Over the last few weeks I've found it interesting that a few people thought I had a business and PR background rather than a background in SEO. The reason for this seems to be that I generally look at what my work means in terms of business performance, rather than just making web stats look good by using lots of plus signs and positive arrows.
Too often, people still think of SEO as a technical service, rather than a key marketing activity and integral part of their business strategy.
For example, how many marketing managers have you heard say: "Oh, our IT department deals with that," when you ask about their SEO campaign? Although this is becoming less common, such short-sighted marketers still exist, but their way of thinking will make them commercially defunct within just a few years.
Analytics Goals are Great Online Performance Indicators...
I've written before about how you need to look at social media from more than one perspective. The same applies across search marketing.
Rankings, traffic, CTR, and so on are all great performance indicators, but they are just that -- they indicate if things are going well and in the right direction. Rankings may be improving and traffic may be rising, but how does that really affect what you're doing and how you justify your spend?
These types of KPIs don't tell you that you spent $10,000 on AdWords last month, generating $100,000 in revenue and $50,000 in profit. They don't look at buying cycles or average customer lifetime values.
Plus, they leave you with a huge amount of guesswork when trying to work out important things, such as the returns you'd generate if you doubled your budget.
...But the Main KPIs Need to Come From Your Own Performance Figures
In terms of online performance, KPIs need to reflect the goals and ambitions of your business, not those online goals outlined to you in your web analytics package.
Over the last year, I've met with potential clients who couldn't understand why their existing campaign was "doing so well," but their actual business was slowly dying. They were simply measuring the wrong goals, or rather, placing too much confidence in the wrong measurements.
Sometimes traffic is up but they're ranking for the wrong keywords and conversions are down; other times they're paying too much for their visitors and the clients simply aren't worth that much to them -- especially if any return visitors come through PPC again rather than habit.
There are so many ways that widely accepted indicators such as ranking and CTR can be misleading without intelligently looking at businesses-specific KPI.
And You Need to Measure Them Over Time
If you want to see how your campaign is working, you can't simply look at one instance of data. You have to watch it over time. Otherwise, it's meaningless.
The changes to these figures are what show you how successful your campaign is and whether you're continuing to drive it forward.
A good SEO strategy will continue to grow visitor numbers and conversions, because a good SEO strategy is constantly being refined thanks to deep analysis. So you have to watch your figures over time so that you can really assess the success of a campaign, and whether it's slowing or remaining constant.
So What Else Can You Look at?
Your KPIs need to go deeper than the more obvious ranking, CTR, and traffic. Here are just a few that are particularly useful for assessing the success of an SEO campaign:
- Determine which are the website's leading landing pages for organic traffic. This shows how many pages rank sufficiently well enough to be found by searchers, which is one useful indicator of SEO success to date. Before you even touch their wider SEO campaign, you can help them tweak their leading pages to drive greater conversions, potentially driving up profitability. You'd be surprised how often new clients admit they have never revisited their top-performing landing pages to see if they could enhance conversion.
- Examine the number of unique keywords bringing visitors to your pages. A good SEO campaign will drive traffic organically across a wide range of keywords and not just a few of the more obvious phrases.
- Measure any growth in the number of your pages acting as entry points from search engines. If your SEO campaign is opening up your website and making it more findable, then more traffic ought to pour in through pages that previously were less successful.
It's Worth Bringing in Some Expert Analysis
If your budget is stretched, you're better off spending it on expert help and using the free analytics tools than investing in a load of special tools that you aren't equipped to use.
Although there are loads of useful online resources and guides, few things are as useful as working with someone who has experience in really lifting the hood on your website's performance and messing about with the nuts and bolts.
Going it alone will probably get you results, but you'll waste time while you learn through trial and error. If no one in your company has the relevant experience then bring in outside help, at least as a guide while you train up your own analytics expert.
Having said that, don't be fooled by an individual or agency that believes its work is done simply by boosting traffic to your pages. That isn't even half the story.
Join us for SES Toronto June 9-11, 2010 at the Hyatt Regency Toronto. The event will be packed with sessions covering topics such as PPC management, keyword research, SEO, social media, local, mobile, link building, duplicate content, multiple site issues, video optimization, site optimization, usability and more while offering high-level strategy, big picture, keynotes, an exhibit floor with companies that can help you grow your business, networking events, parties and more.