Capturing the Gorilla: New Ways to Quantify the Value of Search


There is an ever-growing delta between the metrics that are
commonly used to gauge search success and the true underlying value search marketing delivers. There is a ton of ROI being left on the table – not
because it isn’t being delivered but because it isn’t being measured and

There are a few metrics in particular that need to be
quantified and understood.     

  • The value of the search impression
  • The value of the search referred session

comScore just released some great data exploring, quantifying and validating the value of the search impression. 

So, in this post I’m going to focus on
better quantifying the value of the referred session from search using temporal and attention based metrics. Interestingly, these metrics are usually most associated with brand.

Brand Baby, Brand

Branding & Search POV has never really gained much traction despite the fact every engine has studies that awareness and attention that can be achieved in Search. If that doesn't convince you then read Gord
Hotchkiss who makes the case better than anyone. There are probably two root causes for this.

1) Search performs so well as a direct response medium that
it has ironically “branded” itself as such.

2) Most brand budgets have been (and still are) controlled
by media buyers that would be fired if they bought keywords.

So where to start?

First make sure you have your SEO down. Make brand names prominent in title tags, description tags and urls to create and
leverage brand awareness. Keep in mind many people conduct multiple searches,
especially when their goal stage is discovery. I’ve used this simple strategy
with much success over the years with companies from start-ups to H&R

Similar to SEO, SEM provides an amazing ability to reach
people in discovery goal paths. More importantly it provides the immediate data
to support measurement and optimization that is missing in SEO.

Capturing the Gorilla

Search, and for that matter Google are now the 800 pound gorilla of advertising meaning there is a world of value creation in search that we are
just starting to understand and optimize against. As the "Search OS" continues to creep into display new kinds of metrics need to be created.In each instance search
dollars just look better and better from an ROI/ROAS perspective than other
forms of media. 

Below are two simple metrics based approach to capturing some of the incremental value. This is just a jumping
off point to get you thinking. Of course there are lots of variables you can
add or subtract to these formulas. Also please let me know below if you are capturing temporal and attention based metrics.

I call these metrics Cost Per Experience (CPE) and Cost
Per Second of Attention (CPSA). I like them because they measure success in a more holistic fashion by factoring in post-click
value attribution. If we are not measuring and optimizing the post-click
experiential factors then we are not adding value to the search referrer
and your cost to acquire them.

Determining Cost Per Experience (CPE) & Cost Per Second of Attention

1) Take your click total from PPC brand keywords (I will use
the round number 12,000)

2) Subtract from it all clicks that were previous visitors (50%
or 6,000). We’ve now qualitatively eliminated as many “highly intentioned”
visitors and created two valuable segments

A) “PPC Brand Referrers” (New
visitor/Paid Search/Brand keyword)

B) “PPC Brand Intenders” (Return
visitor/Paid Search/Brand keyword)

(Going forward with this example we are only
interested in the PPC Brand Referrers)

3) Multiply the PPC Brand Referrers segment by Average CPC
to provide a cost basis and set that number
aside (6,000 visitors x $1 CPC = $6k).

4) Take the Average Page Views (APV) and Average Time on
Site (TOS) from our segment (or averages from all segments to provide a more qualitative approach) and multiply
it with the number of visitors from our segment.

Example A) 6k visitors x 3.5 APV = 21,000 clicks (we are
assuming 1 PV = 1 Click)

Example B) 6k visitors x 70sec TOS = 420,000 seconds (7,000

5) Divide these numbers by the cost basis we established in
#3 ($6k) to get our results.

Result A) 24 cent CPE (click from search + subsequent site

Result B) 1.4 cent CPSA (cost per second of attention)

When we understand that attention has value and we can use temporal metrics to quantify it, we are capturing incremental value being provided from Search!

ps – this is even more fun with generic keywords.

The New Metrics

There are some other important things to consider when
rolling up these metrics.

1) All the SEO clicks are free. If you look at the total contribution of search with
natural and paid together we bring even more value to search (and as rightly pointed add there is a cost to SEO. I knew I'd get called out on that)

2) An idea I am working on called “infinite search.” This is another spin
on click attribution – every click has value. You are paying x for the click to
your site. Of course any other page that’s viewed after that gives you more
return on your investment. Yet very few marketers calculate a total “click value”
from their PPC campaigns. Look at the total click value to get the “CPE.”

3) Last but not least a focus on engagement and new metrics that include temporal factors and on valuating attention. Google for one has
always used temporal metrics to optimize performance. Credit to the folks at
Lotame who are using this same thinking and blazing trails here in display.

In all cases one thing is clear. Search is the future of advertising and the better we quantify, understand
and optimize it the more value we can wring out of it.

Some previous posts touching on these ideas:

Buy Branded Keywords? A Case Study on Traffic, Conversion
and RPV

The Power of Brand to Influence Outcomes or Why Brands
Will Always Rule Digital

Brand Marketing in
the Digital Age



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2 responses to “Capturing the Gorilla: New Ways to Quantify the Value of Search”

  1. Elizabeth Avatar

    Interesting proposed measurements, I would argue that while technically SEO clicks are free, the time spent to get that SEO ranking isn’t. Particularly if you’re paying an agency or consultant to get those clicks. But I do like the idea of being able to measure the cost per experience and cost per second of attention.


  2. Martin Avatar

    Great post Jonathan. It’s about time someone try to put the beginning of a weight on this gorilla.
    Branding has a tremendous value in SEO and SEM, and it’s little know secret.
    Also agree with the comment, SEO isn’t free but its cost is minimal compared to SEM’s recurring cost.


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