The costs related to a specific actions and final acquisition has always been, and always will be, the ultimate metric and goal for any marketer. However, how we get to that final acquisition metric and how we optimize our search engine optimization (SEO) and social media efforts has changed significantly.
As we adapt to the convergence of SEO, social, content, and digital media channels there has never been a better time to think about new ways to measure paths to acquisition and utilize the vast amounts of technology, analytical tools and platforms that help us measure the value of media that is "earned from consumers."
What follows are some insights and straightforward tips from my recent visit to SES New York and some food for thought as to new ways to look at measuring, not just SEO, but converged, earned, and business related metrics.
1. Match Value to Traditional SEO Metrics
While ensuring that you measure traffic from the search engines – how many pages receive visits from these search engines, and how many keywords are sending traffic to site – also try to match value to these metrics.
For example, what is the size of the actual SEO opportunity and how much traffic and conversion comes from specific landing pages? How many keywords are under management and what is the specific value, cost and return, of specific keywords?
2. Distinguish Between Reactive vs. Proactive Metrics
Sometimes it's too easy to get caught in a battle or debate with client about metrics. We all know this happens far too much, right? The reality as to why this happens it due to that fact that people often report binary metrics based on reaction to:
- A loss of rankings.
- Reduction in traffic levels.
- Reductions in actions.
- Loss of business, lower conversions, and so forth.
Now these are all essential metrics to the success of any online campaign. However, simply reporting these metrics can put you in a constant cycle of debate.
Looking and reporting proactive metrics actual helps you in this case by providing the clients with something new and also putting any reactive metrics into perspective. Such metrics to focus on are:
- Rankings in relation to competition.
- Rankings in relation to content and news and external/industry statistics.
- Influencer based metrics and future value.
- Social value and engagement.
- Attribution based metrics (more on this later).
- Action based metrics that over time influence rankings.
You can do this by utilizing a combination of:
- Advanced analytics (Google and Bing Webmaster Tools and analytics).
- SEO tools (Majestic, Moz, Screaming Frog).
- Enterprise SEO and social media technologies (later in this post).
3. Place a Value & Forecast SEO Metrics – Think Beyond Just Ranking Position
SEO is finally becoming more measurable, and by tracking the whole picture and integrating with site analytics measuring ROI has become a whole lot easier. Quantifying the value of an SEO (just like you would with PPC) project prior to its start allows clients to invest more based on these forecasts.
Always remember the following:
- Rankings mean nothing unless you put a value to them.
- To place a value on SEO use organic traffic data and PPC keyword data to project spend – just like you would PPC.
- Make sure you use this data to benchmark where you or your client are is in relation to the competition.
Image credit: BrightEdge
Being able to see where you're winning and losing becomes a whole new SEO metric in itself
4. Embrace Social Media Metrics & Objectives
Eighty-four percent of companies surveyed in a recent Facebook survey believe that social signals will be more important to SEO in 2012. The convergence of SEO and social media tactics has meant that social media metrics are becoming just as important as traditional SEO metrics.
It is now vital to measure "beyond the Like" and understand the true value of social media interactions.
As BrightEdge CEO, Jim Yu, mentioned in his panel presentation, the increased importance of social signals (e.g., Google Search Plus Your World) means it is now essential to look at how, when, and why social signals (tweets, Likes, +1’s, and Pins) influence rankings and position. Creating a Google+ page, adding social plugins (maximize engagement), interlinking deep pages with social media properties, and SEO’ing your social pages are all vital steps in optimizing for the social web and graph.
"One important distinction to make with measuring the integrated SEO and social media efforts is the difference between KPIs and business outcomes," Odden said. "I talk about this in Optimize where KPIs are defined as the behaviors that often lead to revenue oriented outcomes. KPIS like links, rankings and search traffic as well as likes, fans, friends, followers, network size, rate of growth and such are all useful measures of progress that can lead to business outcomes."
Odden also makes an interesting point on the differences between sales and social impact.
“Obviously sales and new customers are the most often sought after outcomes but so are the social impact on increased orders, order volume and frequency,” Odden said.
Image credit: Econsultancy
"Whatever brands can do facilitate productive connections between prospects or consumers and useful brand content, the more meaningful the engagement," Odden said. "And in my experience, an engaged community is more likely to be a profitable community."
5. Utilize the Right Tools & Technologies That Get You The Right Metrics
From measuring site stats, links, value, and social media influence the development many tools and technology platforms are allowing us to segment different types of metrics and build insights and value from a numerous of different sources.
Utilizing these types of seo and social media technologies – see this article on 45 SEO and Social Media Tools for examples – helps you collaborate much more closely with clients and agencies and…
6. Report The Right Metrics to The Right Person
Metrics are pretty useless you are reporting the right metrics to the relevant people, in the relevant format and at the relevant time. There is no set formula as to how you report metrics to an agency or a client as every company has a different organization structure, political structure, and level of knowledge.
Beyond marketing and sales objectives, search and social media marketing programs can affect increases in media coverage, attracting new employees and serving as a facilitator for better online customer service. That means more than links and likes.
For Odden, this means "performance based measurements in alignment with objectives like monitoring social conversations for customer service opportunities and overlaying those trends on social / search referrals to company knowledgebase and FAQ content. Is social engagement and optimized customer service content attracting more visits to FAQ and knowledge-base pages for example? What impact does such optimized content have on brand sentiment within social channels over time?”
Depending upon your objective you can start to build and utilize dashboards and widgets to begin to segment how and to whom you report certain metrics through an organizational structure. Once you have done this you can gain ‘buy-in’ from individuals in specific roles whilst then collaborating and sharing metrics easily across various business functions.
The end result is a client that fully understands the metrics relevant to them and their role.
Ciaran Norris, director of Emerging Media, Mindshare Global, makes a great point to help keep us in check.
“What’s changed in the market is that clients and agencies were use to the simple, precise nature of search (CPC etc) but have now had to adapt to the sometimes less definitive world of social,” Norris said. “There should be different metrics used to measure the effects of different platforms. The ultimate metric should be sales”.
7. Attribute Credit and Admit That You’re a Marketer
Someone once said “It’s not SEO, it’s Marketing”. The scope of SEO has changed dramatically over recent months due to its convergence with social and content-based media.
It's only natural (pardon the pun) that now we have more effective ways of measuring success that we should think like a holistic marketer. SEO has long had an issue with its PPC peer about attribution and credit. Advancements in analytics, tools, and technology highlighted above now pave way for SEO to monetize its value while also showing how its assists in the conversion process.
Kevin Gibbons wrote a great post showing how you can treat SEO forecasting like PPC and help to attribute accordingly.
Yes, there are always going to be challenges to this such as local search (Panda) and softer metrics that muddy the waters and are hard to measure (brand metrics) but the development and rise of API’s can help you work your way to building metrics to get you nearer your goals and show how you add value in the conversion chain.
As we move to a converged media world we are now presented with a number of ways to attract new connections between brand and consumer. This is turn creates a number of different ways to measure interactions and value by looking at metrics in a new light.
Utilizing the right technology and reporting the relevant metric from the relevant channel to the relevant person at the relevant time is the best way to show value and get the increase in spend that you deserve.
"The only metrics that really matter are sales (or the equivalent) and the cost of driving those," Norris said. "Anything else is just dressing."
Well, what we have today is a whole new way of dressing, measuring and tracking how SEO and it’s converged media partners can become more accountable in that sales process.