SEO Strategy: Do You Focus on Winning a Battle or Winning the War?

The most identifiable difference between marketers with traditional marketing backgrounds and those who are pure internet marketers is how they define victory. Traditional marketers tend to focus on the individual battle or battles while most savvy internet marketers look at a bigger picture and focus on the war.

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Why the Difference?

Traditionalists are conditioned to tie campaigns to goals and goals to ROI. This is a very successful way to track a print ad campaign or a direct mail marketing effort. Identify a specific goal and through a targeted campaign, hit it. Track spend, circulation and response, and determine return.

Thanks to a static environment, this works very well. And since contracts exist for the delivery of the marketing effort, stakeholders are also uniquely accountable for the results. But would this methodology work very well in a wild west environment like the web?

No Contract on the Web

For most marketing on the web, there is no contract that exists to ensure delivery of your message. No stamp purchased from the postal service and no ad contract with a magazine. Search marketers are responsible for the strategy, tactics and approach, but the actual medium and delivery is driven by unrelated users and third parties.

The environment is constantly changed by those users, by organizations generating content, by more users sharing content, by other marketers, by third party technology providers like Google and, well, the list goes on and on. According to our data in Global Soundings, the aggregate average rank of all terms in the system (tens of thousands), change several times a month. Individual terms can change several times per week. Since we track SERP results daily, we have a window into the dynamic world of SERP positions and the fluctuation on daily basis is notable.

A Big Picture Focus is Better

In an environment that is always changing, focusing on a larger sample of terms will give you more usable data. It will allow you to average out some of the temporary changes on overall traffic, not individual traffic sources. After all, it is high quality traffic that counts.

For example, one term may drive 10% of the traffic to your site. Focusing on that term is wise, but if you overvalue that term in your marketing mix, you are essentially disregarding the other 90% of the traffic you receive. As term usage changes in the common nomenclature and new terms gain acceptance, the value of terms can also change. Couple that with the ongoing fluctuation of the medium that delivers SERP results and you wonder why anyone would base ROI on a single term. Those who are usually caught up in tracking a single term are traditional marketers because that has always been the static media way.

I actually know a traditional marketer who thought that SERPs were static pages and that the site we were marketing for them only showed up in Google for the terms we were tracking. Somehow the site was “registered” on these pages in Google and we needed to “keep registering them” to stay on the first page. Google as static pages is incomprehensible to me for a number of reasons but very logical to a print marketer.

Marketing is not the same regardless of the medium.

Unlike postal addresses and stamps, where we are and how people connect with us online is always in a state of flux. Any methodology used to measure success should be able to deliver valuable and actionable insight during change. Value a single term, but track many of them. Look at all the terms you target as a whole, in subsets and as individual terms, relative to traffic and the overall exposure of your site. This will give the best information to make assessments and take action.