some thoughts on search engine marketing

I want a quick way to check the competitors in a niche, and estimate what can I spend on a search engine marketing campaign to make money in the segment, using the search engines (read: Google).

For a quick test I dive into the money segment, got the top 70 search phrases of October off of 7Search and for each get the top 100 results, resulting in a mysql database with 7.000 url’s on 3500 domains.

Then I try three cross-sections to extract the top 25 domains in the segment :

  • (100 – position) / 100 per result
  • (100 – position) / 100 per result, +1 for first 10, +1 for first 6, +1 for first three
  • AOL experience based percentage of search volume

rating by rank

If I rate the sites’ urls based on (100 – position) / 100 per result.

place 1 = 0.99, place 100 = 0, that yields this table :

domain score
www.amazon.com 51.05
www.youtube.com 34.82
en.wikipedia.org 34.04
wordpress.com 30.93
www.streetdirectory.com 29.62
money.cnn.com 24.5
www.wikihow.com 22.84
www.experienced-people.co.uk 22.29
ezinearticles.com 22.26
books.google.com 19.22
www.problogger.net 17.52
entrepreneurs.about.com 16.53
www.43things.com 14.75
moneycentral.msn.com 14.74
answers.yahoo.com 14.41

That makes Amazon top dog for all phrases containing ‘money’. I know the first pages get most traffic, and that first method doesn’t express that, so I change the routine and do my old trick.

rating by rank, bonus for front page

(100 – pos) / 100, and
for place 1-3 3 points
for place 4-6 2 points
for place 7-10 1 points

That gives this table :

domain score
en.wikipedia.org 91.04
www.wikihow.com 67.84
www.amazon.com 65.05
www.youtube.com 56.82
money.cnn.com 50.5
entrepreneurs.about.com 45.53
ezinearticles.com 45.26
www.experienced-people.co.uk 42.29
www.freemoneyfinance.com 31.9
www.streetdirectory.com 31.62
wordpress.com 30.93
www.43things.com 30.75
abcnews.go.com 30.15
moneycentral.msn.com 29.74
moneymakerinfo.blogspot.com 29.55
www.thisismoney.co.uk 27.06
www.moneymakingmommy.com

That still does not show what domains actually get the traffic I need for conversion.

It is easy to score in a low traffic niche and anyone can be a winner on long tails, “alabama ski resort”, but long tails only get you a few hits (and wonder if they are serious?). And these results doesn’t give me a clue what I can spend (or what my competition would be willing to spend) on the actual traffic spots.

So I am going to estimate what traffic every site gets. I need search volumes and percentages for the serp ranks. I grabbed the search volumes per phrase from 7Search. For percentages, Aaron Wall quotes an old AOL source on the average click through rate of search engine result pages per spot on the first page :

Overall Percent of Clicks

Relative Click Volume

  1. 42.13%, 2,075,765 clicks
  2. 11.90%, 586,100 clicks
  3. 8.50%, 418,643 clicks
  4. 6.06%, 298,532 clicks
  5. 4.92%, 242,169 clicks
  6. 4.05%, 199,541 clicks
  7. 3.41%, 168,080 clicks
  8. 3.01%, 148,489 clicks
  9. 2.85%, 140,356 clicks
  10. 2.99%, 147,551 clicks
  1. 3.5x less
  2. 4.9x less
  3. 6.9x less
  4. 8.5x less
  5. 10.4x less
  6. 12.3x less
  7. 14.0x less
  8. 14.8x less
  9. 14.1x less

1st page totals: 89.82%, 4,425,226 clicks
2nd page totals: 10.18%, 501,397 clicks

That was what i was looking for. Given these percentages I can estimate the traffic any spot on the search engine result front page in Google would generate, and that yields a more realistic table of the money segment :

domain traffic result result+(1,2,3)
www.bidvertiser.com 737478 6.65 17.65
money.cnn.com 294316 24.5 50.5
en.wikipedia.org 160370 34.04 91.04
www.wikihow.com 132332 22.84 67.84
www.wealthsuccess.usana.com 123503 9.4 24.4
entrepreneurs.about.com 117069 16.53 45.53
www.moneymakingmommy.com 112507 11.65 26.65
www.freemoneyfinance.com 102122 12.9 31.9
www.experienced-people.co.uk 86498 22.29 42.29
www.forbes.com 84393 7.22 19.22
www.netjobs4all.com 75868 4.61 12.61
makemoneyforbeginners.blogspot.com 75399 6.53 15.53
www.missingmoney.com 65326 3.63 12.63
www.youtube.com 60586 34.82 56.82
technology.timesonline.co.uk 55009 3.53 8.53
moneymakerinfo.blogspot.com 54431 13.55 29.55
www.moneyclaim.gov.uk 50544 1.9 5.9
moneycentral.msn.com 39399 14.74 29.74

That shows which sites actively target and get the traffic in the segment, a site like amazon doesn’t show in the top of the last table.

One way of testing the validity of the estimates is comparing with alexa rank, doing a quick SeoQuake toolbar check :

domain est. search traffic alexa rank
www.wealthsuccess.usana.com 200000 20000
moneymakingmommy 110000 70000
freemoneyfinance 100000 60000
makemoneyforbeginners.blogspot.com 75000 140000
problogger.com 6500 43000

That’s roughly correct based on old AOL percentages (well done, Aaron) and Oktober’s search volumes. It does not work for youtube, msn and others that have an alexa rank based on the entire domain. Being a search engine traffic estimate it doesn’t cover your ‘audience’ (returning visitors on bookmarks and referrals off of other sites (which are included in the alexa ranking) or other segments.

Problogger for example, according to that calculation would get about 6K hits through Google but the Alexa rank indicates it has ~~160K hits a month. That indicates high return visits and direct traffic, a high usability and I think they get traffic from other segments (‘blog’ ?).

The use of it

Why did I start doing this ? To estimate a budget for niche penetration.

If I were interested in a niche and have a 1% conversion at $100,- per year per conversion, what would I be able to spend to get Bidvertisers’ traffic in the search engines ? With their traffic and my conversion, 730.000/100 = 7300 conversions per month =y 88.000 a year @100/conversion = 8.8 million dollar gross revenue on search engine traffic conversions.

If my marketing budget is 20% of gross sales, for a year project that amounts to 1.7 million dollar. If I already had 300K hits my budget would be a million.

That (roughly) answers my question.

I have my doubts about the use of a tool like this, it could function as quick way to scan a segment, make a ‘heatmap’ and pinpoint the soft spots that are easy to penetrate and get a foothold, but that would require some stiff programming and a lot of switches, as well as processing a lot more segments. Nice project for the winter.

Posted in google, sem, tool and tagged , .

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