100 SEO Tips for Better Google Rankings

tips for seo content writing and tips for seo optimization and seo tips for building a website and tips for writing seo friendly content and seo tips for content marketing
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Published Date:04-08-2017
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Tracking Results and Measuring Success Because the nature of what SEO practitioners do is not clear to many people, the expert practitioner knows how important it is to establish quantifiable goals and demonstrate results. Expectation management is key, and effective communication of timetables for deliverables and improvements is crucial to the success of any SEO project. Web analytics and other data-mining tools can provide a rich array of data that is invaluable to the SEO process. These include tools for discovering new links, finding long-tail search terms, determining the best links your competitors’ sites have, and more. All in all, a strong understanding of these tools will make you a better SEO practitioner. However, thousands of tools are available, and it can be difficult to figure out which ones you need to use, which ones are merely nice to have, and which ones are not worth your time. It is a good idea to start simple and focus on establishing a baseline measurement of where you are before you begin your SEO efforts so you can better measure your results. A proper baseline should account for as many variables as are applicable to your business and industry—organic sales, indexing, crawl rates, conver- sion rate analysis, and so on. In other words, you need to measure whether, and to what extent, you have been successful. The first thing you need to do is define the goal(s) of your site. Here are some possibilities: • Generating sales • Obtaining leads • Generating ad revenue 709• Getting people to read specific articles • Obtaining donations • Developing an audience (which can lead to the above) These are all valid objectives that relate directly to the business. Missing from this list are practices such as measuring rankings, measuring the total number of links, and measuring the average cost per acquired link (organically obtained links still have a cost: the cost of the marketing campaign to get them). These other measurements may be interesting, but they are not the end goal. Closely connected with the site goals are direct drivers of results. These include param- eters such as: • Total site traffic (all visitors) • New versus returning visitors • Traffic to your most popular pages • Pages receiving the search traffic • Pages resulting in conversions down the line • Traffic per page and conversion per page Measuring results in terms of the main business goal should always be the first set of metrics you put in place. From there you can diverge and look at other metrics that might help you diagnose problems with the site or give you additional insight into how to set up a campaign. Why Measuring Success Is Essential to the SEO Process Although quantifying deliverables and measuring progress are important for external reporting purposes, it is just as important for SEO practitioners to measure the efficacy of their own efforts to make timely adjustments as necessary. As you will see in this chapter, numerous tools are available to aid you in this process. At the beginning of any SEO project, it is wise to establish baseline data points for the website. This includes the following: • Quantifying organic search traffic by search engine • Quantifying a breakout of what site content areas are getting the current organic search traffic by search engine • Quantifying data on conversions broken down by search engine CHAPTER ELEVEN: TRACKING RESULTS AND MEASURING SUCCESS 710• Identifying poorly performing pages • Identifying best-performing pages (in terms of traffic and conversions) • Tracking search engine crawler activity on the site • Determining the number of indexed pages • Determining whether the indexed pages are getting search traffic • Determining whether best-selling product pages are indexed and getting search traffic • Identifying 404 error pages and external sites linking to these pages, if any • Determining whether you’ve been hit by a search engine penalty or algorithm update You cannot methodically improve what you cannot measure, or as Peter Drucker put it: “What gets measured gets managed.” Defining and mapping the path toward con- crete goals are crucial aspects of the SEO process—and over time, these goals may change. Thus, it is also important to make sure the data you capture helps you under- stand your progress toward these goals. In the world of web analytics, this is referred to as picking actionable key performance indicators (or actionable KPIs). The best data measurements are those that potentially result in an action being taken in response. Think of this as data-driven decision making. It is important to recognize that SEO requires operating effectively within two distinct worlds. In the first, SEO-related metrics such as rank, visits, and backlinks rule the day; in the second—the one likely occupied by the rest of the organization—business metrics such as sales, costs, returns, and contract renewals are the focus. As an SEO practitioner, you should address both spaces by clearly tying SEO metrics to business goals. The Tracking Cycle: Produce, Launch, Measure, Refine In summary, the basic tracking and measurement process usually looks something like this: 1. Define an SEO strategy, determine an implementation schedule, and establish a clear understanding of goals. What are you going to accomplish, and what is the strategy for accomplishing it? How will you measure progress? 2. Discuss your strategy. The marketing and business development teams are your allies here—you want to ensure that your SEO objectives are based on the overall business and site objectives, both long- and short-term. WHY MEASURING SUCCESS IS ESSENTIAL TO THE SEO PROCESS 7113. Establish a baseline. Now that you are about to start and you have decided how you are going to measure progress, establish a baseline by recording the current stats prior to beginning work. Make sure you don’t get a false baseline due to seasonal factors or some other unusual event. Comparing year-over-year data will usually eliminate fluctuation due to seasonality. However, you must also consider how changes in the market, new competition, elimination of competition, indus- try consolidation, changes in your business strategy, and changes in the search engines themselves may have affected that year-over-year data. 4. Proceed with your project. Implement the SEO strategy—new URLs, technical site changes, new content development, and so on. 5. Collect data. Collect the newest data for each metric you decided to focus on. SEO can take days, weeks, or months to show results, so make sure you wait long enough for your efforts to have an impact. Many factors could influence the length of time you should wait, including: • If your site is brand new, it may take longer for your changes to take effect. • If the scope of the change is drastic (such as a complete redesign incorporating new information architecture, new URLs, etc., versus a simple visual reskin- ning), it will probably take longer to see results. • Sites that get crawled at great depth and frequency will probably yield visible results faster. • Sites seen as authoritative may also show faster results. 6. Compare the baseline data to the new data. The new data has little meaning unless it is compared to your baseline. This is the time when you can really assess your progress. 7. Refine your campaign. Now that you have compared your old data with your new data, you can make some decisions. Is the campaign a bust? If so, abandon it and move on to the next one. The old business axiom “Fail quickly” applies here. The faster you diagnose a failure and move on to the next thing, the better. If you are achieving great results—that is, a noticeable increase in traffic and/or con- versions—then you’ve got a great process in place; apply it to more pages on your site, or look for ways to further improve conversions through content development and design. If you don’t see any change in your traffic or conversion rate (or if the changes are measurably negative) within a few weeks, don’t give up just yet. Perhaps you’ve overlooked something important, or there was an error in your implementation. Or perhaps you are recovering from a larger site overhaul. In this case, things may get worse before they get better. Be patient, and at this point of the process, focus on CHAPTER ELEVEN: TRACKING RESULTS AND MEASURING SUCCESS 712action-based goals instead of results-based goals. For very damaged or very large sites, the wait for improvement could be six months to a year. Establishing a Proper Baseline It might sound easy to record a set of SEO metrics before the start of the project and then compare the same set of metrics after 30, 60, or 90 days to measure the progress. But what if you don’t make any changes and the metrics reflect an improvement? What if the improvements are because of external business factors? How can your SEO project get attribution for its business impact? Depending on the type of business, and assuming there have not been drastic strategic shifts from the previous year, it is possible to account for the seasonality of the busi- ness if you compare each period to the corresponding period of the previous year. Then adjust for overall year increase (or decrease). You can measure by comparing a couple of months year to year where you have not made any SEO changes. The assumption is that everything else being equal, a performance increase in search should be attributed to your SEO efforts. It is important to make sure that there haven’t been any major strategic shifts in the business. Sometimes companies completely change the way they do business, and this dramatically impacts your ability to measure results. In cases like this, you can fall back to the less reliable approach of tracking the increase in pages getting search clicks and overall increase in average ranking across the board. One other issue that may significantly impact your ability to establish a baseline for measurement is a seemingly spontaneous drop in traffic. When analyzing the organic traffic to a site, if you notice a large drop it’s vital to determine its cause before pro- ceeding with creating a set of baselines and goals. Large traffic drops can be caused by a number of factors, including a large-scale site redesign or rebuild, a shift in the nature of the business as just noted, seasonal factors (which you can usually deter- mine by looking at several years of data at a time), or organic search algorithm updates. An extremely useful tool you can use in determining if a large traffic shift might be caused by an algorithm update is the Panguin (a concatenation of the words panda and penguin) tool created by Barracuda Digital. This tool allows you to overlay your Google Analytics organic traffic with Moz’s history of algorithm updates to see if traffic shifts coincide with the updates. It’s not always possible to definitively determine if you have been impacted by an algorithm update, as occasionally several updates happen over a very short period of time or you may have a traffic drop caused by another factor that happens to coincide roughly with the algorithm update. However, before you embark on an SEO project, it’s important to be aware of the possibility that an algorithm update may impact the potential success of the project. WHY MEASURING SUCCESS IS ESSENTIAL TO THE SEO PROCESS 713It’s also important to monitor rank in Google to understand what is working in your strategy. For example, a jump from 99 to 15 on a targeted keyword might not bring you a substantial increase in traffic; however, it is a huge indicator that something you are doing is working. AuthorityLabs, a subscription SEO ranking tracker, offers a one- stop page for tracking all of the keywords your business is targeting as well as their shifts over time. Using Analytics as a Business Case for SEO You can use a properly structured plan as the business case for an SEO project. The way to do this is to express the target results of an SEO project in terms of financial impact. You could include a variety of metrics in a business case, such as: • Revenue • Lead generation • Margin • Branding value • Reach • Other action triggers (newsletter sign-ups, contact requests, demo requests, free- trial acceptance, viewing and/or sharing a specific piece of content, etc.) Measuring such factors requires that you tie organic search engine visits to the reve- nue and other conversions that result. Measuring Search Traffic Classic web analytics data is an incredible asset to SEO. Here are three examples of ways to utilize this data for SEO purposes: • Look at your daily referral reports to detect newly received inbound links (the great majority of webmasters click on a link after implementing it, to make sure it works). • Measure the results of your campaigns by tracking the increase in conversions you are driving over time. • Try to find missed opportunities—search terms and phrases that people used that did not result in a click, visit, or conversion. Web analytics are a must-have for any web publisher. CHAPTER ELEVEN: TRACKING RESULTS AND MEASURING SUCCESS 714Basic Overview Your hosting company most likely provides a free web analytics solution, such as AWStats, Webalizer, or something similar. Although these tools provide valuable data, they are very limited in scope, and other tools out there provide significantly more data. Here are some of the best-known ones: • Google Analytics • Woopra • Clicky • Piwik • Crazy Egg • Adobe Analytics (enterprise-level solution) • IBM Digital Analytics (enterprise-level solution) • Webtrends (enterprise-level solution) Web analytics platforms track your site’s traffic in two major ways. The older of the two methodologies is to use software that analyzes your web server logfiles after traffic activity. Setting up this type of solution generally involves installing the software on an internal server that is able to gain access to the logfiles. The newer methodology involves implementing JavaScript tags on all of the pages of your website. Provided that you have a basic template for your pages, this generally is a fairly straightforward process. JavaScript then tracks the activity on your web pages as it happens and builds a data profile reflecting that activity. Selecting the Right Analytics Package Logfile tracking and JavaScript tracking are equally valid methods, and each has its own strengths and weaknesses. The biggest advantage of the logfile method is that you can track search engine crawler activity on your site. This is something you cannot do in JavaScript implementations, because search engine crawlers do not execute the JavaScript. The second big advantage of a logfile-based solution is that you run the software in- house, so no third party has a copy of a logfile with your proprietary traffic data on it. This distinction can be a big security issue for some organizations. Another key advantage to logfile analysis is the ability to track: • Users who don’t have JavaScript enabled (or are using privacy or ad filters) • Media types beyond HTML MEASURING SEARCH TRAFFIC 715• Partial requests (incomplete page loads and load errors) Ultimately, though, most companies opt for JavaScript tracking because JavaScript offers a much greater level of flexibility than logfiles. You can tweak the JavaScript to do custom conversion tracking, or gather pages into logical groupings in a manner that cannot be done as easily in logfile-based applications. Other key advantages of JavaScript tracking include the ability to: • Track outgoing link requests • Track events that don’t involve HTML requests, such as playing a video • Record visitors’ screen resolution Some analytics packages, such as Webtrends, offer both options or a combined solu- tion. This kind of approach can bring you the flexibility and power of JavaScript, but still get you your search engine robot crawling data as well. Making this decision is only the first step in picking an analytics package. We listed some of the more popular vendors earlier, but there are many more. Each package has different strengths and weaknesses. Not only that, but they all do their counting a little bit differently. These differences stem from how the analytics packages conduct visitor tracking. None of them is right or wrong; they just differ in the exact thing they are measuring. For instance, one package might count a “visitor session” within a certain timeframe. The more important factor in this decision is whether the functionality of the web ana- lytics software fits your needs. You often do not know what your requirements will be until you have used analytics for a while. As you engage with analytics, you will con- tinually uncover more things to investigate, and develop new requirements. For many companies, one of the best solutions is to start with a free analytics package such as Google Analytics, then look to buy a higher-end solution once you’ve exhaus- ted the capabilities of the free package. By pushing the limits of these free analytics products first, you will end up developing a set of requirements you can use in decid- ing where to go next. None of this is meant to imply that you should not brainstorm your requirements in detail before selecting an analytics package. You should (and must). Just expect that you will develop new requirements along the way. Web analytics is a journey that unfolds over time. Based on the requirements you establish in your upfront brainstorming, you may find that you require a set of features that the free packages do not provide. Use that knowledge to select the right package to start with. CHAPTER ELEVEN: TRACKING RESULTS AND MEASURING SUCCESS 716Extracting Valuable SEO Data in Web Analytics You can extract all kinds of data from web analytics. Next, we’ll look at a few of the more interesting types of information you may want to extract. Traffic by search engine One of the first things you may want to know is the breakdown of traffic by search engine. Figure 11-1 provides an example of such a report in Google Analytics. Figure 11-1. Traffic by search engine Notice how small the traffic is from Bing and Yahoo compared to Google. This may be indicative of a problem with how the site is indexed by Bing (which supplies the search results to Yahoo); the webmaster, designer, or developer might want to explore why the combined traffic from Bing and Yahoo is so low. Or, this result could just stem from the fact that Google by far has a dominant market share—67.3%, according to a comScore report from August 2014. However, in your specific niche, that percent- age may be far higher or lower, which is why browser choice can be such an important demographic data set. MEASURING SEARCH TRAFFIC 717Traffic by keyword Beginning in October 2011, Google began “securing” its search traffic, hiding most keyword data for organic search. As of 2014, most search terms reported by Google Analytics appear as “not provided” (see Figure 11-2). Figure 11-2. Keyword not provided There are several ways to attempt to extract more detailed keyword data, though none of them are as detailed as when Google used to provide you all of the data. One solu- tion is to use keyword data from your Google Search Console (see Figure 11-3). You can now even access your Google Search Console data directly from Google Analytics (http://bit.ly/search_console_data). Google provides you with some estimates of the num- ber of impressions, number of clicks, your click-through rate, and your average rank- ing position for a variety of your keywords. Note, however, with Search Console, Goo- gle will not provide you with all of your search queries (though it will provide several thousand) and the data is stored for only 90 days (so get in the habit of downloading an export file every 90 days to maintain your archive). This information is found in your Google Search Console interface under Search Traffic – Search Queries. In addi- tion to getting traffic estimates for web searches, you can segment the information by web/mobile/image, by geographical location, or for only specific queries. Note that by default, filters are different on Google Search Console and Google Analyt- 1 ics. If you’re noticing differences in query results, try syncing up the filters. 1 Christine Churchill, “Getting Query Data from Google Webmaster Tools to Correlate with SEO Query Data in Google Analytics,” SEM Clubhouse, March 11, 2013, http://bit.ly/correlate_data. CHAPTER ELEVEN: TRACKING RESULTS AND MEASURING SUCCESS 718Figure 11-3. Google Search Console keyword data If you participate in paid Google AdWords advertising, you can also look at your Matched Search Queries report in Google Analytics to see the exact terms users searched on before clicking on one of your ads (http://bit.ly/adwords_search). This may help give you some idea of the types of terms people are using to get to your website. In addition to Google Analytics, Bing Search Console also provides some keyword data. Although it is a paid tool, SEMrush can also provide some insights into what keywords your site ranks for and approximately how much traffic you might be receiving from each of them. Another paid solution for obtaining insight into keyword data is Searchmetrics’ Traffic Insight solution. Traffic Insight allows you to reconstruct “not provided” keywords and traffic data on a page-by-page basis by incorporating various data sources and running them through a proprietary algorithm to allow you to “reverse engineer” much of your “not provided” data. One of the data points of interest for an SEO practitioner is what search terms are bringing traffic to the website. This provides a quick way to see where the SEO cam- paign is going well and where it is not. You can also use this data to spot opportunities where a key search term is providing some traffic, but not as much as you would expect if you were ranking highly for that term. Remember that search terms are no longer simply considered in isolation. If you spot an opportunity to increase traffic on a key search term, you should really think about what related terms might also drive traffic to the same page as the keyword you are considering. You can then look to see where you are ranking for that term. Perhaps you are in a lower position on the first page, or on the second page of the SERPs. If so, it might MEASURING SEARCH TRAFFIC 719make sense to focus some attention on this term. With a little effort, such as launching a focused promotional campaign for the page in question, and improving and expand- ing upon the information you provide related to that term, you may be able to move up several positions and obtain a traffic boost. By improving the content on the page to better satisfy the user’s query, you may also begin ranking on related terms. A traffic-by-keyword report can also show you the long tail of search as it relates to your current site. Figure 11-4 depicts a snippet from the organic search phrases report from Google Search Console showing some of the lower-volume terms for ArtofSEO- book.com. Figure 11-4. Long-tail keywords CHAPTER ELEVEN: TRACKING RESULTS AND MEASURING SUCCESS 720Notice that a lot of variations of “seo book” are showing up in the list, in addition to the rather interesting Middle East search engines. Looking into this query data can present you with opportunities for delivering new content that addresses the intent behind these queries. Branded versus nonbranded traffic Branded search traffic refers to queries that involve your company name, domain name, or product brand name. Nonbranded search traffic can be much more valuable because it often represents new visitors to your site. Branded traffic will convert at a higher rate on average, but nonbranded search traffic is often from people who did not previously know your brand, or at least they were not yet committed to it to the point where they searched specifically for a variation on your brand name or domain name. In the past, you could see the data on keywords driving traffic to your website in great detail, as the search engines provided that data and you could readily examine it in your analytics software. Now it’s common that 90% or more of the keywords for your organic search traffic will be reported as “not provided,” meaning that it is difficult to get a strong measurement of what keywords are driving traffic to your site, or even the split between branded and nonbranded traffic. Number of pages getting search traffic An indirect way of measuring effective indexation is to keep an eye on how many pages are getting search traffic. This number should represent a subset of the total pages indexed, but it is more valuable because these pages are not just indexed, they also ranked highly and were interesting enough that visitors decided to click on the listing. This is an important metric to track as you work on addressing site architecture issues like duplicate content and bot traps. As you remove search engine spider roadblocks, the bots will find and index more pages. Those pages will rank and get search traffic, and this number should increase. The same happens as you consolidate duplicate con- tent and the indexation of the site improves. MEASURING SEARCH TRAFFIC 721There are several ways in which someone knowledgeable in Google Analytics can con- figure your account to give you at least some insight into which of your pages are receiving Google organic traffic where the keyword is “not provided” (which, as noted earlier, will be the great majority of them). From this data, you can extrapolate which groups of related keywords those landing pages are optimized for and which keywords they actually rank for, with the assumption that the “not provided” traffic is coming from those keywords. For some examples of these solutions, see Dan Parker’s “How to steal some ‘not provided’ data back from Google” or Moz’s “Easing the Pain of Key- word Not Provided: 5 Tactics for Reclaiming Your Data”. Segmenting Search Traffic Next, you can consider putting these metrics together. Even the free tools provide sub- stantial capability for building out custom reports. Google Analytics has options that show the search phrases just for Google, and the pages of the site that Google sent users to when they clicked on your link. This is a key improvement to your SEO research for two reasons: • If you are looking into what terms can bring fast traffic benefits as a result of some additional optimization, you’ll want to know which search engines you are rank- ing in. • If you are going to optimize a page to rank higher, you’ll need to make sure you’re optimizing the right page Referring Sites Referring site reports are useful for a number of reasons, but one of their more inter- esting SEO applications is to spot when you receive new links. You can often see those new links in these reports first, even before the search engines report them. Figure 11-5 shows a sample portion of the referring sites report from Google Analytics. If you notice a site for the first time in your list of referrers, it can be a leading indica- tor that you have received a new link. This report can help you detect new links that result from your link-building campaigns, and therefore help you measure which of your link development campaigns are yielding the best results. CHAPTER ELEVEN: TRACKING RESULTS AND MEASURING SUCCESS 722Figure 11-5. Referring sites report MEASURING SEARCH TRAFFIC 723Using Custom Analytics Dashboards In analytics terms, a dashboard is a single-page view that contains your most critical metrics all in one place. Of course, your most critical metrics are different from those of the next publisher, because the needs of different sites vary greatly. In addition, multiple dashboards may be required in any given organization. For example, the CEO of a large public company probably wants to see different data (and a lot less of it) than a senior business analyst. Each analytics package provides methods for implementing a custom dashboard. Figure 11-6 is an example of one from IBM Digital Analytics. Figure 11-6. Custom dashboard As you can see from Figure 11-6, a dashboard can be quite visual. What is most impor- tant, though, is that it provides the data that is most important to the person for whom it was designed. As an SEO practitioner, you can implement a dashboard to show your progress toward the goals you’ve set for your SEO campaign. Providing this type of visibility has two important benefits: • The person viewing the report will appreciate the fact that she does not have to work hard to do a quick health check on the progress of the SEO efforts. As we suggested at the beginning of this chapter, the fact that you agree to measurable goals will be a great comfort to management. CHAPTER ELEVEN: TRACKING RESULTS AND MEASURING SUCCESS 724• You will know what data your managers are looking at. When something goes wrong (or right), or when management wants to discuss some aspect of the busi- ness, they will have started from the dashboard you set up for them. NOTE A key consideration in selecting analytics and dashboard solutions is whether your web analytics solution has prebuilt integrations with your preferred SEO sol- ution, or whether your SEO solution is part of a larger cross-media dashboard platform. Otherwise, you may end up with siloed information or quite different conversion metrics in one dashboard than in another. Taking a Deeper Look at Action Tracking Action tracking goes one step deeper than basic analytics. Rather than simply observ- ing what pages are visited and how many unique sessions are logged, action tracking allows you to narrow down groups of visitors based on the actions they take on your site. In most instances, action tracking requires setting up a code in your analytics program and attaching that code to a button, page load, image rollover, or other JavaScript- trackable task (a click or hover). You can see from Figure 11-7 that: • Moz has action tracking in place where the users click a particular button. Note that it is often the best choice to have the action tracking on the action confirma- tion page rather than the sign-up form itself, as tracking on the sign-up form can result in incomplete form fills being included as part of your action total. • Based on the people who take this action, you can predict which search terms will be better at converting visitors into applicants. • The Event Value and Avg. Value columns show 0, but if you were tracking ecom- merce buyers, you could assign values to each event and track high-volume buy- ers. It is also a good idea to assign a value to different actions such as “contact us” requests, subscribers to free services, or any other user actions that could later lead to a conversion. • Expanding on this idea, you could also track users by time of day, the search engine they used, their geographic location, and so on. MEASURING SEARCH TRAFFIC 725Figure 11-7. Action tracking in analytics So, what types of actions should you track on your site? The answer varies depending on your business and site structure. Here are some suggestions segmented by site type. Ecommerce sites: Add to Cart button Studies have shown us that users who “add to cart,” even if they do not complete the checkout process, are more likely to return to make a purchase. This is also a good way to calculate shopping cart abandonment and make changes to refine and improve the process. Complete checkout An obvious one, this action will show you what percentage of each user group is converting into sales. It is also useful to measure what percentage of people start the checkout process but do not complete it. Save to wish list Ecommerce sites offering wish lists are still in the minority, but wish lists are a great way to track interest that isn’t quite a purchase. Send this to a friend Many sites offer a “share this page” function, and it is a great action to be aware of. If folks are sending out your link, you know you have a hit. CHAPTER ELEVEN: TRACKING RESULTS AND MEASURING SUCCESS 726B2B sites: Subscribe to newsletter A subscription is a tacit endorsement of your brand and a desire to stay in contact. It may not be a conversion, but for B2B, it may be the next best thing. Contact form submission A contact form submission can be even more valuable than a newsletter subscrip- tion, in some cases. Though some of these forms will report support issues, many may contain users’ questions about your products/services and will indicate their desire to open a sales conversation. Email link As with contact forms, direct email links have the possibility of becoming sales contacts. The best thing you can do is clearly label sales emails and track them separately from support or business issues. Blogs: Subscribe to RSS feed An RSS feed subscriber is a blog’s equivalent of a conversion; tracking these is imperative. While the number of RSS subscribers is declining, this is still a useful metric to track. Add comment Anyone who is contributing content to the blog or otherwise participating merits your attention (as do those channels that earn user engagement). Social bookmark/share Anyone submitting your content to Facebook, Twitter, Delicious, StumbleUpon, reddit, and other social media and news aggregation/discussion sites deserves to be recognized (and sought after). Forums or other sites based on user-generated content (UGC): Sign up for an account These users are active contributors; you need to know where they come from. Contribute content When a user publishes, discovering his path is important (especially if it is not from a bookmark/type-in). Add comment As in the preceding list item, comments are a great predictor of engagement. Vote/rate Even low levels of participation, such as a rating or a vote, are worth tracking when every piece of participation counts. MEASURING SEARCH TRAFFIC 727Social shares Facebook friends and likes, Google +1s, Twitter followers are all important data points. You can read more about this in “Tracking Social Media” in Chapter 8. You can get very creative with many of these and track all sorts of actions. If you offer a tool or calculator, track its usage. If you want to follow who clicks a particular link (rather than just a page), add an action to it. You can even see which users hover on an image. For many marketers, action tracking is the secret sauce. Once you install and activate this data, it is easy to adjust SEO (or PPC) marketing efforts on particular terms, phrases, or pages that will make a huge difference to the campaign’s efficacy. For SEO practitioners, action tracking is a “cannot live without it” tool. The recom- mendations made based on this kind of tracking are backed up by real data. High- volume action-tracking studies almost always make a huge impact on a site’s bottom line. Action tracking also allows you to compare the performance of organic search against other channels such as paid search, email marketing, and social media. Separating the Analytics Wheat from the Chaff One of the big problems with web analytics is that there is so much data. There is seemingly an endless supply of the stuff—so much that you can get lost in the weeds and waste a lot of time. As Dennis Mortensen of Visual Revenue likes to say, do not “report-surf.” By this he means you shouldn’t get lost in the data, looking at one interesting fact after another, without understanding what business objective you are attempting to accomplish. To avoid this trap, you need to have a plan. The basis of this plan is the definition of actionable key performance indicators (KPIs). To summarize this concept very briefly, do not view a report unless there is a chance that it will provide you with enough insight to take action (such as reallocating resour- ces to fix a problem or pursue a new opportunity you discovered). Common analytics mistakes Because of the complexity of web analytics, there are plenty of opportunities to make mistakes. Even if you are laser-focused on actionable KPIs, you can still draw wrong conclusions from the data. Here are a couple of examples: Making a decision on too small a sample size A simplistic example would be if you had a keyword that brought you two visi- tors, and both of them bought something. What does that mean? Your conversion rate will always be 100%? Of course not. CHAPTER ELEVEN: TRACKING RESULTS AND MEASURING SUCCESS 728

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