Analytical Measurement & SEO: Ignorance Isn’t Bliss

Not establishing SEO goals is bad. Even worse is not knowing how to evaluate your campaign. Here's how to understand and assess the causation of analytical trends.

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Date published
April 18, 2011 Categories

Most of us have been there.

In-house, it’s the C-level employee with enough online marketing knowledge to be dangerous. They ask why “we’re” not ranking for a term you know only gets 40 searches a month, why traffic is down, where the conversions are, and so on.

On the agency side, a derailing client call or email sends employees into a tizzy analyzing why there might be an issue, when often there is no issue at all as it pertains to search engine optimization (SEO).

These occurrences can be very time intensive. Time is a commodity none of us seem to have enough of, so it’s imperative that you know how to quickly find potential problems with your SEO program from an analytical perspective.

Granularity is Key

The previously mentioned CEO or client probably looked at organic search engine traffic as a whole, saw a decrease, and decided that SEO was an utter failure.

Surface level analytical review is quite pointless and doesn’t lend itself well to understanding the direction of where your SEO efforts should lie. Digging deep in analytics is where good SEOs stand apart from the rest of the pack.

Very rarely will you see common decreases across all engines, across all terms, etc., unless you’re dating the developer’s ex-girlfriend and he decided to robots.txt exclude the entire site late one night without telling you.

Digging In

So, let’s find out where the problem is. Many webmasters use Google Analytics, so it’s a fair tool to use as an example. For each step below take a look at a monthly view and month-over-month view — and, if seasonality is a concern, look at a year-over-year monthly view.

First, look at the current trends at the Source level. We want to get granular but need to know where to get granular. This often doesn’t solve an issue but can indicate the presence of a large-scale problem.

Now, begin the process of asking yourself some questions, some more questions, and questions about those questions.

If you do see a problem here:

Again, this often won’t provide an answer unless it’s a glaring problem.

Next, look at the Organic Keyword level:

Segmentation

Segmentation is one of the best ways of accessing issues only appearing in certain site sections or for certain terms.

Utilize the filter at the bottom of the page to filter out branded terms or filter to only include terms containing the brand name. Make sure you separate brand terms with a pipe and also ensure that no words are used in the filter that may inappropriately add non-branded terms to the branded list or vice versa.

Branded traffic is way down. How so, we rank number across all engines for this term? The likely culprit here is a lag in offline marketing.

Instead of direct searches, many often type your brand into a search engine. Take a quick glance at Google Insights also for your brand and see if it is moving downward as well.

Let’s flip the switch and filter for non-branded terms. Let’s first look at what terms are slagging in referrals.

After reviewing your analytics for these terms, filter only to contain terms fitting your overall keyword theme and subthemes.

While filtering to only include non-branded terms, select to also view Landing Pages of the currently viewed organic Keywords:

Take a look at what pages brought these keyword referrals. Now we can attribute what avenues (pages) may be suffering in the rankings.

Look at historical traffic data.

Categorical Review

Since we have dug down to the relationship of referral terms to landing pages, it may also be imperative to know how sections or keyword sets are performing to analyze if a trend presents itself at a folder level or if it’s truly at a keyword level.

You may have seen some keywords that stand out as having an issue. But if you have 50,000 terms referring visits you may have to step back and look at the categorical of folder level to assess if a landing page is hurting one/few keywords, or a whole lot more.

Take a look at your analytics by Landing Page. Also ensure that you utilize the filter function at the bottom of the page and separated by pipes, add your main or most important folders to the filter.

What do you see?

Dig a little deeper now and similar to the above graph choose to view your analytical data by landing page filtered to only include top sections/folders of importance and also view by Keyword:

Now that you’ve (hopefully) found certain keyword related to certain sections/folders, you can see how this data matches up by search engine or Source. Once you’ve defined exactly where your problem areas are, you’ll be able to create a definitive plan of action.

Instead of just saying the problem is Google, or only non-branded terms, or conversions but not traffic, you now can mold your strategy at a finite level instead of making broad, time consuming, mass changes to the site.

You may find out the problem isn’t SEO at all. Usability or offline factors may be giving your SEO efforts an unknowing black eye.

Along those lines, you might be losing the traffic for a good reason if you find that traffic lost is extremely unqualified and therefore not technically an impairment to your SEO and site goals.

Not all problems sit simply at the Source, Keyword, or Landing Page level. Through the use of multi-level analytical review as well as the use of advanced filters we are able to quickly discern issues and opportunities. Analytical review can be seemingly endless in some instances and sometimes certain campaigns will force you to dig down even deeper.

Analysis of regions, for example, in the event of geo-based traffic analysis or browser settings for conversion issues, just to name a few. Taking the above approach to assessing potential SEO issues leaves you with more time, and in fact, more time to be working on your SEO campaign instead of worrying about what is seen as potential problems.

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