This being my second in-house SEO column for Search Engine Land, I wanted to continue where I left off by giving you some insight into some best practices for in-house SEO reporting. The understanding of analytics and reporting, setting up a baseline for your goals, and how to report on those goals and analytics.
If you’ve read my post about SEO and Social Media Success Metrics, you’ll know I take my data very seriously. Selling yourself and marketing your story of accomplishments is a big part of the role. In order to do that, you have to make sure that you have the right systems in place and the ability to present that data to executives.
Analytics and reporting
First things first, make sure that you have a reporting and/or analytics solution in place! Most companies have this, but sometimes its a good idea to ensure that you have all the data that you need at your fingertips. Some companies will have that and more, such as analysts at your disposal to run reports against and/or build out reporting for what you need measured – that is a goldmine if you are so lucky, but most in-house SEO’s are typically going to have to do this on their own.
I’ve been at companies that literally only had Page Views, Unique Users, Time Spent. Keep in mind, it was a Fortune 500 company that didn’t even have the data necessary for me to prove the value of certain aspects of my role. This isn’t just limited to my experience; I’ve talked to multiple people in the industry where reporting and analytics were just not sufficient for them to report data on their function in a timely matter. Thus, part of your role may very well entail putting on your “Product Management” hat and working with analytics teams to get the data that you need in your daily. weekly and monthly reporting.
If you are working with a company that is all about content for example, bounce rate is going to be highly important in what you do. If you are working with e-commerce and sites that require some sort of registration, you are definitely going to need to setup goals, tracking on buttons, and so forth. It is going to vary by the type of site, but make sure that the appropriate metrics are getting tracked and that you are able to automate that process to an extent.
Setting a baseline
Before you start creating reports, doing a bunch of data modeling, etc., start by create a baseline for your analysis and reporting. As I mentioned in my last post, in my new role, this is the first time I’ve actually had to do this, and, as I am doing it, I am finding it extremely valuable.
Your baseline, is going to vary based on the type of organization that you work for. But, an example of something that would be removed from a baseline report is branded search queries, as, that should be assumed to be “direct” traffic. Online publishers and news outlets might not have much more than that to remove from reporting, but, other organizations may have to get more granular in their efforts.
If your organization has a very conversion focused business that deals with e-commerce, user registration, or another funnel driven goal, you are probably going to want to remove any traffic that isn’t tightly related. An example of this is a corporate blog or a blog that you use just to jack up external numbers for overall traffic, but, only do this if the traffic truly isn’t relevant and has no value to it.
An example of an advanced segment in Google Analytics:
Baseline Traffic example from Google Analytics, as you can see, is going to be pretty steady, but over time, should trend up and to the right. Notice the advanced segment in the top left is the same one that was created in the image above:
You now have a baseline created for the search traffic that is relevant to your business and more importantly, your business goals. It is highly important to have this, as it helps you understand what your core search traffic is, where it is coming from, and how they are engaging with your site.
At this point, you should have an analytics platform and a baseline that gives you insight into the current state of your search traffic. Now, it’s time to start mapping out goals. There are two things that you are going to want to do. First, find out what existing goals there are at the organization and whether they have goals setup in the analytics platform around user, registration, and e-commerce funnels. Secondly, you need to set the goals that you want to achieve around overall search traffic, baseline traffic, the funnels and conversions, etc.
At times, this can be a bit daunting and even scary to some, and trust me, a lot of the time I am scared to say things like: “we will increase search traffic by 50% over the next 3 months and increase conversions by 10%.” Let’s face it, none of us want to get yelled at for not meeting expectations, let alone, maybe even getting fired. That said, if you’re confident in your abilities, just go for it, 9 times out of 10, you’ll knock it out of the park.
Take a little time and think through things that are valid goals for your role:
- Increased Traffic
- Increased Pages per Visit
- Increased Time Spent on Site
- Decreased Bounce Rate
- Increased Registrations
- Increased Conversion
- Increased Purchases
What are the goals that are relevant to your organization and business? What goals are actually accomplishable? Once you figure it out and you have put the numbers together, ask yourself: “Is this going to be an easily doable goal or is this a stretch goal?” Now, I know this sounds a bit lame to do, but, just like the old saying goes…under-promise and over-deliver.
If you think you could increase traffic by 25% MoM (Month over Month), but it might be a stretch to get there, set it as an internal or personal goal that you are shooting for. Your goal to the external audience (executives and management) could then be a more easily achievable goal, such as “Increase Search Traffic by 15%.”
Sometimes you’ll find management will even ask you to do this and I’ve personally had management ask this of me in the past. Create goals that are achievable, goals to present to executives/board members, and stretch goals that are like personal or team accomplishments. What this does in effect: it gives you the ability to over-deliver, but, it makes you strive to really knock it out of the park and hit your personal goals that no one would expect. (Check your ego though, sometimes, your head can grow a bit much.)
As mentioned before, it’s extremely important to have these goals setup in your analytics platform. So, whether it is leveraging existing goals and applying funnels or segments to them, or creating all new goals, you should have something that is easily accessed. For example, here is some examples within Google Analytics of Goals and Custom Funnels:
You’re all done with goals now; it’s time to get them automated so you can spend little to no time pulling reports.
Automation and reporting
Creating reports on a daily, weekly and/or monthly basis can be a pretty time consuming process and a waste of resources, especially your own. I’m all about automating processes and this is one of those things that you can do. You’ve already done part of this by creating advanced segments, custom funnels, and goals. But, you can take this one step further make your life a lot easier.
Rather than going in and generating and exporting that report so you can use the data, have it emailed to you based on your needs. This will not only save you time, but if you are like me, once that report shows up in your Inbox, it is like a reminder to get the traffic reported up to executives.
Every analytics package has some sort of “email reporting” function, so take advantage of it. Create reports or leverage existing reports that need to be pulled manually and setup up scheduled reports that are emailed based on your needs. I like to receive weekly traffic reports that give me insight into traffic spikes, trends, and how we are doing weekly. On the first of the month, I like receiving a group of reports for monthly traffic and conversion.
An example of this is using Google Analytics Scheduled Email feature:
Presenting data and reports
For the bulk of my career, I’ve been at smaller companies and/or on the tactical side, just getting stuff done. Having been at Yahoo! and even more so in my current role, I have found how important it is to actually report data and analytics to management and executives. It is a big part of the job and just like I said above, selling yourself and selling what you have done internally is a big part of actually proving your success within an organization. Even if you have a team that lives and breathes numbers and analytics, putting together your reports that show progress and track goals is crucial.
Just like everything else, I take a step back at first and rather than shoving a bunch of information down peoples throats, I look for common themes, corporate templates, and how executives like to see information emailed or presented. Look at how others doing well in the organization and mimic it to an extent, while throwing on your own little added flare.
The most important thing though is understand the medium that executives prefer and showcasing your achievements, strategy, and/or goals in a timely fashion.
If I had to sum up this entire post, the bottom line is: make sure that you have an analytics/reporting solution in place that allows you to set baselines and goals you can automate and leverage to present data, achievements, and goals. At the end of the day, you need to prove your value, and with all of the above, you should have the tools necessary to do just that.
Questions for discussion:
- Will this help you going forward with your In-House SEO reporting?
- What situations have you run into in the past with In-House data and analytics?
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.