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Measuring SEO success

By Brett
September 01, 2020

When search engines like Google drive traffic to your site, it can dominate all of your other marketing channels. That is awesome, but do you know how to improve your search traffic? There are a lot of tactics that fall into Search Engine Optimization (SEO). But what actually works for your site? In this video, we will review some of the best ways to track SEO success, so you can find out what works best to drive more search traffic to your site.

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Let’s talk about tracking SEO success metrics. In this day and age, I like to focus on landing pages, and not search terms, to measure SEO success. I’m going to dig into why, but let me start. I was going over what I tracked in the past. And even that I want to caveat, when we’re talking about the goal of defining success metrics of our effort, or the efforts of say our marketing efforts, how they’re successful, these are really about lagging metrics and they’re about showing success overall to our stakeholders. But these are not the metrics that your SEO experts are going to be using in their day to day work.

But to a point that that is kind of the point, to an extent. Your SEO experts are going to be micro-focused on what they’re experimenting with, and they may give you search rankings, the how well your search terms are ranking, impressions, all that stuff, but that doesn’t really matter or affect your business.

They don’t show if they’re driving real business value. And that’s what this video is focused on: the metrics that are going to show you value. There was a time when I started the tracking SEO success was down to the keywords, and it was pretty easy. You could actually see what keywords drove traffic to your website, and how that traffic behaved on your website, in Google Analytics. Then you could use that to better track your SEO efforts, but that era is effort for those of you that know, most of the time Google Analytics doesn’t actually share that data anymore.

Also there’s a lot going on, too. It used to be that the model was a lot easier, and thinking about specific keywords was important because it was using this page rank algorithm, which is a pretty straightforward type of algorithm that looked at the web and how things were linked together.

But that’s not really how search works today. Google search is a very complex group of algorithms, and many of them they’re machine learning based. So they’re very difficult for the people that build them and support them to fully understand. And they’re pretty much impossible for the rest of us.

We have this issue, not only with Google analytics, that it’s not connected to these Google, organic search queries anymore. So you really can’t see how the specific sessions that came from those search queries really line up. You really don’t know what search queries are driving value anyway. More importantly, I think the search query traffic is no longer as critical. You and I could have different results for the same search phrase and I might not even get the same results that I get later the day. In fact, I think it’s very likely that I’d have the top 10 results that I would get listed for search term might be different for me just a few hours later.

I think keywords are not the ideal way to traffic success and that’s not bad, because keywords are really transitory anyway. What matters today, to a specific person, may not matter tomorrow, and it may not matter to everybody. So what really matters are your landing pages, the pages people use to get to your site. Why? Well, there’s a couple well things. So, we could look at overall traffic here and say organic search, but when we dig down to specifically the landing pages organic, we can really see what are the pages precisely that are driving these organic people to your site, these organic sessions. It’s really cool because for the pages, you have a hundred percent control over that. You don’t have very much control over how you rank in the search engines, you can influence it and you can change it over time, but you’re always subject to what Google decides.

You can also measure this more precisely because you can put web analytics trackers on your site. You can use server stat tracking. You can learn a lot about, more precisely, how much traffic is coming from these specific landing pages, and most importantly, you can experiment with them, on a page by page level. So you can get a right in there and see what’s working, what’s not, and you can track this all for free, in say your Google analytics or some sort of server base tracking. You have a lot of control there, even if say things like cookies and stuff like that are getting changed. You’re going to have a lot of control there, of understanding of this traffic. So the dimensions that we’re really making in for tracking is the top organic landing pages, and also the top direct landing pages.

And both of those mostly by session is where we start pointing. Organic landing pages, obvious, they’re the pages that are taken, the users would come from their Google or Bing searches. But direct, I think is also something important to keep an eye on, because direct traffic is really just a catch-all and much of direct traffic is just traffic with an unknown source. And over the years, many organizations like SEO Moz has researched the correlation between direct and organic traffic, and there’s clearly a relationship. Sessions are a really good starting point, and we want to look at a couple of metrics.

Instead of looking at the main view here, and you can actually see our organic and I could also add, go in here and say do direct, and look at those together. But I think it’s generally easier, you could use it as a Google analytics, or you could use this in data studio, and just go ahead and create custom reports.

So here I have the landing pages. I started with e-commerce because e-commerce is relatively straightforward. One of the cool things about it is it has this page value. So generally when you have e-commerce, you’re going to have page value. You can have that with your goals as well, but you have to assign your goals monetary value. So you might say, when somebody fills out this form, it’s worth $8 or a hundred dollars or a thousand dollars or whatever, but without that, those don’t have any values that can be passed along these pages.

The page value really is how much e-commerce, or goal value, is driven, divided by number of unique pages to the landing page. You can really see how much these particular landing pages are valuable to your organization. So you go on to see, “Hey, what are the page values… Or pages to the highest value? What type of traffic we’re getting?” So I broke this into two groups. One is I just have this broken out, where you can see organic versus direct. I can also do more of a drill down. Let’s do that right here… A drill down right here. My head’s in the way. But if we go ahead, and zoom out a bit. I’ve lost my page.

We can see… Zoom this over here, I apologize for that. Organic search and direct search. You can see the averages, but then we can click down into organic search, and really dig into what are the top landing pages? And you can break it out by sessions, because you want to see frequency, but also could see the actual e-commerce conversion rate, I think, is important to see the actual rates, and the page values and transactions. The page values is more an average. What is the average value of these pages? We can see what are the ones that have the highest average value, as well as who had the most transactions who’s really driving the most value. Of course, here, home page is going to be very high for this one. That’s pretty common. Now, if you’re not doing e-commerce, and you don’t have a page value, you can still go in and do a similar thing.

But instead of focusing on the e-commerce, you can just really focus on gold completions, and completion rate. You can really see… And you can dig these down to individual goals, but it’s great to really see that data together. Not only the frequency, but the rate they are, to see how valuable these particular pages are.

So here you have a lot of sessions in here. This is both your default grouping here, and we can break that down as well, instead of saying all users, I just want to look at organic search. And once again, you can use these filters right here as well.

I’m going to apply that, and then we’ll just do remove the all users, apply that, and then he can see, “What is the organic traffic?” “What are the top landing pages and how are they converting?” So we can see here, homepage gets a lot of sessions, of course, and the goal conversion rate isn’t great, or isn’t terrible, but it isn’t as lower than average. But we can see when we go down to three, four, five, six, we can actually see these pages, these Google redesign, these shot by brand YouTube, the men’s t-shirts apparel, and just the store in general, have a much higher conversion rate when people landing directly on those.

So it’s really an opportunity to say, “Have what we’ve been doing work? Did we help optimize it? We improve things in the men’s t-shirt page? And can we see that change over time?”

So really digging in deep. From a standpoint of a high level, you can really see are our efforts, and where we spent them, are they making a difference from an organic standpoint? And we could roll it all together as well at the top, see organic traffic sessions, goal completion, and conversion rate.

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About the Author
Brett uses analytics to help clients put all the pieces together—from identifying KPIs to finding the right data to measure those KPIs and then collecting that data. He’s been in digital marketing for 8+ years and brings analytics leadership to the Anvil team. If he’s not drilling into data, he’s probably hanging with his kids or maybe playing some D&D.
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