Meaningful SEO Metrics: Going Beyond the Numbers #sesuk

This live blogging session will cover "Meaningful SEO Metrics: Going Beyond the Numbers". The session is moderated by Brian Clifton (who wrote "Advanced Web Metrics with Google Analytics"). We'll have two individual presentations; one from Matthew Bailey from Site Logic Marketing and one from Peter Young from Brilliant Media.

Brian kicks off by saying that too many people are scared of analytics. They think you need a PhD in order to master hit. However, according to Brian, it's more about measuring user experience in order to improve it.

There are two sides to SEO metrics; on-site and off-site. Our speakers will cover off both.

Pete Young steps up first. He'll be looking largely at off-site analytics.

The first bullet point asks whether there are differing perceptions of success between clients and agencies. Good question.

There are lots of off-page metrics; primary ones such as pages indexed or secondary ones such as, perhaps, tweets. However, there's been some traditional issues with both - do clients view these metrics in the same light as agencies? Probably not.

There's been a huge increase in SEO in recent years. Peter shows the Econsultancy report showing the impressively huge increases in SEO budgets over the years. The result of that - an increase in accountability.

We have the "Four Rs" that can be applied when measuring a campaign.

- Return / ROI

- Response

- Reach

- Reason

Peter suggests that it's the incremental increase that matters. It's important to take a baseline and benchmark everything you can. These benchmarks will help build your SEO forecast.

Click through rate is important. Peter shows off a number of historic CTR studies. These studies, although small, are in broad agreement. However, CTRs will differ hugely depending on query type (is it navigational or informative), sitelinks and blended search changes the game significantly as does seasonality, vertical and other factors. All you can hope for is an idea.

Using this data, however, Peter suggests its possible to get a "yardstick" measure for a forecast.

It's important to understand the halo effect. A search campaign isn't really bound by the primary keywords - the bigger picture is important too. Tools like Raven or Advance Web Ranking, Peter says, can give you a reasonable picture especially if you're running a share of voice report over a long period of time.

Integration and de-duplication are increasingly important to clients. With the right analytics tools, Peter argues, you can de-duplicate across your SEO and PPC campaigns. That might allow advertisers to drop branded PPC in favour of SEO. Tools like DoubleClick and Atlas look across more than one marketing channel and offer insights like click path analysis.

Increasingly, media agencies are using econometric models to show the cause and effect links between SEO and other media channels. Peter used to work for such an agency so is likely to be drawing on personal insight and experience here.

His key take aways

- Report metrics that matter to your client

- Simple forecasting can act as a benchmark

- Try and de-duplicate, although this is hard

- Don't look at hero rankings in isolation, look at the bigger picture if possible

Matt's up next; he'll be looking at some on-page metrics

Matt argues that in order to make data more meaningful - you need to make it more complicated. If you can communicate the metrics to the CEO then you get a longer leash, a bigger budget and things are good. If you can't then your contract might be up. He quotes Edward Tufte, "To make charts simpler, add more information".

The catch here is - you make data more complicated in order to make them simpler.

He offers 6 keys to integration.

- Show multi-variate data

- Show comparisons

- Show causality

- Show different reports for different sorts

- Show the money

(okay; that's only 5 things... maybe the 6th will be revealed dramatically later!)

Good analysts ask "Why" says Matt. I agree. Matt reminds us that you can't show the same report to a product manager as you would to the CEO. They're not interested in the same thing.

Too many companies are stuck on caveman analytics, says Matt, looking at things like time on site and top ten pages. Companies need more data than that.

Matt highlights the importance of pivot tables and shows a screen grab of Google Analytics tracking goals. Here we're going to filter goals by source, keyword and landing page. Only once we have all these options in place can we move beyond caveman analytics and too sexy data.

Better comparison = better causality analysis, argues Matt. He explains that his team has multiple monitors so they can study the analytics reports in one window and the actual website in the other - in order to make the comparison and discover the causality.

In a segment acquisition chart, Matt reveals one anonymous case study where blog links brought in traffic with a far higher conversion rate than any search terms. Why? Context. You have highly engaged would-be-buyers following a contextual recommendation.

Matt reminds us that as you optimise your site you will see large fluctuations in your traffic. You're making it more relevant for some and less for others.

It's important to dig deep into your Google Webmaster Console. You should pay attention to the 404 errors Google encounters. It's just as important to look at your analytics to see what 404 errors your potential customers encounter too.

Understand the value of your landing page. Matt shows a category page converting better than a homepage. With this understanding they decided to "de-optimise" the homepage so the category page outranked it; thus the benefits of the additional traffic to the better converting page were realised.

There's a bit more client examples to underline the point.

Look at the "Per visit Goal value" in Google Analytics - it must not be zero. Otherwise you're measuring shots on goal rather than goals. Money is the motivator. The "Per Visit Goal Value" is the potential money the client can make. It's worth showing them.

Ah; the 6th tip! It's Action!

We move the Q&A and so this live blog attempt gets published!

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