If you're debating the value of search marketing on your campus, be sure to read the latest from Marketing Sherpa in a 19-page report on "Search Marketing Benchmark Guide 2007" taken from a larger version you can buy for $247.
In-house search efforts produce lower results
The report starts on a note of surprise that the search marketing business failed to grow at the rate projected in the 2006 report. What happened? Widespread decisions to do search marketing "in house" rather than spend money to hire a professsional search marketing firm. The report notes that this comes at an ROI price. Outsourcing, according to this study, produces "significantly" better results. You'll see just how "significantly" for yourself in the report.
Top half of the left side of the page is most powerful location
You'll find lots of interesting nuggets in this free version. Google, by far the largest search engine source, correctly receives most attention. Be sure to review, for instance, the Eyetracking page, where you'll see why search results are "explosively better" for those listed in the upper half of the left hand part of the page than for a listing anywhere in the right hand column.
People don't read full search headlines
A point I found interesting and will add to my Writing for the Web presentations was the fact that few people read the entire headline even in a search result listing. What counts most in the first one or two words people see. That gives new meaning to the ability of people to quickly scan a page for most valued content.
Press releases optimized for the web have high impact
This is one of the areas where most colleges and universities can improve search performance at relatively little cost. Most press releases on college and university websites are not written right for the web and therefore are missing opportunities to be found by search engines exploring for new and relevant content.
Instead of just putting up a traditional press release on your website, take the extra time to create a new headline with strong keywords, use those keywords in the title tag for the page, and add two or three subheads in the press release. Take those relatively simple steps and search engine results should improve. Alas, only the longer paid version actually identifies keywords that did best for press release visibility.
You'll find the Marketing Sherpa report at www.marketingsherpa.com/exs/SearchMarketing_BG07_ExeSumm.pdf