How Web Analytics Leads to a Better Search Engine Marketing Strategy

As search engines work to provide better results for the visitor it makes the search marketer’s job more complex. The right web analytics and reporting tools are essential to qualifying the results of a search engine marketing campaign.

Here are 5 ways that a deeper look into traditional web analytics reports provides a more comprehensive view of performance with search engine marketing.

The Value of AdWords PPC Impression Data
Keyword tools are important for providing a comparative look at how often words and phrases may be searched. However they do not an answer the question of how many opportunities a website may be missing when site does not rank well or does not gain traffic from a high ranking term.

If part of an SEM strategy is invested in PPC, bid “Exact Match” on high priority terms to get an understanding of how often these terms are searched as well.

Exact match PPC impression data is one of the only ways to know how many searches for particular keyword were made in a given period of time. Now that Google AdWords provides separate metrics between search on Google and search partners, projections are even more accurate.

Why would this be valuable? Let’s say a site ranks on the first page of Google for a particular keyword in organic results and with PPC advertising. If we have impression data in AdWords, its possible to estimate organic CTR also.

Example: If a PPC report indicates 1,000 impressions in a month and monthly organic search referrals were 10, there are at least 9,990 visits clicking somewhere else. The question really translates into what can be done to the improve organic CTR, possibly through titles and descriptions.

Improve Existing Traffic With Bounce Rate Analysis
Making the investment in improving the quality of organic search traffic may be more important than working on terms with low to no visibility.

What is “bounce rate”? According to Yahoo Analytics (formerly IndexTools) bounce rate is defined as “the percentage of people exiting the site immediately after entering”. Google Analytics, defines bounce rate as the percentage of single-page visits (i.e. visits in which the person left your site from the entrance page). In either case, bounce rate is an indication of the quality of a website visit.

Why is reducing bounce rate important? If 90% of 100 organic search referrals bounce, something needs to be done to keep visitors interested in the website’s content found in search engines.

In the screenshot above (modified from a real analytics report), a keyword may bring in 345 visits, but if the bounce rate is 95%, less than 20 of those visitors really found the content of value.

Understanding the Visibility of a Keyword Theme
If a keyword benchmark only reports on one or two competitive phrases, we’re missing the opportunity to understand the breadth of related terms driving search traffic.

Setting specific keyword targets for a page is important, but searchers ultimately get to these pages through variations of a keyword theme. Therefore, we not only want to understand the specific search phrase referrals, but all of the variations of that theme that drove traffic as well.

How can we get this information? The screenshot above uses a simple reporting filter to include only search referrals when a particular keyword is included. You could also look at the search queries per entry page on a site to better understand the keyword themes which drive traffic (as illustrated below).

Improve the Value of Third Party Referrals
Inbound links do more than improve search rankings. The right links send traffic and hopefully generate conversions.

Web analytics help realize the value of a link building campaign beyond search visibility. This may include:

  • Which websites to invest more time in building profitable online relationships.
  • What type of third party referrers generate quality traffic.
  • What type of content is more effective at gaining inbound links and traffic.

In the above screenshot, the important question is how content can be improved or adjusted to impact traffic from sites which refer a large volume but also have high bounce rates.

Benchmarking Year Over Year Traffic Improvements
It’s not only important to measure how organic search traffic rises (or falls) month to month but how these improvements measure in comparison to last year, or even two years ago. This is particularly important for companies which face seasonal swings.

Organic search improvements from October to November should be a no-brainer for a site that sells holiday greeting cards. The real question is how do those improvements stack up against the efforts made the year before.

In similar fashion, search traffic trending downward in the summer months may be expected for a B2B software company. We would still like to see year over year improvements (as well as less of a decline, percentage-wise, month to month).

This Only Scratches the Surface
With a bit more time and effort, compelling data can be pulled from traditional web site analytics reports. This post scratches the surface of opportunities, since we’ve barely touched upon conversion tracking or the integration of third party software.

The bottom-line is that a thorough analysis of the data provided in traditional web site reporting tools will often lead to better benchmarks and recommendations for any search engine marketing campaign.

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