Do You See What I See? (Measuring SEO)

Is it just me or do the lines between Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Social Media Marketing seem to be blurring? How do you know if your strategy is working?

According to Wikipedia, “Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of affecting the visibility of a website in a search engine’s “natural” or unpaid results.”  And “Social media marketing (SMM) refers to the process of gaining website traffic or attention through social media sites.

They sound like two completely different things don’t they? In reality the are, but they have more in common than it might seem on the surface.  They both fall under the umbrella of Internet Marketing and Search Engine Marketing and the major purpose of SEO and SMM is to drive traffic to your website or blog.

The number one thing they have in common is content.  I rarely have a conversation with anyone about how to optimize their online presence that doesn’t circle back to the increasingly important subject of the necessity of generating fresh, original, relevant content.

If anything the need to have a solid connection between your social media marketing and search engine optimization strategies is more important than ever.

But it’s also important to understand that they are different and where they overlap and where they don’t.  I participate in a few groups on LinkedIn, my favorites are those that focus on search engine optimization and social media marketing.  The groups can be a valuable source of information and a great way to get answers to your questions.

Sometimes the questions posed are a result of the fact that there is a lot of confusion about the what’s and how’s around these two strategies.  Recently someone posted a question asking if using a social media management tool instead of tweeting manually would adversely affect their SEO.  They reported that their social media profiles had dropped in visibility, which prompted them to ask if using the tool could have had an impact.

A lively discussion followed and as I scanned the responses I found it interesting that no one had asked what was being measured and how.  There were a lot of valid comments about the need for good content and that it’s an important part of SEO and Social media.  Some misinformation about Google viewing content that is promoted in multiple platforms as duplicate content, and a whole lot of guessing about what was the cause in the drop.

"3-d man with a magnifying glass"Visibility within a social network doesn’t mean you will automatically have good visibility on search engine result pages or vice versa.  And the most dangerous way to gauge your position with Google or Bing is to search for your website by company name or even by keyword.

Search results are personalized based on individual behavior and the more you search on and click through to your website the higher it’s going to appear in the results. The main thing to keep in mind is that between the fact that search results are personalized based on search behavior and have physical location factored in on top of that there is virtually no way that the search results you see are the same ones that I see.

Before the advent of personalization and localization it was possible to know for certain which position you and your competitors were in for any given keyword.  Now that is impossible, and position is quite likely the least reliable and least important metric there is.

So what’s important to measure?  How can you prove to your boss (or to yourself) that your search engine marketing strategy is paying off?

Important Search Engine Optimization (SEO) metrics

  1. Traffic Distribution – is the % of traffic coming to your site from natural search increasing?  If so, you’re doing things right and SEO is working. (I didn’t include traffic alone because unless the visits are resulting in sales or leads, more traffic doesn’t equal more business.)
  2. Bounce Rate – is the % of visitors who are ‘one and done’ decreasing?  In other words are people coming to your site and visiting at least 2 or more pages?  If your bounce rate is decreasing, your content is compelling and relevant and you’re optimizing for both people and search engines.
  3. Time on site & number of pages per visit – Are people continuously spending more time on your site and viewing more pages? If so they like what you’re doing and so will the search engines.
  4. Conversion Rate – Are more people completing a sale, filling out a contact form, or downloading a white paper?  If the percentage of visitors that complete one of these transactions is increasing your site is working well.
  5. Visitor Profile – What’s your mix of new vs returning visitors?  If you primarily have new visitors, people aren’t finding your content relevant or engaging enough to return.  If you have only returning visitors, people aren’t finding you through organic search or social media networks.

Using these 5 key metrics to measure how your search engine optimization efforts are paying off will demystify and take the headache out of guessing which ‘position’ on the page you rose or fell to and will be a much better measure of success.  These measurements also provide fundamental insights into what is and isn’t working on your website and you can target the areas you need to work on.

What metric do you find the most telling?

    • Thanks Gordon! It can be difficult for people to know what to measure and too often the focus on position or traffic. Position is impossible to measure and traffic alone isn’t a good indicator. Glad you found it interesting 🙂