It’s no secret that search engine marketing provides one of the best returns on investment in all of marketing.
In most verticals, ranking or bidding on the right keyword can be like printing money.
But even seasoned search engine marketing veterans sometimes forget that search can do more than direct sales.
There is only one channel, in my experience, that beats search engines in terms of return on investment.
And when search is combined with this channel, a supercharged ROI machine is created.
That channel is the opt-in email list.
The Magic of Opt-In Email Lists
One of the things that makes search engine marketing work so well is that the prospects coming to your website have actively searched for your product or service.
This is in contrast to traditional and other forms of online marketing where your message is placed in front of an audience that hasn’t necessarily expressed interest in what you are trying to sell.
Opt-in email lists are even more focused.
In a well-built opt-in list, you are sending messages to people who have actively expressed interest not just in the product or service you sell, but in your company.
This allows you to send special offers to your most valuable customers.
You can keep your company top-of-mind to those that matter most – real prospective customers.
You can even segment the members of your opt-in list.
Segmentation allows you to offer the best content, or even offers, to the right customers.
For example, by segmenting your email list into those who have actually purchased from you vs. those who have just shown an interest, you can tailor your message to prod first-time customers to buy, and get existing customers to buy more.
SEO & Opt-In Lists: A Powerful Combo
We have established that opt-in lists provide an amazing return on investment.
But the success of an opt-in list is dependent on the quality of that list.
If your list is full of mediocre prospects who signed up to win a contest or get a one-time deal (think Groupon), the return on your list won’t be that great.
But if your list is full of prospects that are actively looking for your product or service, the sky is the limit as to the amount of money a list can make you.
One of the best ways to build a quality opt-in list is through search engine marketing efforts.
You can build lists with both paid and organic search engine marketing.
By directing visitors from search engines to subscribe to your opt-in list, you create a quality list full of potential customers that have expressed interest in your product or service.
But many companies are reluctant to use their search engine marketing efforts to build their lists.
Because they don’t know how to track the ROI of their SEO efforts without a direct sale.
Opt-In List Valuation
It can be difficult to quantify the value of a list, much less the value of a single list member.
Over time, it’s easier to see the value of your list as you start to understand the metrics behind how your list responds to your offers.
When first creating a list, focusing on exact monetization metrics is difficult, if not impossible.
Even looking at averages across your vertical will be highly suspect.
The value of a list varies with the offers you are able to provide and the immediate needs of each individual list member.
If you must start out with a valuation for your list in order to justify your list building efforts, one of the best practices is to use your overall lead valuation metrics for a lead-generation type site.
For an ecommerce site, use your overall conversion metrics.
For example, on a lead generation site, if you receive a sale from 1 out of every 10 visitors, you can initially estimate that for every 10 people you add to your opt-in list, you will receive 1 sale.
For ecommerce, the same principle applies, just use your conversion metrics instead.
Of course, in order to come to a dollar figure, you will need to understand what your average sale is worth.
As time goes on, you’ll find that your opt-in list is a gift that keeps on giving.
The lifetime value of a list member is far great than the one-off sale achieved via traditional search marketing.
So if you create an initial list valuation based on current sales metrics, you should actually be creating a conservative valuation in the long run, based on the lifetime value of the customers.
Opt-In Audiences & Search
In most cases, the search behavior of the prospects for opt-in lists coincides with the search behavior of traditional prospects.
But with opt-in lists, you aren’t limited to bottom-of-the-funnel type searches.
Typically, most search engine marketing programs seek to find a customer that is ready to purchase very soon.
This works great for many lead generation and ecommerce plays, especially when convenience is more important than price or other considerations.
After all, what’s more convenient than buying from the first listing you see in the search results?
The more considered the purchase, the less the bottom-of-the-funnel approach works.
This is where opt-in lists shine.
Targeting topics that are more geared toward top-of-the-funnel prospects is what optimizing for opt-in list subscribers is all about.
For example, if you sell big-screen televisions, your best bet for quick sales is to show up at the top of the search results for a specific model of television.
You might even be able to score some sales ranking for specific television sizes or brand names.
But for those just starting out on the journey to buy a television, there will be multiple queries on a myriad of topics.
There will be searches for screen types, processor speeds, comparison shopping searches, and many more.
If you can optimize your brand to show up well in under as many of the topic queries as possible, you will brand yourself as an authority in the SERPs.
And there is a good chance that you’ll get these prospects to click on your content.
Driving these prospects to sign up for your opt-in list gives you the opportunity to set the narrative for the television purchase.
You can even push them through the funnel all the way to the sale.
Don’t just look for a last-click sale when measuring your search engine marketing results.
Look for ways to use SEO and SEM to drive other marketing channel results.
Get creative. The sky is the limit.