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2016 Is Your Chance to Get Real About SEO

By Deren Baker – CEO of Jumpshot.

SEO is a higher-stakes game than it used to be. The SEO process now involves cultivating micro-influencer relationships, crafting original content, and gathering a social following while still delivering top rankings for organic searches.

Your company is likely sitting atop a wealth of deep data that could be used to boost your SEO. If your team is just using Google Analytics, then you’re missing out on valuable information necessary to gain a competitive edge.

What Traditional Analytics Can’t Tell You

Traditional analytics software is useful but limited. It falls short in that it’s often exclusively click-based: If somebody sees your banner ad and doesn’t click it, but later makes a purchase, then his sales path is invisible to traditional analytics. Companies like Facebook have realized this and are focusing on view-through metrics so they can tie conversions back to specific ads, whether or not the lead clicks on the ads.

In addition, traditional analytics focus too narrowly on the specific site. It’s unlikely that your customers spend more than 0.5 percent of their online time on your website, and traditional web analytics only tell half the story. You see where traffic comes from directly, but it’s tougher to follow a customer’s path. Perhaps she started on Pinterest, followed a link to The Huffington Post, and then found your website.

Then there’s the issue of keyword data. Websites using Google or Bing on the back end will yield different information. People searching Yahoo might use different keywords from those searching Google; knowing these keywords will help you create targeted and engaging content. But thanks to successive search updates, namely encrypted search, this has gotten tougher. There are some sophisticated workarounds, but these rely on inferences. Nobody can tell your top 10 converting keywords from organic searches without caveats.

Finally, you need to know how your competition is doing. Do they appear higher on relevant keyword searches than you do? Are customers leaving your website and buying from them? Google Analytics and Omniture Site Catalyst can’t give you those answers.

Improve Your SEO

So what should you be doing? Here are five tips to boost your SEO game for 2016:

  1. Know your audience. This is the oldest one in the book, but not enough marketers think to look at their own data to understand what their big sellers are, what pages are most viewed, and what types of people are buying their products. While it’s not a new trick, you can’t neglect your CRM when working to improve SEO.
  2. Research keywords. This information is harder to find thanks to the rise of encrypted search engines, but organic searches are still dependent on keywords. There are plenty of tools available that provide insights and all have their benefits and drawbacks. A search terms analysis can help you better understand what keywords are leading customers to your site — and which important terms you’re missing.
  3. Improve user experience. Google’s algorithm changes have focused on user experience. Whether that be mobile usability or quality content, Google is adamant that websites be built for customers rather than engines. Your SEO team should insist on maximizing quality content and mobile usability from the beginning rather than parachute it in later.
  4. Measure offline impact. Brick-and-mortar retail still makes up the majority of sales and you need to track this. Embrace data onboarders like LiveRamp and Merkle to match store transactions with online activity. If your business has a storefront, make sure your website is driving people to it rather than away from it.
  5. Track trends. Tools like Google Trends and MozCast provide more insight on search algorithm updates and how they’ve impacted industry-wide sites. While it’s tough to track exactly what occurred to increase or decrease search traffic without specific keyword visibility, these tools can provide some insight into your website’s traffic. For instance, they can show you whether web traffic is fluctuating as a result of external factors or internal ones, such as a code release.

SEO is more important than ever, and you need to make sure you’re getting it right. Look beyond simple web analytics and your business will thrive.

Deren Baker is the CEO of Jumpshot, a San Francisco-based startup that offers marketing analytics software tailored for the travel, retail, media, and e-commerce industries. He has previously held senior roles at Travelocity, Switchfly, and EzRez.

Image: Flickr