a robust discipline of content creation. However, understanding the basics of natural search performance is both accessible to all without any technical knowledge or tools, and important to understand in analyzing whether your buying funnel has any challenges with discoverability.
Many of the topics on this blog are discussed in more detail in my book Digital Body Language
In my day job, I am with Eloqua, the marketing automation software used by the worlds best marketers
Come talk with me or one of my colleagues at a live event, or join in on a webinar