Internet marketers see themselves in search engines

MONTREAL — An industry association is forming to promote and educate the world on search engine marketing.

At the 2003 Internet Marketing Conference Tuesday, one of the delegates said she is spearheading an organization called Search Engine Marketing Professionals Organization, or SEMPO.

The association is in its infancy without a logo or permanent Web site, but it hopes to be up and running at the next Search Engine Strategies Conference and Expo in San Jose, Calif. at the end of August.

Barbara Coll, CEO of in Palo Alto, Calif., said search engine marketing (SEM) is a profitable and growing business, but many companies, particularly advertising agencies, don’t understand what SEM is all about.

“Search engine marketing is undervalued and it has a long way to go before it reaches maturity,” Coll said. “Google and Overture are good, but they’re still in their infancy.”

Measuring return on investment (ROI) of Web marketing campaigns can be difficult unless you have the proper tools, according to a local e-marketer specializing in the health-care and retail fields who also spoke at the conference.

If you have an e-commerce site, ROI can be measured based on additional or incremental orders, reduced order costs or reduced order returns, said Scott Robinson, director of Scottmark Communications.

For sites where activity can’t be measured by sales, ROI can be calculated by number of visitors, time spent on the site, click-throughs, page views, registrations and requests.

“Incremental online ROI is based on costs and efficiency for delivering returns. Success must be established beforehand and based on realistic returns that can be measured and results must be monitored over time,” said Robinson.

In a case study for a client, Robinson tested three online banners for Detrol, a prescription drug for overactive bladders.

“Is the click-through rate the best measure of success or is it time spent on each site? Our research showed the highest click-through rate had the lowest time spent on site, so the best might be a combination of the two.”

If you base your research on a single criterion, Robinson said you might not have the right answer to which banner would generate more sales, because you can’t measure if a person is buying your prescription solely based on Web site content.

He listed two different types of tools for Web marketing analysis. The first is a log file analysis tool, a one-time cost for on-demand batch processing and reporting from server log files.

The second is real-time application service provider (ASP) analysis service, which, for a monthly fee, provides continuous analysis and reporting performed on a remote ASP server and made available locally through Web browsers.

The advantage of log file is a fixed one-time cost for a software tool. It is also technically easier to implement but requires access and configuration of server side logs. In addition, batch reports are easier to print and read offline and it doesn’t have any effect on Web site development.

On the downside, Robinson said information is potentially limited by log file format and reports are only as current as the latest batch analysis. As well, visitors are often registered inaccurately because they’re identified by their IP address and there is poor handling of cached pages, frames and dynamic content.

The advantage of real time analysis is the information quality is richer because additional data is available from browsers, which is not stored in log files. Online real-time reports are always current and provide interactive access to detailed information. In addition, it provides more accurate tracking of visitors using cookies and handles cached pages, frames and dynamic content very well.

The disadvantages include ongoing costs due to a monthly fee, implementation requires the placement of customized Java Script code in all Web pages to be measured and although access to server logs is not required,

Robinson said care must be exercised in planning test, staging and production servers.

Available log file analysis tools and their price in American dollars include WebTrends Log Analysis ($500-$2,000), Net Tracker Pro ($500), Sawmill ($100-$1,000) and Webalizer and Analog which are both free, but which don’t do a complete job, according to Robinson.

Real-time tools include HitBox Professional ($35/month), WebTrends Report Services ($35-$1,000/mo.) and Site Catalyst ($12,000/yr.) which can handle multiple Web sites.

The Internet Marketing Conference wraps up Wednesday.

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