SES London: PANEL – Meaningful SEO Metrics

Moderated by Jon Myers, this panel of experts will be looking at what constitutes ‘meaningful’ SEO metrics. We’re going beyond volume and position.

Panellists: Jeff Ferguson, SES Advisory Board & Miles Bennett, Targetstone Limited and Brian Clifton, Author: Advanced Web Metrics with Google Analytics.

Jon starts by reminding us that search and SEO can be difficult to quantify and contains a lot of a times “obfuscating” (my paraphrase) terminology for outsiders. SEO is now at the forefront of every business marketing plan; so how do we take meaningful metrics to the board?

Up first we have Jeff, who is looking primarily at how to make search metrics meaningful for board level execs. It’s important for us to get a sense of perspective, as what we are measuring may not mean that much to VP and CEO level. Not only may it not mean too much but these people have very little time.

What are we looking to justify? ROI

ROI must be quantified, therefore activities, time spent on activities and $$$ by activity are what really counts.

Tangible performance drivers, rather than all metrics matter here: so think UU rather than PV, conversion rather than engagement.

Next up is Brian Clifton, former Google Analytics and Author: Advanced Web Metrics

Brian starts by looking at where web analytics fits into marketing strategies and how to approach value; which is split into a 5 phase approach.

1.Aquire data (including off-site)

2. Engage

3. Measure (including on-site)

4. Test

5. Learn

To go into more detail we look at five more specific ways to attribute meaning to web data.

1. Brand engagement. A way to quantify brand engagement is to look at

brand engagement = #visits from brand search + direct visits/total search visits + direct visits (expressed as percentage)

E.g. 2544 “brand search” visits + 5777 direct/9362 total search visits + 5777 direct, equates to 55% brand engagement.

Big organisations tend to be impressed by this and seek to drive greater brand engagement, however smaller brands will need to drive this percentage down, as tail terms and product specific terms drive conversions. I’m reminded of Avinash’s example of HMV from this morning’s keynote).

2. Percentage of pages yielding traffic.

To get here look in GA at your keyword report/landing pages/total landing pages. Divide this by total number of indexed pages on the site. Goal in all cases here is t drive up the percentage of pages appearing in search.

3. Bounce Rate

Headline: 50%+ Red, 25 – 50% Amber, <25% Green.

Look at BR by top content to get some focus. Typical bounce reason = expectations have not been met.

4. Per visit values

Drilling down by medium, look at goal value total divided by visits per medium to give per visit value (by medium). Great for understanding intrinsic value of each traffic medium, and invaluable for spend planning.

Lesson: Whilst all of this adds value, do not get too carried away with the detail as mastering analytics involves doing the basics very well.

Jon takes over and asks Brian; putting GA aside, what other tool would you reccommend for good metric analysis?

Brian says we’re heading towards a lot of fragmentation as so much data is now being made freely available including the new Yahoo! performance analytics tool, which is rolling out in Europe now.

Jon introduces Miles Bennett, (Targetstone)who is going to talk to us about Web Metrics for Success.

Quite important to start with data collection points and ensure you are covering both On and Offsite…

On includes; keywords, keyphrases, onsite search logs, URLs, entry points

Off includes; link schema, competitor analysis, clickstreams, referring URLs, social mentions, backlinks, video.

With onsite strategy we’re interested primarily in the key drivers for engagement and conversions, which needs must focus on tailored content. As an example we look at the keyword density of content on which might be a usability nightmare, but is elsewhere rather successful in search engines.

Offsite strategies look more to link analysis, including KW anchor text not just numbers. Learn to love Excel, as pivot tables VLOOKUPS, text to columns, are all invaluable.

Miles finishes by looking at an SEO Metrics checklist.

  • Referral traffic by volume
  • % SEO friendly URLs to not
  • KW complexity vs content on site
  • Social referrals
  • SERPS positions
  • Paid vs organic

Jon asks Miles in summary, if he had to pick one metric, which is THE most important? Miles says it is audience specific but generally channel performance. Always remember it’s about the bottom line.

There’s a question from the audience which I couldn’t really hear but I think was about the difficulties of KW analysis with a looooong tail.

Brian – grouping KW into segments (something Tami in the Deep Dive session calls “clusters”).

Jeff – use negative keywords and filter out irrelevant keywords.

Another audience question, which this time I hear, is about tools for measuring links?

Jeff recommends SEOmoz and Google Webmaster Tools.

Jon points the audience towards Christoph Cemper of (advanced link building services and tools) who is sat amongst us.

Another audience member asks about quantifying ROI. Jeff urges us to log time. Look at time in vs value out.

Brian urges us to monetise goals, set a commercial objective for goals to focus on worth.

Miles – points out it is useful to try to quantify engagement as well as conversions.

There’s a final question about measuring Personalised Search, which in summary, is currently impossible.

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8 Responses to “SES London: PANEL – Meaningful SEO Metrics”

  1. Gerry White says:

    I have to disagree (even though I think that Brian is one of the best in terms of analytics, certainly writing about them) this bounce rate traffic light model is wrong – working on a large number of content sites, typical reason for bounce – expectations HAVE been met, they are satisfied so they go on – you should provide EVERY opportunity to allow users to keep engaged, or re-engage with the content, but don’t stress about a high bounce rate for a good content page. Unless it is either your homepage, or a product page… then you have problems. Ask yourself, where would you go next if you came in on that key phrase, then found that page… If your query is satisfied then it may be that your “happy” visitor will have a positive experience and will hopefully return…

  2. I’m halfway with you Gerry, in that yes – I agree that when expectations have been met wholly; one can also expect a high bounce-rate (as when expectations have not been met at all).

    My slight difference is that I would focus on the business model for your site when considering bounce as a performance factor and when setting what is (for our site) a great or poor bounce-rate.

    As an example, affiliate and arbitrage model websites may experience a bounce rate of 75% of higher and the higher the better.

  3. [...] SEO Chicks: "There’s a final question about measuring Personalised Search, which in summary, is currently impossible." [...]

  4. Nichola thanks for the post about our presentation. Just to respond to Gerry’s post. If you have a content rich site (rather than a transactional site) then you could have a report which does multi-tiered reports. In the realms of newspapers you could have a bounce rate with the added measure of time on site. By segmenting the bounce rate across articles and article genres you’ll be able to understand which pages have a higher propensity to increase engagement.

    In the realms of testing I would recommend having ‘related articles’ in a more prominant position.

    All the best


  5. @Miles – thanks so much for contributing some great points about learnings and analysis using the bounce metric.

    I work predominately with transactional clients so this is also a great tip for me too.

  6. Carol says:

    I’m very interested on how you think Cemper did? Was he convincing, did he say anything that would be new to you?

    I really have to get into the next SES.

  7. Hi Carol,

    Christoph wasn’t speaking formally in this session. Jon (moderating) simply pointed the audience to Christoph as we went off topic from performance related metrics to measuring and quantifying links.

    I did recently liveblog the London Affiliate Conference “Golden Links” panel, on which Christoph sat; so you may find this post more relevant to your requirements.


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