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SEO Reporting & Metrics: How to Prove Progress

krista-lariviere
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seo-progressIt's the beginning of the month and it's again time to report to your clients or your boss on the SEO progress made last month. It's time to justify your SEO strategy, your efforts and yourself. Sound familiar?

With the challenging landscape of SEO comes the challenging landscape of SEO reporting, and I'm not just talking about merging SEO data sources into one Excel file and adding a logo to try to make it look professional, presentable, and understandable. I'm talking about how to make all the data points and metrics indicate real progress, and more importantly meet your clients' or boss' expectations.

Since the way we do SEO has changed, the way we report on it must change too. Effectively setting up the reporting metrics to prove progress may make the difference between meeting the clients' expectations or not.

SEO reporting should answer these questions for your client:

  • Are our efforts helping us reach our organic search goals?
  • What SEO tasks were completed last month in relation to our goals?
  • What impact did these efforts have on the web presence for organic search?
  • What new opportunities were identified to optimize for organic search?
  • Are there any new competitive threats?

So how do you set up your SEO data, metrics and reporting to prove this progress and set the stage for the subsequent month? How do you set up your SEO team for success?

Follow these four steps with month-end reporting in mind for more successful SEO outcomes.

1. Set Expectations

Clarify what SEO is compared to what it isn't.

Most of us know that SEO is not just about ranking first in Google for the preferred set of keywords, but the people you have to report to might not be on the same page. Set the expectation early in the relationship that SEO is more than just rank, and that SEO ranking data isn't the be all and end all of SEO reporting. Setting this expectation is key.

SEO is the on-going process of discovering and uncovering highly converting unbranded keyword phrases that are driving organic search traffic and conversion – then taking action across the web presence to improve upon impact and create new impact. Impact in the form of increased organic search traffic and conversions, expansion of keywords you are being found for, content footprint index, etc.

Metrics that demonstrate the impact of your SEO efforts include:

  • Organic traffic/visits
  • Organic position
  • Conversions by keyword
  • On-site and off-site indexed pages

content-campaign-return-on-impact

2. Set Goals & Benchmarks

Quantifying the starting point will help clarify the final outcomes.

Agreeing on and setting goals for the SEO project is obviously key and will help maintain focus. Including those goals in the monthly SEO report will remind your client or your boss of what the overall reason for the investment is after the project gets going.

Let's face it, it's easy to forget why we thought SEO was important. To prove impact, setting goals and benchmarking the current web presence is necessary.

A couple examples of realistic goals to work toward are:

  • "To increase traffic from organic search by 20 percent over the next two months."
  • "To triple the number of highly converting unbranded keywords."

To help demonstrate progress with these goals, benchmarking certain metrics and including the benchmark values in the monthly report is key.

SEO metrics to benchmark to demonstrate progress and achievement of the agreed upon goals include:

  • Organic search traffic both as a percentage of overall website traffic and the number of unique visitors.
  • Backlink diversity.
  • Unbranded keywords found in anchor text.
  • Social signals by social channel.
  • Number of unbranded keywords driving traffic.
  • Number of unbranded keywords driving conversions.
  • Number of indexed pages.

3. Set up Goals and Conversions in Analytics

Doing SEO without goals and conversions set up in analytics is a fruitless exercise.

If SEO is about understanding highly converting unbranded keywords that are driving organic search traffic and conversions, then doing SEO without goals and conversions set up in analytics makes this task next to impossible.

Whether you're using Google Analytics, Coremetrics, Omniture, or another analytics system, it is important to set up even some simple goals. Think about the website in question and what you consider a successful visit to be.

More advanced goals can be set up as you get to know the website and the behavior of the visitor, but if you're looking for some simple goals to get started in order to understand successful keywords here are two:

  • Time on Page: If the time the visitor stays on the page is greater than 2 or 3 minutes then this can be considered a conversion. One can conclude that whichever keyword the visitor searched on to get to the site matched the content on the page plus they stayed a reasonable amount of time to read the content.
  • 2+ Pages Visited: Similarly to Time on Page, number of pages visited can help indicate that the visitor is engaged with the content. Knowing the keyword they searched on to arrive at the page will help to discover new unbranded keywords that ought to be optimized for.

Make time every week to discover and uncover new highly converting keywords. Identify them in your monthly report, discuss them with your client as well as the opportunities you have identified to create on-site and off-site content for these keywords. This is an upsell opportunity for SEO services.

4. Set Metrics & Drive Action Items

Metrics without action items are useless.

SEO is an ongoing process and you want to keep your client engaged, so continuing to discover opportunities through the metrics and demonstrating that more content writing can be done will keep their investment top of mind and ongoing.

Here are some metrics that will help with continuous action items:

Keywords by Position Sorted by Highest to Lowest Converter

Action items:

  • Perform additional keyword research to identify other related search terms including variations and longer-tail terms. How might these keywords be included into on-site or off-site content to test engagement and understand if the keyword(s) in question will perform well?
  • Identify other pages on the website that are ranking beyond page one for the keywords in question. What can be done to further optimize these pages to improve rankings?
  • Obtain additional budget to write content and report on metrics.

New Content Being Indexed and Ranked

  • Identify new on-site and off-site pages that are being ranked and indexed. Which pages can be optimized further? If conversions increase, then perhaps an entire content campaign can be created around this keyword. Once this is identified, obtain additional budget to create and execute on this content campaign and report on the metrics.

Summary

SEO reporting should be considered an art rather than a science. Monthly SEO reporting deserves a conversation with your client or boss to help describe the opportunities for optimization that you see in the metrics.

Setting the expectation that reporting is more than just presenting rank data will help to create a relationship that is open to exploring opportunities to optimize based on strong metrics around keyword visits and conversions.


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