KPIs definition, data accuracy, segmentation, and all those analytics best practices our readers know by heart apply to Search Engine Optimization (SEO). It is just a question of narrowing traffic types to Organic and some Referral (link building thing), right? Kinda.
SEO is a compound of disciplines bringing the maximum amount of non-paid converting traffic from SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) to your site. This makes measuring the performance of SEO campaigns really simple.
Sneaky SEOs have been airing the idea for years that SEO work is finished when they bring non-paid traffic at the door of your site without considering if it converts and by how much. Let me save you some money: if your SEO agency/consultant is the kind that just sends to you monthly keywords ranking reports, fire them immediately.
If you need more context on SEO, here is a short video explaining it.
We run almost blind when it comes to this practice. Search Engines share only partial information about how their ranking algorithms work. Only the exchange of information, trial & error, and tons of hours of analysis give us insights into the hundreds of factors and their relative weight influencing SERPs.
The rest of online advertising practices seem exact sciences to us consultants, especially if compared to enterprise SEO where it all gets extra complicated.
Two more stones in our path to glory. Can you imagine an A/B test where, once you try to implement it, changes take weeks or months to be visible to users? This is how Search Engines operate: they index quickly but reevaluate relevancy (thus rankings) slowly. Even more fun, el Señor Google made some changes and a remarkable chunk of keywords triggering visits to our site are now reported as '(not provided)', up to 50% in some cases. Thanks amigo.
Crazy eh? Thankfully, we love to be challenged. In such a scenario, analytics or just plain analysis is more crucial for SEO than ever.
Despite the issues mentioned before, web analytics solutions do give us truckloads of relevant data which help answer key questions and fine tune SEO work.
Isn't that enough? Why is it half of the picture? Because the journey ends in our site, hopefully, but starts with someone typing keywords in a search engine, a very important piece of the puzzle.
Is there any decent analytics tool/data telling us what is happening at SERPs level? Well, we have some numbers for short periods of time kindly offered by major search engines' webmaster tools.
They offer some metrics like impressions, clicks, CTR, and rankings for keywords making your URLs (and which ones) appear at SERPs. What they don't offer:
It is not fantastic but it gives a sneak peak to the other side of the fence. If you want to go further you have to be creative:
Ok, we are done here, or are we? Not so fast Speedy Gonzales.
There is a saying as of late: users are the new algorithm.
Right, Social Media is here to stay and Likes, ReTweets, Google+s, Pin-its, mentions, citations, comments and such are part of the ranking algorithms search engines are using to evaluate the popularity and relevancy of a page/site.
How much? We SEOs have no idea, as usual, but figuring this out is the job of an analyst.
What about the second pillar of SEO? Yes, link building has been, and still is, a key factor. Analytics tools tell us the visits from a referral link but it is not giving us any remote idea of the quality of the link what is a very relevant factor.
This is where we go from a flat map to a 3D one adding more data sources to the previous mix of SERPs + on site analysis. Web analytics solutions are giving baby steps to incorporate those metrics to make our life easier. However, there are many other signals from social media channels SEOs would like to have under their microscope, so we have to continue being creative in our particular pursuit of light helping us break through the black boxes that are algorithms.
SEO is a challenging discipline. Search engines evolve quickly, introducing changes overnight that can tear down what you have been constructing for months, unless you keep the mindset of the analyst: