Let’s start with everyone’s fave question:
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the method for indexing digital content across the web for the purpose of delivering perceived value to a user. Google, for example, "reads" the content on your website and assigns a numerical value which it uses in an ever-changing algorithm. That calculated value determines where you fall in search results.
Fun fact: You get 1,360,000,000 results if you search for “SEO” in Google. (Will this article increase it to 1,360,000,001?)
From our experience, clients feel excited by the prospect of starting to implement SEO on their own websites. They’re researching keywords, writing new blog content weekly (ok, maybe monthly…) and maybe even adding ALT text to all of their images. WE LOVE TO SEE IT!
But, after a couple of months that excitement starts to fizzle because they’re not sure if what they’re doing is actually producing results. Where do they look? How can they tell? (We’re giving gold stars to anyone who’s logged into their Google Analytics account and at least tried to peruse the data!)
Something all of these beginner articles leave out is that Google uses over 200 different ranking “signals” for SEO. (We’re not lying! Here’s a complete list!)
You, your mom, and every SEO agency can control some of the major ranking signal categories to help improve performance, including:
Then again, there are a few that are completely outside of your control:
Of course those articles don’t expect you to become an expert at all 200 overnight, but they leave out some key factors like how to measure website performance to see if the SEO that’s within your control is actually working.
“Not having a holistic approach to your SEO strategy prevents you from seeing results.”—Erica Martin, Lord of Pixels
We’ll tell you that there is no such thing as too much data. Collect everything. Collect it all! This will give you enough information to grow into. A few examples of data tracking include metrics and platforms include:
If you want to get really fancy, then you can utilize Google Tag Manager to collect more in-depth event information when it comes to any of the aforementioned tools. There are ways to find out what percentage of a video a particular user watches on your website, and whether or not the sound is on when they play it.
Because there are sooooo many factors which play into Google’s search algorithm, and so many different data points, we recommend creating a high-level digital dashboard that pulls in as much data as possible to give you a comprehensive and holistic view of your digital presence.
Our personal favorite is to build out a monthly view of performance, starting with an overview of website performance across all channels, then drilling down into each individual channel (e.g. Organic, Referral, Direct and Paid).
From there we add in each individual social media channel we’re active on in order to look at metrics like our engagement rate and click-throughs to our website.
Finally, we incorporate our Google My Business profile.
Google updates its search algorithm frequently. (It’s annoying how often, really.) And, sometimes it’s difficult to know if the update is considered major or minor until after Google publishes a formal announcement a few weeks after-the-fact.
You can use tools like Semrush Sensor to look at SERP volatility. The higher the score is, the more likely an algorithm update was introduced by Google. The goal would be to monitor if there is a correlation between your website’s organic performance and changes in the algorithm. While the changes aren’t immediate, you may see a cause-and-effect relationship a month or two later. This can be a great indicator that based on the algorithm update, you now need to also update your approach to SEO.
Another great way to reference your data is based on the changes you make. For example, if you redesign your homepage, then it’s a good idea to add that benchmark to your reporting tools so you can compare performance before and after the refresh. The same can be applied to when you start/stop a new digital advertising campaign, or social media strategy.
Congrats on adding ALL the data and even considering looking at that hot mess of numbers. 😂 We admit it: Attempting to review any type of digital report can feel overwhelming and difficult to make sense of. It takes time to learn how to interpret your data to get what you need out of it.
Here are a couple of questions you can start with:
If you don’t feel like you’re able to answer these questions based on your report, then try changing how the data is visualized to help you make sense of it. There’s no perfect way to build a chart!
We’ve come full circle with why our strategy is not your momma’s approach to SEO. Some of the points we discussed in our concept of a holistic approach do not directly translate into an SEO strategy, but can help contribute to improving your website’s performance. And, the better your website performs overall, the more it will also show up in search results.
We mentioned earlier that it’s difficult to manage every single ranking factor in Google’s algorithm, which is why we don’t necessarily focus on off-page SEO. Some things are outside of your control and not worth fretting over, when there are other factors you can focus on.
Backlinks are a hot topic when it comes to off-page SEO, which is a method of getting other websites to link back to your website. When done correctly and legitimately, backlinks are amazing, especially when the other website is a higher domain authority than your website. But, your backlink efforts will never outweigh your on-page SEO efforts, which is why we focus there first.