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Search Engine Marketing and Web Analytics Are Made for Each Other

This is a follow up piece to “Web Analytics Strategy – Part 1: Making the Most of your Web Analytics” and “Web Analytics Strategy – Part 2: Analyze Your Results

Once you have met with your stakeholders and decided on goals (see part 1). And once you have created a review schedule to measure those goals (see part 2). A common first place many people start is to understand how well their website is performing in search. Keyword ranking is where most people start, but as they come to understand how organic search works and what the factors involved are, many of them start looking at a wider range of metrics. Reporting becomes more complex and critical for success.

Search engine optimization (SEO) and pay-per-click (PPC) are two of the best examples of how to use Web analytics to improve your website’s and your business’s performance. Search engine marketing (SEM) and Web analytics are made for each other. Once you understand how search marketing metrics work, you will have insight into almost every key measurement aspect of any online marketing program.

Organic and Paid Search – A Brief Overview

Just in case anyone doesn’t know this already, here is the basics of search engine marketing. There are two types of visitors from search engines–organic and paid. Paid search listings (PPC) are ads, or “sponsored results” that you see in search results. Organic listings are the “regular” results that the particular search engine deems most relevant for the search query. For both, how closely you rank to the top of the first page of results for any given phrase will greatly impact how much traffic you get. While both types of listings show up very close to one another, they generate different types of visitors and require different metrics to understand their effectiveness. (For more about SEM basics, see our SEM resources section)

Why You Absolutely Need a Web Analytics Strategy for Search Engine Marketing

Basic Metrics

Any website owner needs to know how many visitors it is getting and where those visitors are coming from. The basic metrics here are almost universal. You need to know:

  • How many visitors you got from search and if that number is increasing
  • What the bounce rate is of those visitors
  • How long visitors are spending on your site
  • What the most popular keyword phrases are
  • What the most common entry pages are
  • What the most common exit pages are

These are some of the basic visitor metrics you need for any marketing program. Without this information, you can have almost no idea if your search engine marketing initiative is producing results.

Beyond the Basics: Segmentation

Both organic and paid search have a lot of opportunity for visitor segmentation. This is something that many people don’t take time to work through and is one area where having a professional marketing analyst review your metrics can really help.

In organic search, the primary segmentation is normally between branded and non-branded search. Branded search is loosely defined as any keyword phrase that includes your company name or a specific product name. These searches indicate that the visitor already knows who you are and is looking specifically for you. Branded search can provide a good benchmark for overall search performance since performance here is normally stronger. Non-branded search is also known as “topical search”, meaning the visitor found you by way of a topic they were looking up. Because this visitor may not be familiar with your company or products, “performance” here is normally lower but these visitors are also critical to your growth. Segmenting out the topics into distinct groups provides an additional layer of insight into your search analytics and performance by group can vary widely. This segment provides great insight into what your next marketing & content development initiatives should be. Again, a marketing analyst can provide great value here in helping to find the differences in performance and where opportunity exists.

In paid search, the segments can be predefined by how the program is structured. If you have integrated your paid search program and analytics (for instance with Google Analytics and Adwords), then you will be able to see the performance of each segment as the performance of various parts of your program. In reviewing this, the performance may vary widely. All this variation gives you rich insight into the needs and experiences of the visitors following those paths and what you can do to make the experience more successful.

Beyond the Basics: Goals and Conversions

“Goals and conversions” should be included in the basic metrics for every marketing campaign. Determining how many people become a lead or customer as a result of a marketing program is critical to knowing if your they are successful. However, I did not put “goals and conversions” in the basics group for two reasons:

  1. It’s surprising how many organizations do not have clearly defined goals and conversion points identified in their websites, and if they do,
  2. Many times the Web analytics platform is not configured correctly to capture this information.

Understanding your conversion paths and setting up your Web analytics platform to capture the important information about your visitors as they travel your conversion paths is a key benefit of using an analytics specialist. When goals and segments are defined and combined, you can find a wealth of information about how to make your website more valuable and profitable. It is absolutely worth your time and effort to properly implement goal & conversion tracking.

Additionally, for paid search, knowing the conversion rate of any given program is essential to determining ROI and cost per conversion (lead or sale). Other metrics unique to paid search, such as Cost Per Click (CPC), are useful mostly for campaign optimization, not bottom line business reporting of success.

Summary: Web Analytics & SEM

Web analytics for your search engine marketing programs can give you more insight into what the visitors to your website are looking for and how they think about you and your products. Having a well configured Web analytics package in place to capture the visitor data from search is critical to determining if your search engine marketing program is working. Whether you are looking at basic metrics such as traffic trends, or digging into several layers of segmentation, it is the analytics package you have supporting that program that will make all the difference. Working with a Web analytics specialist can also help to make sure your metrics are accurate and actionable.

In conjunction with our recently expanded Web analytics services, we’re putting together this series of posts with our Web analytics expert to shed some light on Web analytics best practices and how your organization can leverage analytics to improve business. Amplify Interactive is now providing full service Web Analytics strategy, implementation, support and reporting services across multiple platforms. Contact us if you’d like to discuss taking a more comprehensive, pro-active, and substantive approach to Web Analytics.

Ben Lloyd

About Ben Lloyd

Ben Lloyd serves as Principal at Add3 and manages the agency’s Portland office.  Ben got his start in SEM way back in 1999 – when there was like, 15 search engines and Google was barely a thing. Prior to Add3, Ben had founded Amplify Interactive in 2003 (which was acquired by Add3 in 2013), and hasn’t looked back since. Ben likes lots of stuff like golf, pinball, food(ie), booze/beer/wine – in that order, etc. Mostly – he likes doing that stuff with his friends. Ben is also co-founder of SEMpdx. Connect with Ben on LinkedIn

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