SEO-ROI 100: Remedial Course in Measuring SEO-ROI
Last week two great articles were posted that, at their core, really want to discuss the issue of exactly how to measure and how to prove your SEO efforts are actually providing an ROI.
Link Economics 101 by Stephen Spencer and The Business of SEO by Todd Friesen (a.k.a. Oilman) both talk about externalities involved in SEO business management, but the heart of both these articles is really about how to demonstrate the value, and subsequently the return on investment, you bring to the table with the professional SEO services you provide. (You should probably read these articles before moving ahead)
Stephen’s article focuses on the off-site aspect of SEO, link building, and trying to capture a solid way to measure those efforts toward the client’s ROI. While Todd’s article focuses much more heavily on justifying the cost of a professional’s SEO program.
Everyone Just Take A Deep Breath and Move One Step Back
Both articles need to take a step back and think about the root cause: ROI. It’s the “What am I getting out of this” syndrome. And it’s a fair question, in which measurement certainly plays a major role. And the bottom line you get out of both of these articles is old SEO defense of, “we just know, ok?”.
Pinpointing ROI at an advanced level would be great if it could actually be done, especially in Link Economics. Which is why I think it it was time for a remedial course in demonstrating SEO-ROI. There are still plenty of ways to show your work is providing more profit now (with SEO and SEM strategy implemented) than it would have otherwise. Think of it like this:
We find/acquire several high-powered links (under the assumption that you have a solid linking campaign already), but those services we provided weren’t cheap. Client X wants to know how that money is going to turn into increased profit, and to Stephen’s point, it’s almost impossible to tell you, Client X. Not unless you are expecting referrer traffic from the link, in which case, we’ll have metrics.
Honestly, how do you think ad agencies get away with charging ridiculous amounts? There’s no possible way they can link/measure the success of a spot that airs at a specific time, on a specific channel, directly to sales. That just can’t be done. But they do use tons of extraneous data and extrapolate the value to the brand and the bottom line the ads they created generated. And that’s exactly what search marketers need to do.
Every Time a Butterfly Flaps It’s Wings, An SEO…
It’s really chaos theory at it’s finest (a butterfly flaps it’s wings in Nicaragua = a man buys a lotto ticket at an out-of-the-way gas station and hits it big).
Example: The Miller Light plant has had a slight machinery malfunction that causes 10,000 less cases to be shipped out. No one except Big Brass and floor employees know this.
Let’s say you provide SEO services to Budweiser. You’ve implemented an on-site change (let’s assume you tweaked a title tag and found a one incredible link, willing to provide you with highly targeted text). Two weeks later you see a spike in site traffic and conversions, in conjunction with sales of Bud and it’s counterparts increasing 20%.
You could claim that this was all because of your onsite tweak, but it really has to do with the Miller plant shipping out 10,000 less cases. Miller ran out much quicker, and, therefore, people bought more Bud. It’s nearly an identical situation with search engines. It could be something that has been implemented months ago just now taking effect that has either pushed or plummeted search traffic and conversions.
Get Back To Basics: Extrapolate and Make Connections
An SEO can still demonstrate value and ROI, and more than just by claiming we “hit the machine in the right spot”. How you ask? Simple. Show the numbers. Ladies and Gents, that’s what they are there for. Analytics are not only a tool for mining great data to optimize sites with, they’re your best friend when having to demonstrate to a client your value.
In a time-starved world, I know it’s pain in the ass to spend an extra hour/two hours building up data reports that proves you’ve been adding to the bottom line. The key is to relate everything back to conversions. Using keyword data, to show clients the increased traffic and conversions on those words. Using geographical data in relation to keywords and conversions in order to create new, more effective strategies for certain geographical segments. Just stay away from SERP positions. They’re crap. They fluctuate incessantly; they’re whimsical. Once you get locked into that bit with your clients, you’re toast. Focus on conversion/lead/sales generation. That’s your home.
There are customized reports with analytics, so use them. You can build out any number of reports pulling lots of disparate information together. It’s a temporal exercise, people. You have to be able to think and strategize not only on the clients behalf, but yours too. But ethically. If you drown and rinse your numbers for a cleaner view, someone is going to know. I’m not suggesting that you come in with junk-numbers and no reasons. There’s always a reason and that’s what they pay you for. Find and rectify it.
Get Your SEO-ROI Proof-Positive
SEOs, in my opinion, need to get back to the basics of ROI proof-positive. It’s somewhere between Stephen and Todd. Just as with ad agencies, it’s not possible to show causality on every front and for every tactic, but there is plenty that can be shown with a little elbow grease, and you can justify cost through these data by extrapolating and making connections.
SEOmoz’s New Look and Feel
Woke up this morning to a new SEOmoz:
I think the SEOmoz team really nailed the design, taking user action into account. The site is set up to funnel users into the site and have them perform goals, whereas the old design left the user aimless and wandering (so to speak).
SEOmoz Did A Great Job. What Can Small Business Learn From This?
Great job to the SEOmoz team. Small and medium-sized businesses can take a tip from SEOmoz: every so often, it’s necessary to makeover yourself. You still have the same values and services, just a new look and feel. It’s a way to spice up the everyday, give your loyal customers something to appreciate, while broadening your reach to a new segment.
4 Tips To Build Your Solid SEO Core
The discovery phase of every SEO program is possibly the single most important aspect an SEO does to build successful organic optimization. Your keyword analysis is the central core to every program; it’s where the success starts and where the failure can begin. Here are some tips to keep in mind and build great keyword analysis in hours:
- GIGO Syndrome: Garbage In, Garbage Out
- Talk To Your Clients:
- “Take Only What You Need To Survive”:
- The Long and Winding Road:
The SEO program’s success, initially, is only as good as your keywords and the diligence you put toward it. Generally, if you start with “garbage”, that’s exactly what you and your clients can expect: garbage. Prepare yourself to dive deep into the keyword universe, exploring multiple variations of similar keywords, picking apart client site content, and continually refining until you attain your core keywords.
Someone has to break it to you. You aren’t omniscience. This is the best way to find out what you should actually be targeting, and a great way to keep from falling in the GIGO Syndrome. They’re coming to you for a reason: you’re a professional in your arena; they’re professional in theirs. And, chances are, their site is a complete and utter mess, so it’s not a reliable source to hone in on what they actually do.
Talking to clients BEFORE you begin your analysis is a great way to discern what their primary service or products are and what their secondary products and services are. It’s going to tell you what the client makes the most money on and what they need to be competitive for in order to keep their doors open. These are going to be your seed words. The words you’ll use to start your keyword research. More importantly, it’s a great way to get client buy-in on all things you’ll be doing in the future and to build confidence and trust.
Create and organize two separate spreadsheets: one for the client and one you use internally. Why? It’s pretty simple: you don’t want to overwhelm or start negotiations with your client. Through your refining process you’ll have hundreds of viable keywords, and the last thing an SEO wants to do is start “keyword nit-picking” with a client. If you show them your entire keyword universe, make no mistake that you are offering the client a say in what keywords they think/would like to be using.
The client-facing spreadsheet should show information that will only be valuable to the clients: primary keywords, secondary keywords, and long-tail keywords. If you have access to WordTracker or Keyword Discovery, or even Google’s Keyword Tool External, you’ll want to use the data they can provide support your keyword choices.
The best way to avoid a GIGO situation is, as I mentioned above, to put in your due diligence. Below is a process that works quite well for me:
Use Google’s External Keyword Tool Run your client site through the “website content” analyzer and check off the “include other pages linked from this URL”.
WARNING: unless you are doing PPC research, you just want to look at the “Common Terms” and “Keywords” columns. The traffic numbers aren’t going to help you out here as evidence for keyword choices, but they will give you an indication as to if the term is searched, as they include the entire content network and search partner network. This is not just Google Search Queries.
Review The Client Website:
Even after your sit down with the client, you still need to review ALL the content on the website. You need to know what content is on the site and what’s not. It’s not going to do you any good to find primary keywords if the content doesn’t exist on the site. Building targeted content to target keywords comes later; at this point you need to target what already exists. Chances are you’ll get more keyword ideas (and you might even find a hidden gem)
- Invade the Competitors:
- WordTracker or Keyword Discovery:
- Refine One Last Time:
Simply put, you need to know what the client competition is targeting and how well they’re doing it. You can use Google’s keyword tool and drop in the client URL, or use a couple of great paid tools like SEO Digger or SpyFu. Those two, I find, offer great results at a cheap price. Check this post by Ann Smarty for an in-depth look at these tools and others.
Once you’ve got an expansive list of keywords that all seem like a fit, it’s time to test their mettle. I like to drop each keyword, or group of similar keywords, in by themselves. It won’t do you any good to drop the entire list in at one time, especially if the settings are set for the standard 100 top keywords. Be sure to allow for misspellings or plurals or both, and let er’ rip.
Pretty soon you’ll have squeezed that list down from hundreds to about 30-40 keywords that get traffic and aren’t ultra-competitive. But, let’s face it, you’re going to have to target a few ultra-competitive keywords because that’s where the searches are happening and you have to be there.
Take another 30 minutes and review your keywords one last time. Match them up to the content pages of the client site and make sure they fit. If they don’t, lose em’.
It’s a big task, and a lot of work, but by putting in the effort up front, you’ll be saving yourself a headache and a lot of questions down the road.