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In this episode of In-Ear Insights, the Trust Insights podcast, Katie and Chris discuss SEO analytics. SEO is a marketing discipline crammed with data, but what data matters? What data is reliable? Listen in as they discuss common SEO metrics, what SEO data matters to business impact, and how to build an SEO analytics dashboard with Google Data Studio, Google Analytics, and Google Search Console.

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Machine-Generated Transcript

What follows is an AI-generated transcript. The transcript may contain errors and is not a substitute for listening to the episode.

Christopher Penn
In this week’s in In-Ear Insights we are talking SEO analytics, a term that you don’t hear a whole lot because a lot of times in SEO, we just talk about search engine optimization in general, what to optimize how to optimize best practices, hacks, tips, tricks, all that stuff. And we don’t spend a whole lot of time on the data. And one of the problems that I see in this space Katie is people kind of have all These great tools, you know, our refs, sem, rush, Moz SpyFu, you name it. There’s a million vendors out there. But nobody ever talks about the quality of the data. We all just kind of assume that these tools know what they’re doing, and accept their analytics as gospel. So when you are talking to clients, when you’re talking to fellow marketers about SEO, how much are they thinking about the analytics of SEO?

Katie Robbert
Honestly, not a whole lot. I know a lot of marketers, the first question they ask is, well, does domain authority still matter? Or what is domain authority? So that’s really the metric that I hear about the most, when it comes to SEO in terms of like getting the quote unquote, SEO juice. But for the most part, I think people they want to know, if they’ve moved up in the search engine rankings, period, that’s that’s really all they’re paying attention to. Which rightfully so that is a very important thing to be paying attention to with SEO but I’m not hearing about a lot of other metrics or analytics or, you know, any sort of analysis when it comes to SEO. So, Chris, when you do when you think about analysis, and the metrics that you can look at with an SEO and what you can do with that, what does that look like to you, someone coming from that data science perspective? It’s not even data

Christopher Penn
science. It is. It’s actually similar to what you do. You and I were talking about this last week with post mortems on projects, right? What was the plan? What actually happened? The SEO tool is the plan, right? You’re saying here’s what we’re planning to do. We want organic traffic to these pages for these keywords to go up, right? We want more traffic to the website, and to every podcast we’ve ever done ever. We want it to map to an actual business goal. And then you have what actually happened, which you get from things like Google Search Console, Google Analytics, other analytics software. And I have yet to see someone Do and publish. It may be something people hold internally for confidentiality reasons, but I’ve yet to see someone do and publish something where it says here’s was the plan here was the actual here’s the difference. And this SEO tool either led us in the right direction, or this SEO tool led us in the wrong direction, because the data that the tool said was relevant, didn’t match up with the reality of what happened. When you do a post mortem, Katie, and something goes off the rails and you get less than what you expect, or even if you get more than what you expected. What’s the next step? What do you do when you say, hey, reality does not match the plan?

Katie Robbert
Um, thank you for the loaded question. No, it’s a big question because it really depends on how far off the rails you went. And at what phase of the project you went off the rails. So if you’re talking specifically about SEO, you know, if you see for example, your efforts over performed for example, You’re looking at the results of the SEO project that you just did. Then you say, Okay, cool. You can’t just re replicate that because you it’s, you know, then you’re starting to talk apples to oranges. because not everything is created the same. So you have to really dig into what specifically did you do was it that you carefully everyday optimized every single piece of content, it’s that you paid attention to the keyword volume, and really were strategic around picking the competitive keywords versus your own branded keywords. So, you know, you need to really dig into those metrics to see what was happening that was making something so successful. Conversely, if you’re saying okay, this did not go as well as we want it to, you have to start to pick it apart, step by step to say, what didn’t we do or what did we do that just fell flat, you know, so a lot of times with SEO because the information on A search engine is changing so rapidly and the algorithms themselves are changing on a fairly regular basis, you can have the most well put together plan and by the time it’s executed, it’s irrelevant. It’s not something that’s going to, you know, be as effective as it should be, or should have been a couple of months previous, because everything has changed. And so, you know, it’s, it’s tough. So it’s being a little bit more agile with your SEO plans. I think that that’s the big thing. Like if I was sitting in a post mortem, how were we being agile and looking at something on a regular basis, what check ins did we put in every morning to see that the plan that we were executing was still effective, and that things that were out of our control haven’t shifted.

Christopher Penn
That’s a really interesting because when you approach SEO as essentially a project, which in a lot of cases it is, then you’ve actually got four different projects under the hood and that vastly complicates understand the analytics about it. Because you have technical SEO, which is things like server speed, and whether using the right protocols HTTPS, HTTP two, etc, etc. There’s content, which is do you have the right content on site? Is it well written, etc? Is it authoritative? To demonstrate expertise. There’s on site SEO, which is all the technical stuff like technical on site, things like headers and formats and schemas and markup and JSON LD etc. And then there’s offset, which is all your link building. All four of those mini projects inside the project each have their own analytics. And in the end, we only have one benchmark, which is did the number of organic searches to this page increase or decrease? And so you run into a, this is probably why no one has ever done this. You run to a very difficult mathematics problem where you have four projects with four sets of variables. Some which may be very different than others. We have one outcome and you have to do a math have multiple regression analysis to figure out which of the indicators each of these areas lead to or has a mathematical relationship to the outcome we care about, which is increased organic search traffic. When you have four different projects in a project management setup that have, they’re competing for the same resources, and have the same objective, but different ways of achieving that objective, and you analyze and find there’s only a couple of metrics in each bucket that actually matter. How do you communicate that back to your SEO team or your agency or vendor? Say, here’s the things that we need to work on, based on our analysis, assuming that you could do the analysis in the first place. How do you help them balance that to understand like, yeah, you need to be driving more inbound links, but also you need to be optimizing pages to be more than 1000 words, but and also you need to be and so on and so forth. How do you how do you help people wrap their brains around that?

Katie Robbert
I think it all starts with having a solid plan of attack of how you want to accomplish it. So basically, you’re talking about You know, four work streams simultaneously happening, which is not uncommon, especially in a smaller company where people are wearing multiple hats and doing multiple things. So I would say the first thing to do is really set up some sort of measurement system. So that on a daily basis, hopefully this is automated, because if it’s manual, it’s going to be a nightmare. But if there’s some sort of an automated measurement reporting system that helps you see in real time, here’s the result of my efforts from the previous day, I would start there and whether it’s, you know, technical or on site or content, whatever you decide with your team are the metrics that are most important within within each one of those projects. Make sure you have a system set up where you can see, okay, I got two new inbound links yesterday. And here’s what that looks like. In my reporting dashboard. I optimized one piece of content yesterday. Here’s how that changed. Just in the past 24 hours after it has been re indexed, and now the search engines can find it. So that’s why I would start as set up some sort of a tracking measurement system so that people can see the progress on a daily basis. And then just be realistic about what you can do in an eight hour period with each of those things. So maybe, you know, if you think about it, very simple math. If you have four projects, and eight hours, then two hours dedicated to each one of these things. So within within that two hour block, what can you accomplish so that you’re continuing to move forward towards each of your milestones within those projects. It’s not an ideal situation. But if you sort of like break it down very simply like that, then you can really start to set some realistic expectations of I want to optimize one piece of content per day. I want to get one new inbound link, but then getting that consistency is where you’re going to really start to see success. S and C really good metrics.

Christopher Penn
That’s where an agency or vendors really gonna be helpful. Because a lot of cases, like you said, with smaller teams, you probably don’t have eight hours a week to dedicate to SEO, even though it probably is, you know, 25 to 50, maybe 75% of your traffic, you just don’t have the time to do that. Now, when it comes to the tools themselves, a lot of these tools do spit out a tremendous amount of data. You mentioned things like domain authority, I think one of the things that we have to clarify is that each of these tools, their individual metrics internally, are arbitrary. They are what the vendor has decided, matches whatever reality they can see. And I think it’s important to caution people to say, just because it’s built in the tool does not mean it’s right. You know, you do have to question whether what’s in the tool is right or not. One of the reasons to do this type of in depth analysis is to evaluate these different software tools and say Hey, here’s my sight. Forget the how the tools came up with the numbers broadly, here’s my site. Here’s my data. Here’s what the tool says. And based on that you should be able to evaluate, yeah, the tool closely maps to the reality. Well, the tool does not map it to the reality at all, in some industries, particularly niche industries, where there’s a lot of hidden data, or there’s a lot of stuff you just can’t put on the web, like healthcare, for example. The tool may not match the reality at all, when you went into a situation like that. What do you do when you have no guidance? What do you do when you have no data? To give you a sense of where to go?

Katie Robbert
Well, you know, I want to step back a little bit because you’re talking about, you know, evaluating these tools, and whether or not the data that they’re giving you is correct or not, and I think that that’s where a lot of us sort of stumble and you know, we’ve talked about this in the context of does a tool Have AI built in or you know, whatever the thing is, and it really comes down to how do you know how to question a vendor? And how do you know if what they are telling you is correct or not? Or if they’re just biessing, you, you know, so if you’re looking at an SEO vendor, any good vendor should have documentation as to how their numbers are collected and how they’re calculated. And so if you’re evaluating an SEO vendor, one of the many that are out there, even if the documentation is not present on their website, you should be able to contact them and say, Can you share with me how you’re collecting domain authority, for example, and how you get to that number? What does that look like? Now? They might send you a bunch of technical documentation. That doesn’t make any sense. But the fact that they have it documented is a really good sign. If someone says, Oh, yeah, no, that’s we can’t tell you that. That’s probably a red flag. But Chris, I can see that you’re like, smiling and chomping at the bit. What have I stumbled across? It’s not stumbled across

Christopher Penn
your the questions you’re asking are exactly the right questions. I have asked those questions of all the major vendors, and every single one of them gives the exact same answer, we have our own proprietary blend. And you know, they go into the, into basically a bunch of smoke and mirrors and never actually explain in detail the math of how they get it, what they get. And I have a broad sense of how they do it, that they’re essentially doing large scale regression analysis. And they’re calibrating against another third party vendors data to try and figure out the traffic that a site is getting. But as we all know, just because something is broadly applicable does not mean it’s applicable to our specific use case or specific instance. A lot of these tools fall down when you get below a certain amount of traffic because there’s no visibility They into into that type of data or they fall down. Because what works in consumer packaged goods has no real relevancy to an analytics consulting firm, for example. So the the fact that these tools all have these proprietary blends, and they all treat them as black boxes, that’s the answer we get. So when you get that answer for a vendor, I mean, I usually just, you know, shove the salesperson out of the way and try and find an engineer. But even then they thought that’s gonna be all that forthcoming. What do you do when you run into that stone wall of sales bs?

Katie Robbert
Besides kicking, scream and cry and yell at people, you know, it’s tough because that’s Unfortunately, that’s where a lot of us are just left is like, okay, nobody will give me the answer that I need. But I have managers breathing down the back of my neck saying, pick a tool, give me metrics, what am I paying for? Is it working? And you’re just left not knowing what the answer is. And so it’s a really uncomfortable situation. And I don’t think there’s a good solution. So right now, Chris, you’re saying that you try to bypass the salesperson and find an engineer. That’s fine, if you know what the engineer is saying to you, because that’s a whole different language and a whole different skill set. So, you know, if you don’t have the answers from sales, and if you can’t find an engineer who can speak, you know, a common language with you, then you’re kind of stuck. And so Chris, you had mentioned, you know, taking a look at your own reality. So if I’m a marketer, and I and I need to get my SEO house in order and look at my own data, and put together my own reporting, with with my own stuff, where do I start? What metrics Can I throw up onto a Data Studio dashboard and say, Okay, now I’m at least starting to make sense of it.

Christopher Penn
I think you hit the nail exactly on the head. It is your data, forget what the third party tools are saying. Look at Google Search Console. Google Analytics that’s where your or the equivalent for if you use different tools, but that’s exactly where you start you start with how much of my organic search traffic is converting because that alone tells you whether you should be spending a whole lot of time on SEO or not if if you get five visitors a month and zero of them convert Guess what, you don’t need to spend a whole lot of time on SEO you actually have bigger problems but he spent a lot of time SEO. From there. You move up your SEO operations follow man we’re checking all the buzzwords is Episode Two, what are your What are your branded organic searches and unbranded organic searches because again, you want to see who’s searching for you by name and and what other topics are being found by and you want to look at. At the page level what pages are getting the most search traffic to understand is the content on that page. So topically relevant that you’re getting good search traffic to it. And it’s really important to do that at the page level because if you What people get stuck on a lot is that they get stuck on keyword level data like I want to be known as a marketing analytics consulting firm, cool. If your content is well written and authoritative and expert, you’re going to get found for other stuff that you may not even have on that page. You know, the example we always give is if you’re a coffee shop, and you’ve got a great website set up, you may be getting found for things like espresso near me or you know, cafe mocha now, even if you don’t offer those drinks on your website, because those are topically relevant terms that Google in its in its Semantic Indexing understands. So looking at your pages, at page level data for what pages get the most organic searches, will then help you deconstruct those pages and understand Okay, what is the topic of this page? And again, it’s your website, you should know what they paid. If you don’t, you have larger problems with your SEO, but that’s where I would start is. Well, the top page is about organic searches. When the branded unbranded organic searches are getting found for it, that would come from Google Search Console. And then what’s the conversion rate of our search traffic with those three things on a simple data? So your dashboard will give you the starting points to say, okay, are things going in the right or wrong direction? Now, the challenge after that is okay, you have the information, what are you going to do about it?

Katie Robbert
Well, and I would like to know, you know, so as we’re talking about these tools, Google Data Studio Search Console, and Google Analytics are all tools that are free for marketers to use, they just need to be set up. So the investment is the time, not the dollars. And that’s something especially when budgets are tight. And teams are, you know, very small and agile, looking to all of the free tools that you have to use at your disposal is really going to be you know, how you’re going to get ahead and stay successful. Because, you know, I would imagine, you know, and I’m doing this for us as well. What can get slashed? What can get cut, and a lot of times it’s going to be these tools, especially if you have redundancy into Also, if you’re using two or three different SEO tools, most of those are going to get cut and go by the wayside. So you’d be like, Oh, my God, I don’t have any more SEO data. Well, Chris, you just demonstrated that people have a lot of their own SEO data. You just need to do something with it. And so, you know, so then the question you asked is, well, you have all this information, you’ve looked at it, what do you do? So it’s interesting when I look at our data, we still get cert searched for and found by terms like igtv. And you know, we I see that one a lot. And so my first question is one Do we have any good content that covers Instagram TV? Second, what is Instagram TV? Because off the top of my head, I don’t remember. I think I don’t think it’s a thing that really took off. You know, but then is it something that we also want to continue to be found for is it how much volume is it? Is it driving a lot of traffic, people finding us for this thing? Why are we being found for it. And so really starting to unpack, you know, one specific search term or one specific page can actually, you know, you can take all of your, you know, two hours that you have to dedicate to that one thing, but make it really good. Yeah, it’s

Christopher Penn
exactly, exactly. If you have goals and goal values set up properly in Google Analytics, you will get a page value the dollar amount that the page is worth. Now you have the the real juice, you have on one column, the organic searches for that page, on the other column, the value of that page, if there’s not a strong correlation, then what you’re getting found for has no values of your company. And so to answer your question, Katie, if you were to look at that and go, Well, I GTV stats, which is what we get found for has 500 organic searches and a value of zero. That’s like, okay, I don’t really want to be found. But if it’s like $1,000, like crap, we better make like an HGTV webinar. We’ve had a big TV, you know, speaking at conferences, whatever the thing But to your point earlier, that’s data you have, you don’t need any vendors other than the free tools from Google to find that information. You just have to have it set up properly. And by the way, if you’d like to read about igtv, go over to Trust Check out our blog, a bunch of blog posts over there about it. So to recap, SEO analytics is all about understanding the data that comes out of SEO, and you have to have the data. And you don’t necessarily need to spend a ton of money to get it because chances are, you’ve got the most important data already from your existing tools. As with all data and analytics, make sure that you are looking at the data in the lens twits making a decision on it, and focus on the things that matter the most things that are directly connected to business impact. With that you’ll be a lot more successful with your SEO efforts. If you have follow up questions on this topic, please stop by our slack group dot AI slash analytics for marketers join free with over 900 other marketing professionals hangout chat about analytics All that’s where today’s topic came from was from question by one of the folks in our analytics for marketers group. Stop by the Trust Insights website as well. For this podcast, subscribe to it, the newsletter and all that good stuff. We will talk to you soon. Take care. Thanks for listening to In-Ear Insights, leave a comment on the accompanying blog post if you have follow up questions or email us at marketing at Trust If you enjoyed this episode, please leave us a review on your favorite podcast service like iTunes, Google podcasts stitcher or Spotify. And as always, if you need help with your data and analytics, visit Trust for more

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