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Measure SEO Performance Like a Boss, Track Everything

By Darren DeYoung

With data, there is power. With power, there is change. If you cannot measure something, you can’t improve it. And if you can’t improve, you cannot get better.

Measure SEO Performance Like a Boss, Track Everything

When it comes to SEO, it’s no different. You put so much effort into your SEO strategy, you probably want to see how those efforts are paying off. Thus, it is important to monitor SEO performance--to celebrate the wins and fix whatever isn’t working.

To succeed, professional SEO’s need to track everything. From clicks and conversions to calls and form submissions--everything must be tracked to prove the value of SEO.

Measuring SEO is easier said than done. However, the number of components and variables that go into SEO is staggering. It’s very complex and bringing them all together is the art and science of SEO measurement. To do well and succeed, track everything. Or at minimum, determine what metrics are most important for your business and track them regularly.

You can have data without information, but you cannot have information without data.
Daniel Keys Moran, American computer programmer and science fiction writer

Why is Measuring SEO so Hard?

For starters, there is a ton of data to analyze. Sometimes the data is positive, sometimes it is negative, sometimes it is neutral, and sometimes it is conflicting. This makes it difficult to reach solid conclusions. Since no two businesses are alike, data needs to be prioritized into information that aligns with business strategies, goals, and objectives. Similarly, no two websites are alike and it is important to make sure the goals of the business align with the goals of the website.

Reporting Data

If data is not explained or analyzed efficiently, things get messy. Not only does the fancy monthly report become useless, but decision-makers and clients will get frustrated when they cannot decipher what is presented to them. Having a mound of data is great, but it is only valuable if you can comprehend it.

Search Engines are Ever-Changing

Another difficulty in measuring data is the vast number of factors that go into the ranking process. Search engines have extremely complex algorithms that keep SEOs on their toes. Although many of the biggest-ranking factors are well known in the SEO industry, many are unknown. Some factors are proven, some are controversial, and many are speculated on. Each year, Google makes hundreds of changes to its search algorithms. In 2018, it reported 3,234 updates--an average of over eight changes per day. While each algorithm tweak brings us one step closer to more relevant search results, there is secrecy behind how Google evaluates a website and determines which sites show for which search queries.

While most of these changes are minor, search engines will occasionally roll out major algorithmic updates that affect search results in significant ways--all for the better, of course.

The goal is to turn data into information, and information into insight.
Carly Fiorina, former executive, president, and chair of Hewlett-Packard Co.

Multi-Team Effort

Not only are logic and technical abilities needed to analyze SEO, but problem solving and creativity are necessary too. As a result, SEO requires input from many specialists (marketing, web development, branding, etc.). Coordinating the thoughts, wishes, and desires of differing viewpoints can lead to issues. When the developer wants it one way, the marketer wants it another way, and management thinks their way is best, compromise is necessary. Balancing these talents takes a well-orchestrated approach to ensure the best outcome.
If we have data, let’s look at data. If all we have are opinions, let’s go with mine.
Jim Barksdale, former Netscape CEO

Patience is an SEO Virtue

To grow a business and succeed in SEO, patience is what separates the pretenders from the contenders.

It is crucial to measure SEO over time. SEO does not produce instantaneous results and a good SEO strategy can take years to come to fruition. When you track everything, you can see the results and measure your SEO performance, like a boss.

Tracking Conversions

For SEOs, a conversion occurs when a website visitor completes a desired goal. If you sell products, a conversion is a purchase. If the goal of your website is to get people to contact you for a consultation or a quote, a conversion is a contact form submission. If you want people to call you, a conversion is a phone call. Whatever the goal, a conversion is getting someone to respond to your call-to-action.

It’s great to have a lot of people reading your content, but if they aren’t interacting at all, you haven’t captured them as a customer. That is why conversions can be measured in different ways to track success.

Here is an example of how a single conversion can be broken down into a string of multiple conversions.

  • Conversion: Opening an email.
  • Conversion: Clicking the call-to-action link inside the email.
  • Conversion: Going to a landing page and filling out a contact form.
  • Conversion: Purchasing a product.

Tracking conversions is key to increasing sales and growing your business with your website. Your website is a big investment and it should be profitable. But, you will never know if it is profitable if you aren’t tracking its performance.

Conversions can come from many sources, whether that be Organic, Paid Ads, Social or Referral, here are some ways conversions occur.

Online Purchases

Probably the most obvious and preferred conversion is an actual purchase. The transaction of funds signifies that a purchase has been made. Sometimes that is the end of the customer journey while other times it is just the beginning.

Black keyboard with a blue add to cart button
Tracking online purchases can be done in a number of ways. But viewing the data from your e-commerce platform is critical for any business. There are also many integrations, Google Analytics, for example, to get your online purchase data all in one spot.

Form Submissions

Contact forms are an effective way to generate new leads. For any business that wants to provide an open dialogue with its customers, contact forms are a must. If you’re hard to reach or not available 24/7, providing contact information on your website is a must, but a contact form is even better. It makes your business reachable. It makes it appear that you are available (even if it’s 3 a.m.). If you aren’t available, visitors will give up and go elsewhere.

Tracking the number of incoming contact forms is a no-brainer, but using this form to improve your SEO is critical. Keeping the contact form as simple as possible will lead to fewer abandoned forms, but, you can use this form to learn how they became interested in your company. In Google Analytics, you can learn where those completing your contact form came from. Did they find you organically? Did they come to your website via a paid ad? Or were they referred from another website? These are all great insights that will help you leverage your SEO strategy.

With geolocation tools, you can see where your users live to get even deeper insights into your customers. Not to mention, the integration of many other tools (i.e. CRM software, email marketing providers, etc.) can bring your contact form to the next level.

Once you find the best way to track your form submissions in an easy-to-read format, be sure you have a process in place to filter out spam submissions. These submissions are from unqualified users (sometimes bots) that will never amount to new business. Once you get rid of the junk, then you get your true count of qualified form submissions.

Phone Calls

Women wearing white shirt with her eye glasses propped on her forehead and talking on a cell phone
Phone calls can be critical leads for any business as sometimes a customer just needs to pick up the phone and talk to someone. Call tracking software allows you to do that so you can optimize your marketing and increase ROI on your SEO, PPC, and offline campaigns. Like form submissions, with the proper tracking, you can monitor where phone calls originate from (i.e. organic, paid, or other), and track for success. Who called, what search term they used, how long the call was, what web pages they visited before calling, and all sorts of good stuff can be measured when you track phone calls. It is inevitable that some users will dial a wrong number, accidentally call your business, or immediately hang up. To ensure that your phone call data is pure, consider only counting unique phone calls; or phone calls that last at least 45 seconds. By doing so you are purifying your data by eliminating the repeat callers and the misdials and allowing you to track meaningful data.

Chatbot or Messaging Sessions

Chatbots or messaging sessions are bringing new ways of how businesses run marketing. They can give any business a major advantage from customer support to lead generation. With the ever-shrinking attention span of humans, these services are proving to be a great way of creating value and improving customer engagement.

Since these sessions can replace a customer phone call or form submission, it is best that they are tracked. A lot of opportunities exist when you can connect interactions with your chat system and customer service platform with your online analytics platform. For example, by tracking chat data you can see exactly what page users are starting chats on or what questions are being asked the most. If most visitors are asking one or two specific questions from the same webpage, you can make changes to your webpage and add the missing information.

New Email List Subscribers

Since email marketing is one of the most effective tools, it is important to monitor your email subscription lists. Tracking email subscriptions gives you insight into how you should be spending your time, how compelling your content is, how to improve current content and the demographics of users who are interested in your content.

Managing your email list growth/loss rate is critical if you want to expand your audience and grow your list. Every email list will have natural decay and attrition which makes it all the more important to grow the subscriber list and keep it at a healthy size. By tracking these conversions and having a set goal, you can know if your efforts are keeping pace, or causing you to fall behind.

Tracking Behaviors & Trends

When a website user “converts” on your website, that is a behavior that can be tracked. Further, there are a slew of other behaviors and trends that are beneficial for any business as it relates to measuring SEO performance. Wouldn’t it be interesting to know:

How long are users staying on your website? Why are they leaving your website and where are they going? What webpages are most popular? How are converting customers coming to your website?

By tracking these behaviors you can gain insights about your business and one of the best ways to do that is through Google Analytics.

Google Analytics

With a little effort, Google Analytics provides many pieces of information to help you understand the behavior of users as they interact with your website. This information will better equip you to make choices about your website and/or future investments into your website. Data from Google Analytics is captured using either first-party cookies, randomly generated IDs, or an SDK for mobile apps.

Google Tag Manager

Just like Google Analytics, Google Tag Manager is free. It is a great way for non-developers to manage tracking codes, control simple and complex rules, and much more. If you want to start tracking a particular form with a heat map, get it done easily with Google Tag Manager and there is no need to wait for a developer to become available.

Heat Maps

Among the many search engine algorithm updates that draw all the headlines, one overriding theme that has stood the test of time is providing a quality user experience. Although SEO is known as “search engine optimization” some refer to it also as “search experience optimization.” In other words, users before bots. Google Analytics is there to measure metrics like bounce rate, time on page, and page views, but there is much more to the user experience. Heat maps allow you to know what users want, what they gravitate to, and how they're scrolling on each page. Pairing heat mapping data with landing page and keyword data can help you understand how effective and engaging your website content is.
Although SEO is known as “search engine optimization” some refer to it also as “search experience optimization.

Social Media

Social media is a fast, inexpensive, and effective way to reach a significant portion of the world’s population. When your business has a social media presence you must quantify success through effective tracking. Whether your intent is to use social media as a sales channel, as a way to engage with customers, or as a way to build brand recognition, analyze the data and adjust your strategy for better results.

Google Business Profile (formerly known as GMB) Insights

A Google Business Profile is paramount for local businesses. Forty-six percent of searches have local intent, making this free-to-use platform the modern-day phonebook. Not only can customers find your business’ name, address, and phone number, but an optimized listing can also drive business.

By using the insights from your Google Business Profile, you can view

  • Which search queries are used to find your business
  • How customers search for your business
  • Where customers request directions to your business
  • User-generated questions directed toward your business

By measuring the performance of this incoming data, you can extract insights that will improve your SEO strategy. Google My Business Insights for how customers search for a business

Google Search Console

Similarly, Google Search Console is a free service that helps monitor, maintain, and troubleshoot your website’s presence on Google Search Results. It provides tools that help with the day-to-day management of SEO performance while communicating any site issues, errors, and penalties.

But, Google Search Console also provides insights on

  • What queries are used to find your website
  • What countries users are coming from
  • What type of device users are on
  • The search appearance of your business (i.e. Rich results, Product results, Web Light results, Videos, etc.)

Through analysis, you can observe trends so you can stay one step ahead of your website users. For example, what if you observe that an increasing number of visitors are coming to your website from Canada but your business only offers shipping of your products to the United States? This insight may lead you to consider expanding your reach and adding an international shipping option. Google Search Console viewing total clicks and impressions for a website

Measurement Planning

Every business should create a measurement plan for SEO performance. Collecting every bit of information will be overwhelming as it creates a data set that is large and difficult to analyze. But, a valid plan will help focus the data on the goals of your business. Think about your business objectives and define what is important. Your plan should include:

  • Strategies and tactics that support business objectives.
  • Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to measure the success of your strategies and tactics.
  • User segments to better understand what drives success.
  • Targets for each KPI to understand if your business is reaching its goals.

Discuss this plan with other stakeholders and make sure they agree with the business objectives. This might include marketers, designers, developers, product designers, and management. By understanding the critical pieces of information, you can better understand the performance of your business.

Track Everything, Like a Boss

As a business, it’s critical to understand how people use your website. Understanding SEO performance and user behavior can help you improve the user experience, refine features and content, and build a product that is useful to your users. Several tools can help you measure user behavior, find insights about usage, and drive real change that improves business performance. Do it right. Track what is important so you can grow your business.

Tracking your digital marketing performance can be overwhelming. Let’s chat about those challenges.

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