SEO Truths Revealed: The Huge Difference Between Inquiries And Leads

October 08, 2014

What you'll learn: How to accurately measure the success of your SEO campaign.

Who should read this article: Company leadership and marketing department personnel.

Are You Living in a Fool's SEO Paradise?

Many firms are living in a fool's paradise, because they fail to distinguish between inquiries and leads in their SEO campaign reporting. Since many SEO companies lump all inquiries together and call them leads, they overstate the value of their clients' campaigns. It may startle you to learn that as many as 40% of what you usually think of as leads are actually not leads at all!

Recognizing the huge difference between inquiries and leads could be the single biggest thing you can do to improve the results of your SEO efforts.

What Is an SEO Inquiry?

An SEO inquiry is any form submission or phone call that can be tracked back to a click-through from an organic search engine link. (Of course, in order to determine this, proper lead tracking must be in place -- but that's another story.) At any rate, if a firm looks at its site's Google Analytics, it will see data like this:

The information is pretty sparse: In this illustration, you see how many sessions came from Google (8506), and how may quote forms (123) were submitted. Google Analytics doesn't tell you anything qualitative about these 123 submissions. Are they sales leads? Maybe yes, maybe no. True, a quote form submission has a decent chance of being a true lead, but our experience shows that even that is a shaky assumption. A phone call or contact form submission could be almost anything. If you rely on this data alone, what you consider "leads" could really be:

  • Misdialed phone numbers
  • Personal phone calls
  • Sales solicitations
  • Customer service inquiries
  • Inquiries for products or services you don't sell
  • Spam

Our lead validation data shows that on average, 4 out of 10 "leads" are not leads at all. Thus, if you think your SEO campaign is delivering 100 leads a month, in reality it may be only 60. And it could be fewer still, depending on the nature of your business and the design of your website forms.

What Is a Lead, And How Is It Identified?

A true lead is a sales opportunity -- it's as simple as that. In terms of your SEO campaign, pulling in sales leads is what you are after. Sales leads, after all, pay the bills; not traffic or rankings or the number of inquiries your site racks up.

How do you separate true sales leads from the mass of undifferentiated inquiries? We do it for our clients the old fashioned way:

  • Record and listen to every phone call
  • Read and analyze every website form submission

This takes a ton of time, but it is time very, very well spent. Clients can see exactly how many leads their SEO campaigns produced, and also how good those leads are. Having a precise handle on this information is incredibly valuable: it enables us to quickly and effectively adjust SEO campaigns to produce even better results; and also, it alerts clients to great sales opportunities so they can pull all the stops to close them. (We report in real time, not just at the end of the month.)

Why Don't SEO Companies Stress Inquiries vs. Leads?

If all an SEO company is interested in is taking your money and taking the path of least resistance, the last thing they want to talk about is validating sales leads.

  • First, those inflated "lead" numbers make unsuspecting clients think their SEO campaigns are doing much better than they really are.
  • Second, in order to validate leads, a rock-solid lead tracking setup must be installed on the client's site, which takes expertise that the SEO company and client probably lack.
  • Third, as we can tell you from experience, validating leads by listening to phone calls and reading website forms is tedious and time-consuming in the extreme.

The Value of Validating

  • Strategically, living in a fool's paradise where SEO leads are inflated misleads firms into throwing good money after bad, perpetuating campaigns they think are working but are not.
  • Tactically, a lack of reliable data prevents firms from knowing which aspects of their campaigns are working and which are not, making continuous improvement a pipe dream.
  • Financially, firms spend money month after month on activities that provide only meager returns or none at all.

Find out how to start measuring true leads today!

Call us at 855-417-3296 or request a quote online.

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