How do some of the UK’s leading brands use analytics to drive their SEO strategy?
If you are involved in SEO you will know that one of the key challenges in your role is proving the incremental value of the channel to the business. PPC? Easy! Affiliate? Simple! Both have clear end-to-end models, but there’s still a gap in the SEO model between planning, doing and reviewing. We know that SEO drives more revenue than we can put our finger on, so I asked SEO experts from Arcadia, Dixons Retail, Vouchercodes.co.uk, Premier Inn, Thomas Cook Airlines Group and Disney to share how they are using analytics to demonstrate the return on investment SEO provides.
1. User signals – the next level of enterprise SEO
UX isn’t traditionally seen as part of SEO. Many people still think of SEO as being technical, content and links, but there’s a fourth pillar – usability – that isn’t as widely discussed within the industry.
What we’re seeing is a semi-emerging part of SEO is to really look at bounce rates in much more detail – so analytics isn’t used just for reporting, but also feeds back into the SEO strategy.
Given the nature of their business many SEO’s find that that their sites are level with competitors from an on-page and off-page perspective; what it comes down to is user experience. This is true for Jack Adams, Senior Manager, SEO at Vouchercodes.co.uk, “We see the most correlation between changes in user signals and ranking. The quality of our content changes quite dramatically even on a day-by-day basis and therefore user signals change dramatically on a day-by-day basis.”
Arcadia run about 50 usability tests on their site on any one day, “When you have a volume of traffic, positive things you do on the site does feed through to other signals that Google will pick up, especially social” shared Dan Locke, Group SEO Manager. “When you get something right you do end up seeing not only a conversion increase, but a traffic increase as well as people start shouting about a cool new feature”, he added.
2. Predicting when rankings are at risk
Vouchercodes.co.uk is relating CTR and bounce rate directly back to rankings and success. They have had some success using analytics to predict when rankings are at risk, which has helped move priority on projects. “When we’ve seen Click-through rate and keyword sets drop, for what we would expect for that average ranking, we can then respond and vice-versa”, revealed Jack.
3. Quality, not quantity!
2 years ago it was all about traffic acquisition. Now it’s not about how much traffic you can drive – it’s about the quality. Amish Mehta, SEO Manager at Dixons Retail admits his mind-set has changed completely, “Regardless of driving 100 million visits to 200 million visits, if I can drive 50 million that are going to convert better, that’s my plan. That’s going to drive more incremental value for the business.”
4. Page-level reporting is the way forward
Since SEO’s lost the majority of keyword data in August 2013 (‘Not Provided’ is currently around 90%), reporting has moved away from keyword success data to individual page-level reporting. The general agreement from the group is that page-level reporting is the way forward.
“You look at how your website performs and to a certain extent it’s down to pages and how well a certain page performs. Looking at ranking data with page level performance – if you’re able to see visibility across a sub-set of pages and be able to correlate that against your traffic, you’re able to identify what’s working well and what’s not”, says Amish.
The future of analytics in SEO
The SEO industry needs to develop further to catch up with other channels and make it possible for marketers to finally demonstrate ROI. Webmaster tools provides some useful keyword and page-level data, but it also has some major drawbacks; you can’t export data on a date level, data only goes back 3 months and is limited by not reporting on the full extent of your performance.
As Google pushes businesses to focuses more on the user experience, usability and user signal data will increasingly become part of an SEO’s role and not just the remit of UX or CRO. The SEO’s that are going to see most success over the coming 12-18 months will consider all four pillars accordingly in their SEO strategy and invest time and effort in educating their business to understand the importance of user signals as a ranking factor.
To view highlights from the roundtable discussion on analytics click on the video below