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Meaningful SEO Metrics – #SESSF

Posted on Aug 16th, 2011
Written by Lee Odden
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    SEO Metrics Panel SES San Francisco 2011The only session I’m liveblogging day one of SES San Francisco conference is this one, “Meaningful SEO Metrics: Going Beyond the Numbers” so the pressure is on the awesome panel including: Todd Friesen, Ray “Catfish” Comstock, Rob Garner and moderation duties handled by Richard Zwicky.

    First up is Rob Garner, VP Strategy at iCrossing and a VP at SEMPO. Rob started things off with a description of the challenges that most often occur with measuring the search channel.

    90% of search channel bugets go to paid media, but paid media supplies 20% of returns. Only 10% of budgets go to SEO but a huge percentage of search marketing performance can be attributed to SEO.

    Why is this? Paid search is easier to measure. But… SEO can be made easier to measure in aggregate and at the keyword level once a balanced program is implemented. The biggest opportunities in search are with SEO.

    Challenges on the client side regarding measuring SEO performance:

    • Disconnect between legacy systems in tracking performance
    • Using last click attribution
    • Large companies measure value as “what have you done for me lately” natural search benefits tend to be longer term
    • Not maintaining search performance history going back years
    • Bad analytics and tracking
    • Educating those holding the budgets for natural search

    A longer term view of natural search is needed to understand the value. Natural traffic is earned but eventually owned. Look at maintenance costs of SEO as a realistic expense, especially in comparison to the contribution to revenue.

    4 Key measurements needed for meaningful SEO metrics:

    1. Value of searchequity for the site being optimized
    2. Media value of natural search traffic
    3. Value o various action across the site (individually and in aggregate)
    4. Value of the stress and time costs on your organization. The cost savings of doing it now, vs. doing it later (retro-fit)

    Building a Business Case – Key Questions

    1. How much is invested in search
    2. How much is a conversion worth? How much will it change with SEO?
    3. How do we measure lift in natural search metrics
    4. How much opportunity may be lost without a SEO plan?

    Calculating Advertising Value Equivalent for SEO:

    • Find out the anticipate traffic lost or gained in natural search
    • Determine the average CPC in a themed area of one of your campaigns
    • Multiply the average CPC times the amount of SEO traffic to quantify its media value. For example: 100k clicks times an average CPC of $2.63 is valued at $253k. In a year, that value is over $3 million.

    Case Study:  A banking site re-launched with renamed URLs and no redirection plan. There was a spike in 404 errors and $1.5m in actual revenue per month lost.

    Marketers must place a monetary value on actions to help SEO quantify results. Place a value on actions and also on lifetime value. When forecasting potential lift from SEO, be very conservative with traffic estimates.

    Be sure to measure Year over Year trends, not just month to month to create context for growth and overall perfornance.

    Next is Todd Friesen, Director of SEO for Performics who talked about incorporating SEM and SEO reporting to draw attention to the impact of SEO. “SEO hasn’t been getting it’s due”

    Benefits of a combined SEO and PPC strategy:

    • Visibility in both paid and natural decreases the frequency that consumers select a competitor
    • Great opportunity to increase overall revenue
    • Both can result in a significant lift in brand visibility

    Managing both tactics holistically yields great results than using any one tactic. A big problem is that measuring in silos doesn’t give a complete picture.

    Strategies for effective PPC and SEO:

    • Max ROI by adjusting bid strategy based on SEO ranking data
    • Keyword Gap Analysis – Identify strong performing keywords missing from your campaigns by comparing your SEO and PPC keyword lists
    • Increased Efficiency – Share landing page and ad creative across disciplines. Ad text used as meta description tags.
    • Creative Sharing – Share top performing ad creative with SEO for CTR optimization
    • Clickshare / SERP Domination – Rolled up reporting identifying tru combined clickshare numbers

    Testing framework for SEO and PPC vs. SEO alone: Identify top ranking organic keywords, select keywords for test and control groups, define hypothesis and success metrics, apply the test, evaluate the results and iterate.

    SEO and SEM do not exist in silos. It’s only in the past few years that marketers are actually figuring out how they can work together – looking at data and approaching it holistically.

    Last up is Catfish, Director of SEO at Business Online who focused on key metrics and reporting.

    Key Metrics: How to tell if you’re winning or losing. Three phased approach. Performance, opportunity and prioritization

    Performance Reporting:
    Search Rankings – It used to be that when you ranked #1 on Google, you ranked #1 on Google but now rankings can vary according to localization and personalization. Search rankings can be useful for month over month comparisons, but otherwise are not the best indicator of success.

    Tips on Effective SEO Performance Measurement:

    • Segment keyword campaigns according to levels of specificity. Example: Campaign (Dog), Group (Dog Food), Keywords (Buy Dog Food).
    • Distinguish brand versus non-brand performance
    • Look at long tail performance.

    Take your keywords and break them into groups, segment into brand vs. non-brand terms plus long tail keyword performance year over year.

    SEO Intelligence is a service that leverages Adobe Insight to look at SEO data. It tracks at the visitor level and supports cross channel attribution (online and offline). Also supports predictive modeling. Ray is very enthusiastic about SEO Intelligence!

    There were a few audience questions but I’ve used that time to finish off this post so I can publish it within a reasonable time.