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SEO Metrics: Proving Value With Research, Data And Tact
When it comes to SEO, it is a quantitative marketing medium that is all about metrics and results. That means if you can’t provide data/research that proves value, as well as analytics and reporting to back your results, you’re basically asking for a whole lot of drama. Putting together the research behind a business case is just as important as showing off (self-promotional or not) your wins with others. I can’t stress this enough to colleagues or direct reports; it’s incredibly important because showing hard facts is one of the best ways to get everyone’s attention.
Proving the value
If you’ve ever had to prove the value of your program, campaign, or standard your ground on a situation or issue, you’ll know this all to well. Whatever the case is, you have to do a lot of research and analysis to prove the value behind your case. Lay out the opportunity analysis, costs, issues, and risks involved in the process and provide a high-level impact analysis to back up your case.Leverage data from keyword research tools, articles, do your own research on the topic, etc.
Think through all the angles, do the research, and put together an analysis that covers all angles. For example, if you are trying to prove that a development methodology being used is wrong, you can provide an estimated loss in traffic (which could lead to estimated loss in revenue) and sites that have used this method before that ended up failing or are no where to be found in search.
Reporting on wins are going to help you push future agendas across the organization. It is important to constantly be talking about the achievements you or your team has had recently. Think through this before you start the program to make sure that you know what you are analyzing, the data that you are tracking, and what the goals are you are trying to achieve.
Once the project goes live, start making note of your goals and early achievements, and that you are tracking to your plan and goals. Once you have an ample amount of data, it’s time to start distributing that data across the organization and sending that out to the executives in your organization so they are aware of the wins.
An example of an effective way of doing this is by tracking the following:
- Number of pages indexed within the first week
- Unique visitors
- Page views
- Time spent on site
- Bounce Rate
Essentially, you want to find the key metrics that are being looked at by your organization and make sure that your program increases those metrics and helps the overall goals of the organization. You can start distributing the metrics through the following channels within the organization:
- Periodic update emails that announce wins, new programs, etc.
- Monthly updates with metrics to teams
- Weekly metrics to provide status or “SEO Health”
- Announcements at staff meetings, team meetings, and even group all-hands meetings
Make sure that people believe in what you are doing and are just as excited about it as you are. You will find this is easy to do as most organizations want to see product and marketing teams increasing traffic, so it is definitely a KPI for them as well as you. Also, the metrics can dispel the non-believers and get them on your side.
Knowing when to say when
It’s important to know when enough is enough, because after a certain period of time, you just become flat out annoying. And, I’m not going to lie, I’ve been that guy a couple times. It’s one thing to try to push your agenda, but remember that you’re not going to get everything you want. So, it’s important to know when to pick your battles and know when there is no point in fighting an uphill battle all the time. Think about your high priorities and fight those battles with the data we’ve talked about and point out what is most important. The other items that are not a high priority are just going to cause you to lose the rapport that you’ve spent all that time building up.
Other times, the decision just isn’t yours to make and you need to back down, or you’re going to be seen as a nuisance, annoying, and could even lead to a lack of respect. But, when you are put in situations where you know that you are not the key decision maker it’s important to present your case. Gather the data, do the research, etc. and present your findings to the key business owners and let them know the positive or negative impacts on rankings, traffic, revenue, and overall SEO health.
Also, if SEO is a big traffic source, remind them of that, the hit they could possibly take. Once you’ve gathered that data, present it, and let them know that you understand it’s their decision to make and that you can help provide any other insight necessary. Once you’ve done that, it’s important to step back and back away from the decision and let the business owners make that decision.
When things go wrong
Not everything goes as planned and most of the time, actually, it completely falls flat, but you need to be prepared for those situations and understand the reasons they did. It is okay to fail, as long as you learn from your mistakes and can fix them and turn them into a positive. If you know that a certain strategy that isn’t pursued or a technology is being used that is is going to negatively impact organic search traffic, be sure that you’ve forewarned the correct business owners and are ready to report on it when the day comes.
Many times, a site relaunch or change in URL structures across a site will lead to a small dip in search traffic right away that picks back up and can turn into a positive. So, while technically that is not something going wrong, when people see a dip in traffic, they can be alarmed and freak out. Trust me, I’ve seen this firsthand, it’s not pretty! Again, it’s important to forewarn people and beat it into everyone’s head that it is a possibility. Even if that does not end up being the result, it’s good to prepare people for the worst case scenario and deliver the best case scenario.
The key is preparing data, presenting that data, and your analysis of what the impact will be on the site and the site traffic. If you warned people that a feature would negatively impact the traffic, be prepared and ready to show that decline and analysis. Do not be afraid to tell the team, the stakeholders, etc. involved that you had warned them about this and be confident about it. This will earn their respect, as long as it’s done in a graceful manner and without an attitude. But, you can’t just say “I told ya so” and walk away. Once the people involved understand the situation at hand, provide a couple solutions that they can use to fix the problem, and again, back it with data.
The power is in the numbers
At the end of the day, part of your role is proving the value of SEO traffic and helping the business make better decisions with that data. It’s important to find the data, provide the research, analysis, and case studies to support your recommendations that you are making. Finally, be ready to talk about the successes and failures to give people an understanding of what works, what doesn’t, and what contributed to that outcome.
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.