Execution is only half the battle for search engine optimization (SEO) success; you also have to measure and analyze your campaign effectively. Unfortunately, some search marketers get so caught up in their ongoing execution that they botch the tracking portion, or aren’t skilled enough in data analysis to produce an accurate, insightful report.
So why is tracking so important in the first place, and what are the biggest mistakes to watch out for?
Why Tracking Is So Important
Ultimately, if you’re tracking your own campaign, there are three goals to meet here:
- Understanding progress. First, you’ll want to understand if and how your campaign is progressing, including your return on investment (ROI) so you can calculate whether your investment is paying off.
- Proactively fixing issues. Accurate tracking can also alert you to key mistakes or weaknesses that have the potential to damage your campaign if not addressed quickly.
- Generating new ideas. Sometimes, looking at the data can help you generate new ideas by showing you what’s working and what isn’t.
If you’re tracking a client’s campaign, you’ll also need to use tracking to prove your worth.
The Biggest Mistakes
So what are the biggest mistakes people make when tracking SEO progress?
- Starting from the middle. If you don’t start tracking your results as soon as you start a campaign, you’ll miss out on having a baseline to compare all your future metrics to. While present-focused metrics are important, they won’t tell you as much as a comparison of the present to the past.
- Failing to use visuals. Choose a marketing dashboard that provides you with customizable data visuals, rather than stagnant metrics. Visuals, like graphs and charts, make it easier for you to understand and communicate the high-level takeaways of your current strategies. Ideally, you’ll also be able to customize those visuals to target exactly the statistics or parameters you want, and walk away with a much more detailed understanding of your work.
- Tracking the wrong metrics. You could also do your campaign a disservice by tracking the “wrong” metrics, or too few metrics to get an accurate picture of what’s going on. Keyword rankings and organic traffic, for example, are two of the most popularly measured SEO metrics, but they alone won’t tell you about the health of your entire campaign. Ideally, you’ll pay attention to dozens of different variables, and understand how they relate to each other to get the full picture.
- Comparing apples to oranges. Comparing one group of keyword rankings last month to a different group of keyword rankings this month won’t tell you much about how your campaign is progressing. As much as possible, compare apples to apples; that means measuring your data the same way, and comparing your metrics only when they’ve been measured under similar circumstances.
- Having no tie-back to monetary value. Remember, one of your main goals here is determining your ROI. You’ll need to find some way to tie your results to a monetary value, so you can calculate the returns you’re seeing. The most popular way to do this is to measure how much traffic you’re generating, then calculate the value of that traffic by determining how often it converts (along with the average value of a conversion). Then, you can compare those numbers to how much you’re spending and wind up with an overall ROI.
- Never isolating your variables. Let’s say you’ve noticed a spike in organic traffic over the course of the past month. That’s a good sign, but why did it happen? You’ll need to isolate your variables if you want to get the complete picture, tracing back all aberrations to a specific strategy or tactic. Otherwise, you won’t be able to do much with the data.
- Allowing one person to run the show. Human beings are wrought with baked-in cognitive biases, no matter how much we’d like to pretend otherwise. If left to your own devices, these biases will likely influence your interpretation of results, whether it’s allowing your preconceived notions to guide your conclusions, or neglecting key pieces of information because you’ve disproportionately undervalued them. One of the easiest solutions to this problem is establishing a system of checks and balances; have multiple people double-check the work and come up with their own conclusions, then compare results.
You don’t have to have a degree in data science to understand the basics of SEO campaign tracking. But all of us are vulnerable to basic mistakes that can make our interpretations worthless. Acknowledging that fallibility, and incorporating better practices to prevent these mistakes from happening, is necessary if you want your campaign to be a success long term.
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