Demystifying SEO and SEM: Part 2

Elaine Lai Wright

January 18, 2021

In the previous blog, we covered the significance and correlations between SEO and SEM, and when and how to implement them effectively at the strategic planning level. 

In this article we delve into five multidimensional principles that can empower your ability to optimize and monetize SEO and SEM. 

1. Timeliness - how often do you measure the campaign performance?

Marketers, especially digital marketers, often feel obliged to monitor and tweak marketing tactics to achieve goals. However, constant daily or weekly checkups do not help with data-driven insights. It’s important to set proper timelines to monitor, analyze, then optimize performance. For example, an SEO campaign usually takes 3 months before significant ranking changes can happen even though monthly monitoring may give you a sense of trend. Likewise, a Google search campaign needs at least a month to collect enough data for hypothesis validation and tested conclusion.  

  • Time-bound SEM campaigns should be evaluated AFTER ending with no modifications during the campaign period. This helps you test hypotheses and collect control group data for future optimization.  
  • Keyword ranking results will not show significant changes until three-four months later.

2. KPIs over Metrics - what do you look for and why?

As digital marketers always monitor and analyze data, sometimes a leaf can block the forest: are you observing the right data from the right perspective? What are the metrics and KPIs you should dive into?

KPIs are important strategic indicators of campaign or program performance. They should not be conflated with actionable items like clicks, impressions or snapshots of conversions. Conversely, metrics are the static one dimensional measurements of an activity, task, or process, and don't offer insights into achievements against strategic goals, nor into future actions. For instance, 1,000 clicks or 14% click-through rate of a search ads campaign doesn’t tell the targeted customer lifetime values nor ROAS of the campaign. 

Common SEO KPIs vs. Metrics

Common SEM KPIs vs. Metrics

3. Role-based Data Insights - who should look at what? 

Usually, there are multiple in-house stakeholders related to digital marketing, such as SEO specialists, campaign managers, digital marketing leaders, marketing directors, and CEOs. So, there is no single data dashboard that suits everyone. The effective way of presenting marketing data for informative decisions is to structure the data tailored to different roles. Simply put, campaign or channel level metrics/KPIs are irrelevant to CEOs who only measure the top and bottom line of marketing contributions to the business, but they’re relevant to marketing directors and campaign managers for channel/campaign planning and optimization. 

Here are some examples:

  • A CEO considers marketing investments that impact both the bottom line and top line of the business, therefore, revenue growth and profitability of SEO or SEM matter. 
  • A marketing director or head of marketing, usually oversees the holistic marketing budget across all channels, would likely view marketing value in aspects of 
  • Customer lifetime values (CLV) generated from SEO and SEM
  • CLV compared to customer acquisition cost
  • KPI results (e.g., customers acquired) through SEO and SEM versus other channels 
  • Payback period of SEO and SEM
  • Typical SEO and SEM KPIs digital marketers track 

Channel KPIs of SEM and SEO for Digital Marketers

  • PPC campaign managers and SEO specialists, or whoever executes SEO or SEM campaigns, should check out metrics as follows. 
Campaign Level SEM and SEO Metrics for Campaign Managers / Specialists

4. Connect ALL the dots - how to fully measure marketing effectiveness?

While we understand the what, when, and how to think about data in a hierarchy from the management view, it is often difficult to credit lead generation to SEO or SEM campaigns versus other marketing channels. The answer is to build an attribution model for your business, which is not easy but valuable for mapping out the entire purchase journey and buyer personas. Marketing data is usually siloed across platforms, systems, and departments which adds to the complexity of this exercise. For example, to designate a last Google ads click or time decay attribution model, the digital marketing leader will have to effectively collaborate with sales and leadership in order to collect the precise data across the marketing and sales funnel.

5. No Holy Grail - continue to experiment, analyze, and optimize...

Every business has a unique value proposition solving specific problem(s) for their target audience, and the goal for digital marketers is to push or pull the brand and product/service to this audience effectively through channels to maximize ROI. Savvy digital marketers utilize SEM and SEO to drive brand recognition and incremental profitability through above-mentioned KPIs. 

However, SEO and SEM operations require rigorous data discipline before their value can be realized because SEO and SEM KPIs require computing varied multi-dimensional metrics. Managing SEO and SEM can only be effective if the right KPIs are set and measured against. Furthermore, regular testing, analysis, and optimization pays off in the long run given the right KPIs and competent marketing teams are built. 

Many firms don’t have a fully staffed marketing team that encompasses a marketing data analyst, an SEO specialist, a web developer, a copywriter, and an SEM/PPC specialist or manager. For immediate access to qualified experts, platforms like Hopps are an effective and on-demand solution to augment your team’s digital marketing skill sets.

Marketing 101