Meaningful SEO Metrics- Going Beyond the Numbers: SES San Francisco 2011, Day 1!

Aug 17, 2011 | 1,751 views | by Navneet Kaushal
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This session focused on the evolving SEO metrics from Page Rank to LTV and ROI. The panel had eminent speakers, who stressed on the ways to move beyond Page Rank, to new metrics that will lead to an increase in the budget allotted to SEO services by the companies.

The panel constituted:

Moderator: Richard Zwicky, Independent Consultant,


  1. Ray "Catfish" Comstock, Director of SEO, BusinessOnLine
  2. Todd Friesen, Director of SEO, Performics
  3. Rob Garner, Vice President Strategy, iCrossing

The first speaker to hold the stage was Rob Garner. He described the challenges that most often occur with measuring the search channel. Paid search is easier to measure as compared to SEO, that is why in most cases, 90% of search channel budgets go to paid media (while it supplies 20% of returns) and a meager 10% of budget goes to SEO (which supplies huge returns from search marketing).

ses Meaningful SEO Metrics  Going Beyond the Numbers: SES San Francisco 2011, Day 1!

Rob Garner further said that the clients find it difficult to measure SEO performance due to the disconnect between legacy systems in tracking performance. In the case of large companies looking for immediate results, and newer breakthroughs-whereas natural search benefits are longer term. SEO performance is not maintained from the years gone by, hence there is no way of comparison. Poor analytics can also be a reason behind the corporations questioning SEO effectiveness. Often the people delegating budget on search marketing, know little about it.

These challenges brought out, Rob then emphasized that, "A longer term view of natural search is needed to understand the value. Natural traffic is earned but eventually owned. Look at maintenance costs of SEO as a realistic expense, especially in comparison to the contribution to revenue."

Then he pointed out the 4 key measurements that are required for meaningful SEO metrics:

  • Value of search equity for the site being optimized
  • Media value of natural search traffic
  • Value of various action across the site (individually and in aggregate)
  • Value of the stress and time costs on your organization. The cost savings of doing it now, vs. doing it later (retro-fit)

IMAGE SEO Metrics Meaningful SEO Metrics  Going Beyond the Numbers: SES San Francisco 2011, Day 1!

Rob then spoke of the key questions to be kept in mind while building a Business Case. One must have clear answers on the amount invested in search-what amount is the conversion and will the worth change with SEO. It is also necessary to know how to measure lift in natural search metrics, and also get an idea of the loss, if a business is without an SEO plan.
Rob identified the next step as-Calculating Advertising Value Equivalent for SEO. He emphasized these pointers, "Find out the anticipate traffic lost or gained in natural search. Determine the average CPC in a themed area of one of your campaigns. Multiply the average CPC times the amount of SEO traffic to quantify its media value. For example: 100k clicks times an average CPC of $2.63 is valued at $253k. In a year, that value is over $3 million."

He also referred to the case study of a banking site that re-launched with renamed URLs and no redirection plan. The high 404 errors led to a whopping $1.5m loss in actual revenue per month. He concluded his piece by saying that marketers must place a monetary value on actions to help SEO quantify results. He said, "Place a value on actions and also on lifetime value. When forecasting potential lift from SEO, be very conservative with traffic estimates. Be sure to measure Year over Year trends, not just month to month to create context for growth and overall performance."

Todd Friesen came on to the podium next and spoke on bringing together SEM and SEO reporting to draw attention to the impact of SEO. His punch was- "SEO hasn’t been getting it’s due".

He began his presentation by outlining the benefits of a combined SEO and PPC strategy- which includes, that you are visible in both paid and natural searches, hence the chances that the consumer selects a competitor is less. A combined strategy will also lead to brand visibility and also provide an opportunity to increase overall revenue.

So the key is to manage both SEO and PPC holistically, to yield better results. Todd, however, discussed a major problem that measuring in silos doesn’t give a complete picture. So, he came up with these strategies for effective PPC and SEO, he said, "You can get the max ROI by adjusting bid strategy based on SEO ranking data. Do keyword gap analysis to identify strong performing keywords that have been missing from your campaigns by comparing your SEO and PPC keyword lists. You must share landing page and ad creative. The PPC Ad text can be used as meta description tags. If you have a well performing ad creative, then share it with SEO for click through rate optimization Use rolled reporting to identify true combined clickshare numbers."
Todd explained that testing framework for SEO and PPC vs. SEO alone can be done by:

  • Identifying top ranking organic keywords
  • Selecting keywords for test and control groups
  • Defining hypothesis and success metrics
  • Applying the test
  • Evaluating the results and iterating.

In his conclusion, Todd said, “SEO and SEM do not exist in silos. It’s only in the past few years that marketers are actually figuring out how they can work together – looking at data and approaching it holistically.”

The third and the last speaker of the session was  Ray "Catfish" Comstock, his presentation was on key metrics and reporting.

Ray began by pointing out the road to knowing the key metrics, if they are working or not. He advocated a three phased approach-

  • Performance
  • Opportunity
  • Prioritization

As of Performance Reporting- Ray said that earlier, search rankings on Google was a way to judge the performance. But that is not applicable now as rankings vary depending on localization and personalization. He said that, “Search rankings can be useful for month over month comparisons, but otherwise are not the best indicator of success.”

So, how can one know if the search engine optimization efforts are effective or not? To this, these are the tips on Effective SEO Performance Measurement that Ray gave:

  • Based on the levels of specification, divide the keyword campaigns
  • Take the brand versus non-brand performance, separately.
  • Focus on the long tail performance.

Ray explained the above pointers as, “Take your keywords and break them into groups, segment into brand vs. non-brand terms plus long tail keyword performance year over year.”

In his concluding note, Ray spoke about SEO Intelligence- how the service leverages Adobe Insight to look at SEO data, and follows and keeps track at the visitor level. He signed off by recommending this tool to the audience.

We have more coverage of the SES San Francisco coming up, so stay tuned.

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Navneet Kaushal

Navneet Kaushal is the founder and CEO of PageTraffic, an SEO Agency in India with offices in Chicago, Mumbai and London. A leading search strategist, Navneet helps clients maintain an edge in search engines and the online media. Navneet's expertise has established PageTraffic as one of the most awarded and successful search marketing agencies.
4.thumbnail Meaningful SEO Metrics  Going Beyond the Numbers: SES San Francisco 2011, Day 1!
4.thumbnail Meaningful SEO Metrics  Going Beyond the Numbers: SES San Francisco 2011, Day 1!