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Matt Booth kicked off a session at DMS ’11 with some BIA/Kelsey data on SMBs’ perception of value for the many things offered to them in search advertising services.

Above SEO assistance, keyword selection, site traffic reports and the usual suspects of SEM services, tracking sources of calls ruled them all. Panelists Scott Greenberg of Marchex and Niel Robertson of Trada agreed, with a few qualifiers.

“The business for a while has been measuring clicks to websites,” said Greenberg. “But that has evolved. The thing that [SMBs] care about most is phone calls. Everything we do is driving appropriate ROI against phone calls.”

Robertson agreed but added that the challenge is walking a fine line between suplying advertisers with valuable metrics, while not making their heads spin with too much complexity.

“SMBs want someone to explain everything they are seeing,” he said. “They are getting savvy, but if you start to feed them data, they can get confused. How do you scale answering those questions given massive amounts of data our systems are uncovering?”

One performance indicator that supports the SMB survey data is advertiser churn. Both panelists agreed it is much less than the notorioulsy high churn rates seen in paid search for SMBs. Another key indicator is conversions, which are 20 percent to 60 percent, said Greenberg.

But the biggest culprit for churn is not enough call volume in the market to make it worth SMBs’ while. Robertson agreed, but contended that this fullfillment challenge can be countered with management of advertiser expectations, a big initiative at Trada.

“That has literally cut our churn in half.”

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