When you begin doing digital marketing and touch upon search engine optimization (SEO), you quickly come across mentions of doing SEO campaigns. If you work for an agency sometimes your SEO efforts are classified as a campaign. When you look at what is considered a campaign in other areas of marketing and compare it to the actions related to SEO, there seems to be a distinct difference.
Marketing campaigns usually are about targeting a specific market segment with messaging and visuals to either improve sales, improve brand recognition, or improve reputation. This is not a definitive guide on marketing campaigns but I wanted to provide a few examples that hopefully you will recognize.
Look at the marketing campaign launched by Lego in 2019 entitled “Rebuild the World”
Or State Farm’s marketing campaign entitled “Here to Help Life Go Right”
These campaigns may involve building out new websites which might involve SEO, but they are not considered SEO campaigns, they are marketing campaigns.
An SEO campaign rarely gets branding. An SEO campaign doesn’t get commercials. All the hallmarks of a marketing campaign just don’t apply to an SEO campaign. In fact it is sometimes hard to distinguish an SEO campaign from just doing SEO on a website.
In order to help make sense of what an SEO campaign is I’ve divided up the SEO activity into 4 distinct categories.
- Technical SEO campaigns
- Content campaigns
- Link acquisition campaigns
- Local SEO campaigns
I will discuss the nature of each of these campaigns in as much detail as possible without going too far down any one rabbit hole. I will then outline the key performance indicators (KPIs) related to the campaign as well as the expected results from the campaign. After that, I will touch upon the cost in terms of time and money to run the campaign. This will be discussed in terms of ranges of time and cost as there are a lot of variables that go into these campaigns like the size of the site, any technical debt the site may have, and the experience level of the people performing the campaign. Finally I will discuss the ROI of a campaign, which again, depends on a lot of variables, but you will at least have an idea of what to look at and identify the ROI.
At any given time, a website may have a few campaigns in progress and all of these campaigns represent the SEO that is being done on the website. While I have already divided up the different types of SEO tasks into broad campaign categories, a campaign is best described as a set of SEO actions performed in order to achieve a specific result.
This actually means a robust SEO campaign might actually be made up of several different smaller campaigns. As a digital marketing agency in Chicago, Francis Digital Marketing focuses on running SEO campaigns that drive specific results
Technical SEO Campaign
When we refer to technical SEO, we are talking about a lot of SEO activity that isn’t directly seen by website visitors. It is the activity that interfaces directly with the web server, the backend of the content management system, the digital assets used on the website, and a bunch of other details that just get tossed into the bucket labeled technical.
So let’s break some of this down. When a website is launched, if the developer worked with an SEO then most of this will already be done. We are looking to make sure all the core redirects are in place.
What is meant by core redirects? This means if the site url is supposed to be https://www.example.com then https://example.com will redirect to the right address. This also means that if it is supposed to show the home page as https://www.example.com/index.html that index.htm properly redirects. There are a bunch of these redirects that need to be done when a website is built so the search engines don’t get confused. This used to be a source of a lot of duplicate content, but search engines are better now and it really just means your site isn’t as efficient as it could be.
Also when the website is launched, there is a file called robots.txt which tells the search engines how to crawl your website. This file also contains a link to the sitemap for the website which tells the search engines all the pages that are on the website that are considered important.
When the site is audited, the audit may turn up broken links which need to have redirects written for them. Or it may turn up 301/302 redirects which shouldn’t exist. I know this is sounding a bit… technical, but that is what is in this category. All these fiddly bits.
Issues of page speed also are a technical issue. This may involve reducing plugins, making the code used on the website smaller in size, or optimizing the images so they are scaled properly and at the smallest file size possible.
A technical SEO campaign may be focused on page speed, cleaning up site errors, or improving how the search engines are crawling the website.
KPIs and Results for a Technical SEO Campaign
Measuring the results of a campaign is a significant part of any campaign. For technical campaigns, there are a few key performance indicators we need to monitor to determine if our efforts were effective.
A campaign to improve the overall site speed would be measured through three metrics.
Because page speed is supposed to be a ranking factor, if we improve the average page speed on the site, we should see an improvement in visibility. There are many ways to measure visibility and you may already have a keyword ranking report set up for the site, but it will only track the keywords you selected and it won’t necessarily show the visibility impact as quickly as Google’s Search Console impressions. Reporting on impressions in search will be a faster way of seeing an impact from a page speed focused campaign.
Look at the impressions with average page position from Search Console and you will have a pretty good idea if the technical SEO campaign focused on page speed not only improved the page speed on the site but also improved how well the site is doing in search.
For the other technical elements that can be corrected in a technical SEO campaign, the KPIs are really more about the lack of errors. Will the lack of errors have a clear impact on website performance? That really depends on the amount of errors, but fixing internal 301s improves how the search engine can crawl the site. Fixing broken links helps user experience. Fixing robots.txt is usually done to fix pages not being indexed, so the KPI is the improvement in the pages showing up in search.
Improving the performance of the site in search is how we can calculate the return on investment. I will touch on that at the end.
Time and Cost of Running a Technical SEO Campaign
A thorough SEO technical campaign can be costly. It will require the help of a developer and an SEO (or someone with both skills). The time investment can also be significant depending on the size of the site. It can take 15 to 60 minutes per page of the site to do a thorough site speed improvement. For general site error, redirects, broken links and images, SSL issues, robots.txt, and sitemap fixes, expect it to be quicker since these fixes affect the whole site. This could be completed (with caveats based on web server and web hosting) within four hours.
SEO Content Campaign
Content campaigns are one of the most traditional SEO campaigns and, along with link acquisition/link building campaigns, make up the bulk of SEO work done on a website. A lot of separate SEO tasks make up SEO content campaigns but they all relate to the content that is put on the web pages of the website.
An SEO content campaign can have a sitewide focus, like updating all the page titles and meta descriptions based on keyword research. Or it can be a single page, new or old that needs new keyword research, positioned in the search funnel, and the copy optimized for organic search.
The goal of these types of SEO campaigns is more focused: increase traffic. The traffic increase may come from tapping into new searches or from improving the optimization of existing pages so they rank better in organic search results.
KPIs and Results for an SEO Content Campaign
To track the results of a content focused SEO campaign, we want to look at organic traffic in Google Analytics, the query report in Search Console, keyword ranking reports in something like Moz or SEMRush. We want to see the visibility of the site improve, the ranking in organic search results improve, and most importantly more traffic coming to the website (and specifically, the traffic to the pages that were the focus on the campaign should increase).
Time and Cost of Running an SEO Content Campaign
Calculating the time commitment for a content campaign depends a lot on how much needs to be done, but here are some very rough guidelines. Keyword research for a brand new web page can take up to 1 hour (maybe a little more depending on how saturated the search engine results page is with competition). Writing a title and meta description is a 5 to 10 minute task. Writing a whole page of content (350 words to 600 words) along with editing, layout, and optimization is 3-4 hours. For every image on the page that needs optimized alt tags is 1 to 2 minutes.
So a 50 page website that is doing a complete overhaul of title and meta descriptions without new keyword research is a minimum of 250 minutes (4 hours) of work. If new research is needed, the time shoots up to dramatically.
Luckily, this is bread and butter work for an SEO and you do not need the absolute best in the business to do it. Any person who has gone through Moz’s Beginner’s Guide to SEO should be able to perform this task without too much trouble.
Link Building Campaign
Before jumping into discussing Link Building/Link Acquisition campaigns, I want to direct you to a video Julia McCoy made regarding link building activity.
There are lots of people out there who live and die by link building and have “mastered the technique” yet you rarely see them put forth evidence, just vague assurances that they are ranking sites and reaping rewards. I present this only as a caveat. There is probably something to doing a lot of link building campaigns, but I see a huge diminishing return in terms of link building.
There are essential places that should be linking to your site. Some of these places are standard: Facebook page, Twitter profile, Google My Business, Yelp, links from partners, and any directory that is common for your industry and any directory common for your city/region.
Any additional links of value will come from what I classify as Public Relation activity. Getting press to write about your company or becoming a resource to answer questions and provide information about your industry. Influencer marketing falls into this category, in my opinion.
There are a few types of link building campaigns that have been used for years.
Broken Links – Search websites for broken links, contact those sites and offer your content as a replacement for the broken link.
As a webmaster for several websites, I used to get one of these emails at least once or twice a week. My reaction to it was I’d look at the content being offered to replace the broken link, judge it weak and pointless, and just remove the broken link. I became a bit crazed at fixing broken links on my sites just to avoid getting these emails. How effective is this technique? I just don’t think it is great. Unless your site already has good authority, there is no reason why your content will replace the link on the site. If your site has good authority, it probably does not need the link.
Guest Posts – Offering to write a guest post on someone else’s blog is a viable backlink strategy and still works. It is offering content and in exchange you get to link back to your site. The issue is the best place to guest post is on your rival’s website. Google did do a ‘beat down’ on guest posting, but that really was in regards to massive low-quality posts. It still is a fine line to walk as is all link building since in general, it goes against Google’s guidelines.
Influencer Marketing – Low-level PR, reaching out to bloggers related to your industry and giving them a reason to link back to your website.
KPIs and Results for a Backlink Campaign
The results of a Backlink campaign is to improve your page authority which helps you rank for more competitive keywords which will result in more organic traffic and more conversions on your. That is the ideal, but there is no clear “page authority”. Many services attempt to estimate Pagerank, the most common is Moz’s Page Authority, but it is just an estimate. So tracking page authority is already an iffy metric.
Tracking organic traffic runs into the issue that the website most likely has other SEO activity going on and how do you attribute organic traffic improvement to improved authority due to links or improved optimization due to the other activity? If the campaign is focused on a specific internal page, then the organic traffic to that page can be used as a KPI.
If the link that was built was a good valid link, then referral traffic from that source will be a great indicator that the link is bringing value to the website.
Time and Cost of Running a Backlink Campaign
What if I told you that in one month your marketing agency can spend 25 hours doing link building activity (at whatever their going rate is), get 5 links placed, and see no additional conversion? Is it worth it? Maybe in the long term it will pay off, but it is difficult to attribute sales to most link building campaigns.
There may be some exaggeration attached to the 5 hours per link, but this would also include the effort attached to creating content, writing emails, and responding to emails.
There are specialized services you can use to do link building activity. FatJoe.com is one of the services that I have seen good things said about. I have not used them personally. FatJoe.com charges quite a bit for 1 30+ Domain Authority Link, so knowing exactly what the result of getting the link will be for your site is important. Otherwise you might throw a lot of money away and not actually have any additional revenue because of it.
Local SEO Campaign
Local SEO is important for a lot of brick and mortar type businesses. I see Local SEO campaigns as a specialized link building. Local SEO is about optimizing your website to show up in the local/map section of Google’s search engine results page.
There are a few key components to local SEO campaigns can be built around.
Google My Business – There is a lot that goes into the GMB listing from the core name, address, phone number, to business hours, to photographs, to review management, and adding posts.
Citation Building – Citation building has been the traditional way of doing local SEO. This involved getting the business listed on websites that list business names, addresses, phone numbers, and URLs. It is bulk link building and really, the backlinks are generally very low quality. It is my opinion that it is better to use a service like Moz Local, Whitespark, or Brightlocal. Let the service do all the citation building and take that time to do other SEO activities.
Responding to Reviews – Google uses reviews as a factor in local ranking. I call it review velocity, how many positive reviews your business has received in a specific period of time. This isn’t a total number of reviews because Google wants to know how well your business is doing right now.
So you may have 1000 great reviews over the lifetime of your business but in the past month, all the reviews have been really bad, your ranking will suffer. On the flipside if your business had an issue in the past that created a lot of bad reviews but you’ve now corrected those issues and are getting nothing but good reviews, you are not penalized for the historic bad reviews. A review based campaign is about responding to good and bad reviews because when people see you are involved in responding and acknowledging reviews, it encourages them to leave reviews.
KPIs and Results for a Local SEO Campaign
To measure the effectiveness of a local SEO campaign, you will want to monitor the website listing in the local/map section of Google’s search engine results page for a select set of keywords.
The results of the campaign can be measured through the Google My Business metrics which Google sends you each month showing you the number of times your listing came up and was interacted with.
Time and Cost of Running a Local SEO Campaign
Traffic coming from local listings on Google should normally convert better. These tend to be searches with a strong intent to buy. They are searches directly related to your business (i.e. the name of your business) or about your business service (e.g. asphalt repair in Springfield). This high quality traffic will convert at a higher rate than other traffic. This makes local SEO campaigns valuable. Setting up a citation service, optimizing your Google My Business, and responding to reviews can be done by just about anyone and can be done over 1 to 2 hours a week depending on how many reviews you get in a week.
ROI on SEO Campaigns
Calculating the return on investment for SEO is complicated. SEO activity done today may not actually show up in terms of transactions until months down the line, and SEO activity done now may have a continued positive impact on business for years down the line. I admit that when I start talking ROI on SEO activity, I can see why many small businesses distrust SEO agencies. It feels so slippery and vague, with a lot of “it depends”.
When I am forced to put numbers to a campaign, this is how I calculate it.
ROI = (customer lifetime value – marketing investment) / marketing investment
Calculating customer lifetime value can be difficult in and of itself. Here is a quick guide:
Calculate average purchase value: Calculate this number by dividing your company’s total revenue in a time period (usually one year) by the number of purchases over the course of that same time period.
Calculate average purchase frequency rate: Calculate this number by dividing the number of purchases by the number of unique customers who made purchases during that time period.
Calculate customer value: Calculate this number by multiplying the average purchase value by the average purchase frequency rate.
Calculate average customer lifespan: Calculate this number by averaging the number of years a customer continues purchasing from your company.
Calculate CLTV: Multiply customer value by the average customer lifespan. This will give you the revenue you can reasonably expect an average customer to generate for your company over the course of their relationship with you.
This is where things get weird. Take the average new customer from the previous 12 months and compare that to the new customers from organic search going forward from after the SEO campaign has been enacted. The additional new customers are attributed to the SEO campaign and are used in the ROI calculation.
What does this look like in action?
A hotel dedicated to leisure travel in a primary market might have an average daily rate of $125 with an average length of stay of 2.5 nights. So each transaction (reservation) is $312.50. People may like novelty but if they return to a city on vacation, they often choose the same hotel. Over a lifetime a customer may only return to a hotel 4 times. Lifetime value is $1,250. An SEO campaign that costs $6,000 over 12 months that gains 24 new customers (1 mere 2 extra customers per month) would have an ROI of 80%.
By focusing on the lifetime value of the customer, you bypass many of the issues related to timing.
What is missing?
As much as I tried to be as complete as possible in terms of the types of SEO campaigns, I only covered the most common. There are other types of campaigns that are more specialized.
There are User Experience campaigns where the website is evaluated in terms of how the user is able to interact with it. Site speed might be considered a UX issue, but really when doing a UX campaign there may be an evaluation of the navigation and hierarchy of pages. There may be an analysis of the basic design elements of the website including the images used on the pages.
Conversion optimization is another campaign. Conversion campaigns focus on the sales funnel and removing anything that may be adding friction in the conversion process. This isn’t always considered an SEO campaign, but SEO tends to care about conversion because sending traffic to a page that converts poorly has a poor effect on the ROI of the campaign.
Featured snippet campaigns are focused efforts to go after the featured snippets that appear on the search engine results page. This can be lumped into a content campaign, but featured snippet campaigns have specific goals of going after specific featured snippets.
Ready to run your first SEO campaign?
Are you ready to run your first SEO campaign? I would like to help you. Francis Digital Marketing can run an audit on your site and plan the most effective SEO campaign for your site. We can discuss the budget and expected outcomes of the campaign.