Chances are if you’ve shelled out for SEO services, it’s highly likely that you (or your boss) are looking to see tasty, tangible results.
Measuring SEO progress is a minefield of rankings, bounce rates, engagement etc. and it can sometimes feel like an uphill struggle to show ROI – particularly with the C-suite breathing down your neck. Modern SEO has proved to be a bit of a mercurial, untameable beast for most marketing managers; that is, it’s not the easiest thing to measure through a static set of metrics.
So what’s a marketer to do? How we measure our SEO efforts and improvements, and more importantly – how do we sweeten the CEO in the meantime?
When we’re looking for a quick-fix result, it’s easy to go after all those lovely vanity metrics that tend to look so good on paper – when they’re going well, of course. Rankings, when we’re rising through them, are the equivalent of an SEO sugar-hit. They satisfy our success cravings quickly, even though they might not be giving the body of our marketing any actual nutritional goodness.
What we’re saying is that an isolated view of rankings doesn’t relate directly to revenue; meaning that they can never really give a true view of the value of your SEO campaign.
“Mirror, mirror on the wall… Where do I rank today?”
“Where do we rank for [insert keyword here] today?” It’s every business owner’s most-asked SEO question and the one that makes the pros roll their eyes in exasperation.
When we’re looking at the wider picture of a business’s SEO efforts, it’s vital to include rankings – but on a day-to-day basis? This can sap up way too much time and attention. They’re the Magic Mirror of marketing. You could get lost staring at stats for hours – but it’s time-consuming, costly and frankly, completely futile to get fixated on daily rankings.
It’s also no good to base your reporting solely on rankings for certain key phrases. Here’s why:
- Google personalises its search results. So you can bet your bottom dollar (or the last of your SEO budget) that you won’t be seeing what the next man sees. Accountable factors? Browsing history, location, demographics, personal preferences and hundreds more that Google kindly keep under lock and key. While we’ll never know what they all are, we do know that when a business owner Googles their key phrases, they probably won’t be seeing the same results that their target audience see when they search for the same
- All keywords are not created equal. Ah, one of the great idioms of the SEO world – immortalised because it speaks the truth. Determining which keywords are most important depends on search volume, relevance to your business and the leads/conversions the keyword generates. Ranking on Page 1 is useless if it’s for a random phrase – always focus resources on the key phrases that actually benefit your bottom line.
- Ranking changes are also not created equal. In the same way as keywords, ranking changes can vary in impact. Dropping nine places on Page 4 won’t be as detrimental as dropping two on Page 1 – but even that’s not concrete. The change that needs addressing first is always the one that provides the most organic traffic.
By falling into the daily habit of check, check and double checking our rankings, SEO becomes reactive, rather than proactive. As search engines are always testing new algorithms, and competitors are always publishing new content, most ranking changes don’t require immediate SEO attention.
If it’s too late, and you’re already an SEO-sugar-addict, here’s how to monitor keyword ranking appropriately:
- Loyalty is the best policy; so whatever tool you’re using to monitor your rankings, choose one and stick with it. Each one will use a slightly different process to determine your ‘true’ ranking, so be consistent to get the most accurate results.
- If you’re going to Google, always use a depersonalised search. There’s plenty available online, and these will strip (most of) the personalised factors from your search results – giving you a more accurate representation of what others might see when they punch in your targeted key phrases.
- If you have the resources, why not create two reports? By making one that monitors high-value keywords and a separate version for lower-value keywords, it’ll be easier to focus on and dedicate resources to the phrases that actually convert.
When you’re monitoring your rankings, always remember the bigger picture. This is where a solid SEO strategy will come in handy… It’ll be less tempting to fuss over every minuscule move on the SERP when you have your overall objectives in mind.
Rankings are helpful, but not the be all and end all of SEO. So where better to expend your energy?
Soaring up search engine rankings is sweet. Why? Because when you’re positioned higher up the SERP, it’s more likely that you’ll generate higher web traffic. And organic traffic is the true goal of SEO.
Any improvement in ranking could be the result of a standard search engine fluctuation. This includes algorithm changes or a competitor’s marketing misfortune. A ranking rise isn’t enough to give yourself a pat on the back. But, a steady increase in organic traffic is proof of the pudding that your SEO is paying off.
Don’t let rankings ruin your life. Remember the bigger picture.
So then we have the next step. Why organic traffic? Online sales, of course. And because every website visitor doesn’t convert to sales (ah, can you imagine?) it’s important to monitor your conversion rate. Doing this will help determine an accurate value of your SEO tactics.
Every conversion point, which will vary based on your industry and business model, should be considered: from downloadable resources to online purchases. Multi-touch attribution also needs to be considered, since every visit won’t convert — but every visit may lead to a conversion later.
Conclusion – why slow-release SEO will always hit the sweet spot.
When it comes to measuring SEO, marketers need to maximise opportunities and provide reports that show honest, valuable and workable results. And the best place to start is to focus on the right mixture of metrics; by including rankings, traffic and conversions.
We all know by now that any SEO strategy worth its salt (or sugar, in this case) should be a marathon, not a sprint. It’s the healthy option… A Krispy Kreme will see your sugar levels spike, but the fruit salad will keep you going all morning.
Slow-release SEO might take a little longer, but this is the work that’ll drive real, lasting ranking changes. It’s also what will lead to an increase organic traffic and revenue. When you’re measuring SEO? Always be snack smart – and don’t chase sugar rush rankings.