Keywords: Position for Vanity, Return for Sanity

By Michelle Waddell, 11 June 2018

There’s an old  story told by most ad agencies. It’s the parable of the chairman’s wife. The essence of which relates to the agency being instructed to ensure they buy 48 sheets in areas close to the chairman’s home. The rationale being that the chairman would judge the new campaign successful if, and only if, his wife would spontaneously remark “ooh, I saw your new ad today dear – very clever”.

Keyword Vanity

These days, and despite on-demand performance data, there persists the digital equivalent of the chairman’s wife phenomenon. It typically takes the form of the agency being instructed to bid to position for vanity keywords. The rationale being that when the CMO searches for “CRM software” and she sees her ad displayed at position #1 – and critically, above her competitors – then the digital team are winning and the agency’s earning its fees this month.

In our experience, however, most clients don’t just want visibility, they also want hard evidence of their campaign’s commercial success. Typically, some combination of CPC, $sales, #leads, CPA, ROI etc. And here’s where the chairman’s wife phenomenon becomes especially tricky for the digital agency. Because high-volume high-cost vanity keywords paradoxically tend to generate the poorest ROIs - for a variety of reasons (all of which lie out-with the scope of this article).

Attributing Commercial Value

When we begin working with new clients, we start by auditing historic paid activity and use this data together with current search performance and bid data to model and plan future campaigns. By modelling the effects of focusing the campaign’s commercial objectives, it’s possible to quantify the impact of vanity keywords on a campaign’s historic and future commercial performance. Being able to identify how much potential revenue could be generated through a #1 ranking vs a #5 ranking is powerful data that can determine the course of a digital marketing strategy. When confronted with this data for the first time, most clients quickly prioritize commercial sanity over marketing vanity.

analytics with child pilot 600 x400

Perhaps the more important question is why aren’t more agencies and clients doing this already? Whilst the answers are likely multifarious, perhaps, it’s because it’s simply easier to up the bid price to retain position 1/2/3 than it is to figure out how to continually improve ROI.

In the recent words of Google’s John Mueller; “ranking is nothing without conversion”.

If you're struggling to report on the commercial value of your ranking improvements or search efforts, get in touch today.

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