December 2015

Marketing Analytics Q&A: The analytics behind SEO

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Introducing calculated metrics in Google Analytics (3)

Can you give me a brief history of how SEO has been measured in the past to how it is measured today?

SEO was traditionally measured by keyword tracking. Basically, SEO companies had automated tools that would check for certain websites ranking for different keywords, and turn these into nice looking PDF reports. If you ever hired an SEO company in the past ten years, you might have received these on a monthly basis.

Over time, as website traffic was deemed more important, reports that included traffic for specific keywords as well may have been included. Google Analytics used to let you see which keywords from organic search were bringing traffic to your website. This would let an SEO company effectively say: “We have targeted these ten keywords and here are the concrete results”.

Then one day, Google decided to mask all this data, citing they didn’t want people focusing on keywords alone. This coincided with a push for longer tail keywords in the algorithm and a change in communication for SEO between Google, Webmasters and SEO professionals.

Last year, Google began providing more comprehensive data through Google Webmaster Tools (Now rebranded as Search Console). Under the Search Analytics section, you can now see keywords, impressions, click-through rate, and a host of other useful metrics. This data can also be linked to Google Analytics, to be accessed directly in the GA interface.

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In late 2015/early 2016, how do I measure my SEO efforts using Google Analytics?

There are a couple of primary reports that are important for doing this, it does rely on your Google Analytics to be linked to your Search Console data, technical instructions for doing that are here:

Access Search Console data in Google Analytics

1) Look at the trend of “Organic Traffic” over a previous six month period.

The fastest way to do this is to select the Organic Traffic segment from Advanced Segments and look at the overall visitor graph. Is it going up, going down, or flat-line?

2) Access the Acquisition > Search Engine Optimisation  > Queries section.

Once you’ve successfully linked your Search Console data, it will appear here. Take note of:

– The number of unique keywords in the table
– The impressions, clicks, CTR, and average position for these keywords

Many keywords in this chart is a good thing and shows your website has spread to longer tail queries. Obviously, queries with higher impressions are good, and if highly relevant to your business should be looking to improve the average position of those queries.

3) With the Organic Search segment on, look at Behaviour > Site Content > Landing Pages.

A good way to see if people from search engines see your valuable content is to see where they land. If your key landing pages are also attracting people from organic search, your best content is likely to be seen and acted upon.

Commonly in this section, you’ll identify a page or two which for some reason has picked up a significant amount of organic search traffic, but provides little additional value to users (It might be a blog post of a few paragraphs long for example). You can work on these pages, linking them to other parts of your website and providing call-to-actions here to capitalise on this traffic.

I hope that helps, get in touch with me if you want to discuss your website search analytics.


Marketing Analytics Q&A: Introducing Calculated Metrics in Google Analytics

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Introducing calculated metrics in Google Analytics (2)

Can you give me a basic introduction to Calculated Metrics and how they will become relevant to me?

Calculated Metrics allow you to add up to 5 (50 in GA Premium) metrics to the View Level which can be used in custom reports, or just in your Google Analytics standard reports.

To get started, navigate to Admin > View > Calculated Metrics (You’ll need at least Edit permissions to do this).

For those analysts that export data and undertake calculations in Excel, Calculated Metrics allow you to do this in the GA interface, saving time, and allowing you to present relevant business data to other stakeholders directly in the GA interface.

For example, if you run an eCommerce website, you could add the Revenue Per User metric to Google Analytics. This would allow you to see Revenue Per User in Google Analytics, and then undertake segmentation with advanced segments in order to look at this by channel, or other marketing campaigns. For example, did Facebook or SEM bring us the most revenue per user in November?

The formula to do this would be {{Revenue}} / {{Users}}. Once you type Revenue into the Formula box, you can select it from the drop-down and Google Analytics will automatically add the other formatting needed.

While there will be some standard calculated metrics for each website, the flexibility exists to define some metrics based on your unique website and business. Just like you should be defining goals and Events unique to your website in your measurement plan, think about what’s important on your website and define calculated metrics around that.

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We have a blog set up to teach our potential customers about our industry. How can we use calculated metrics?

I think Calculated metrics can be valuable to identify Users that like and consume your content often. One way to do this is to define micro conversions (Goals) based on your valuable content, and then use Calculated Metrics to total these up and segment users.

For example, if you run a blog about content marketing, you might have a goal that triggers when a user looks at one of your most valuable pieces of content or downloads a PDF worksheet. It’s likely that you’ll have several goals defined, hence Calculated Metrics can be used to add these together to get a total.

Goals are counted on a sessions basis, but the Users variable is consistent assuming the browser cookie is not deleted. If you also practice linking Users across devices with the USERID functionality, you will be able to see as users go between devices such as mobiles, tablets and desktops.

For example, you will be able to find users that viewed at least 15 pieces of valuable content across a 6 month window. This may have been across 10 unique sessions in this time period. You might decide to re-market these users specific paid content, an in-person event, or new content as it comes out.

Get in touch with me if you’d like to discuss your unique measurement plan for your business.

Marketing Analytics Q&A: Quantifying Hope

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Today’s post departs from the weekly Q&A format for a brief essay on my observations of analytics and hope in marketing.

Introducing Calculated Metrics in Google Analytics (1)

I’m sitting across from a potential client talking about their business and previous marketing campaigns. I’m looking to understand what they truly understand about their marketing performance and the role of the agency or another firm they have employed to help them.  Unfortunately, the majority of the time, there is an apparent lack of real understanding, or accountability, or perhaps communication?

This year I’ve had this conversation at least 15-20 times. Details and players are different, but the outcome is often the same. It’s not that the work is not okay, or that the campaigns have been a total failure, rather, there is a lack of quantification of results and communication of intent.

There are too many broken promises, oversimplifications, and short-cuts, which leads to less than desirable results and frustrated and confused clients.

It’s amazing how much I can learn in just a few hours by going through 12 months worth of Google Analytics data. I can quickly see profitable campaigns, failed campaigns, problematic web pages and a whole lot of insights that can lead to improvement and further recommendations.

Unfortunately, this quantification is relatively uncommon, and beyond top-line metrics, it’s not often that clients or agencies have gone deep enough in to learn how their campaigns are going.

It made me consider, perhaps there is a reason why? Beyond mastering the technical usage of software such as Google Analytics, it’s not difficult to be transparent, nor to seek out deeper insights. However, being transparent brings with it a risk, the risk that if the results don’t show what we have promised, or live up to the story we have sold, the client may become dissatisfied, and we might lose them.

Marketing has often been about selling hope, but some campaigns may never achieve a quantifiable goal. That’s ok too; not everything needs to have direct positive ROI. However, it’s far easier to set the expectations right in the beginning and communicate what to expect.

When I scope a potential project with a new client, I always talk regarding goal posts. “Our result will fall between X and Y. If this happens, we do this. Otherwise we do that.” Perhaps the approach is too simplistic, but at least in my experience, it gets clients on the same page regarding what we expect to achieve, so there are no surprises later.

Chaos tends to occur when the client would rather the story be based on hope and aspiration, not data.