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By Barry Hurd

RISMEDIA, Dec. 15, 2007-As the industry adapts to recent changes in the marketplace, marketing and advertising budgets are entering a new year in 2008 and are coming under more and more scrutiny. The keen eye of today’s hard-pressed professional is to turn to a marketing partner and ask for a review of the numbers. In an ideal world, marketing professionals would know everything about advertising.

Unfortunately online advertising is changing so quickly that there are few reports to review when it comes to determining an actual return on investment.

Experienced marketers and business owners are finding themselves suddenly thrust into the world of online marketing where social media is simply evolving too quickly.

The solution to this problem is not to get into advanced rocket science algorithms and complex financial spreadsheets.

Identifying the basic points of online media and finding a relevance to your real world experience is critical in adapting the vast knowledge you have about your environment. The basics do not change, only the technical implementation changes. There will always be a return and there will always be an investment.

Thinking in the most basic manners about the most complex subjects is the easiest way to identify what you understand and can relate your experience to. The answer is as simple as 1, 2, 3. The sad part: the largest factor in failed marketing campaigns is that these simple steps are completely missed.

Cost. This can be marketing budget or payroll. While the technology to spread valuable information has become significantly more affordable, the labor cost of creating worthwhile marketing campaigns and leveraging talented team members still has a huge ticket price attached to it.

Results. Do not shoot yourself in the foot from the start. Online marketing (like any marketing) has dozens of identifiable results. For your business the may be inquiries, leads, closed sales, extra branding and name recognition, or simple community relations exposure.

Tracking & Measurement. Add, subtract, divide, and multiply the numbers in step one and two. If you are going to start a new project of any type for you business, record the cost and the results it generates. Tracking does not have to be complex, but the general rule of thumb should be “the more the merrier”. You cannot turn back time and recreate tracking information, so it is better to track now rather than suffer later.

While these three steps are basic, they provide the absolute foundation for any more complex analysis of your efforts. Whether you are running a video campaign on YouTube or trying to push your search engine rankings up on Google, you must start with the fundamentals. You must start with the things you understand.

Once you have the basics, you’ve moved on to the next stage of being able to be more competitive in the marketplace.

One of the key benefits of using basic experience in analysis is that there are valuable conclusions to be drawn. If you stop for a moment and compare the conversation created from blogging you will see many comparable points to real world business networking. If you look at the structure of your web site you will see direct correlations to real world publications like magazines. If you stop looking at Google and Yahoo like search engines, you can see the very fundamental similarities they have to real world newspapers that are trying to sell advertising around free news articles.

If I was a caveman and told you that I had a slab of wood that pounded nails into other slabs of wood, you would probably come to the very fast conclusion that I use my slab of wood like you use a hammer. If a professional handyman brings his nail gun to our conversation, I would be clueless about what it does by the description and have an inability to relate. If the same contractor simply tells me his tool pounds nails into woods really fast; I understand the benefit of the contractor’s technology immediately.

This ROI to benefits simplification is required for professionals to understand the latest trends in technology. I do not need to fully grasp the concepts in how a nail gun actually works, but merely understand that it pounds nails faster than my slab of wood. Even as a caveman, I can quickly see that my time investment goes down and my return goes up.

Social media and online metrics is a very complex entity. There are thousands of potential strategies and benefits to social media, however the only criteria a professional needs to understand is whether or not the return on investment meets the goals you set.

About the author:
Barry Hurd is president of Social Media Systems, an online marketing and advertising consultant group working with search engine marketing and leveraging social media communities. He has over 15 years of entrepreneurial Internet and online marketing experience. As an author and prolific blogger, he has reached online audiences around the world. Since the mid-1990s, Barry has been involved in numerous efforts to bring forth technical innovation through online business models. Past projects have included NIKE, REI, TMP Worldwide,, Verizon Superpages, Intuit, and RISMedia.

To learn more about analyzing online results, see 3net Search Engine Marketing Blog.