KEO Marketing

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Diving Deep Into SEO Attribution

search engine optimizationWith so many advertising options out there these days—both online and offline—businesses are becoming increasingly selective about where they spend their marketing money. These means they want to force marketers to make a case for each particular strategy or tactic, backed up by hard data that clearly shows the payoff.

Marketers are now under pressure to not only show results, but also to be able to prove exactly what led to those results. In other words, companies want to know precisely which efforts are worth spending money on—and which may not be producing an ROI that makes them worth the investment.

But is that really possible—and, if so, what’s the best way to approach it?

Chris Liversidge explored this question in his recent Search Engine Land post, “Showing Value in 2014: SEO Attribution Deep Dive.”

This is a question that is increasingly common now, he says, promoted by financial factors that motivate businesses to be very budget-conscious. “Companies with bloated post-recession marketing budgets are trying to piece back together cross-channel marketing budgets to gain an edge over their competition and their mantra this time ’round is efficiency.”

Liversidge says rather than becoming too obsessed with analyzing the specific return of any one tactic, marketers should focus on demonstrating their SEO campaign’s true value by building en efficient marketing mix. But by modeling various scenarios involving one or more of these specific tactics, the marketer can demonstrate how cutting the budget in specific channels will affect the overall results. This may require some detective work, research and a bit of experimentation.

For one of his recent clients who sought his help, their strategy included these components:

Multinational (Technical) SEO. “This is still a huge opportunity area. I’m amazed at that, but delighted for my clients as they get to reap the rewards of lax competition. This is a one-off piece, so it’s not a huge chunk of the overall budget.”

Soft Competition Countries. “With a little benchmarking of PPC and SEO competition in each target territory, we’ll get a good idea of the global low-hanging fruit for both of these high-value monthly cost channels. We can also estimate the size of the prize in each case. We’ve built a tool in-house to estimate organic competition levels, and with a little thought, I suspect you can think of a way to measure this, too. (Tip: marketshare, competing pages, rank, dominance of domains across related terms, backlink strength.)”

Mobile Device Competition Gap. “We know that the traffic levels for mobile devices are historically higher than their PPC bid spends suggest they should be — this leaves a handy gap that can be usefully exploited by clever mobile and tablet segmentation in your PPC budget bid strategy.”

Email. “Cutting back on email channel budget is often a budgeting failure as this channel’s ability to soak up non-converters as a soft conversion (registration capture, restock availability, new releases/early peek, general info, deals, advocacy/benefits, etc.) and convert them later is unparalleled. That said, making it work efficiently is often a challenge. Looking at custom time-delay attribution models for each of your site goals that incorporate email as part of the conversion path will give you an idea of current value. It’s likely this value is way more than budget against this activity and so there’s little scope for re-budgeting opportunity here.”

Social. “This channel will be looped into SEO promotion budgets in this case, as the business handles this internally, and excellently, at the moment and doesn’t need to account budget against this channel in their mix (lucky them!).”

Other tactics Liversidge included in the mix were affiliates, dynamic remarketing and offline activity brought online.

In his particular scenario, Liversidge discovered through various modeling tests that the client’s biggest returns with regards to technical SEO will come from weighting efficient mid-tail SEO and PPC campaigns heavily across the top three countries. He also found that affiliate marketing likely won’t be deemed to be worth the investment.

If you need help implementing your SEO strategy or analyzing the effectiveness of its various components, we’d be glad to assist you.


With more than 25 years of hands on marketing strategy and operations experience, Sheila Kloefkorn is dedicated to developing marketing strategies and plans that help clients succeed. Some of the world's largest brands have depended on Sheila for marketing programs that delivered tangible and substantial results. Specialties: B2B marketing, lead generation, lead nurturing, sales strategy, marketing strategy, competitive marketing strategy, social media, search engine optimization (SEO), search engine marketing (SEM), mobile marketing, email marketing, website design, marketing plans.