As digital marketers, we lead incredibly busy lives. Any good marketing department has a million moving parts and they all need to be reported on. This is especially true for SEO reports, as search, content and social strategies tend to dominate many budgets in terms of investment. It can be very easy to fall into a pattern of using what is comfortable, instead of taking the time to find tools to improve efficiency.
All too often I speak to fellow marketing professionals who admit they are using a collection of various tools, data exports and spreadsheets to manage data for their entire department. Specifically for SEO strategy, many rely on data from Google Analytics, manual research and Excel to provide insights on their efforts and ROI reporting for the executive team. Some spend a majority of their time gathering and correlating data, leaving little to no time to do anything about it.
In my previous life, I was that marketing manager. I used Google Analytics, Webmaster Tools and probably 3-4 other freemium tools to collect the data I needed to report on. Often it was not completely accurate and there was no easy way to compile and present the numbers. I had a very strong love/hate relationship with Excel spreadsheets. It was not pretty, but I had KPIs to deliver and it was seemingly easy to stick with a messy process I had developed on my own instead of looking for something better.
The problem with status quo is you truly do not know what you’re missing out on until you have it. While Google certainly provides valuable information, there are a number of other data points and intelligence you can and should obtain from other sources. These additional insights can help you move towards a more data-driven marketing strategy, which will be more quickly adaptable based on changes in performance.
Paying Attention to Your Keyword Positions
Half the battle with any SEO strategy is knowing what you should be optimizing for (based on those keywords you already have some authority for and for which there is a relatively high volume of search occurring) and then being able to track how well those keywords are ranking over time. Being able to regularly check or to be automatically alerted when you are going up or down in search results for specific terms can help you plan your content marketing accordingly. You will also want to keep an eye on how well your competition is ranking for those keywords, as this can provide insight into what they are optimizing for and any traction they are gaining or losing for each term.
Does your SEO strategy include local optimization? If the answer is yes, then you should also be paying attention to how your keywords are performing in all search engines at all levels. This means understanding how each keyword is performing not only on a global level, but also within each city and by device. There is no disputing the importance of optimizing for local audiences who are increasingly searching on mobile devices.
You also need to be thinking about your keyword rank beyond the world of Google. How does your SEO strategy perform in Yahoo, Bing or even YouTube? Having this visibility allows you to make informed decisions on optimization for all potentail audiences and traffic sources.
Content Marketing Metrics
Today, content marketing is the cornerstone of any good SEO strategy. However, many marketers still struggle to really report on the performance of a content campaign. Sure, you can see the traffic and page view details for a specific on-site URL in Google Analytics, but you may have to do a bit of digging for each piece of content in a campaign. You then have to build your own custom method, likely with Excel, in order to report on the campaign as a whole.
Further, a content marketing campaign often contains some pieces which do not live on your website, but are instead published on social media or another off-site source, such as media coverage or influencer blogs. In order to fully report on the performance of all of your owned or earned content, you will want to include as much detail about these pieces of content as you can, including referral traffic to your site, social signals and any backlinks gained.
Tracking metrics for a content marketing campaign on both the on-site and off-site level will give you the bigger picture when evaluating the success of your content as a related and logical group. Using this data in conjunction with the performance metrics of each individual piece will allow you to make smarter marketing decisions about which types of content and which channels to focus on.
In Depth Social Media Insights
When looking specifically at SEO strategy, the social metrics you track should include much more than simply your number of followers and engagements. As mentioned above, you should understand the page social signals, combined with network signals, to get a full picture of the impact social is having on your content. For instance, a high level of page social signals indicates your content is being shared directly by a site visitor to their social networks.
Social insights can also help to direct your SEO strategy with the correct messaging. Collect data around social keywords and how they are used on social media. You can also then use this data to identify influencers who can potentially amplify your content to a larger audience. Find out what other content is being published in channels like Twitter, which you may be able to curate or repurpose alongside your own content.
Efficient SEO Reporting
As your strategy grows to include many different bits of data, you will quickly realize you need to use more than just Google Analytics and Excel to report on SEO performance. You can streamline your reporting process and cut down your time significantly by moving to a platform to collect all of the data for you. While there are very few tools on the market which can do it all, many offer integrations with other vendors to allow you to pull all of your necessary data into one view point.
Use SEO software which will enable you to automate scheduled reporting of the metrics you want to review regularly and will deliver the report to your inbox as often as you would like. If you are a digital agency, you may want to choose a platform offering white-labelling so you can brand your reports before they are delivered to your clients. Speaking of agencies, the time efficiencies gained at the agency level can be immense when you are looking to deliver hundreds of SEO reports each month.
Much of the SEO industry is also now moving towards customizable dashboards, to help deliver a data viewpoint specific to your needs or those of your customer. This will give you the ability to focus your view on the data that matters most, without having to drill deeper into the details unless you want to. Likewise for agencies, custom dashboards can also be leveraged to set up a client-specific view of the data. You can provide clients top-level access to data, which reveals progress, while not overwhelming them with the full spectrum of metrics. Many clients appreciate and respect an agency willing to provide this level of transparency, thereby strengthening your trust and business relationship.
So, Are You Still Using Google Analytics and Excel to Manage Your SEO Strategy?
If the answer is yes, then you are wasting valuable time, which could be better spent analyzing the numbers and making more informed, data-driven decisions to progress your digital marketing and SEO strategies forward. At the end of the day we, as digital marketers, wear many hats, pull long hours and constantly beg for clones. If we can win back some portion of our time currently spent on reporting and spend this time developing strategic insights, we will all be better marketers for it.