Is your SEO data steering you wrong?
Accurate data is essential to measuring the success of your current SEO initiatives and informing the actions needed for future ones. Columnist Winston Burton discusses what to check to ensure accurate data collection and reporting.
With the rise of SEO platforms and enterprise-level technology, we are drowning in a sea of SEO data, with a lot of information right at our fingertips. But are we really getting a true and accurate picture of our SEO performance?
As marketers, we pore over data all the time — but in order to glean meaningful insights, we need to make sure our data collection tools are set up properly and managed correctly for accuracy.
Here is how to do it.
Attribution has been one of online marketing’s biggest challenges. Who gets the credit for a conversion when there are so many different touch points along the path to purchase? Is last click the right way to look at things? How about first click?
Some brands choose first click, while some agencies look at last click. Some even have complex attribution models which give partial credit to different touch points.
We need to come to a mutual agreement with our clients on what attribution model we are going to use and then make sure our reporting data reflects this. You can use the Model Comparison Tool in Google Analytics “to compare how different attribution models impact the valuation of your marketing channels.”
One common mistake that I have seen over the years is that the paid search is not set up correctly and can actually get misclassified as organic search, which can inflate your SEO numbers and make them highly inaccurate. Always check to see if your search channels are set up and classified correctly.
Tracking on-site search is a great way to get insights into what users are looking for on your site, helping you to develop a holistic content strategy at all stages of the user journey. Depending on your analytics platform, you need to enable this and add parameters to on-site search keywords.
Inconsistent tagging is the most common mistake that I come across. I often see that tracking code does not get added to new page templates, or the web developer overwrites a new page template and forgets to add in the tracking code, or the website has many page templates and a lot of pages, which can be difficult to manage.
No tracking code means no data, so make sure tracking code is on every page of your site so you can get a complete and accurate assessment of your organic traffic.
(There are tools like GA Checker or Screaming Frog that can scan your website to find any pages without the tracking code, but one of the best automated tools that I have used is ObservePoint.)
Another common issue is that goals are not set up and configured correctly. A goal is going to vary from website to website, but it could be a sale, brochure download, booking, newsletter sign-up or something else.
Setting up goals and goal funnels will allow you to determine how SEO and conversion optimization are performing and if you’re making progress towards your goals. By enabling goal funnels, you would see the pages or steps in the conversion process that are leading to drop-offs, which you need to look at more closely and come up with some strategic ways to fix.
Bot and internal traffic
Watch out for bots that skew your organic search metrics. Most analytics platforms provide the option to exclude traffic from bots. You just need to enable it.
Always make sure that you exclude traffic from your own network, because that can also skew your data. You can set up filters to exclude traffic based on specific IP addresses so you get the most accurate data.
Analytics version control
Analytics providers are constantly upgrading to new versions, and some older version may not be supported anymore, possibly giving you outdated data. Always make sure you’re running close to the latest version and have the updated tracking code on your site.
Making sure data collection tools are set up correctly and managed properly is essential for getting the most accurate picture of your SEO performance. Always work with your analytics team and have them conduct routine audits to make sure everything is working. With accurate data at your fingertips, you can make the right decision on your SEO strategy and assign the proper credit to organic search.
by Winston Burton