This past Friday I had the pleasure of presenting at one of the world’s largest digital marketing conferences, AdTech New York. My topic of discussion was titled “Feed Your Brain! Advanced Analytics” and centered on how brand marketers can use data to turn organic search engine optimization (SEO) into a true performance-focused medium. I shared the stage with Richard Zwicky, president and founder of Enquisite, a search analytics platform and one of our primary technology providers. Previous to this engagement, I had been considering this very topic for some time and so I was eager to share my perspectives with the audience. A few key takeaways emerged from the conversation.
1) The Rank Report Is Dead
Okay, an admission. We still provide rank reports, but that’s primarily because most of our clients require them as part of their SEO engagements. The truth is that these reports offer little insight into the health of the overall program and provide absolutely no direction around what we as SEO practitioners should focus on next.
Modern-day search algorithms have evolved to become much more personalized to each individual user’s specific interests and needs. Search results pages (SERPs) are now influenced by the geographic region where the user’s query is originating from, in addition to personalized and behavioral factors. Put another way, based on your location in the world and previous query and Web-browsing patterns, the search engines will often serve up customized results that it believes are more relevant to you than to the default user. In fact, Google took things a bit further about 18 months ago with its introduction of SearchWiki, technology that enables the user to manually manipulate search results based on specific needs or preferences.
So what’s true for you may not be true for me across the SERPs.
In response to this new insight, we as an agency began shifting our focus toward understanding what our search-referred audiences do upon arrival on our clients’ Web sites and concentrate our energies on attracting more of the most engaged audiences. Optimization isn’t dead. Optimizing for position alone is.
2) Optimize for Macro and Micro Conversions
Not every engaged Web site visitor will purchase on his or her first visit. That information might not be very helpful though to the SEO who is attempting to focus energies on increasing engagement and ultimately conversion. So while there certainly are always macro-level conversions (winning over a new customer), much of our work is concentrated on driving those conversions through a series of “micro” conversions. Micro conversions are specific actions that users take across a Web site that indicate message and brand engagement during earlier stages of purchase consideration. These actions can be video views, white paper downloads, product trial requests or anything that indicates the visitor is engaged in the message, whether or not that person is ready to transact.
SEO improvements should revolve around keyword targets, search descriptions and on-site messaging combinations that yield the greatest returns against macro and micro conversions. By embracing SEO as a performance-focused channel, you can adequately assess the impact that your efforts have against business and Web site objectives, namely via this expanded definition of conversion.
3) Pick (Keyword) Fights You Can Win
When you were in grade school, you wouldn’t walk up to the class bully and pick a fight. It was a low-percentage move. The same is true for SEO and keyword targeting. You don’t necessarily want to pursue the most broad, general industry keyword terms for optimization. To do so would be akin to picking fights with every known bully in your industry vertical. Strategically pick your fights instead!
At gyro we use tools such as Enquisite Campaign to hold our SEO efforts accountable for performance. We have found that by convincing clients to set aside their respective egos (“We should be number one on Google for keyword ‘X.’ After all, we’re the industry leaders!”), our SEO programs are able to drive greater volumes of meaningful and relevant traffic. So while our nearest competitors are caught up in a competition to outrank one another for the industry term, we can fly safely under the radar and steal market share through a more sophisticated approach to SEO.
All thanks to advanced search analytics.
S. Ryan DeShazer, Global Director of Search Marketing, at b2b agency, gyro