Rankings Are Not The Full Story In SEO
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Google = A Small Country
In 2008 Google sold $22 billion in ads – more than the Gross National Income of Kazakhstan (which I’ve visited!), or more than Costa Rica & Jamaica combined (Why We Should Root for Bing). Thanks to @BrianHawkins for pointing this out via Twitter!
Derek and I are looking for places to speak and share our knowledge. If anyone knows of opportunities for us to speak about any of the following, please contact us or pass them on:
- B2B SEO
- B2B Pay Per Click
- Online Marketing for Industrial Companies
- Social Media Strategies
- Keeping Score – SEO and/or Social Media
Another Great Year Coming for SEMPO Boston!
Andy signed on for another year as Chair of the Board of Directors for SEMPO’s Boston Working Group.
Over the past 12 months (we just had our 1-year anniversary) we put on 5 events and now have over 250 members.
Our most recent event, the “Mega” Search Marketing Networking Event, was a joint effort between SEMPO, SEMNE, Boston Area Search Engine Marketing, and Boston SEO Meetup. We had a great time in the very classy Foundation Room at the House of Blues in Boston. We are working on planning our next event (likely to be in September).
We are also looking for more board members, and not just people from Search agencies. It would be fantastic to have involvement from anyone interested in Search Marketing – in-house marketers, PR agencies, SEM tools vendors, service providers to the Search industry, and others. Please contact Andy if you have interest in joining the Board – (781) 209-1989.
Primer for this article:
Executives – Give your marketing team the opportunity to show you why Keyword Rankings are not the best way to evaluate success.
Search Marketers – Use these measurement concepts & techniques to show the Executive team that your job is not just about getting top rankings for a few words.
How Should Search Engine Optimization Success Be Defined?
The most-common measurement of SEO success that people look at is keyword rankings.
It is easy to have an expectation at the outset of a Search Optimization effort that you want to rank #1 for “XYZ Keyword.” This measurement is the most tangible one to wrap your mind around.
Even if you have more-realistic expectations for a particular Keyword ranking, such as being present on the first page of Google (or other engines), rankings are still an easy place to focus attention.
While we all want the best possible rankings for a particular keyword, this metric is extremely short-sighted, and can negatively impact your entire search engine strategy.
Here are some other ways to think about SEO success:
2. Organic Search Engine Traffic
3. Portfolio of Keywords
4. Search Presence
6. Increased Brand Mentions
7. Content Value
This is a very simple metric to track, and an easy concept to understand. Run reports each month to see how many conversions come from organic search and analyze the trend.
Every time someone in your organization (or you, yourself) questions why a specific Keyword ranking isn’t higher, just look at the trend in conversions. This is the primary goal anyway.
Organic Search Engine Traffic
This is one of the more obvious measures of success. Simply keep track of the search engine referral data found in your Web analytics software/service. You may want to track this in two ways:
1) Track the lump sum of all the organic search engine traffic on a monthly basis. Put in the total number of search engine visits into an Excel spreadsheet and keep an updated graph handy.
2) Analyze the mix of search engines bringing traffic to your Web site. You may find shifts in the percentages over time – i.e. Google may bring 80% of your search traffic in the beginning, but reduce to a smaller percentage as Yahoo!, Bing, and other engines take share away. The share of traffic that these other engines bring to your site may be a function of either the market conditions (an engine gaining more popularity), or it may be because your Web site’s pages are gaining enhanced visibility in the other engines. The reverse of the latter may be true as well – Google may start to bring more traffic to your site as visibility of your site improves there, reducing the share that Yahoo! (for example) may have been bringing to your site.
Portfolio of Keywords
The breadth of Keywords driving traffic to your site is perhaps one of the truest signals of SEO success!
A key component to a successful SEO strategy is opening up your site and helping search engines crawl as deep as possible. In addition, successful SEO demands new, fresh, and valuable content.
The combination of these two will always produce search traffic from a wider variety of Keywords than you have seen on your site previously.
What to look for:
- Run a Keyword report in your Web analytics package.
- Look at the bottom line where the report indicates how many different organic Keywords brought visits to your site
- Run analytics reports for a few months prior to your first optimization changes, then run the same report for each month after your SEO changes
- Place the total number of different keywords into an Excel spreadsheet and create a graph
You should see a significant difference in the variety of Keywords that have generated traffic over time.
The diversity and breadth of Keywords is critical in bringing searchers to your site for “long tail” Keywords – phrases that are often likely to be highly relevant to the searcher and generate conversions (of course, these long tail Keywords also often bring visitors who are not qualified buyers, but rather information seekers – but as long as you are not paying for each click/visit, you would always take the overall increased exposure along with the less-qualified traffic).
Your “Search Presence” is a measure (or series of measures) of the saturation of your content and messaging throughout search results.
There are a few ways to track and analyze an improvement in your overall search engine presence:
- Page Indexing
- Brand Presence
- Content Presence
Go to any search engine and type “site:http://www.yourdomain.com”.
This will show you how many pages a particular search engine has indexed in its database from your site. Note the total number in a spreadsheet and follow it from month to month. You will see the most-dramatic changes after you have made a significant technical change to your site. You will also see changes over time as you add new content.
In our May/June Newsletter I provided a method for following your brand presence in search engines:
Use a search engine like Google and type in your brand name in quotes (e.g. “komarketing associates”), and write down the number of Results shown (e.g. 7,950 for us at this time). Updates to this number monthly will give you a general sense of how your brand has expanded online (obviously there are other PR and advertising activities that will contribute to this number, but you can at least take credit!)
Content Presence (or Keyword Dominance)
One of your SEO tactics is (or should be) getting content posted on Web sites other than your own. Quality content and/or unique content – not a spamming of article repositories or other channels with the same articles.
As you focus on generating content on external sites, make sure to keep your Keyword targets in mind.
While often difficult to achieve, a successful strategy will lead to searchers finding your content and message on a variety of Web sites.
You might even find you gain “Keyword Dominance” for a target keyword – where a search for “XYZ Keyword” brings up multiple results in the Top 10 search results for content you have created.
One easy measurement of link building success is to keep track of the number of links a search engine records pointing to your site (track monthly). In a search engine type “link:http://www.yourdomain.com”. But, a better way to do this is to use Yahoo! Site Explorer – look at the “Inlinks” tab, select the option for “Except from this domain” and then select the option for links pointing to “Entire site”.
The best (tangible) gauge of success in link building though is to review your Web analytics data and look at the information for which Web sites are sending you traffic – and conversions.
A successful effort to acquire links will lead to high-quality placements that actually generate traffic to your site.
A characteristic of a great SEO strategy is the addition of high-quality content to a Web site.
Much of the rationale for adding new content often includes targeting a new keyword, supporting the creation of a theme to prop up a keyword, or attracting links. These are valid objectives in an SEO strategy. However, truly great content will also engage users and provide additional information that supports the buying process.
Tracking Content Value takes a bit more effort than most of the other success metrics mentioned in this article. On a simple level, you can look at analytics data to assess how often the content is being viewed/downloaded and track the stickiness of the content (pageviews per visit and average time spent viewing the content).
You can take your analysis of Content Value even deeper.
Google Analytics, Yahoo! Web Analytics, Omniture SiteCatalyst, and many other analytics packages allow you to look at “paths to conversion” or “funnels to goals.” When you have produced a piece of content for SEO that you also feel has intrinsic value to the potential buyer, it is a good idea to take the time to analyze what effect the content has had in converting visitors to buyers or leads.
By taking the time to conduct this deep level of content analysis, you will be able to make even better decisions going forward about how to spend your valuable resources.
I hope that I have given both Executives and Search Marketers something to think about with this article, and that some of the focus on Keyword Rankings shifts to a more holistic view of the benefits of SEO.