Many B2B marketers have difficulty justifying the value of search engine optimization (SEO) to senior level executives. Since SEO is a highly-efficient marketing channel with longer-lasting results than most mediums, establishing ROI is challenging yet critical. Here are a few suggestions on how to best integrate web analytics data with other tools to prove the value of SEO.
Web analytics data is the foundation
The cornerstone of any successful SEO program is accurate web analytics data. Don’t have an analytics package? Google Analytics is a great free option that provides most of the data points you need for SEO measurement. The information derived from your analytics tool is instrumental in determining the success of your optimization program – and this data can also reveal critical areas for future improvement.
Understand how people find your website
Search Marketing is, of course, all about helping prospects find your site. Use your analytics tool to track these critical metrics:
- Which keywords drive traffic from organic search?
- Which sites are referring traffic to yours?
- Which engines are people using to get to your website?
Track keyword visibility
In addition to web analytics, most SEO experts also rely on a keyword ranking tool. Typically, it’s recommended to optimize each web page for one to five keywords (depending on the amount of content on the page). It’s important to understand how visible your website is for these words and phrases. For example, if you’re optimizing for the keyword small business loans, does your site show up in a top listing within the major engines when a user searches for the term small business loans?
There are several tools that automate the process of tracking keyword visibility. WebPosition is a great tool for tracking website visibility in Google, MSN and Yahoo. If you’re planning on tracking visibility on a global level, a better tool might be Agent Web Ranking, since this program has the capability of tracking a larger number of international search engines.
Integrate analytics with keyword tracking
Once you understand your website’s visibility for specific keywords, don’t stop there. Compare this data with your analytics reports. The key question is: are the keywords you’re optimizing for the words that actually drive traffic to your website? If not, your SEO program needs to be re-focused.
It’s true — branded terms usually drive a good amount of traffic to B2B websites, but one of the main goals of SEO is to become visible for more than branded searches. It’s important to reach prospects in the early stages of the buying cycle, people who are searching for more general information. Why? Once your site is visible within the listings for general searches, prospects have the opportunity to dig deeper and learn more about your offerings.
Track SEO-driven conversions
Are your website pages designed to provide information, generate leads, or both? Often times PPC landing pages and microsites are designed with conversion in mind, while other pages within a corporate website are more informational, simply describing the product or solution offered. I advocate that a strong call-to-action should be present on all of your landing pages, even informational pages.
SEO programs for most consumer-oriented sites are focused on tracking orders and sales, but B2B marketers must be able to track other types of actions (conversions) such as white paper downloads, sign-ups for virtual tours, and contact form registrations. This type of tracking is common with PPC campaigns, but unfortunately often ignored within SEO efforts.
Measure linking effectiveness
Are you tracking the effectiveness of your linking campaign? Linking not only helps search engines place value on your pages, but it also helps drive highly targeted prospects to your website. I suggest creating a list of all the websites that link to yours and track this on an ongoing basis.
- The easiest way to determine websites linking to yours is by conducting this Google search: link:www.yourwebsite.com
- To find additional sites that might be linking to yours, try: @yourwebsite.com
Again, compare this linking information to your analytics data. Are your link partners actually driving traffic to your site? Linking should always be an ongoing initiative, so use these insights to continually improve your linking initiative. If you find that one type of site is driving more traffic, or higher quality traffic, than another type — focus future link building research in this direction.
Measuring additional off-page initiatives
In addition to linking, measure the effectiveness of other off-page SEO efforts as well, such as:
- Social media. Measure traffic and results from social bookmarking sites like del.icio.us, and blog sites such as Technorati.
- Video SEO. Measure traffic and results from video community websites like YouTube.
- Optimized PR. Measure results from sites where your press releases and articles are posted.
All of these efforts must be related back to your web analytics data to determine how effective these channels actually are for driving targeted traffic and bottom line business results.
Web analytics integration
It all circles back to analytics.
Bottom line: web analytics is the cornerstone of measuring SEO success. But don’t stop there. Combine analytics data with keyword ranking, linking reports, and conversion metrics to track improvements over time and to proactively prove the value of SEO.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.