Brighton SEO gave us a valuable range of insights into measuring search success and how this should then be reported back to the business. Check out our digital partner, Connecting Element’s run-down.
How do you win-over C-level, the board, your boss and even just generic cynical man? 2017’s Brighton SEO conference covered an incredibly eclectic range of topics – but the standout issues concerned measurement, reporting and the need to prove your worth in the world of search.
Last year the importance of content shone through, while this year, measurement, reporting and return on investment (ROI) seemed to be the hot topic of the conference, revealed with either a nod, a triumphant case study or, in some instances, a whole talk around it.
Link Research Tools’ Christoph Cember (resplendent in an orange suit) highlighted the delight of presenting +530% traffic, +714% transaction volume and +607% revenue to the board of Hertz as a result of a full link audit; while SAP’s Crispin Sheridan discussed how he increased his search budget from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars through attribution modelling.
“Is your SEO getting enough credit?” asked Sheridan, who has worked for SAP in search for 19 years, all over the globe. “Just how do you get executive buy-in? How do you prove mathematically that SEO is making a particular contribution?”
He went on to explain the benefit of a cross-channel attribution model strategy. In simple terms, this is a set of rules that determines how you credit sales and conversions by customer touch-point.
Sheridan explained that before converting, a customer could go through the following journey:
Email > Online display ad > Search > Call centre > Sale. The key is being able to measure this complete journey, to work out the combination of touchpoints that might end up leading to the conversion.
So, where does search fit in? Sheridan believes that ‘SEO will come out better than any other’ in this model – but ‘all other tactic owners will love you’. Why? Well, you’ll prove their worth, too.
But it’s not necessarily always your boss, CMO or CEO who you’re out to impress. As the effervescent Amy Harrison from Write With Influence put it, even when the numbers blow targets out of the water, sometimes you still have to win over the ‘generic cynical man’.
Chelsea Broker followed Harrison, saying that her success in retaining five of the seven clients she started out with in 2012 was a result of her being ‘really good at showing the value of what we deliver’.
Reeling off a list of metrics including conversions, revenue, transactions, cost per conversion, bounce rate, abandoned checkouts, exit pages and event attendees, Broker explained that the key is to ‘incorporate ROI measurement into your kick-off of the campaign’ – whatever the metric might be.
Another of her primary tips was to ‘become commercially savvy’, as it’s vital to understand the commercials of your customer. Board level metrics, revenue and net profit help you appreciate what’s important to the decision makers of any organisation.
However, next up was an alternative view from Rebecca Brown, who broached the subject of why we should scrap the content line budget altogether. “Content KPIs don’t exist,” she exclaimed.
She believes there is ‘too much theory around measurement’ and so much ‘desperation tailoring convoluted measurement plans’. Instead, she firmly believes we should ‘measure content in its own right, rather than the channel it’s supposed to service’.
From all the above, the actionable insights we gleaned can be summarised into four main areas (which coincidentally all begin with the letter C… so read into that what you will):
It’s vital to get your own business strategy agreed in your particular area of work – and a fundamental part of this is control through measurement and reporting. How will you measure success? What does a good job look like? You need to get this clear yourselves in your approach, before rolling it out to the rest of your business and/or your clients.
Workshop and document your strategy with key stakeholders in your business, leveraging a marketing framework such as SOSTAC®
It’s very clear that a strong understanding of commercials in business is critical – whether it’s your own commercials, or those of your client. We’ve recently blogged about career progression in the workplace and there’s no better way to boost the financials of a business (at best) and gain credibility (at worst) than a tight grip on commercials.
Get hold of as much financial information about the business as possible through online research (news stories or shareholder information, if public); ask for any financial documentation or strategy documentation, where appropriate; understand key information such as when board meetings take place and when the financial year starts/ends; and finally, always ask financial questions face-to-face. You’ll be surprised what you can glean with a simple opener to your client such as: ‘How’s business?’
Whatever your area of work, it’s important to be very clear on your value to the business. What is your contribution? Ideally, this will feed into the business objectives of the organisation and ultimately be assigned a key performance indicator (KPI) metric, to help deliver a return on investment (ROI). Examples of this could include contribution to revenue, growth and acceleration, conversion rates, cost per lead, cost per opportunity and brand awareness. Dependent on point 1 (control), there may well be instances when a financial figure isn’t an applicable measure in your strategy – but it’s still important to agree on what a good job looks like.
Agree on contribution at the point of kick-off, ensuring all parties are aware of how your contribution will be targeted through KPIs; how you came to these targets, calling on the commercial information you have (via point 2, commercials); how this will be measured; and how and when it will be communicated.
The style of the report, the timing of the report and the way you send it should all be dictated by the recipient. Everything should depend on the audience you are targeting – from a face-to-face summary of results, to WhatsApp-ing real-time headlines, right through to dynamic monthly visual reports one week before the monthly board meeting.
Break your communication into small, medium and large chunks. For small-scale reporting we like WhatsApp, which we use to fire through wins, insight and nuggets of information. For medium-scale reporting, Google Data Studio is a firm favourite of ours at the moment – as you can either send details as a web link, or do a face-to-face run-through on a monthly basis. For larger-scale reporting, we use a combination of reporting tools by channel to deliver a face-to-face run-down on results and opportunities, to package up as a takeaway.