B2C Marketing Analytics for Beginners

Organic Search Analytics

Organic search has become a primary source of traffic to many websites. It’s often referred to as Search Engine Optimization (SEO). SEO traffic is often high-intent since the customer is actively searching for something related to your product. With so much opportunity in SEO, it’s important to understand its performance and to look for opportunities to improve it.

Introduction to Organic Search

In most other marketing channels, marketers create campaigns, crafting the copy and creative, and deliberately post them, carefully selecting partners and placements. The marketer has a lot of control within a given budget. However, organic search is a very different channel.

The search engine itself determines the placement (rank) in its search results using complex algorithms that can only be indirectly influenced. Because most SEO levers aren’t in the realm of traditional marketing, some companies give ownership over SEO to Product or Engineering teams.

While techniques to optimize the channel are a mixture of art and science, it’s within the realm of marketing analytics to understand the metrics that measure performance of the channel and that highlight opportunities for improvement.

SEO Metrics

As we’ve mentioned previously, primary metrics are metrics that define the success of your channel. They should be closely monitored and have goals associated with them. It’s important to select only one or two metrics as primary metrics. If you try to manage to all metrics, it’s hard to have focus and to make trade-offs. Clearly defining the purpose of your SEO strategy will help dictate the metrics you select as primary.

For most companies, revenue from SEO (or conversions from SEO if you don’t have an e-commerce site) is a great primary metric because it’s often the outcome you want out of your SEO strategy. It also likely rolls up easily into your overall marketing goals.

Traffic and conversion rate are great secondary metrics since they are key inputs into calculating revenue. They aren’t great primary metrics, though, because it’s unlikely that you care how much traffic you get from SEO if it doesn’t convert or that you care about increasing conversion rate at the expense of traffic if it has no impact to the bottom line.

Other metrics that you should monitor are top query terms, crawl errors, bounce rate and site speed. These will help you troubleshoot if anything has gone wrong with your primary metrics and may also uncover opportunities for improving your SEO.

Revenue (or Conversions)

Revenue (or conversions if you don’t have an e-commerce site) from the SEO channel is a function of traffic and conversion rate, so to diagnose any issues with the revenue metric, it’s best to look for clues in those two secondary metrics.

Traffic

Traffic is a simple metric that tells you how many users your site is getting from organic search. You can break traffic down by search engine, but for most western sites, Google makes up well over 80% of organic search traffic.

It’s important to keep an eye on traffic trends. Often this metric will be the first to indicate any issues. A dramatic change in traffic could be the result of an algorithm tweak by the search engine or a newly introduced bug on your site. Gradual changes can be from improvements to/staleness of your SEO strategy or greater/lesser search demand.

Conversion Rate

Conversion rate is another very telling measure of SEO performance. Generally speaking, SEO is considered a mid-funnel channel, since customers are showing that they’re considering a purchase by actively searching for a term related to your brand. Thus, conversion rate is usually higher than for your awareness marketing campaigns, but lower than your targeted lower-funnel campaigns. If conversion rate is lower than expected, or if it starts to change, you may want to look at what search terms are driving traffic to your site to make sure you’re ranking for the terms you intend to rank for.

Query Terms

While search engine algorithms are rather black-box, the ultimate goal for the search engine is to present relevant and useful search results to the user. So the most important part of your SEO strategy should be to make sure that the content on your site is highly relevant to the users you want to attract. You should periodically review the terms you rank for. Ideally it’s terms that you mean to rank for – otherwise you need to change your content to rank for terms you want to and avoid ranking for irrelevant ones.

Traffic by Landing Page

You should also track traffic by landing page as a secondary metric, which will be helpful in learning what type of content ranks well and in diagnosing whether you have certain pages that have been de-indexed.

Crawl Errors

Crawl errors also affect your ranking since they keep your pages from being indexed.

Bounce Rate

Google Analytics defines a “bounce” as a session that has a single interaction hit. Interaction hits are pageviews and other interaction events you may have configured on your page. If you have no other interaction events configured, a bounce is simply a session that has a single pageview. You can learn more about interaction events here.

The bounce rate is simply the percent of all sessions that are bounces. If out of 100 sessions, 75 of them had a single pageview and no other interaction hit, then the bounce rate is 75%.

While bounce rate isn’t a direct input into search ranking, a high bounce rate can be the result of the page not being relevant to the traffic that visits it – and relevance is the most important consideration for search engine algorithms. So, in practice, if a high bounce rate is due to poor relevance or poor content of your landing pages, then it can be a helpful signal of those underlying problems which do impact SEO directly.

Site Speed

The main reason why site speed is important is that in the digital world we are incredibly impatient – we have come to expect near instant response to our web browsing. Many studies have found that a website’s bounce rate dramatically increases when it takes longer than a couple seconds to load (see here and here). This means you could be missing out on potential conversions from people who bounce before they even get to know you and your product.

A slow site is so detrimental to a visitor’s experience that Google started adding it as a feature to their web search ranking algorithm in 2010 and they recently announced that they’ll be adding speed to mobile search rankings in July of 2018.

So a slow site will hurt you twice – first with potentially lower rankings on Google search results, and then with high bounce rates for those who come to your site.

Conclusion

While it’s important to have only one or two metrics that define the success of your SEO strategy, there are several key metrics that can give you more context around your success metric and help you uncover opportunity to improve your search rank.