How do you measure SEO performance now that "not provided" keyword data is so prevalent?
This question comes up frequently in client meetings and conversations with colleagues in the industry.
In some cases, "not provided" keyword traffic percentages represent more than 50 percent of a client’s search referral volume. This creates a significant hurdle when you're trying to demonstrate results for campaign initiatives.
The challenges SEOs face in demonstrating ROI of keyword strategies mirror greater concerns B2B marketers have with website optimization initiatives overall. A recent MarketingSherpa article highlights the fact that more than half (53 percent) of B2B marketers surveyed indicated they couldn't (or didn't) calculate the ROI of their website strategies.
The information is significant because (according to those surveyed) the website accounts for 25 percent of all marketing spending.
Demonstrating ROI is a critical element of marketing performance. B2B SEO professionals would be wise to do their part in the process, which includes being proactive and creative when faced with mounting reporting obstacles such as increased "not provided" traffic.
Here are five recommendations for providing greater performance measurement on B2B SEO programs, impacted by "not provided" traffic percentages.
Landing Page SEO Attribution
The most direct method for evaluating SEO strategies when faced with increasing "not provided" percentages is to track individual landing page performance. In Google Analytics, the first step is to filter "not provided" keyword data by "Landing Page" to get a sense of what content logged in searchers are landing on.
Select the Secondary Dimension "Landing Page":
Results show what pages logged-in searchers landed on when finding website information in Google search engine results:
This is a critical way you can explain the value of content marketing assets, created to provide visibility for important keyword strategies, and limited by "not provided" search percentages. Landing page attribution helps:
- Define visitor success metrics of specific pages SEOs created or made recommendations for, by way of traffic, page performance, and (hopefully) goal completion.
- Set benchmarks for comparing the traffic performance of SEO assets against other traffic referral channels.
While we no longer have complete visibility into the keyword referral types generated by Google users, we can make reasonable assumptions by better analyzing landing page information from those visitors.
SEO Landing Page Navigational Performance
While conversion tracking, in terms of lead volume and conversion rate, are critical benchmarks. However depending on the type of content assets created sales ready leads might be difficult to realize. There is a bigger story SEO campaigns can tell through navigational performance analysis.
In addition to evaluating the specific pages "not provided" searchers landed on, B2B SEO professionals should investigate the paths website visitors take when accessing SEO landing page as well.
In Google Analytics, the "Navigational Summary", found in the "Content" section, provides important performance metrics. This data set can be critical for SEO-specific web pages like blog posts or viral marketing assets, usually meant more so for driving traffic and link acquisition, as opposed to direct leads.
Document the number and percentage of times visitors to jump from this page to a key conversion-oriented page, such as a request for download or request for evaluation type web asset. These types of metrics provide more concrete, immediate evidence that SEO landing pages drive qualified traffic, as well as provide opportunities for keyword visibility and links.
Prospect Page Performance
Lead management and marketing automation systems deliver visitor reports to clients; often daily. These reports usually show the following metrics associated to potential sales prospects, which can be valuable for B2B SEO performance evaluation:
- Keyword Referral Data: Which keywords the prospect used to access the site.
- Referral Source: This might be advantageous if we can trace back to link acquisition campaigns.
- Pages Visited: Critical for establishing whether SEO landing pages are being accessed by prospective customers.
B2B SEO professionals should ensure they are receiving summary reporting data (or access to the lead management dashboards overall) in order to evaluate whether SEO landing pages are being accessed by prospective buyers and what the visitor path was like, start to finish. This type of analysis creates a direct connection between SEO initiatives and lead nurturing programs.
Inbound Link Report
The content marketing assets built for particular keyword strategies should also acquire inbound links, either organically or through direct communication. Inbound link reporting is another way you can overcome gaps in keyword-specific measurement.
Google Webmaster Tools is the first place to look for inbound link information, specific to SEO related content marketing assets. Pay attention to both the domains and total links acquired per content marketing asset developed.
Bing Webmaster Tools also has an inbound link reporting tool and it is interesting to compare differences both search engines have in these reports. They both still provide good metrics for defining the value of SEO related content assets, and the links acquired with them.
Use an independent link tracking tool as well, such as RavenTools Link Manager or even an internally shared spreadsheet. Cross-reference this data with each search engine’s link reports as well, to get a sense of what information the search engines prioritize.
Social Media Mention
Content marketing assets should be designed to be shared in social media platforms as well. While measuring the volume of shares and mentions through various social sites is a good baseline metric, the key is in noting "business significant" social media profiles involved in this process. Examples of business significant profiles might include:
- Industry influencers
- Profiles representing solid link building opportunities
- Target prospects or customers
HootSuite is good for social media communication initiatives, because of the ease of use in tracking mentions, click rates on updates, and influence measurement.
The above screenshot is an example of a university profile we found mentioning one of our clients, and a key opportunity for link acquisition as well as long-term business development (for our client).
While this column focuses on the impact of "not provided" keyword data, almost all of these recommendations cover broader SEO performance measurement as well. Digging deeper into the data to uncover successes in SEO is critical for B2B marketing performance measurement, especially for organizations that rely more heavily on organic search.