Ramp Up Your SEO Campaign with Meaningful Reports
Do your eyes gloss over when you open up your SEO reports? Do you feel like you’re looking at a bunch of numbers and graphs that provide no real meaning to the growth and development of your online business? If this is the case, then definitely read on. If not, read on still. What follows may offer you additional ammunition for your SEO campaign. SEO reports are the foundation of online marketing success, and the future of your business is reliant on the quality of your reports.
With talk of keyword research, title tags, canonicals, URL rewrites, etc., reporting can sometimes get lost in the shuffle. There’s no doubt that these things are important, but unless you can track and report on how these strategies are affecting your campaign, you are flying blind.
The great thing is that Google, the giant of the search engine companies, offers a powerful reporting tool that’s free, called Google Analytics. The bad thing is that it collects data ad infinitum. You can easily get lost in data and have no idea how to apply it to the success of your business.
Below, we will discuss some useful ways to work with Google Analytics and other reporting tools to collect the right information for your SEO reports. You will learn how to decide what information to collect. Also, you’ll learn how to present the data in a way that’s informative and easy to understand.
Great SEO Reports Start with Identifying Business Objectives
The beginning of any successful reporting endeavor begins with identifying your online business objectives and setting goals. Start out by defining what action you want visitors to take when they visit your website. Do you want them to sign up for a newsletter, click on a link, purchase an item, call your store or take some other action? Once you’ve defined what action you want your visitor to take, you can then set up Google Analytics to collect that information.
Google Analytics offers a goal feature, which allows you to define, set up and track the completion of your website goals. Set-up, in most cases, is pretty straight forward: first, you need to define an action that you want to track. For our purposes here, we’ll say the action is a sale. Secondly, identify the action completion page for that action. Since we’re using sales as our action, the order confirmation page will be used as our action completion page.
Next, From the “Overview: Accounts” page in Google Analytics, click on the edit button to the right of the profile. You will find the goals section about midway down the page. To add a goal, click on the “add goal” button. Fill in your goal information, and then save your goal. Now you’re ready to see how many of your visitors converted to sales on your website.
There are advanced implementations of the Google Analytics goals feature that allow you to customize how Analytics collects information. Advanced configuration is too extensive to cover here, but there are a lot of books and online resources that cover advanced goal setting in Google Analytics.
Segmenting Out Your Data
Once you have your goals set up, there are additional customizations to consider. One of the most important and useful is advanced segments. Advanced segments allow you to look at your data through customized segments, which you define. For instance, if you want to isolate all the visitors that landed on a certain set of pages, you can segment out this information. Or, if you want to look at visitors that came in from a certain set of keywords, you can segment out this information as well.
Similar to goals, advanced segments are fairly straight forward to set up. To begin, navigate to the “Dashboard” page of one of your Google Analytics profiles. In the upper right hand corner, you will find an option for advanced segments. Click the “All Visits” dropdown to open up advanced segments. Here you will be able to view, create and manage your segments.
Key Metrics to Include in Your SEO Reports
There are several important metrics to consider when building out your SEO reports. Traffic is the main metric, although there are other metrics that are growing in importance. Bounce rate is a key metric that measures the relevance of a page as it relates to the query/queries it shows up for in the search engines. If your webpage is minimally relevant to the query it shows up for, then there is the potential that your visitor will bounce off that page and return to the search engine to continue their search. Google Analytics gives you tools to understand and lower bounce rates.
Other important metrics in Google Analytics allow you to track the time visitors spend on your site along with the number of pages your visitors view in a given session.
Important Data Outside Google Analytics
There are other types of information that you should include in your reports that cannot be obtained through Google Analytics. Ranking data, or the positions your webpages hold in the search engine results pages, should be considered. Also, link building data can be an important addition to your reports.
To get accurate and up to date ranking data, you typically have to use a paid tool. These tools are offered as both desktop applications and web based applications. The biggest differences between the two are how they update information and how they store information. Typically with web-based applications, you cannot control how often the ranking data is updated. The application automatically updates ranking data on a set schedule. Additionally, web-based applications typically have a better storage function, which allows you to store and archive years of data.
On the other hand, you can usually control the update schedule much better with desktop applications. Also, desktop applications tend to give you more options for scheduling updates, and they offer more flexibility for sorting and organizing your data. One of the downfalls we found when using desktop applications is their ineffectiveness in storing historic information. In many cases, you can store some historic information, but it is a little more challenging to manage.
Beyond traffic metrics and ranking data, it is beneficial to track and manage your backlink profile, as well as the backlink profile of your closest competitors. Backlinks are valuable in the SEO process and can often times be the main difference between success and failure. There are both paid and unpaid tools that let you monitor backlink activity. Along with many other third party options, Google Webmaster Tools is one of the more accurate backlink data resources for your website.
Bringing the Data Together
Sample Traffic Dashboard
Once you’ve identified the data that you need to track, then you need to present that data in a way that informs your campaigns and business decisions. The goals you set and SEO strategies you employ should be tied to and tracked as they relate to rankings, traffic and conversions.
Taking a look at the August Traffic dashboard above, we’ve combined several metrics together that paint a picture of the general traffic health during a given period. First, we’ve added the total number of visitors for the month of August, to get an overall impression of the potential sales opportunities that exist.
Along with the main traffic metric, we’ve incorporated the previous month’s traffic as it relates to the current month. This shows us, at a glance, our growth/decline rate from the previous month. Also, we’ve introduced the growth/decline rate of the current month’s traffic as it relates to the main benchmark, set at the beginning of the campaign. This gives us the overall site performance for the current campaign.
In addition, just below the traffic metric on the left, we added a chart that presents new visitors vs. returning visitors. This is an important metric, because it tells us how much of our traffic is from new visits and how much is from returning visits. New visits is the direct result of visibility opportunities in the search engines. If your site has strong visibility, you will see strong traffic numbers and vice versa.
Secondly, the chart shows returning visitors. Returning visits is an indication of the content and usability of your site. In most cases, if you have good content on your site and your site is easy to use, you will find that your returning visitors metric will increase. On the other hand, if visitors land on your site and find that it has shallow content or that it is hard to navigate, they will be less inclined to come back, thus reducing the visitor return rate. In ideal circumstances, you will want to see a good balance (maybe 60/40 or 70/30) between new visitors and returning visitors.
Finally, we show the relationships between the different traffic sources. We show direct traffic, which is traffic from visitors that type in the website’s URL to get to the site. We also show referral traffic, which is traffic that comes in from other websites. Lastly, we show organic traffic, which is traffic from the search engines. By analyzing this data, we may be able to uncover new opportunities for improving the website’s visibility in the search engines.
The most effective SEO campaigns are supported by reports that quickly tell the story of the campaign, as well as inform where the campaign is failing and succeeding. The SEO reports you develop for your business will end up being the foundation of your SEO campaigns and will be an invaluable resource as you continue to grow your business into the future.
Here at 360Partners we understand the importance reports play in managing SEO engagements. SEO can be a black box of strategies and techniques, and it’s important to have a firm handle on how those strategies lead to results. Furthermore, accountability for results is directly tied to the quality of the reports you produce. We take reporting seriously because we feel it is critical to understand how the strategies we employ influence a campaign.
If you are looking to create greater online success, let us help. Currently we are offering a free website analysis for qualified online businesses. Our analysis identifies the major issues that may be hampering your online success and gives you guidance on what to do to fix them. If you are interested in learning more, just email us at SearchMarketing@360partners.com.
About the author: Sidney Nicholas is lead SEO Specialist for 360 Partners. He has been actively managing SEO campaigns since 2006. His online marketing beliefs center around a holistic approach to SEO. His focus is on developing strategies that provide long term value to site owners and search engines.