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Meaningful SEO Metrics: Going Beyond the Numbers - SES San Francisco

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Has everyone recovered from lunch? If not, don't fall asleep quite yet.

Next up, we've got John Marshall, who is always on the quest for meaningful numbers. He's also British (just saying). He's moderating some heavyweights today: The brilliant Ray "Catfish" Comstock (SEO Director of Business Online), Richard Zwicky (Founder of Enquisite) and Jon Glick (VP of Become.com).

Catfish is the man.

Let's do this.

Richard is first up. He's looking at "How do we know when customers are listening?" Just because a customer is referred, doesn't mean that they are listening. He serves up a quote from Winston Churchill. I like this session already. Marketing today is about being connected with the customer and knowing all the touch points. It's important to understand what is meaningful and try again and again.

Organization KPIs also need to be monitored closely.

The most important KPIs are generally overlooked.
- Perspective on meaningful
- Attribution across channels
- Context of value
- Share of voice

Perspective

Search marketers are interested in visitors, referrals and conversions from referrals. But for business it is all about the bottom line, not just about the funnel.

The worst thing for any business to do is not pay attention and not measure. You can't take the attitude that "if you build it they will come." You can't manage what you don't measure.

He gives a plug to Vanessa Fox's book, "Marketing in the Age of Google," which pulls the search and business perspectives together (go get it).

Attribution
Connected marketing is about the 4 A's
- Awareness
- Appreciation
- Action
- Advocacy

Meaningful is monitoring the continued conversation and share of voice. Share of voice is the percentage of available traffic from across channels that end up engaging with your business.

Define and understand what's meaningful and tie things together through the data. Set up session cookies (what the visitor does in that session) and persistent cookies (what they do in their next visit).

Context

Data on its own is meaningless. It's important to understand the context of search and social referrals.

Catfish is up next. He's going to look beyond the numbers... and he's just deafened the entire audience by shouting through the mic. Eventually I get my hearing back, and I think he's going to talk about traffic and rankings.

Brand vs. Non-Brand vs. Long-Tail

It's important to understand the difference between brand and non-brand keywords. Brand traffic is a function of your other marketing efforts as these searchers already know who your company is. Non-brand traffic more heavily relies on your organic search efforts.

He's got a neat tool which helps you to calculate brand vs. non-brand referrals. Everyone wants a copy of his presentation.

It's also important to track long tail performance to see whether your optimization efforts are working or not. Rankings and traffic aren't easy to correlate, so it's important to track each separately.

Measuring SEO Rankings

Localization and personalization has an impact on rank particularly because search rankings aren't as homogenous as they once were. Different users searching for the same keyword in different locations will get different results.

Where you are, and where you search for things, has a tremendous impact on what you see.

Google Webmaster data now provides "average rank." Average rank provides a better approximation of what you're doing in Google. So go get your Google Webmaster data.

Key takeaway: Average rank is your new barometer.

Finally, Jon takes the stage. He's looking at which metrics are overrated and which are underrated:

Over-rated
- PageRank
- Number of links
- Number of pages indexed
- Top 10 rankings

Under-rated
- Crawl rate
- Landing page performance (traffic only counts if it converts)

Jon's bonus tip is page load time. He recommends compressing your files. Although it won't necessarily improve your SEO, it helps to speed up your pages and lower abandonment rates.

Testing for SEO Lift

- Don't start a project without a way to measure success up front (and tie it to revenue)
- Traditional A/B Testing doesn't apply. He recommends using a pseudo A/B testing approach where you deploy a new feature on a subset of keywords/pages
- Test/measure Google traffic

Successful testing requires accurate reporting. He recommends using multiple reporting sources. Google Analytics is a great double check, even if you already have a reporting system.

Actionable Test Reporting

Remember who you're reporting out to. You need to set expectations up front -- SEO is lucrative, but highly volatile and there is a time lag. Setting these expectations makes things easier in the long run. His manager asked him why they weren't seeing any SEO results yet after they had been doing it for two weeks. Doh!

John ends by putting his two cents in... he's a huge fan of share of search and share of voice as a KPI.

This live blog post was written by guest blogger Imelda Khoo. Imelda is the E-Marketing Manager at Tektronix, responsible for global SEO, PPC and social media. Imelda blogs at SEM Booty and is also on Twitter @imeldak


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