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I-Search Discussion List
"Understanding Internet search technology."

List Moderator: Marshall D. Simmonds

DATE 10/13/98    SPECIAL Issue Continuing

"Search Engine Optimization - ROI"
~Rod Aries


Subject: Re: Subject: Search Engine Optimization - ROI
Shari, with regards to your post:

Subject: Search Engine Optimization - ROI

The ROI is the easy part. I have a client (a 25 employee company) that sells carbon filtration, reverse osmosis filters and shower head filters. :) His site went up in July, he sold about $1,000 his first month. A good start and he was pleased.

I told him that I personally own close to a 100 domains ("In net I trust") and that we should buy a few more domains to act as feeders. I told him we could tweak the feeder domains and really ramp up his business. I failed to adequately convince him of the value (ROI) in doing this so he just nodded his head and ignored me. (He didn't even have to take lessons from my wife.)

In August, as we got into more engines and we achieved pretty decent search engine rankings, he hit about $6,000 in sales. He was a happy guy and easily recovered the reasonable fees he paid me to create and optimize his site. I mentioned that one of the domain names I had suggested last month was gone, but there were still a few available. He acknowledged my comment, then changed topics.

I spoke with him Thursday and asked how sales are going. He was excited!! He told me he just got back from the airport and closed a transaction equal to 50% of annual revenue with a major retailer to provide his water filters in the stores nationwide. He was stoked. The retailer had a falling out with their existing vendor, the purchasing manager went to the net, looked up alternatives. Found my client, liked the content on the page, said can you come tomorrow. "Why, yes I can, I have an opening in my schedule," replied my client. And wow!! A sale.

I didn't have to mention buying additional domains. We just bought 10 more domains. And I have ten more sites to tweak and optimize. Now, that is ROI.

Does it pay for itself. If you spend $900 on optimizing and you earn more than $900 with additional sales, that is a positive ROI. If you spend $100 on optimizing and you don't earn more than $100 with additional sales, well, that just sucks...

We always tell our clients that search engine rankings do not necessarily equal sales. Some sites make more money from newsgroups posts and signature files. Some clients have very successful banner advertising campaigns.

Now I surf in the ocean about 3-5 times a week, and one of my favorite bumper stickers is, "Work is for people who don't know how to surf." I try and remember that when I hit 70 hours of work in a week and only 5 or 6 hours in the water...

I would like to offer a similar take on banners -- please no hate mail :) "Banners are for sites that don't know how to optimize" Yes, banners have their role and yes, they are a perfect augment to many sites. But if you are going to spend your money, why spend it on someone who has found some body elses site (probably via a good search engine ranking) and attempt to redirect them to your site, when you can deliver the client directly to your site? I just don't get it. Why add an extra step? Skip the middleman.

We always recommend using multiple means to market a web business and using whichever marketing strategies get the biggest ROI. For only a few clients, search engine optimization is the marketing method with the bestROI.

Well, to a carpenter every problem is a nail, and, with that preface, I have to respectfully disagree with the statement, "For only a few clients, search engine optimization is the marketing method with the best ROI."

I tell my clients that if it sells in the real world, it will sell in the virtual world. If the client has perfume that smells like cement (to attract construction workers), gum that is leather flavored (a replacement for chewing tobacco) or make-up for beanie babies (get a life) and it just won't sell in a store or at the swap meet, hey... you have got a problem product and the net is not the cure.

If you have a product people want -- software, life insurance, books, whatever -- and if the potential goes to the search engines looking for the information they want, and if your site comes up ranked pretty high, you have a pretty good chance of fulfilling that customers needs. Especially compared to a site that is ranked at 400, or 4,000 or 4,000,0000.

However, some of my clients are not getting the ROI on search engine optimization that they expected, and they are totally obsessed with being in the top 10.

I have a DIFFERENT client that I created and optimized a 15 page site. It ranked as follows:

August 10th 6 #1 listings 17 top ten listings 18 first page listings 24 first three pages listings 8-23 we had 15 #1 rankings 30 top 5 rankings 39 First page rankings 62 Top three page rankings

For 9-11 28 #1 rankings 43 top 5 rankings 59 First page rankings 82 Top three page rankings for the CLIENTS keywords or keyword phrases across the major search engines.

Well, I was pretty pleased. I told him we had great positions. He asked why, out of topics ranging from 2,000 to 5,000,000 pages as competitors, he didn't rank any higher. (I "diplomatically" said it doesn't get much higher --especially for "organic" optimization of web pages.)

He asked me why if I thought I was so good and got him these rankings, why didn't he have more sales. Well, I did my part, I did what I asked to do. The net doesn't sell. The net delivers; the internet is the delivery vehicle. He then asked me why for certain words, such as "golf," we didn't have any rankings. I found that sort of a funny question. He didn't. Many web creators build web pages around designs and then add words. I build web pages around words and then add designs. We (the client and I) identified 40 keywords and built the site around these phrases. "Golf" wasn't in the core words, so I responded that we weren't going to be found for butterflies, peanut butter, Lady Di or "golf" because the site wasn't designed with golf in mind. I received a lecture on flexibility and he received one on finding a new Webmaster. :)

(Site content is very informative and download time is rather fast on these sites.) I am keeping them in the top 10 on most of the search engines, but it is very clear to me that some clients should be spending their money on marketing methods which could yield a better ROI.

So, how does this relate? Well, it turns out that my client has a small (real world) store that doesn't sell much product. And he was looking to have the net sell more product for his store. The issue was that his product just is not a high demand item. I seem to vaguely recall an Economics lecture about "Low demand equals low sales."

So that's my situation. So my questions are: At what point do search engine optimization costs become prohibitive? What do you tell clients when it is clear that a site is not making sales based solely on search engine optimization?

I would say if the site is ranked with reasonable keywords and the site isn't selling, there is a problem -- and it is not the site. If you have a client that has a product or service that just doesn't sell, then you have a client with a product that just doesn't sell. It is that simple. No amount of wu-wu is gonna fix it. Yep, there are people out there who buy half empty paint cans at garage sales and who scour the closeout bins for 8 track tapes, but I don't think there are enough of them to make a crummy product sell.

At your service,
Rod Aries ~
Are you ranked high enough in the search engines?
Optimized web page creation and design.

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