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SEO Diagnostics: Proactive and Reactive Diplomacy

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Most practitioners and managers of search engine optimization (SEO) functions have come to understand that the one constant in this marketing environment is change. Ranging from the changes made by the search engines in the way that they index, judge, and trust content; to the increasingly savvy competitive sets in most of the “money” keyword categories – the static SEO function is one doomed to fall behind or fail.

On March 26, which happens to be my late father’s birthday, I will have the fortune to present on a SEO Diagnostics panel at SES New York together with RKG’s Adam Audette and Moderated by my friend and fellow SEMPO board member, Nordic eMarketing’s Kristjan Mar Hauksson

My father was a career U.S. Diplomat and an accomplished speaker, and taught me many life skills to which I am eternally grateful. As I grow older I realize one thing that he, my (also highly inquisitive) mom, and other parents have the most profound influence in is the “overall demeanor” that their children have. The way that I analyze things includes a self-directive that forces me to consider as many points-of-view as possible.

However, I have sometimes found that marketers are prone to only look at SEO in a one-sided manner. For example SEO: “it’s only about how Google rates my content,” “build content and links will come,” “I just need good links/social signals,” or even “all my competitors cheat.”

Non-biased diagnosis of your SEO progress requires a commitment to thinking about every side of the story, and to compromising between the often biased forces pulling website content and promotion “their way.” A couple rules have to be followed.

Use Search Engines to Proactively Study Your Environment

There are three quick tests people can use actual search results for, but these are the tip of the iceberg when it comes to analyzing your SEO world.

Whether you focus on just a few keywords which drive 80 to 90 percent of your conversions, or have multi-category or business lines, you have to put in the time in order to understand what is going on, and how fast it changes. As incredible as the tools that are out there are becoming, using only them will severely limit your perspective of the actual situation within your niche(s).

To understand how Google and Bing are thinking about not only your categories but also their “client” the searcher’s intent, requires an eyes-on review of the search results, no matter how cool your tools are.

Granted, there are great tools that can help you view Google and Bing side-by-side, or otherwise capture high level analysis such as the presence of a Universal Search result such as News or Products, etc. These can help lead you to the “right” searches to do in order to best understand the search engines, the searchers, and how your content interacts with the overlap.

In terms of the actual layout of the search result page (SERP), recent increases in the power of the real-time indexing and ranking, especially for Google, do require regular monitoring.

In the past, it was frustrating as an SEO consultant when clients looked at the search results every day and emailed. In 2013, many search results pages change rapidly, even if you keep your location and “personalization” consistent (obviously personalization brings a whole other layer into the discussion, but I’ll save that for SES).

As I wonder what Google thinks is important, I often am clued-in by the movement of the News box. If you try a search for “elephants” there is nearly always news on this SERP but depending on how recently they have been in a big story.

google-serp-elephants-3-15-2013

For Reactive Diagnostics: Think Outside Just Traffic and Conversions

Search marketers are both blessed and cursed as a result of the amazing access we have to performance data. The curse is that there is so much of it, that it’s often easy to rely on just a few so-called “KPIs.”

The term KPI means “key performance indicator,” which inherently means that there is subjectivity involved. As soon as a human ranks something as “key,” other things get subconsciously relegated to second or third class, and are thus essentially ignored. For marketers this is a big problem, and indicates a smug arrogance that sometimes angers me when analytics reports are delivered.

One example of a point-of-view that is considered often enough when it comes to organic and paid media conversion rates, is the actual user path taken.

Sophisticated marketers spending a lot to have both internal and external resources tracking user experience and search separately, are the victims of each likely overstating their case and muddying actionable analysis.

In my recent conversation with Kim Krause Berg, and with other user experience experts over the past few years, I have found that there can be a joyous feeling of “the beginning of a beautiful relationship” when the realization hits that user accessibility considerations and SEO can so easily move to common goals.

Of course, the incredible webmaster tools given freely to us by search engines should have equal importance as analytics and visitor tracking, since issues found within WMT can suggest other problems with site design and visitor path, if viewed from multiple points of view rather than “I simply have to get rid of those 404s” or “my bad links are the only thing killing me.”

I hope to see many of you reading this at SES New York in late March, and also appreciate comments with other important diplomatic/non-biased information analysis tactics.


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