Half of all search queries fail to result in any user click – and only around 40% of search queries lead to someone visiting an organic (non-paid) website. These numbers were presented by Moz founder, Rand Fishkin, in a recent analysis. Inspired by these findings, we’ve taken a look a few selected search engine results pages to see which SERP Features are dominating the Google real estate.
Would you like to analyze the spread of SERP Features for different search engines, devices, countries and domains? Our Research Cloud lets you run your own analysis of all the most important SERP integrations like videos, Knowledge Panels, Featured Snippets, Google Jobs etc. This way for more info:
Only 40% of search queries result in an organic click
Anyone who has seen a recent presentation or read something by Rand Fishkin will know that the last three years have seen a lot of movement regarding click-rates in the Google SERPs. This lends great weight to the theory that Google is getting ever-closer to transforming itself into an answer engine. Fewer users clicking on results means more users who are remaining within the Google universe. They don’t have to visit an external website because Google itself is able to provide the answer they need. The search engine giant is improving its ability to curate content and to provide information directly, that would at least seem to satisfy many users.
A new analysis, carried out by Rand Fishkin, reveals very interesting results. The data presented comes from the analytics software company, Jumpshot, who use various browser extensions to generate click-through rates for various SERP metrics.
The graphic, created by Rand Fishkin, Jumpshot und Sparktoro, shows user click behavior on Google search results pages.
The data for the chart is from Q1 2019. The comparison values from the last three years also come from analyses carried out by Rand Fishkin:
49% of all search queries fail to result in a click; an increase of 12% versus three years ago
41% of all searches result in clicks to an organic, unpaid third-party website; a reduction of 13% versus three years ago
5.9% of searches lead to clicks on Google’s own services, such as YouTube, News, Maps etc.
3.6% of searches result in a paid click. Google has managed to increase the CTR of paid ads by 75%.
Google has increased its profits by 47% in the last three years.
I’m currently working on an analysis for an American science magazine and I’ve been looking at several examples SERPs for individual keywords. These provide a good demonstration of what is currently happening on the Google.com search results pages in the US, even though these changes haven’t yet taken hold in other parts of the world.
Detailed SERP Analysis for the Keyword “Crohn’s Disease”
If you search for “Crohn’s Disease” on your phone, then you get this search results page. As is often the case, the above-the-fold area is dominated by ads.
What’s next is a Knowledge Panel about Crohn’s Disease. These Knowledge Panels for health topics aren’t the same as regular Knowledge Panels with basic information about a topic. The first thing of interest is: The Knowledge Panel Menu (Overview, Symptoms, Treatments) is sticky, meaning it stay in the head area of the page even when the user swipes down.
The Knowledge Panel consists of four main sections:
(Menu, sticky) – Click does not go to a third-party site
Infographic – No click required
Definition – No click required
Specification/description – No click required
The next element on the SERP is a box with “Related conditions”. Clicking here opens up a new search results page – meaning that the user has still not left Google and has still not visited a third-party website.
Next we have a “People also ask” box. This is the first chance that Google is giving users to click on an organic (non-ad) link to a third-party website. You can see how the Knowledge Panel menu is trying hard to make we carry out an internal click.
Going further down the Crohn’s Disease SERP, we find info-boxes with symptoms and treatments. A user who clicks here will also stay on the SERP – and the Knowledge Panel menu remains sticky and visible.
Only then, having already swiped many times and got about half way down the page, do we start to see organic search results, entitled “Top Results”. This is where the user can click to navigate directly to a third-party website.
Before long, the organic results are interrupted by a news box, that also allows for clicking on links to external sites. You can see, however, that the sticky Knowledge Panel menu is still there.
Below that we have a “Related Searches” element that the user can click to open an answer box. This is another SERP element that doesn’t immediately generate external clicks – only after having first opened the box is the user presented with an opportunity to click through to the external site that has provided the snippet.
CONCLUSION: This example shows almost perfectly how Google is serving the user intent of the search query “Crohn’s Disease” – and makes it clear why many users won’t need to click through to and visit an external site – all the relevant information is already being provided on the SERP by Google.
Detailed SERP analysis UK
The example above was taken from the US search results. If we look at the SERP for the same search term, “Crohn’s Disease”, for searchers in the UK, we see several differences. To start with, the above-the-fold area is, like in the US, filled with adverts.
The next element is a Featured Snippet that displays an extract from a website Google has selected as being relevant. In theory, the user doesn’t have to click here, but if they do, then they are directed to the external site. In this case, the source of the Featured Snippet is mayoclinic.org, which also provides (some of) the information for the extensive Knowledge Panel displayed in the US results. The Featured Snippet is followed by organic results, starting with one for nhs.uk.
After just two organic results, we have the “People also ask” integration, which, when clicked, opens up further Featured Snippets. Again, these do not require a click to at least communicate some information to the user – only if they require more detail do they have to click through to the external site.
Towards the bottom of the SERP, after several more organic results, there is a Knowledge Panel that has been claimed by the charity “Crohn’s and Colitis UK”. Clicking on “More about…” reveals four links to the charity’s social media profiles (including YouTube, which is obviously a Google-owned property).
The SERP is completed by a “See Results About” box and a list of “Related Searches”, all of which generate a new search query with a new Google search results page.
To get to what is effectively page 2 of the SERPs, users have to click “more results”, which loads the next set of organic links.
CONCLUSION: The main difference in the United Kingdom is the lack of health-specific Knowledge Panel. This (particularly with its sticky header and tab structure) makes a huge difference though, meaning that Google is currently not as aggressive in keeping UK users on the SERP. However, with “People also ask”, “Related Searches” and “See Results About”, Google is already going a long way to answering users’ questions directly.
SERP Features Overview: USA vs. UK in the Health Industry
We can take a step back now from this one highly-specific example, and look at the big picture. Let’s compare the how often SERP Features appear for health-related keywords in the US and the UK. IN particular, I’m focusing on Related Questions, Featured Snippets and Knowledge Panels.
To get a representative health-related keyword set, we can analyze the market for healthline.com, meaning all keywords that healthline.com ranks for. Related Questions are displayed most of the time (92% on desktop, 88% on mobile), with Featured Snippets (56% on desktop, 30% on mobile) and Knowledge Panels (just under 50% on desktop and mobile) also frequently appearing.
In the UK – now based on the keyword set of nhs.uk – we see fewer Related Questions (82%), fewer Featured Snippets on desktop but slightly more on mobile (42% and 32%) and much less presence of Knowledge Panels (only 32% on desktop, 27% on mobile).
The Keyword “iPhone X”: How Google is increasing its revenue from the SERPs
I will now present another example – this time from eCommerce. This will demonstrate how Google has perfected its ad business and is pushing clicks onto its Product Listing Ads (Google Shopping). As an example, I’ve looked at the keyword “iPhone X” and the search results as displayed on a smartphone in the US.
What we get at the top of the SERP is two ads, followed by a Product Listing Ad block that is masquerading as a Knowledge Panel:
If we look at this apparent Knowledge Panel, then we can see that Google is using the entire visible area of the screen to let users click through this ecosystem and then go shopping on external sites – Google then gets its own cut of the revenue generated by these clicks. The menu contains four tabs: “Overview”, “Stores”, “Details” and “Reviews”. There are also product images, a link to Apple and, in a “Shop now” section, opportunities to filter the product more precisely according to color, capacity etc., as well as links to merchants’ websites.
If a user clicks on the tab “Stores”, then Google shows a list of different providers with prices and delivery conditions. Any clicks here will take users to external sites – with Google again getting its cut.
In the next tab, “Details”, users are shown product specifications.
The next tab, “Reviews”, contains exactly what you would expect. Here, Google displays highly-prominent review sources that can also attract a click on an organic, unpaid external site. Of more interest are the elements underneath these links – a search bar and a set of common search buttons:
If the user clicks on these, they can search within the reviews for particular topics and keywords. However, the 13,000 reviews listed here are all keep users within the Google universe – they do not lead to external sites.
If we leave this cross between a Knowledge Panel and Product Listing Ads, then the SERP consists of organic results, a “People also ask” box, and Top Stories (news). The end of the SERP, however, shows another element – a product comparison widget:
As we did for health-related keywords, we can also compare the presence of SERP Features in the USA and UK, now for eCommerce – by using the underlying keyword sets for amazon.com and amazon.co.uk.
In the US SERPs on mobile, we see that Knowledge Panels appear for 50.6% of amazon.com’s keywords – so a Knowledge Panel of this kind is displayed half the time. Classic Product Listing Ads appear for 14.6% of keywords.
In the UK, the rate of Knowledge Panels is much lower, at just 34.5%, but Product Listing Ads are more common, appearing for just over 1 in 4 (26.7%) of amazon.co.uk’s keywords.
CONCLUSION: Google is aiming to provide consumers with all the advice they need to make their purchase decision. This leaves only a few opportunities for external websites to generate organic, non-paid traffic. Instead, Google offers vast amounts of information by constantly scraping the web and by analyzing user behavior – meaning it can display the most important information from third-party websites and answer numerous different user questions and provide solutions for various different problems, without the user having to leave the Google universe. Until, that is, they are ready to actually make the purchase – but external sites that get these converting clicks have to pay Google for the privilege.
Google on its way to becoming an Answer Engine
The example from the health sector and the eCommerce example both provide background to the click numbers published by rand Fishkin. Google is working hard to keep users on its platform, to give direct answers and to influence purchase decisions. You could argue that Google has observed the inability of many websites to provide users with quick, structured content, and to satisfy users with an acceptable customer journey. In my opinion, however, you can trace this develop back to the increased use of smartphones and the changes in how users search, as well as Google’s preparations for technologies like Voice Search & Visual Search.
For information-based queries like the “Crohn’s Disease” example, Google has to present the information in a highly structured way, in order to provide a fast and acceptable answer. In this case, Google can’t direct a Voice Search user to another website – it wouldn’t really make sense to. Being able to present information in this way is Google’s real advantage over Amazon.
The iPhone X example is also important when considering Google’s battle with Amazon and their Voice Assistant “Echo”. This is because Amazon Echo’s big advantage over google Home is the link-up to Amazon’s vast marketplace, where people can (theoretically) purchase products via Alexa.
Google – as of today – can only guarantee such a seamless connection by optimizing its Product Listing Ads feed. In theory, Google could be able to move from a click-based payment model to a marketplace fee, like every other marketplace has – or create some combination of the two, whichever proves more effective and profitable.
We are currently at the outset of Visual Search technologies being used commercially. Amazon and Snapchat have already started working together, and Google’s photo app, Google Lens, displays Product Listing Ads when I take and upload a picture of my Nike Air Max shoes.
In terms of Visual Search, Google is well-placed to ramp up its eCommerce activities because Google has access to all the relevant information, including high-res images, and can automatically display them.
The data presented by Rand Fishkin is, in my opinion, just the start of a major technological development and the next evolution in search and SEO. Exciting times.
Thanks for reading, and please let me know of your own experiences via the comments.
If you’d like to do your own SERP Features analysis for different search engines, devices, countries and domains, then you can. Find out here how you can leverage our Research Cloud to track the most important SERP integrations like videos, Knowledge Panels and Featured Snippets:
There are many small businesses out there that need suggestions for social media marketing. Often they have less manpower, less budget, and less time to be creative and manage social. So last week, our team discussed social media best practices that small business owners can utilize with our #SEMrushchat participants.
When you’ve worked in paid search for as long as I have, you’ve undoubtedly received emails from your clients that all go a little something like the one given below.
Hi [insert your name here],
Revenue is looking a little lighter than usual this month versus last year. What can we do to close the gap? Please let me know by EOD today.
[insert client name here]
Short, sweet, and oh-so-stressful, or at least it used to be. But now? Well, this isn’t your first rodeo, my fellow PPC partner, you’re prepared. Placed firmly in your holster is a solution that’s fully loaded. Ok, enough with the quick draw metaphors, let’s dig into how to respond, assuming the following criteria are being met:
You can confirm the trends your client is seeing.
Brand checks out (since it accounts for the majority of your revenue at any given moment):
Brand terms are maxed out aka meeting or exceeding a certain impression share threshold.
You are serving against the same brand terms as last year, but if not they are at least being caught by BMM.
No new competitors have entered the auction or suddenly become more aggressive, causing CPCs to rise and in turn, cause traffic and revenue to fall behind.
The right ads are active and all available real estate is being utilized.
Find yourself checking all the boxes? This is usually indicative of brand demand decline, a trend that is all too common among online retailers due primarily to the rise of Amazon. Yo, Bezos! What gives? As a secondary check, we use Google Trends to confirm brand demand decline. But if all the boxes above are checked, odds are the plague is real. Fortunately, you’ve got the silver bullet (metaphor alert). Unfortunately, your client may shoot you down before you’re able to use it. Why? Because that silver bullet is non-brand.
I’m serious, and I’d be happy to explain
All too often we neglect non-brand CPC advertising because, in the client’s eyes, it’s seen as one or all of the following:
A lot of work for a little payoff
Not beneficial to the bottom line
And most of the time, they’re completely right. Hard to argue with that, right? Wrong. Focusing purely on search text, non-brand has the power to close the gap widened over time by brand demand decline. However, there are stipulations. Most importantly, we’ve got to stop measuring the success, or validity, of non-brand based on last-click attribution. If we stay this course, the tactic will continue to be deprioritized and defunded and basically never given a chance.
Think of non-brand collectively as those keywords in your account that ads rarely get a chance to serve against because bids aren’t competitive enough. Instead, Non-Brand success should be measured based on its multi-touch influence. There are several apt attribution models out there, the trick is honing in on one that both you and your client can agree on. This usually requires both parties to do a bit of extra digging up front.
For example, one of my clients made the decision to increase its non-brand investment after (a) being plagued by brand demand decline and (b) learning that each time our non-brand investment increased, omnichannel sales — both grew online and offline. This happened outside of peak online retail season, too, so it wasn’t just an anomaly. From that moment on, we stopped viewing non-brand as a last-click attribution tactic and started assigning a certain multiplier to the last-click revenue it generated to better defend our investment. Positive by-products of this change included:
Increased brand awareness, resulting in more Brand searches which helped to reverse the downward trend caused by brand demand decline.
New customer acquisition, resulting in larger audience pools and more efficient spend, particularly in Non-Brand where audiences are often applied (why inflate brand CPCs by bidding up on audiences there?)
Greater SERP ownership by serving non-brand and PLAs simultaneously for certain products, resulting in higher visibility and CTR.
If you’re like me, even overwhelmingly positive change can be scary, so during this time, I kept my eyes peeled for the first hint of danger. Surprisingly, negative by-products of this change were sparse and totally manageable:
Higher CPCs, resulting in a lower last-click ROAS, pre-multiplier
Solution: Created alerts using proprietary tech that pinged us on Slack when CPCs rose considerably (also set max bid rules)
Larger potential for keyword and ad copy/extension misalignment
Solution: Created an Excel macros doc for fast-n-easy creation of new campaign/ad group/keyword structures, including a tab for ad group-to-ad copy concatenation + rigorous QA process (Manager > Senior Manager > Lead = Live)
Still not convinced?
One of our wiser presidents, FDR, once said,
“It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something.”
That’s really all your client is asking of you. If it fails, it fails, then you move on to the next thing. In the meantime, however, here are some thoughts to get you started:
Consider investing as much as you did last year in non-brand, at a minimum.
Investment level could also be just enough to maintain a certain impression share threshold on various high-visibility products, especially if your competitors are less visible or non-existent in those spaces.
Try to maintain a steady investment level — even if it’s on the lower end, so as not to inflate CPCs by erratically pausing/enabling, as we undeniably tend to do with non-brand.
Running display? At least with non-brand search, people are actively looking for products associated with those terms (pull media) versus being served an ad for certain products regardless of search intent (push media)
What are your thoughts on non-brand CPC advertising? Share them in the comments.
Link building is an essential aspect of SEO. You can write the perfect post, but if search engines can’t follow at least one link to it, it will most likely spend its days forever waiting in vain for visitors to admire its outstanding content. For Google to find your post, it needs links from other websites. The more links, the better. But, beware, the quality of links does matter! Not every link is worth the same. Even worse: some links could negatively affect your site. Here, we’ll explain how link building works. We’ll also guide you to more in-depth articles if you want to learn how to do it well.
Before we dive in, if you want to learn more about link building strategies and other essential SEO skills, you should check out our SEO training! It doesn’t just tell you about SEO: it makes sure you know how to put these skills into actual practice!!
What is a link?
Simply put, a link, or a hyperlink, is a connection between two pages on the internet. With a link you can refer people to a page, post, image or other object on the internet. Links exist for people in the first place: with a link you can easily “travel” from one web location to another.
But links serve search engines well too; search engine robots follow links to discover pages on the internet. This is called crawling. For a robot to find your website, you’ll need at least one hyperlink to it from a website that gets crawled already. Making sure you get that first link is one of the things you really need to do when you launch a brand new website.
A link in HTML
In the coding language HTML, a hyperlink looks like this:
<a href=”https://yoast.com/wordpress/plugins/seo/”>Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress</a>.
The first part contains the URL you’re linking to. In this case, it’s the URL of the Yoast SEO plugin page (https://yoast.com/wordpress/plugins/seo/). The second part (Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress)shows the clickable text that you’d see on the page. We call this piece of text the ‘anchor text’.
The anchor text serves two purposes: it should describe what the linked page is about and it should entice people to click. If a link has a well-crafted anchor text, this has two advantages: 1) More people click on it, leading to more direct traffic and 2) It will help search engines understand what your page is about, possibly leading to more traffic from search engines. Of course, you can’t control how others link to your site, but you can use it to improve your internal links.
What is link building?
Link building refers to the marketing efforts to get links from other websites to your website. It’s seen as one of the most powerful tools to achieve higher rankings for your site in search engines. If a lot of high-quality links lead to a certain page, search engines will consider it a popular or meaningful article, and, therefore, they’ll rank it higher.
Links aren’t all equal. Some links are worth more than others. For instance, a link from an authoritative website, preferably topically related to yours, is worth more than a random link from a small website nobody knows. So, if you have a restaurant, you’d rather get a link from a restaurant review (on topic) on The Guardian website (high authority), than, let’s say, a link from your aunt’s horseback-riding school website. This makes choosing sites you’d love to get links from easier, but at the same time, it makes it a lot harder to get those coveted high-quality links.
Because link building isn’t easy, lots of shady link building methods emerged in the past. People tried to game the system, for instance, by buying links from link farms. That’s why link building has got a somewhat nasty reputation.
Consequently, Google intervened with serious penalties as a result. If your site gets linked to from websites with a questionable reputation, it can completely disappear from the search results. So you better refrain from any of these risky link building tricks. If you play it fair and smart though, you can gain a lot from link building.
What should you do to get links?
Now we get to the million dollar question: what should you do to get those valuable links? We believe in a holistic link building approach. You’ll have to create a website that people want to link to. It sounds so simple: Create high-quality, funny, original or exceptional content people want to share. But how do you do this?
First and foremost, find out who your audience is. Who are you trying to reach with your content? What kind of content do they need? What information are they looking for and what kind of questions do they ask? Which words do they use? And, what kind of websites do they visit?
If you can answer these questions, it will be easier to create content that fits your audience’s needs (for instance, by using the principles of content design). Also, when you’ve created that page with valuable content for your audience, and you know where your audience is (which websites they visit), you’ll have a starting point for your link building activities: you can start reaching out to those website owners. That’s what link building is, in a nutshell: Sharing your article with parties that might be interested in sharing it too. That’s why it’s key to target the right niche for your shop or blog. This focus decreases the number of people you’ll have to contact and increases the chances of actually getting a link.
People will only link from their website to yours if it’s in their audience’s (or their own) interest. Convincing them to link will only happen if your product or content really is exceptional. Offering them to try or use your product (if you have one) for free might help convince them. And always make sure to contact them personally, as this will lead to better results. Read all about this process in our step by step guide to link building.
Link building for bloggers and pros
Link building requires time, effort and persistence. As a blogger, you might dread link building even more. If you can relate to this, Caroline’s post on her struggles with link building as a blogger is a great read.
Have your bases covered and want to take it a step further? Then we’d advise you to read this article with advanced link building tips by Kris Jones. You’ll learn which tools you can use to find out which sites already link to you and what you can do to get more of those. Find out everything about broken link building, reclamation link building, the so-called skyscraper technique and more.
Pssst… if reaching out really isn’t your thing, you can always start with some “internal link building”: fix your internal linking structure!
It’s critical to measure success when doing SEO, but which SEO metrics should you be looking at to determine success?
Number of backlinks?
Leads and sales?
Truth is – all of these are important. But, here’s the kicker: you should never use any single SEO metric to determine success/failure.
This is because all SEO campaigns have multiple “touch points” starting with the initial impression and ending with the final conversion, with many additional touch points in between (note: think of this as the “SEO funnel” — keep reading to learn more!)
Looking at single metrics in isolation will only tell part of the story.
It can also lead to inaccurate assumptions and conclusions regarding the success/failure of your campaign(s).
How do you solve this?
Create a set of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).
In simple terms, this involves mapping various SEO metrics to overarching business goals and objectives (e.g. increase awareness, boost organic traffic, generate more leads, increase sales, etc).
This allows you to say: “If [insert metric] improves there is positive progress towards a particular business goal. If it doesn’t, we need to reassess/readjust the strategy”.
Increase brand visibility
Top 10 keyword rankings (SERP visibility)
Increase organic traffic
# of organic users (brand vs. non-brand)
More visibility to “money pages”
Organic traffic to product/ service pages
Increase number of quality leads
# of form fills or phone calls from organic
Increase online sales
# of sales from organic traffic
In short, KPIs are the connective tissue between the business’s goals/objectives and the SEO work you’re doing.
Since there are so many different metrics you could choose from, I recently reached out to 61 SEO experts from companies like Cars.com, SEER Interactive and Kaizen Search, and asked the following question:
List the key metrics you use to measure the performance and ROI of SEO campaigns?
If you want to jump straight to the responses, go here.
IMPORTANT: ROI will always be the ultimate metric. If you’re spending more on an SEO campaign than it’s making you, you should rethink the strategy.
Download the SEO Reporting Dashboard
Don’t want to play with dimensions and filters? To save you some time, I looked at all the SEO metrics mentioned by the experts and created a custom Google Analytics SEO reporting dashboard.
You can download the dashboard, connect it to your Google Analytics account and have a professional SEO report for your business and/or clients in seconds.
Click the image below to import it directly into Google Analytics account.
Import the SEO reporting dashboard straight into your Google Analytics account.
Let’s talk more about this concept of the “SEO funnel”, and take a closer look at the most common SEO metrics mentioned by the experts.
The “SEO Funnel”: Impressions, Clicks, Engagement & Action
This is very similar to the traditional sales funnel, which at a basic level consists of:
Awareness >> Interest >> Decision >> Action
In fact, you can easily map these four things to a traditional sales funnel:
Let’s take a look at the four pieces of the puzzle in more detail:
1. Impressions: Unless you rank in the search results, nobody will even know you exist, so you’re going to need to rank in (at least) the top 10 for your target keywords (ideally the top 3).
2. Click: Ranking is great, but it’s a pointless endeavor if nobody shows any interest in your content and actually clicks through to your website from the SERPs. Your content needs to entice people to click (hint: you also need to make sure ranking for the right keywords).
3. Engagement: Getting people to your website isn’t enough; they need to actually engage. This means reading your content, commenting, visiting other pages, etc — basically, they’re making a decision as to whether you offer anything of value to them, or not.
4. Conversion: This basically refers to some kind of on-site action — it may be a sale, email subscriber, lead, etc. Only after a visitor has seen, clicked-on, visited, and engaged with your content will they convert.
Much like with a traditional sales funnel, leaks at any stage in your SEO funnel will mean wasted dollars. SEO metrics can help to quickly identify if, and where, these leaks are occurring — you just need to look at the right metrics.
Getting visibility (i.e. impressions) but no clicks = Rethink SERP presence – title, meta description, schema markup. Are you enticing the user to click? .
Getting clicks but poor engagement = poor content and/or UX.
Getting traffic but no conversions = traffic qualification issue (i.e. poor keyword targeting) and/or conversion issue on the website.
What it is: # of keywords (in total) you currently rank for.
Why it’s important: Strong websites will generally rank for more keywords by default — if total keywords is increasing over time, it’s generally a good sign (as long as your keyword and content strategy is targeting the right audience, at the appropriate stage in the funnel).
What it is: % of keywords ranking in the top 3, 10, 20, etc.
Why it’s important: This is an important metric early on because SEO campaigns can often take a while to start generating significant traffic gains. So, you want to be able to show your keyword sets trending positively.
i.e. from top 20 to top 10, and then eventually into the top 3. It validates that what you are doing is working, and helps the client see the long term payoff.
Specific Keyword Rankings (Most Clients Are Fixed On This)
What it is: Ranking positions of target keywords.
Why it’s important: Most of the search traffic goes to the top 1-5 rankings; the higher you can rank for your target terms, the more search traffic you’re likely to get. Most clients will look past general keyword trends and want to see progress against specific “money” (product/service) keywords.
Note: At my search marketing agency, we also like to take the SEMrush keyword ranking data and populate into a Google Sheet with visual formatting to give the client a heatmap view of the rankings data:
Search Engine Impressions
What it is: # of times your website has been displayed in the SERPs.
Why it’s important: It helps uncover new high volume keywords you can optimize for, and provides a relative gauge of your growing/declining organic footprint. It should be growing steadily over time.
What it is: # of keywords containing branded words (e.g. robbie richards) vs. non-branded (eg. keyword research tools).
Why it’s important: More traffic from branded keywords correlates with increased brand awareness. However, over time you want to see non-branded keywords (related to your product/service) increasing steadily. Generally, non-brand keywords will bring new users searching for information, products/services related to your business.
Tool used: Google Analytics
Ranking is important, but it’s totally pointless if nobody is clicking through to your website from the SERPs.
More clicks = more traffic.
(it can also be a sign that brand awareness campaigns — from efforts such as guest posting — are working well)
Here are a few metrics to keep on top of:
SERP Click-Through Rate (CTR)
What it is: # of clicks to your website/ # search impressions.
Why it’s important: You can have great keyword rankings and SERP impression share, but if your CTRs are low you’re leaving a lot of traffic on the table.
Look in the Search Console CTR report and look for undperforming keywords and landing pages. Often, a tweak in the title tag/ meta description, or adding schema markup can result in an instant boost in CTR, and organic traffic.
Tip: Before you start doing keyword research and creating loads of new content, look to see if there are any opportunities to get some quick wins by optimizing the SERP presence you already have.
What it is: A comparison of desktop vs. mobile traffic metrics.
Why it’s important: Over half of all online traffic now comes from a mobile device. It’s important to segment desktop/ mobile traffic and look at your KPIs – rankings, traffic, CTRs, time on site, conversions etc. – to ensure there are no gaps in performance. For example, lower rankings and conversions on mobile could indicate poor UX.
What it is: Pages receiving the most organic traffic.
Why it’s important: All organic traffic is not created equal. Your keyword and SERP strategy should prioritize pages with higher commercial intent. i.e. you should be looking at page-level data – traffic, engagement, conversions – across your core money (product/service) pages.
Your clients will be most interested in seeing organic traffic increase to their most important pages. You should be able to spot quick-win opportunities.
For example: Do you have a product page ranking #5? Improve the content or build some links and get it into the top 3. This will immediately move the bottom line.
On the flip side, if rankings are slipping on key pages you can redirect efforts quickly.
You can also quickly spot which pages are getting a lot of organic traffic, but not converting. Maybe there is a hole in conversion strategy? Maybe the UX is bad? Maybe the page is ranking for the wrong keywords? Minor changes here can deliver big results.
You also need people to engage with your website/content. If they don’t engage, you’ll never even get a chance to convert them into leads or paying customers.
Here are a few engagement metrics the experts look at:
What it is: # of people who view only one page during their visit.
Why it’s important: It can sometimes indicate that a person didn’t find your website useful and simply left. Note: it’s common for some traffic to have a higher bounce rate.
For example, people who visit blog posts often leave after reading. However, if you are noticing really high bounce rates on lower funnel pages, or during the checkout stage on ecommerce sites, you might want to revisit the messaging, or take a closer look at the traffic source to ensure the content matches the user expectation.
What it is: Average amount of time people are spending on your page(s).
Why it’s important: If this number is low, users probably didn’t find what they were looking for (or you need to target more appropriate keywords). Time on site is also a more heavily weighted ranking factor now – if users hit your page and bounce away quickly, it’ll likely hurt your rankings.
What it is: It tracks the interactions a customer had on your website leading up to a conversion.
Why it’s important: The consumer is more educated, and the buyer journey has become a lot more complex. People often have multiple touchpoints with a brand before converting. Don’t short change your SEO efforts by only looking at SEO with a last-touch attribution mindset.
For example: a buyer could have originally come to your site from search, left your site, then returned and converted a week later after seeing your display ad on YouTube. SEO deserves to be getting some credit.
Now, let’s take a closer look at the metrics each expert uses to measure performance across a range of different SEO campaign types – traffic growth, link building, brand awareness, user engagement etc..
61 Professionals Discuss Which Metrics They Use to Measure the Performance (and ROI) of SEO Campaigns
Revenue/primary site conversions from organic sessions
Referral sessions (mobile + desktop)
Revenue/primary site conversions from referral sessions
At Seer, we like to quantify ROI and our performance in terms of revenue. It can often be difficult for clients to grasp an SEO agency’s full impact if performance metrics begin and end with keyword rankings, links, and other more traditional SEO data points that don’t tie back to the client’s business goals.
So at the very least, my dashboards always include revenue and/or primary website goal completions from organic traffic and referral traffic, which can be easily pulled from Google Analytics.
Our SEO Campaigns are geared towards our clients ROI. The more information the client is willing to share with us, the better.
Since we mostly work with law firms we start by finding out the average value of a case by looking at historical values. Once we have this number we have an average revenue number per case signed.
From here we will track all phone calls, clicks to call, text’s, live chats and contact forms. We review these and separate these by relevant leads.
At the end of month we compare this data to the number of cases signed and multiple that number to the average cost per case. We can then determine our clients ROI based on their marketing spend from actual contacts and cases signed.
We measure a number of different metrics and include them in our monthly reporting, but here are 3 of the top areas we keep a close eye on to evaluate growth and strategic opportunity.
Organic Traffic (Google Analytics) – Specifically New Users – We regularly review the status of organic traffic volume month over month, and year over year. While we watch the raw numbers, of particular interest are new user numbers.
While this is imperfect, continued growth of new organic users reflects success in attracting site visitors who were previously unfamiliar with the brand.
It is important however that this number correlates with growth in overall and returning users as, ideally new users will become return users after their first visit.
Organic Conversions (Google Analytics) – Goal completions generally represent leads, and so we measure that closely. But we also collaborate with our clients to understand and measure the value and quality of those leads, along with the rate at which they turn into paying customers.
As part of the analysis, we’re always looking for insight on how to increase the rate of conversions from highly trafficked pages. We also use data from content marketing initiatives to understand where informational topics have lead to conversions, to use those as themes as guides to further content development.
Keywords Ranking Positions and Volume (SEMrush) – Higher ranking positions represent opportunities for more exposure, clicks, traffic and customers. For that reason, naturally we monitor how well clients rank for well-searched, relevant keywords.
Because every ranking keyword represents a chance to bring in visitors, we also monitor growth of the number of ranking keywords, particularly in the top 20.
Traffic volume by channel – this gives clients an overview of the marketing channels that are driving traffic to their site, an obvious one but without this metric it’s not possible to see where to invest your marketing budget.
Google analytics is my go-to tool to analyse this but not without routinely checking the source is being categorized correctly and creating filters when it isn’t.
SEO Visibility – Using the index from the folks at Searchmetrics it’s possible to see the increase or decrease in a domain’s visibility in the SERPs.
Using a combination of the search volume and position of keywords Searchmetrics’ index analyses how often a website shows in the search results. From there I can map our organic search efforts against the graph to see how the domain has benefited, and also see at a glance any historic effects of site migrations or algorithm updates.
Over time, I would expect to see search visibility increase as our work takes hold and the site ranks better and more often for high volume search terms.
Goal Completions – what use is driving high volumes of traffic to a site if it doesn’t result in an increase in sales/sign-ups/downloads?
Without adequate tracking of goal completions it’s not possible to see how marketing efforts are benefiting our clients’ businesses, so I consider tracking relevant on-site goals a priority.
In tandem with my clients I will identify website interactions that will result in a tangible benefit to the client’s business and from there, using a combination of Google Tag Manager and Google Analytics, I build goals to measure the frequency of these actions occurring.
Not only is this a key metric in identifying how qualified the traffic is that I’m driving to the site it also provides an insight into how conversion can be improved.
Not many people signing up to your newsletter? A goal in Google Analytics can help identify at what point a form is frequently abandoned. Want to know if it’s worth your team’s time in writing whitepapers for your website? Set up a goal for tracking downloads. Simple, but crucial.
The ways in which we show ROI for clients includes the following – Conversions from SEO traffic, overall organic traffic, referral traffic from SEO, and visibility metrics such as rankings based on location.
One of the easiest ways to measure SEO performance metric is to build a dashboard. You can easily build one using Google Data Studio, which offers many templates.
Data from various tools such as web console, GA etc can be combined into one.
Measuring SEO is always tricky. There are so many things that go into it.
For example: if you’re a larger site and have launched new page types, then the first think you would want to measure is the indexation count or how the new pages are being indexed & crawled by Google.
For this look at Google Search Console Index Status Report and Bing Webmaster Tools Site Activity Report.
It is also “Google practice” to create a new sitemap for the newly launched pages and track them separately. Server log files are also great source for this measurement.
Coming to the traffic front:
Measuring traffic growth is a solid KPI in SEO. Traffic growth based on page group or category group is a must depending on the site structure.
Week over week measurement is overwhelming so it is always good to do a YOY or MOM traffic comparison. Segment the traffic in GA: -By Page Group -By Device group -If you have pages for each neighborhood and cities then grouping by Market type is beneficial.
Keyword Monitoring: Don’t be over obsessed over keyword tracking as keyword ranking fluctuates a lot and in fact vary depending on location, device type etc. But looking at the over all keyword visibility trend is a good practice to reference it against any Google updates. We use STAT to monitor keyword rankings.
ROI measurement for SEO depends on various factors such as site conversion rate, order value, Google CTR and most importantly how the attribution modeling is set for your organization.
The metrics we measure all depend on the campaign’s goals at the time. However, for search campaigns, we always include click-through and conversion.
Click-through rate is a definitive metric. The ultimate point of optimization isn’t ranking; it’s to get people to click through to the page. The ultimate point of a link isn’t about backlinks; it’s about people clicking through to the page. And so on, and so forth.
So we watch click-through pretty closely when implementing any campaign as an indicator of whether the external marketing is doing its job.
We watch conversion for much the same reason. It does no good to get eyes on the site if the business doesn’t do better for it. It’s not quite as intricately entwined in each campaign as CTR, so much as is it’s an overall indicator of site health.
For example, if you’re implementing a social awareness campaign, watching the conversion rate is probably on the low end of priorities. Instead, you might be watching CTR, brand mentions or social follows. If you’re implementing a sales campaign, however, conversion rate is probably going to be on the high end of metric priorities.
Finally, there’s Cost Per Lead. Ultimately, you want a low CPL, right? For us, CPL is a review metric. We look over the campaign at intervals in regards to cost, compare to how many leads we’ve received, and tweak as necessary.
It’s best for short-term campaigns that are fairly simple. The more points of sale that could be included in a campaign, the harder it can be to watch.
Floating metrics – metrics we watch some times and not others – have included a wide range of points.
For example, we had a client who wanted to up visitor retention. We incorporated return visitors into the metrics we watched.
Another client wanted to find out which referral sites gave the best returns for marketing campaigns, so we watched that metric.
In short, the best metric to use is the one that fits the bill and particular purpose of the campaign.
While we get more granular as a campaign matures, we initially look at measuring search traffic (especially organic), total page visits, total conversions month-over-month along with conversion rates, etc.
We also use SEMrush‘ reports to get a feel for our general idea of ranking distribution and SERP visibility.
My primary metric is search traffic with a secondary metric of # of keywords rankings for a page as reported by GSC or a rankings tool. ROI is more specific to a business, so it could be conversions, time on site, or pages per visit.
Improving keyword rankings in SERPs typically tops the performance measurement list for our client’s in competitive industries.
I’m able to pull keyword metrics from client campaigns built in SEMrush.
We share up-to-the minute results with our clients through dashboards created with Databox. Databox brings together data from all of our analysis tools and displays in real-time.
Specifically for keyword monitoring, we set up a Databox dashboard called SEMrush Keyword Mission Control to monitor the metrics below:
Top Keywords by Position A drop in search rankings from position 3 to position 8 (or worse) can happen in an instant. When should you react? Marketers need to know about these issues as they’re happening. With campaigns set in SEMrush, you can automatically pull this data from your Rankings Overview, and monitor and set alerts on a Databox dashboard.
Keyword Rankings by Search Volume Also pulled from your Rankings Overview, monitoring keyword positions sorted by total monthly search queries gives you a quick view of where you stand with keywords that have the highest search volume.
Rankings Distribution This list provides you with metrics for keywords ranking in Google’s top 3, top 10, top 20, and top 100, and percent of change over time. When your keywords slip to page two, you can analyze and adjust at the time of the drop. When these keywords rise in SERPs, it’s a great time to check in with your client. 🙂
Visibility Trend – Position Tracking This view displays your CTR (click thru rate) progress in Google’s top 100 for keywords from your current SEMRush tracking campaign. If you’re not already at or close to 100% (first position on SERPs), a steady climb is what you want to see here.
Top Channels Gotta include one from GA! Monitoring your top channels allows you to zero in on organic traffic performance driven by your SEO strategy, and compare to traffic coming from other sources including email, social, direct traffic and more.
Visits/sessions: This is an obvious top-level KPI that can at least give an impression of the sort of volume a site commands regularly, as well as seasonality and any other outside influences that may affect performance.
New users/visitors: This is another high-level look at, not just the volume of visits/sessions, but how often users are returning and how their behavior coincides in that of site performance. Of course, this is most useful of a metric as a supplementary KPI with visits/sessions.
Page/session: This is a useful to metric, especially when looking at on a channel-by-channel basis. It’s worth understanding what the user experience/buyer journey is like and how it differs based on each channel.
Avg. time on site/avg. session duration: This is a supplementary metric further analyzing user behavior that, like page/session, helps understand how users interact with your site based on the different channels they arrive from.
Company-specific KPI (i.e. transactions, enrollments, request a quote, etc.): This is an obvious metric that measures success. More transactions = more money. More money = success.
Revenue: The all-mighty dollar will always be the main measurement for success in a company trying to take money. Revenue fits hand-in-hand with company-specific KPIs that generate revenue, and both are useful to build cases for success to the most important stakeholders.
Keyword rankings: Keyword rankings are a KPI for pretty much all of our SEO campaigns. The reason we pay such close attention to this is that our client’s prospects are using those terms to find businesses online that are offering those services.
This is a foundational element of SEO because if businesses do not rank well for a keyword phrase, then they are not showing up where it matters. The more we can boost a client’s rank for a given keyword phrase, the closer we get to getting them more clients, customers, revenue. We use SEMrush to keep track of our client’s keyword rankings.
Referring domains: These are a means to an end and referring domains alone does not equal success. We want to be sure that high-quality referring domains are being added during an SEO campaign because we know that they are a primary ranking factor in Google’s algorithm.
In all of the clients we’ve helped achieve first page rankings for, links have been a common denominator between ranking well and falling short. We use Ahrefs to evaluate the backlink profiles of our clients.
Organic traffic levels: We use organic search traffic (in platforms like Google analytics) like the canary in the coal mine. Even though you can add referring domains to a site, that does not mean Google has to recognize them as legitimate.
We’ve seen sites that have been completely destroyed by adding large quantities of bad referring domains and their traffic is low because Google is penalizing them. We use Google Analytics to keep an eye on organic search traffic for our clients.
My agency records and compares 3-key metrics for our clients campaigns; top 5 keyword rankings, traffic, and leads. We compare these metrics month-over-month and year-over-year to show value and results to clients.
We use Advanced Web Ranking to track the number of top 5 keyword ranking keywords, and Google Analytics to track traffic and leads (setup as goals in GA). The clients love this easy to read format and our team loves it to gauge performance.
There are several metrics useful for measuring SEO performance:
– Total visits from search and share of total visits from search can be measured using Google Analytics, and show whether or not search traffic is increasing over time.
– Keyword ranking (how your website ranks for specific keyword phrases, over time and versus competitors) can be measured using any keyword ranking tool, such as Authority Labs.
– Share of search traffic from “generic” phrases versus branded phrases can be measured (at least as a sample) by Google Search Console. Well-done SEO should, over time, increase traffic from non-brand search terms.
But for B2B companies, the key metric for SEO ROI is goal conversions from search, measured using Google Analytics.
If conversions are strong overall but weak from search (e.g. the share of conversions from search is well below the share of traffic from search), that’s an SEO problem. If conversions are weak overall, it’s likely more of a conversion rate optimization (CRO) problem, such as poorly designed landing pages.
My job as an SEO is not to drive more traffic to a website, but to drive better-qualified traffic to a website.
Coaching the client on setting realistic goals is key.
My primary KPIs include:
1. Organic impressions, tool used = GSC 2. Click-Through-Rate, tool used = GSC 3. Total organic entrances, tool used = GA 4. Session duration/bounce rate, tool used = GA 5. Avg. pages per visit, tool used = GA 6. Total backlinks – links from industry leaders, influencers, local institutions, etc. tool used = Ahrefs 6. Avg KW rank – paying special attention to non-branded rankings as a measurement for brand awareness/discovery, tool used = GSC, Moz & Ahrefs 7. CVR – how many users entering the site via search engines complete CTA’s, or purchase a product (if an eCommerce client), tool used = GA
I keep tabs on keywords by checking their rankings. A typical client may have target 200 keywords and I’d group these by priority, with roughly 10% getting P1 (top) priority, 20% getting P2 (second) priority and the rest would be P3 priority.
Once each keyword has been allocated to a landing page, I create a custom segment in Google Analytics for all of landing pages and call it “Targeted SEO Landing Pages”.
For 200 keywords, with an average of 6 targeted keywords per page, that’s around 34 landing pages in total. I’d also keep tabs on the overall organic traffic in Google Analytics.
Lastly and most importantly, I’d setup macro (e.g. Sales) and micro conversions (e.g. PDF downloads, form submissions, key videos watched etc) in Google Analytics and see how well the Target SEO Landing Pages and the organic overall traffic performed.
I don’t have a set of metrics that I look at for every client’s ROI. Each client has their own goals and needs for their particular brand.
Each campaign I build is customized with it’s own goals and ROI metrics.
An ecommerce customer will focus on their sales numbers compared to the amount of money spent. A B2B client will be most interested in the number of leads we’ve generated.
Still other clients are only looking at their brand exposure, or overall site engagement. Each client I service has their own unique set of goals. And, my efforts on their behalf are customized for each one.
The obvious metric to measure organic SEO is traffic; however, traffic alone is not a great measurement.
First, we need to establish which keywords (and the traffic that comes from them) convert into leads, which is easily done by creating and analyzing related PPC campaigns.
This way, I can determine which keywords create traffic that converts into leads, not just unproductive website visits.
For reporting, I use Google Analytics (setting up appropriate goals) and SEMrush. So, the most important factors for me to report are conversion rates in coordination with total traffic, also taking into account top keyword rankings.
SEO ROI is not just about traffic and rankings but also about your brand and keeping your customers happy. So, I dig deeper to see if conversion rates are lower in certain geographical areas.
Positive and negative customer reviews from local areas can have a huge impact on conversion rates and ROI, so reputation management is a large part of SEO in the current landscape.
To sum it all up: Consider total conversions/leads/sales minus the lead cost. Traffic, conversion rates, keyword rankings, and branded traffic/conversions are all important metrics when you consider how they work together.
*(You also want to look at mobile and desktop results separately.)
1. Leads From Organic Traffic – The easiest way to measure ROI of SEO is to setup goals in Google Analytics and segment by Organic traffic.
Also, Hubspot can track traffic all the way to a sale. However, this is only as accurate as the client input unless e-commerce.
2. Organic Sessions – We use Google Analytics to get an accurate measurement of how much traffic is generated from SEO. However, we use organic search metrics from SEMrush to compare against competitors.
3. Keyword Visibility – Before we start getting traffic we need to move keywords to the first page of Google. We need to measure this progress otherwise we might get impatient with no traffic.
Keyword visibility gives us an idea if we’re on the right track in the early stages. We use a few rank tracking tools to track the websites keyword visibility (top 100 positions for target keywords) and compare with competitors.
Also, we monitor ‘Impressions’ in Google’s Search Console.
4. Domain Authority/Rating – We use Moz or Ahrefs to monitor the performance of our link building efforts. It’s one thing to get a link, but we want it to pass on link juice from a reputable domain.
5. Other metrics – Click-through-rate, Average Position, Avg. Session Duration, Pages/ Session, Bounce Rate.
I use a number of different metrics to measure SEO performance that I believe all SEO practitioners should use.
First, the most appropriate web page (or other digital document) SHOULD appear highest in navigational queries for the brand, business, or organization. I will run a series of navigational queries to determine this.
A navigational query is one in which searchers WANT to go to a specific website or to a specific web page in a website. I would make sure, first and foremost, that the majority of navigational queries deliver searchers to the right place.
Second, I want to see that the largest volume of search-engine traffic is NOT going to the website’s home page. Reason? A home page is not usually a final-destination page. A home page should guide users to other important places on a site.
If a website is optimized properly, home-page traffic will often decrease. Though this previous statement is not true 100% of the time, I still want to verify that searchers (users) are getting to their desired content as directly as possible.
Finally, I want to see how well the destination pages convert via direct and indirect search-engine traffic. Remember, a search session can last days, weeks, and even months. So when I look at this final metric, I try to see the big picture.
Revenue – Certainly not the easiest of KPIs to track back to an SEO campaign, but you need to get as close as possible to tracking the real dollars your SEO efforts are driving.
At Seer we leverage our Analytics team to help clients set up this kind of tracking and, though it can be tough, it’s worth it in the end and crucial to understanding your real SEO ROI.
Assisted Conversions – I work for a lot of B2B clients and it’s the norm that your conversion funnel is omnichannel.
Organic is only one piece of the puzzle and sometimes it’s the first step when a potential customer is educating herself on your product. She might eventually convert via paid or social but I need to be able to communicate organic’s role in that conversion process and assisted conversions help me do that.
Rankings – Rankings are a staple of organic search performance, and being able to track them correctly across multiple devices (as well as for localised venice search results) is important in helping clients understand campaign progress.
They are also a great metric and indicator for website health following any major algorithm updates, development pushes or protocol migrations. Keyword visibility can also fall into this (making the client site visible for more keywords, including longer tail search phrases).
Organic Traffic & Leads – Ultimately traffic and leads matter to your clients bottoms line, so its not all about rankings. It’s helping create a strong environment for both search engines and users that cultivates qualified leads, which ultimately turn into revenue.
Google Analytics and Yandex Metrica are the tools I prefer to use. Metrica is an especially useful tool, even if you don’t do anything in Russia. Out of the box it gives you a top level bot traffic report, heat maps, click maps and some great user insight statistics.
At Nightwatch, we carefully observe and strive to improve on a few crucial metrics which are correlated to our consistent growth (when it comes to conversions as well as search visibility) in the last few months. Among them:
1) Backlinks (number, quality, and diversity)
Acquiring links from high DA and PA pages helped us improve our search visibility and click potential, which resulted in a higher SERP position. As our link building is heavily focused on guest-posting, this also allowed us to position ourselves as experts in the SEO industry and opened new collaboration opportunities.
We don’t only pay attention to the number of acquired backlinks, but also to their quality (high, medium, low, suspicious) and type. As Nightwatch allows us to determine the quality of the links we get, we try to consistently acquire links from the websites with page authority above 35. Apart from that we consistently monitor the type of links acquired (do-follow, no-follow) and the number of referring domains
2) Average position
Monitoring the average position for all the keywords we track helps us to adjust our SEO strategy and understand whether we are on the right track to becoming visible in SERP to new potential leads.
3) Organic traffic and new/old visitors
Organic traffic helps to determine whether our SEO efforts are paying off, and the new/old visitors is a great indicator of the behavior of the people visiting our landing page. This combined ensures that we focus on driving a better-qualified and in the end result – increase conversions and sales.
Goal conversions or Ecommerce tracking in Google Analytics – Traffic is all well and good, but we want to show the results of our work, and what it means for the client’s bottom line.
Organic traffic metrics from Google Analytics: Sessions, users, pageviews, bounce rate, average session duration & pages per session – These are the basics to show the amount and engagement success of our SEO work.
How much traffic are we getting? What is that traffic doing? And how long do they stick around? Compare key metrics, such as as sessions to both last year and last month. Organic traffic breakdown by device (from Google Analytics: Knowing what device your audience is seeing your content on, and the relative success for each, is a key part of modern SEO.
Impressions, clicks and click-through-rate data from Search Console’s Search Analytics report: Using the API to get fuller data, this (rough) set of stats from Google can help show the effect of your changes to a site. Segmenting the query data by URL can give you insight into the SEO success of a page.
Otherwise, a simple breakdown of any of these stats by URL can show your best, or worst, performing content.
Number of organic landing pages driving traffic (from Google Analytics or Search Console)
Top performing referrers (from Google Analytics) – how else are you earning traffic?
What keywords are we visible for? Have we moved up or down? What opportunities can we see?
You can use any of the excellent visibility tools (Ahrefs, SEMrush, Searchmetrics, Sistrix) or an enterprise platform (GetStat, PiDatametrics, Linkdex etc.) to do this, and after conversions, its often the part clients are most interested in!
Backlink metrics: Number of referring domain, number of external links, number of external followed links, new links etc. It wouldn’t be an SEO dashboard if we didn’t talk links…
Using your index of choice (Majestic, Ahrefs, Moz etc.), its simple to get some key stats in to show the current situation, and show off any coverage you are particularly proud of!
There are a lot of metrics that are important to showing the value of SEO. But since we work with a lot of small business, the most important metrics are leads and/or sales.
If you talk about click-through-rates, bounce rates, impression share, etc to a SMB owner, their faces gloss over.
In terms of leads, setting up correct goals is crucial. You’ll have your main conversions (such as a lead form) and for some accounts you may have micro-conversions (such as a whitepaper download).
The nice thing is you can use Google Analytics and AdWords to assign values for each. Because not all goals are created equal. And you don’t want to over-optimize for a micro vs a main conversion.
And for many SMB’s, phone calls need to be measured as well. We use Marchex for phone tracking. There are other good ones out there as well, but we like this software.
We can listen to the calls to make sure they are true leads (not sales prospecting) and we can track by channel (seo vs ppc vs email).
Also, live chat that integrates with Google Analytics, which helps track lead flow as well. We use ApexChat and we can get reports on the leads and the transcripts. And both the calls and the chats can help with customer service improvements and makes great content for SEO.
Also, ecommerce tracking in Google Analytics is a no-brainer. But I think while it’s important to measure revenue and orders for each channel, you have to analyze the conversion paths as well.
So, tracking multi-channel funnels can really help a small business owner understand how his email blast integrates with his SEO efforts or how a remarketing campaign impacts paid search.
If you can paint a clear picture of how digital (and offline) marketing leads to forms, chats, calls, and sales, these are the metrics that prove the value of an SEO campaign (or any channel) to a business owner.
I always look at Time On Page, Conversion Rate by Search Query, Number of Pages Visited, and Referral Traffic.
This information helps inform me on the best performing content, so I can optimize that content and develop more content similar to it.
To find this information I use several tools first-party tools like Google Analytics and Google Search Console. However, I also cross-reference my findings with third-party tools like Ahrefs and SEMrush.
These third-party tools give me new data points to use when examining first-party tools and offer new opportunities to expand my content & SEO efforts too.
For keyword rankings – we measure total organic keyword rankings, and then also page 1, 2, and 3 keyword ranking improvements.
It can also be valuable to filter in quick answer rankings, image results, and local pack rankings and assess increases there as well.
Then in Google Analytics, evaluating organic traffic sessions and new users, and then usability and conversion metrics such as bounce rate, average time duration on site, and of course revenue and transactions.
We use a number of metrics to measure progress from organic search.
The biggest high-level things we measure month-to-month are:
Keyword Rankings – While there are some issues with keyword rankings (eg. personalized search, numerous elements being baked into a search result, etc.) they’re frequently a good leading indicator for determining / troubleshooting issues with organic traffic.
We use Authority Labs for rank tracking and also look at Google Search Console search analytics data as well.
Organic Traffic – Obviously overall organic traffic is a key means of measuring SEO progress. We use Google Analytics and/or whatever analytics tool a client may have for these purposes.
Conversions & Revenue from Organic Search – Obviously the ultimate goal for any SEO campaign is primarily to help drive more business, so we’ll frequently use Google Analytics (or another analytics vendor or in some cases back-end reporting from tools like Marketo) to measure conversions and revenue from SEO efforts.
Increase in non-branded traffic: This might seem like an out of the box idea of tracking ROI, but with the increase in conversational search, we really value the increase of traffic coming for more long tail or even question based search queries.
With organic, our hope is to introduce more consumers to our clients’ brands.
Improved user behavior: I will be a bit more specific with this one, as there are many User Behavior signals worth mentioning, but for us its all about inventory or product page views.
Even though overall organic sessions may be down, we still consider it a valued return on investment if we are seeing a noticeable increase in terms of product page views and dwell time. Quality over quantity always.
Goal conversion rate: This is an obvious one, but much lower in the funnel than the other two.
If you actually combine all three of these they sort of work from the top of the funnel and down to this point, which can either be tracked calls, form submits or in regards to Google Maps and local search – requests for directions.
Rankings: Rankings don’t mean everything, but some clients are fixed on being #1 for a given search term. So it’s important to show them your progress towards that goal.
Organic traffic: Another correlation to increased rankings is an increase in organic traffic. Rankings don’t mean anything if no one is searching for those keywords, so showing your clients that they are also getting more visitors from organic traffic is a great way to show progress.
Conversions: Just like rankings, traffic means nothing if it is the wrong type of traffic. If you are attracting the wrong audience, or your website does not make it easy to convert, it’s important that these issues get picked up on.
Tracking conversions is a great way to show if your work has made a positive impact on the conversions for the company.
#1: Referring Domains & Total Backlinks + Mentions
Why: SEO performance is still largely effected by backlinks and awesome domains / brands linking to you is always indicative of success.
How: Ahrefs is unrivaled when it comes to monitoring backlinks. Brand24 or Mention are great for monitoring unlinked mentions.
#2: Organic Visibility & Traffic
Why: Because we’re talking ‘free’ visibility + traffic!
How: SEMrush is amazingly user-friendly and you can easily plug in competitors which provides a visual representation of keyword performance across your industry. For greater budgets, Linkdex seems unbeatable.
Google Analytics for measurement of organic traffic.
#3: Visitor Engagement
Why: Increasingly important to SEO as we progressively head into the realm of a mightily-advanced Google. These metrics count.
How: Google analytics. Specifically metrics such as bounce rate, time on page / site, pages per session, new / return visits, exit rate, locations and devices.
Search Console for CTR analysis (also considering the impact of brand terms).
Hotjar or Visual Website Optimizer for scroll depth, website usage recording and user-satisfaction feedback.
#4: Goals / Conversions / Acquisitions + Value of Each
Why: The ultimate, desired outcome of SEO!
How: Google Analytics. Also important to delve into attribution (+ modeling), length of conversion paths, total touch-points and bottom line value to the business (immediately and also lifetime revenue).
Organic traffic should always be related and compared to other channels, plus benchmarked against your industry using Google Analytics features.
It’s a good idea to estimate overall PPC costs for the same targeted search terms and compare those costs with the current investment + return of SEO. This can be done using SEMrush or a tool like SpyFu (and some brain work).
I would suggest Kissmetrics for a deeper understanding and evidence of organic user behavior and conversions.
Finally, marketing automation software such as Marketo to connect the dots between organic traffic, leads, prospects and return customers for the bigger picture — with an additional view to further-optimizing the journeys and user-experiences of each.
– Multi-channel Funnels > Assisted Conversions > Great for understanding and demonstrating how organic search has affected conversions and different touch points
– Number of pages driving organic traffic
Rankings: – Top 3 rankings – Page 1 rankings – Average rank of different category keywords – Monitor both desktop & mobile – Compared month-on-month and against first benchmark – Compare rankings with competitors too (clients love to know where they stand)
Google Search Console: – Search Analytics Report is great for validating different trends and identifying keyword trends etc. – Check clicks, impressions, ctr & average positions – Using the query report, filter by specific landing pages to show keyword coverage and performance (remember that one URL can rank for many keywords, especially if it in a long form piece of content) – Compare data week-on-week and month-on-month
To determine whether our SEO campaigns are delivering the desired results, the first thing we normally do is track the changes in traffic coming from specific keywords.
We start by tracking the increase in traffic for non-branded keywords by excluding branded keywords from the Google Analytics organic search traffic report. This helps us understand whether our efforts are helping expose the brand to people conducting relevant (but non-branded) searches.
2. Changes in traffic for branded keywords
Then we track the changes in traffic coming from branded keywords as well by including them in the Google Analytics organic search traffic report. An increase in traffic for branded keywords may mean an increase in brand awareness, which is great.
But this is an important metric to track because a decrease in traffic for branded keywords means something is wrong. It could be the result of a search engine algorithm update or penalty. Either way, it needs to be taken care of as soon as possible.
3. Changes in page rankings
We also track changes in our page rankings using the Google Search Console. This tool helps us figure out how our web pages are ranking for different keywords. If there’s an increase, it means a boost in visibility in search engine results. It also means that our SEO efforts are working.
4. Number of inbound links
It’s also crucial that we check the number of inbound links coming to our website. We use the Backlink Checker from Ahrefs for this.
Ideally, we want an increase in the number of inbound links. More inbound links can mean result in an increase in traffic, and higher search rankings.
5. Bounce rate and visit duration
We also track bounce rates and visit duration, (using Google Analytics), for our SEO campaigns. Both metrics help us determine whether or not the traffic we’re getting is relevant and engaged.
Depends on the website, but these are the main metrics I usually use to measure ROI on SEO campaigns.
Organic Rankings – Knowing a site’s position for various keywords is important because the higher the site is in the rankings, the more traffic is captures – especially for high traffic queries.
Also, sudden fluctuations up or down means the site could be affected by something other than any optimization efforts.
Month-Over-Month & Year-Over-Year Organic Traffic – It is important to know what the trends of organic traffic are overtime.
MoM/YoY organic traffic reports from GA, Coremetrics, Adobe Analytics, Kissmetrics, etc. help establish trends as well as measure a site’s progress towards achieving its goals.
Google Search Console Site Analytics Data – Site Analytics data from GSC is crucial for a lot of reasons. Below I’ve listed a few:
• It is a source of accurate, comparative traffic data directly from the source • It provides information about keyword volume • It provides insights about individual keyword CTR • It is useful for keyword research and long tail keyword analysis/discovery • It is helpful with analyzing how users interact with SERPs and where they are clicking • It gives a high level overview of a site’s organic visibility in the past 90 days
Goals Completed/Revenue Generated by Organic Sessions – Conversion rate varies by keyword and it is important to know if a site is ranking for highly converting keywords or for lower converting keywords.
In most cases, we consult with the client to determine the KPI’s that they find most important.
Typically, our SEO campaigns will include a combination of the following key metrics: keyword rankings, organic search traffic (and new user organic traffic), organic conversions, and percent growth of the latter metrics, both month-over-month and year-over-year.
I measure organic traffic to each landing page, from there I gauge how well customers intent is matched by bounce rate, average session duration, eCommerce conversion rate, transitions, and revenue.
Ultimately it comes down to conversions, however, true conversions are not always gauged correctly when it comes to SEO campaigns. This is where I consider assisted conversions.
This can be easily found by going to conversions in analytics -> multi-channel funnels and setting the secondary dimension to landing page URL.
Since there are so many forces at play, especially on e-commerce websites, we must consider the assisted conversions that are derived from SEO campaigns, which are often attributed to PPC (re-marketing campaigns), or eventually to direct visits (branding campaigns).
For me, ultimately it comes down to revenue over a one to three-month period. The traffic can always be improved through various methods, however, if there are no true revenue gains over a few months then we have a problem.
I mostly use google analytics and google search console for analysis. Lately, I found an effective use for Google Data Studio, which I’m using to measure each campaign.
Color coding helps metrics helps identify low performing campaigns that are flagged for additional review.
When tracking the ROI of my SEO efforts, I ask myself the following questions:
What Are The Goals That I Want To Accomplish?
This is not something that is tracked with a tool, but rather the first question that should be asked to determine the ROI of an SEO campaign.
To understand how the money, time and efforts generate a result, I need to be sure that there are SMART (Specific, Meaningful, Attainable, Reasonable, Timely) goals in place that will provide the desired financial outcome for me or my clients.
What Are The Costs Involved?
To determine the ROI of your SEO efforts you first have to understand what the hard costs are for the tools and resources that are used. This includes but is not limited to costs for content creation, analytics and research tools, employee costs and link creation efforts.
To track this I use a combination of Quickbooks Accounting Software and Google Sheets to ensure I keep a running monthly record of all expenses incurred for a specific SEO project.
What Is My Conversion Rate For The Desired Goal or Goals?
Conversion rates determine the percentage of success for the effort put forth in your SEO campaign. I use Google Analytics to set up goal tracking for each of the individual goals and use individual and average metrics to monitor conversion rates for the period I am auditing. This gives me a general idea of the return that is being generated for the SEO efforts
What Is The Average Value Of A Goal Conversion?
This is always a conversation that should be had with your clients, or if your efforts are for your own SEO project, with yourself. The main consideration is that SEO should be compared to a marathon, rather than a sprint. Your efforts contribute to the long term success of the company’s goals rather than short term sales goals.
It is fairly simple to determine the value of your goal conversions if you sell products or services with a specific price. I simply use Google Analytics to determine the amount of Organic traffic that converted and attribute this number to exact sales revenue to determine the ROI of my SEO efforts.
You can also set up goal value tracking in analytics that works well for fixed value products and services but this does not take refunds and other unexpected items into account.
When the conversion goal is something that does not generate immediate revenue, such as a phone call or form submission, it becomes more of a process to determine the value. It involves some math to determine how many calls and how many form submissions, on average, eventually become a paying customer.
Let’s say you have 100 calls to your sales phone line, out of those calls, 30 result in a desired sale, and your average revenue per conversion is $50. Your conversion rate would be 30% and your revenue for that conversion channel would be $1500.
How Many Organic Visitors & How Do Those Visitors Act?
We find more success as the amount of traffic to our sites grow as long as we continue to monitor and optimize. I use Google Analytics to track Organic Traffic sources and mediums.
From here I am able to break down the stats and learn from a granular perspective on how to improve each.
The statistics that I pay the closest attention to are below. I use these because not only are they important to determine the ROI, they are also ranking factors for the search engines.
1. Sessions – Tells me how many visitors I am getting. Visitors are awesome!!
2. Average Session Duration – This tells me how long people are spending on my site. Obviously the longer someone spends on your site, the more value they are getting and more content they are consuming.
3. Bounce Rate – This will tell me if my content is relevant to what the visitor expected and whether the site flows properly or if there are issues. High bounce rates equals irrelevant page content and poor ranking factor.
4. Pages Per Session – This tells me on average how many pages my visitors are consuming while visiting my website. More pages per session means visitors are finding your information useful and want more.
5. New vs. Returning Visitors – This can be found under the audience section in behavior stats. This will tell me if I am attracting users back to my site
This are a few of the many stats, tools and methods that I use to make decisions with regards to SEO strategy. It is important to ensure that you have a firm grasp on as many metrics as possible that contribute the campaigns success.
Also, these audits should be done on a regular basis so that the costs do not get away on you or you are not left explaining to your client why they are not getting their expected returns from your efforts.
The metrics I use to measure performance and ROI depends on business and campaign objectives.
Generally speaking, there’s a number of things to look out for when measuring campaign performance which are indicative of whether a campaign is a roaring success, or a complete flop.
Here’s a couple of the things I obsess over:
-Organic Traffic Vs Traffic from Other Channels -Organic Revenue Vs Revenue from Other Channels -Organic Rankings (Compare two periods) -Quality of backlinks -Brand Engagement -Social Shares -Brand Interaction -New Users Vs Existing Users
Typically we look at two different types of SEO metrics.
Firstly we have our traditional or in-agency SEO metrics that we can use to determine whether the work we are doing is moving the dial in terms of authority and the metrics provided by the popular SEO tools.
We will share these with customers, but often they are not exactly tied to business objectives so they are not much use at the board level.
Typical metrics we would look at here include:
Rank for main keywords Rank for secondary keywords Majestic Citation Flow Majestic Trust Flow Majestic Trust & Citation Balance Moz Domain Authority Moz Page Authority
These would also need to be taken in the context of your competitors and marketplace so we know what we are working towards.
Secondly, we look at more business orientated KPIs and OKRs (whatever is your metric of choice). These will all be aligned with the business and marketing objectives so we can clearly indicate how the SEO work is impacting the bottom line.
Metrics we would tend to look at here include:
Increase in number of pages receiving organic traffic
Increase in organic traffic
Increase in non-branded organic search traffic
Percentage increase in organic conversions
Percentage increase in traffic from specific geographic regions
Organic Impressions (Search Console)
Organic Click-Through Rate (CTR) (Search Console)
With these metrics we really aim to tie the SEO work to the business objectives so we can illustrate the return on investment.
We may also compare metrics from one channel to another so we can show how much a sale or enquiry costs via social ads, paid search or organic search.
Typically organic has the best ROI by a country mile and again it helps to illustrate where to spend the marketing budget.
I keep things pretty simple. I track organic traffic / piece of content. This allows me to narrow down which pieces of content are performing best in SERPs and then take a deeper dive into the different aspects of that article (keyword research, overall content quality, off-page optimization, etc) to try to replicate the results of high-performing content.
Moz Tools: Keyword Visibility – This way we can get a feel for if our keyword grouping optimization efforts are working.
Your keyword visibility is an estimate of the percentage of clicks your site receives based upon the ranking positions of keywords that are selected or all the keywords you are tracking in a specific campaign
Moz Tools: Domain Authority – Developed by Moz, this score predicts how well a website will rank in search engines by using every metric collected by Moz including total inbound links, MozTrust, MozRank, External Follow Links, Traffic engagement and much more.
Google Analytics & Google/Bing Webmasters: Impressions Google/Bing – We watch impressions because this is another indicator how your keywords are ranking. If your keywords are receiving more impressions it is a good sign your SEO is moving in the right direction.
Google Analytics: Audience Overview – This can be segmented many ways, but we use this to get a month to month or year to year comparison of the user engagement on our client sites.
We can get a really good feel of how our on-site content efforts are working. User engagement should have an upward trend if your content is reaching the right audience organically.
Metrics For Return On Investment
Google Analytics: Client specific campaign goals completed from organic traffic (form fills, organic phone calls, etc.)
Google My Business/ Bing Places: Google/Bing Listing Insights – Phone calls and direction requests directly off of listings. This would be after optimization of claimed listings.
Google Analytics: Assisted Conversions – this helps us show more ROI when conversions come in through direct visits but the user originally found the site through a search engine.
If we’re talking about measuring the success of a website in search, I want to go straight to the source. So, Google Analytics and Google Search Console both play an important part in assessing the success of my SEO efforts.
But rather than assess what’s happening on my site with random data points related to traffic, sources, conversions, and what-not, I like to present my SEO findings in a way that tells a story. In the metrics below, you’ll see that there’s a logical progression:
Search Position Before I do anything, I like to assess how the reality stacks up against my pre-set search goals. Typically, I’ll reference Google Search Console first to see which keywords visitors found my site from and what my ranking is for each.
I then use something like the SERPs rank checking tool to see how well my site ranks for the terms I actually optimized my site around (if they don’t align with organic search results).
Backlinks While I’m usually aware of when another website links back to my site, it’s nice to have a running tally that shows me how many backlinks—especially high-profile ones—there really are.
Organic Search – New Users Although it’s important to retain a reliable and loyal customer base, that’s not the purpose of SEO and it’s why I don’t pay attention to Returning Users (in this scenario, at least). I want to know:
The number of new users.
The growth of new user traffic from organic search month-over-month and, eventually, year-over-year.
The average session duration of new users as well as how it compares to the last period.
The number of pages visited by new users.
The first page new users entered on.
Basically, I want to know that my site is continuing to draw in a new crowd and that the crowd being attracted through search is the right one. If new users are dropping like flies, it won’t matter how many of them enter the door.
#60. Miles Anthony Smith | Digital Marketing Director at Imaginasium
Continually increasing organic traffic from non-branded keywords; anyone can get branded keyword traffic.
Top pages bringing in most of your organic traffic vs. conversions
Domain and page authority growth. Keep in mind that these third-party tools rankings are a relative and not an absolute measure; I’ve even seen some scores decline while organic traffic grows.
Detailed View Metrics
Number of keywords each blog post is ranking for. The higher the better, but this can only happen with adding secondary related keywords or semantic keywords.
CTR on organic traffic vs. other pages
Time on Page on organic traffic vs. other pages
# of overall sitewide backlinks and individual posts (considering quality/DA of the source)
Bounce rate. Just don’t get too stuck on this one, since it can be an indication that you gave them all of the information they needed so there was no need to click on other articles on your site. This can happen the more you create evergreen, long-form blog content.
Conversions (generally email signups since converting organic traffic directly to sales is not easy, most people don’t want to be sold, they want a relationship first)
How non-branded organic traffic compares to competitor websites; this can be used to steal some of their long-form blog content ideas and create better assets for your site.
What posts are ranking near the top of page 2 that you could goose to page 1 by gaining a quality backlink/social share or two?
Metric That Isn’t As Important As It Seems
Individual keyword ranking positions per post, rather it’s better to focus on aggregate traffic for each post instead of getting caught up in whether each post ranks in the top 3 positions for each keyword phrase. That said, it is important to add more link building outreach if a post is just shy of page 1 SERP results, say in the 10, 11, or 12 spot.
Here are 3 key metrics that you need to track as they provide you with actionable data to improve your SEO strategy.
1. Keyword Ranking and Click-through rate – Measuring your keyword ranking is essential as it tells you whether or not you are targeting the right set of keywords.
If there is a steady rise in your site’s traffic and ranking over a period, then it is an indication that you have implemented the right targeted keywords.
However, if the traffic is poor, then it is clear sign that you need to make changes to your keyword strategy and this could only be done after you have identified the ranking position of each keyword.
Similarly, by tracking the click-through-rate (CTR) metric, you are able to measure the number of clicks your ad has received. Here, the higher the percentage of CTR the better, as it shows that you have targeted the right keywords, which will help improve your conversion rate.
2. Organic Search Traffic – One of the main reasons for investing in SEO is to attract new customers and as such, measuring the organic search traffic metric is a must. This metric tells you the amount of traffic your site has received through search engines per month, which helps you make changes to your SEO strategy in case of lower traffic.
By tracking this metric, you will be able to better align your keywords and content with user-intended search queries. Thus, make sure track this metric on a regular basis.
3. Revenue – The success of your SEO campaign is correlated to the amount of revenue you are able to generate. Hence, this is another metric that you need to measure, in order to gauge if you are on the right path.
What SEO Metrics Are You Watching?
There you have it – 61 SEO experts revealed the key metrics they monitor across each stage of the “SEO funnel”.
What SEO metrics are you going to add to your dashboard? Are there KPIs you’re tracking that weren’t mentioned above?
Let me know in the comments below 🙂
P.S. Below – you can download a free SEO dashboard containing the most common metrics mentioned across all the expert responses:
What are Custom Intent Audiences? In a nutshell, “custom intent audiences“ is a Google product that allows marketers target people currently researching certain topics, products, and solutions on the web, using display or YouTube video ad campaigns. Find out how you can use custom intent audiences in this detailed guide.
Want a list of great blog post ideas that are actually relevant to your niche in under 30 minutes? Here’s exactly how to do it.
Trying to come up with relevant blog post ideas from scratch is always painful. Trust me, I’ve been there and I know what it feels like.
It’s like trying to run through quicksand. Playing darts blindfolded. Conjuring a chocolate bar out of thin air.
In short: draining, demoralizing, and ultimately futile.
Then I had a bright idea. Instead of racking my brain trying to come up with winning blog post ideas, why not take inspiration from outside: what topics people are searching for, what’s popular, and what other blogs in my niche are covering?
Below, I’ll show you exactly how to do that in 30 minutes or less.
We’ll be using the topic of “PC gaming,” because I’ve always wanted to blog about that—but that’s a story for another day.
Let’s get right into it!
Step 1: Find what people are searching for (10 mins)
When writing a blog post, what do we want?
Lots of traffic, of course.
I’m going to assume that this is true for everyone, including you and I. This means that people actually need to be interested in what we’re writing about.
Now to reverse engineer this: the first thing we want to find out is the type of questions that people are asking about our niche. This instantly reveals what they want to read about.
For this, where else do we look to but Google?
Autosuggest searches—you know, the ones that come up when you start typing something into Google—can be an absolute gold mine of ideas.
Using an asterisk (*) acts as a wildcard to pull more ideas.
The only problem: we’re limited to a small handful of results at a time, and there’s no way to properly extract this data.
To get around this, we can use free tools like Answer The Public, which basically generates reports of the questions people are searching for in Google.
Let’s key in “PC gaming” and scroll to the “Questions” report. (Of course, feel free to use a keyword relevant to your niche instead throughout these steps.)
The tool instantly pulls a list of 138 questions.
Looking through the list, there are some great questions in here like:
Will PC gaming overtake consoles?
Which gaming PC is the best?
Are PC gaming chairs worth it?
PC gaming for beginners
These are amazing as thought starters, but there are a couple of obvious issues.
First off, we can only pull a report for one topic at a time. This means that if I wanted to get results for multiple topics, say “steam,” “best pc games” and “pc game reviews,” I’d have to perform three individual searches.
Not a huge issue to some, but it’s a bit of a time waster especially if you have many topics in mind.
Secondly, and more importantly, there’s no context given in terms of how popular each individual question is. Are 10 people asking this every month? Are 100, or 1000? We don’t know, so we have no clue if it’s a good blog post idea.
So: if you’d like to stop at the step above, that’s perfectly fine.
But for those of us who want an idea of how popular each question is, we can head over to Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer, enter a few topic ideas (up to 10,000), then go to the “Questions” report.
Here, we see a list of questions that people are asking about the topics we’ve entered—neatly sorted by search volume.
There we go! That’s a whopping 65,058 results.
Which is just wonderful, but I assume neither of us has the spare time to go through 65k ideas. (Pretty sure nobody does, actually.)
So let’s add a step to help us zoom in on the ideas with the best search potential. Just set the “Search Volume” filter from 500 — Max, like so:
This instantly narrows down the topics to those that more than 500 people search for each month.
That leaves us with 61 ideas.
“500” is an arbitrary number. Feel free to tweak this number to suit your goals and the relative popularity of your niche.
Now, skim the list and pick your favorites!
Remember that search volume, while definitely an insightful metric in its own right, isn’t the be‐all and end‐all of traffic estimation.
If you can only think of one or two blogs, you can throw them into Ahrefs’ Site Explorer and go the Competing domains report to find a whole list of competitors.
For non‐Ahrefs users, a related: search in Google does something similar.
Now, we want to find out which kind of posts are driving these blogs’ success.
We can do this manually: just browse each website and take note of what they’re writing about. Except…this takes a ton of time, and we have no idea whether people are actually interested in any of these topics.
To get around this, head to Ahrefs’ Site Explorer, enter a competitor’s URL and go to the “Top Pages” report.
This gives us a list of all that competitor’s webpages, neatly sorted by estimated monthly organic traffic. In other words, we can now find out which topics get lots of searches month after month!
Look at the page URL and top keyword columns to get a sense for what ideas and topics really resonate with readers.
The trick here is to think beyond exact keywords. For example, the top keyword for #5 in the screenshot above is “multiplayer games.” Instead of adding “multiplayer games” to our list, wouldn’t noting down something like “list of the best multiplayer games” work better?
Of course, game‐specific posts on topics like “Skyrim mods” and “Call of Duty glitches” are great ideas, too.
Thinking a little further ahead: to get lots of traffic, we’ll need to rank well. While skimming for ideas, it’s worth looking at the RD (Referring Domains) column in this report and paying attention to pages with low numbers.
Generally speaking, these are the ideas which will be easier to rank for.
I spend some time glancing through the list and noting down topics—10 minutes of doing this lands me with 46 new ideas.
Step 3: Find popular articles (10 mins)
Similar to the previous strategy, but not quite: another way to get a bunch of ideas at once is to take inspiration from what’s already popular.
We’re kind of already doing this in step 2, but the limitation is that we were only pulling topic ideas from one specific website at a time.
Since there are thousands of blogs that mention PC gaming, why not zoom out and get inspiration from the most popular of these blogs—all at once?
There’s even an efficient and reliable way of doing this. At the risk of sounding like a broken record… enter Ahrefs’ Content Explorer.
What Content Explorer does is give you a list of the most popular articles for any topic or keyword based on performance metrics like social shares and search traffic.
Works perfectly—almost too perfectly, in fact. The Ahrefs database is so big that we managed to pull 1,035,745 pages of results!
This is a pretty overwhelming number. Once again, let’s use the filters available to narrow the ideas down to those that get a decent amount of traffic from Google (add filter > organic traffic from 500).
Let’s also add a filter for Referring domains (from 0 to 5 is a good bet). What this does is limit results to uncompetitive topics backlinks‐wise, which makes them easier to rank for.
While we’re at it, we can also filter for English‐only content that’s currently live.
We’re left with 2,250 pages, which is much easier for us to go through.
From here, make your way through the list and take inspiration from these topics. Within the first few scrolls, these ideas leap out at me instantly:
Best DDR4RAM for pc gaming in 2019
Best bluetooth USB adapters for pc gaming
Injustice 2 tier list
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate character unlock guide
Are Surface Laptop and Surface Pro good for gaming?
After spending 10 minutes on this, I note down 35 new ideas.
This brings my total list of blog post ideas to 103–enough to keep me busy for a good few months (likely more)!
In Content Explorer, it’s worth eyeballing the Organic traffic sparkline graph and avoiding topics with declining traffic.
After all, there’s no point logical to writing posts about things that people no longer care about.
Optional step: Other ways to find blog post ideas
Not satisfied with the ideas you’ve gotten so far, or just want a bunch more options?
There are plenty of other ways to come up with brilliant blog post ideas. While these methods generally require more effort for less output, try them anyway—you might find a fresh angle.
Blog topic idea generators
There are plenty of these around; do a quick Google for some and test them out if you’d like.
They all pretty much do the same thing: enter a couple of keywords or descriptive phrases, and the generator will cough up some templates that serve as inspiration.
Understanding how search engines rank websites and applying simple nontechnical SEO strategies will lead to increased traffic from qualified customers.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is a technique used to assure that customers searching for a product or service can easily find a company’s website on search engines such as Google. Just as a physical location is essential for brick-and-mortar stores, search engine rankings are essential in driving walk-in traffic to a website.
How potential or qualified customers find websites for a product or service
1. Direct traffic
A user finds a website by typing the web address directly into a browser or by clicking on a bookmark or an email link. These are typically customers that are familiar with the company and are maybe repeat visitors.
Users are directed to websites by clicking on a link from another website. For example, linking from a Facebook page to a corporate website would produce referral traffic. Ideally, referrals will be qualified customers possessing a desire to buy products from the website they are referred to.
3. Search engines
Analyze web content and create a ranking of websites that most likely will correspond to keywords that a customer uses to search for information. For example, typing the keywords “search engine optimization” in a Google search will provide a list of websites that provide information or services dealing with SEO.
Generally, a company has more control over direct or referral traffic than over search engine traffic. In addition, direct and referral traffic is influenced more by an organization’s offline marketing. SEO seeks to provide a strategy for improving a website ranking resulting in increased traffic to that website.
Two types of search engine results that appear
1. Pay per click (PPC)
These results are usually prominently displayed on top or on the side of the search results. To attain these listings, companies enroll in services like Google Adwords to budget resources into certain keywords and pay a fee whenever a customer clicks on the link. A well-orchestrated PPC campaign is the quickest way to drive qualified traffic to a website.
2. Organic or natural results
These are the rank-ordered results provided below the PPC results. These results are attained on the merits of the website and are not purchased. However, since most customers will not look at several pages of search results, a high organic placement, preferably in the top three positions, is necessary to succeed in driving qualified traffic to a website.
How search engines rank websites
The criteria used to rank websites in search results vary by the search engine (Google, Yahoo, Bing, and the others) which are constantly evolving. Although these criteria are not publicized, general strategies applied consistently over time will increase website rankings. Despite promises offered by some SEO companies, attaining a high search engine ranking will not happen overnight.
Although the exact formulas are not widely publicized, search engines provide high ranks to websites that are relevant, important, trustworthy, authoritative, and popular. Any strategy that seeks to increase these five criteria, will ultimately improve your search engine optimization.
Five non-technical strategies for SEO
1. Improve relevance by writing better web copy
Writing better web copy that focuses on how a product meets customer needs will help to improve your search engine rankings. In addressing the needs of the customer, web copy will naturally be filled with rich keywords. Avoid writing copy specifically designed to increase web rankings. Ultimately a website needs to be written for customers and not web rankings.
2. Improve by increasing the number and quality of inbound links
Search engines look at both the number and the quality of those links when determining rankings. By registering with web directories like DMOZ or getting referral traffic from high traffic sites like Wikipedia, websites can improve site visibility and perceived importance. Companies can increase links to their site by regularly providing new and entertaining content. Providing content including videos, games, and other interactive features that people want to share with their friends is a great way to encourage other websites to link to yours.
3. Become trustworthy by being ethical
Questionable tactics like providing pages with long lists of keywords and little usable content will eventually lead to penalties by search engines. Encouraging trust among customers, just like in brick-and-mortar business, is important in increasing sales and search engine ranking. Provide customers with a contact page and give them the opportunity to comment on products and services received.
4. Become an authority by networking
Develop a reputation as an authority with a product or service by using networking sites such as LinkedIn or by creating blogs and topic relevant articles or whitepapers. Over time customers will begin to associate the company with being an expert on the products and services it offers. Not only will this perceived authority increase traffic to the website, but it will also ultimately increase search rankings.
5. Increase popularity by encouraging repeat visitors
Marketing is a long-term proposition aimed at meeting and satisfying customer need. Satisfying customer need will encourage repeat visitors and repeat visitors will increase traffic. By providing relevant, interactive content that is demanded by customers, the website will become more popular and ranking will increase over time.
When using nontechnical techniques, sound marketing principles will ultimately lead to increased web rankings. If you’re looking for technical SEO strategies you can use Google Webmaster Tools.
Got any strategies you would like to talk about? Share them in the comments.
What does it take to go from being an unemployed grad with no job prospects doing odd jobs and surviving on $12 a day, to running a multimillion dollar global marketing company with over 60 employees? Garrett Mehrguth, CEO at Directive shares the sheer determination and dynamism of his journey from doing janitorial work to growing his $10M/y marketing agency into a success.
What’s it like building a consulting business from the ground floor while you’re doing multiple jobs to get by and building up small clients so they can rank at the top of Google?
With little money, how do you inspire employees to hold up your values and deliver for your clients?
What is Garrett’s approach to personal development, growth, attitude, and consistency?
What is Garrett’s concept of “discoverability” in search?
How do you unlock explosive growth based on sales data versus marketing data?
GUESTS & RESOURCES:
Ben: Welcome to Career Day on the voices of search podcast. Today we’re going to learn about the skills accumulated and lessons learned from a great SEO throughout the various stops on his career. Joining us for Career Day is the owner of a quickly expanding search consultancy. Garrett Mehrguth is the CEO at Directive, which is a B2B and enterprise search marketing agency that companies trust to scale their business. Direct of supports, customers with SEO, PPC, content marketing and social media, driven by powerful analytics and a dedicated team of specialists. But before we hear from Garrett, I want to remind you that this podcast is brought to you by the marketing team at Searchmetrics. We are an SEO and content marketing platform that helps enterprise scale businesses monitor their online presence and make data driven decisions and we’d like to invite you our loyal podcast listeners to our upcoming webinar where we’ll discuss how SEO and SEM are joining forces to win the syrup. On June 19th, Tyson Stockton Searchmetrics is director of services and Leslie to three Q digital’s VP of SEO. We’ll dive into ways you can combine your paid on organic search marketing to be more effective together.
Ben: To register for our SEO and SEM joining forces Webinar, go to searchmetrics.com/webinar okay. Here’s our interview with Garrett Mehrguth, the CEO of Directive. Garrett, welcome to the voices of search podcast.
Garrett: Hey, thanks for having me, Ben. Glad to be here and excited to chat with you and your audience.
Ben: I’m excited to have you on the show and a have to start off by saying, what on Earth are you doing here? You had a baby less than two days ago, your first child and you are joining us to be on a podcast.
Garrett: Yeah, I mean I’ve got a great team here and this is like my only thing today so I’ll hop on for a little bit of time with you and your audience and then back to taking care of the babies. So it’s a crazy balance of trying to be 100% on the family and a hundred percent on the company. But I’m enjoying the process. And last night after bringing the baby home, went to Ikea, built out a full Home Office, I got the new noise canceling headphones so I can work right next to the baby and take care of her. But I hadn’t had a chance to actually try the headphones out yet. I guess they have noise canceling mic too, which I just hadn’t had a chance to try. Like literally I bought it, rushed here and hopped on here. I’ll rush home right after. So, so glad to be here.
Ben: Let me be the first one from hopefully the SEO community. Definitely on behalf of Searchmetrics to say congratulations and there is no amount of noise cancellation a pair headphones can bring you to prepare you for what’s going to happen in the next months and years of your life, but very exciting times for the Mehrguth family and we’re excited to have you here on the show. Let’s talk a little bit about your professional background outside of being an obvious workaholic and you know, a new parent. Tell us a little bit about how you got into SEO and about your background. How did, how’d you get into search?
Garrett: Yeah, so search, the way I kind of got into it was I was trying to figure out marketing in general. I want to kind of get into management consulting. So I did my master’s when I was about 21 years old and was trying to get into management consulting. The university I graduated from didn’t really give me that as an option with the way it works since that I was trying to go to the Boston Bain, Deloitte, McKinsey, and you can’t go from Azusa Pacific University directly into those places, even on an internship program because your university isn’t in their pick list. They don’t tell you about that in orientation day when you’re trying to choose a university, they don’t tell you that the university you select is going to greatly affect your ability to get A level internships or job opportunities in a real way. So I had no idea, but when I didn’t get into Boston, Bain, McKinsey, or Deloitte and kind of had to apply as “other” from their online kind of hiring portal, I got the auto reply that says, you know, we’re no longer interested or not accepting right now.
Garrett: I decided, you know what, I’ll start my own agency and one day they’ll have to acquire me. No clue what I was going to do. No real hard skills. But I kind of had this belief that perception is reality. And so, you know, when I was playing soccer and club and all that growing up, I would train kids. People knew I was a good player. I was on the top team in the country. I figured, okay, I can leverage that at the local store so that everybody came in to buy shoes, could also be a customer. I’d ride my bike and hand out flyers at all the fields and I started eventually, you know I had 15 or so kids that I was training. So I learned from that, that essentially if you have a skill, ask yourself how you can leverage it. And if you don’t have a skill, figure out a skill that other people would at least pay you for based on your reality, Aka your age.
Garrett: And so I figured, okay, older men and women who have money and have companies, they don’t understand the Internet and, and I’m okay at it, not great myself if I’m being honest. Like I didn’t even get Instagram until like a junior in college. So I figured heck, I could probably figure it out. So I just went on Moz, search engine land, search engine journal, and I read everything that they had written, like for hours and hours. And I just had a little motto called learn, engage, create. So if I could learn something new every day, engage with it and I can create more value for myself and our customers. And so I just read probably every post that they had written for the previous four years on every one of the major blogs in the industry. And next thing you know, start feeling little more comfortable on it.
Garrett: And it’s just mostly just learning, practicing canal mound like side stuff where I could. But then I started selling social media calendars and databases on Fiverr. So that was kind of where my first search engine was actually the Fiverr engine. And I figured out how to kind of get on Fiverr’s homepage with the title tags and my gigs and the videos and my descriptions and my tags. And when I did all that I was like, this is really powerful. I wonder if I could figure out other search engines that kind of what got me excited. And I liked the process of like learning how algorithms and systems and just anything kind of works. And yeah, that was kind of my start.
Ben: So you walked out of college thinking that you were going to go be a management consultant and found that you were having difficulty because the profile, the college that you went to and you decided to be a self-starter and go the school of hard knocks MBA and do the real work and the hard work of learning SEO yourself. You mentioned that you know the Fiverr search engine was the first one that you mastered. Talk to me about what roles you had coming out of college and how are you able to get, how are you able to pay your bills as you were starting a consulting practice?
Garrett: Yeah, I mean, so during college I was elude or Socrates senior doing all that. So I was pretty involved there. I did my degree in three years, so I did my degree economics in three years. And then I did my master’s my fourth year. So I was always pretty busy with school. But I also had about, I was working at the Chamber of Commerce for the city. I was working custodial in the summer, so I would clean bathrooms from like five to two or six to two each day. I forget the day times. And then I would work in events. So like after chapel or after sporting events I’d tear down or put up. So I was always pretty busy. I had two or three jobs, kept soccer team, you know, doing school, all that stuff. And then after school I had my graduation party. And if anyone’s younger out there, what you do is you just find all your most successful family friends and even if you really know them or not, you invite them to your graduation party.
Garrett: And I just kind of try to talk to them and figure out if I could get an internship with them. So got an internship with a couple of them. So I was doing two internships while I was finishing up my master’s program and I was doing Fiverr, so I’d like to do contractor gigs in Fiverr. And that was what helped me pay the bills. You know, I was living on like 12/13 bucks a day. So if you stay pretty humble, you can do that. And then I just had a little moped and that’s when I started kind of handing out flyers. So I had a 1973 Peugeot and yeah, started, handing out flyers for this business. I found on Go Daddy for directive consulting at a little Go Daddy one page site, pretty horrible, and eventually got a Persian restaurant that I liked. He, he wanted me to help him.
Garrett: It wasn’t even searched at the time, it was just like marketing consulting. So I was helping them get Facebook, Yelp, flyers handed out. Just like really, really basic stuff. So yeah, I’ve worked with them for about 30 days. Came to get my check and he said come back tomorrow. And a whole place was boarded up. So that’s the very first ever contract in the history of Directive. I got the grease stains, it’s in my office still. And yeah, that was the whole place was boarded up. So from there I kind of learned to pre-bill and all sorts of other lessons. But yeah, that’s kind of the start.
Ben: So you really had a grounds up way of building a consulting business where you’re piecing together multiple different jobs, everything from custodial, handing out flyers and eventually you’re starting with some, you know, relatively small clients, you know, a restaurant that happened to have folded before they would actually pay you. Sounds like at a minimum a grass roots way of approaching marketing and a, you know, your consultancy has grown to be a relatively large team and you know, you’ve been successful in growing an independent consulting business. Talk to me a little bit about how you’ve grown and matured your business.
Garrett: Yeah, I mean I never had any intention of being anything other than where I’m headed and I’m not there yet. And so, you know, from the moment I started it, I bought, my best friend who used to go to law school. He was my best friend from freshman year high school, roommates all through college. I told him not to go to law school, join me. He became my business partner and I taught him everything I had learned from reading all those articles. And you know, I had that one side and then eventually the first SEO client was a hookah shop. Got them to rank number one. I think he paid me 200 bucks a month. My best friend’s Dad, his dad was a plumber, my dad was a cabinet guy, so both pretty blue collar. His Dad, you know, became our second client, got him to rank number one.
Garrett: So I kind of just wanted to treat every client like a case study and just work really hard and show how passionate I was and just make the right decision, you know, take the high road till you run out of air. And that was it if I’m being honest, I never had any other intention of being the biggest and I always invested a ton in our own marketing and sales, a ton of money and effort and time into that growth. That’s why I’m doing this podcast today, obviously to get our brand out there and talk to your audience, hopefully inspire or help some other young men or women whose trying to get started. But yeah, for me it wasn’t anything other than hard work. And then, you know, I had the vision of being the biggest search agency in the world and you know, we’re on our way. I think we’re getting there, especially in the B2B space that we’re in right now. I think we might already be pretty close. And on the enterprise side definitely, you know, have some strides to make still some large, large players that have been in the market for 10 plus more years than us. But we’re doing just fine.
Ben: So talk to me about some of the projects that you’ve taken on and how have you grown so quickly?
Garrett: Yeah, I mean we, well I like to eat, we eat our own caviar. So if you search SEO agency, I think we’re number one or number two, you know, we spent probably anywhere between $600,000 a month on sales and marketing pretty easily, which is a ton, if you’re familiar with consulting firms. Most of them rely on referrals and references, but when you know you’re a kid and you’re getting started, you know, like if I started now I could grow this firm much differently due to my portfolio brand and experience. But when you’re first getting started, you know, you only know pretty much the smallest accounts possible on the market and those are all you have and what you start to learn is the networking effects of small counts as small accounts sell small accounts, medium accounts sell medium accounts and big accounts sell big accounts. And if you’re relying on referrals and stuff, you’ll end up with a very high volume, okay
Garrett: Agency. And so for me, I was just wanting to be the best and, and I don’t mean anything against those high volume of search firms. When I say high volume, I mean, you know, having hundreds or thousands of accounts. But what I learned is yes, you can deliver a world class service for the price, but you can’t deliver a truly world class service based on all options available and have that many accounts. This is not really a reality. And professional services, you have to be okay with volume and high churn or few accounts and high quality. And so I decided, you know, I wanted fewer accounts. It’s a higher quality, like we’ve got to, I think if I had a couple pretty blue chip insurance companies for about three years, I think I got one of them when I was about 23/24 years old and always kept them. You know, we did the global SEO for Cisco I think two years ago, 10 cents Samsung. So you know a lot of pretty pretty cool firms and a lot of mid-market and enterprise B2B software firms that are very large in their industry and they’re just not household names. This large part of our portfolio was B2B software. But you know, they’re, they’re large in their markets, but they’re not necessarily household names.
Ben: So Garrett, here’s what sticks out to me is, you know, you mentioned, hey, look I couldn’t go to a top tier school. I couldn’t get into the consulting businesses I wanted. All right I get that right. And that’s fine. And I was working some janitorial jobs and I did some stuff on Fiverr and I got some clients and I’m sitting here thinking, okay, well this guy’s running an independent consultancy and he’s, you know, starting to hire some people, the business is growing and then you drop the bomb of, oh by the way, when you search for SEO Agency, we’re fourth in Google and I’m sure it’s different for everybody, but like, oh by the way, you know, I was doing some janitorial stuff a couple of years ago, couple of years out of college and we’re bringing on some pretty heavy hitters in, in the technology industry. We’re, we’re bringing on Cisco as a client.
Ben: We have some industry, like, there is something that does not connect about how you’re positioning this story in the sense of I was, you know, scrubbing toilets and now I’m fourth in… You know, fourth in Google for SEO agencies and I’ve got a team of something like 60 people running an independent consulting business. Help me connect the dots here. The headline here is I went from scrubbing toilets and working on Fiverr to 59 people work for me and I run an SEO consulting agency. It cannot be as simple as I read Maus. Like give me the secret sauce here because you’re clearly doing something that is working.
Garrett: Well. It kind of is that simple that’s the funniest part and that’s what’s so hard about the search marketing game is it actually is that simple because our industry has done such an amazing job of publishing their thoughts and opinions online and that’s why I try to give back like this is the keys are out there. The real question is can you inspire men and women to hold up your same values and deliver for the clients like you would? Can you manage a sales and marketing team? Like we have no funding. Like I started this thing with 20 bucks. So can you understand how finances work well enough to recognize how to maintain your gross profit while scaling and deliver quality? And so no, no. It really actually is that simple for anyone out there. The question is, are you willing to do anything and everything the right way 100% of the time from the conversations you have to men and women at your firm that one day might screw you over or,
Garrett: They might to the client who wants to sue you for no reason. For all those tiny little moments, can you make the right decision and have wisdom and if yeah, then it’s really actually not impossibly hard. It’s just that ability to self-regulate yourself and inspire others and hold others accountable by holding yourself accountable, then you can build something really special. There isn’t any secret sauce other than showing up every day and busting your butt. It doesn’t matter if you’re cleaning toilets or anything else, like you have to figure out how you can be the best at every little thing you do, not just the things you care about, but the things that you don’t care about. Can you get yourself to care enough to be better than everyone else at the things you hate? And once you get to that point in your life as a man or as a woman, as a leader, then you can do anything in the world that you want.
Garrett: It’s just a matter of effort and diligence.
Ben: So I appreciate the sense of being driven and needing to not just do the things that you feel comfortable or specifically fascinated about, but doing the things that need to get done to be efficient. Let’s talk about marketing because you’re clearly delivering results to be able to scale. And you mentioned that you know you’re a search consultancy, so not just necessarily running a SEO business, but a combination of SEO and some other channels. Talk to me about some of the ways that you’ve been able to provide value for your consulting practices and what are some of the other things that people who are interested in running independent consulting businesses can do to be more effective?
Garrett: Yeah, I think, and by the way, just Ben, I think as a side note, the theory really does apply. Like I was shooting a hundred…do you play golf at all Ben?
Garrett: Okay. So I was shooting like one 10 to one 20, 9 months ago and I just shot at 78, so like the principles that I’m talking about have nothing to do with search, when it comes to growth and personal development. It’s about attitude and consistency. The barrier to entry to success is so freaking low it scares me. I only practiced 30 minutes a day for nine months straight, 30 minutes, and I was able to take, you know, 20/30 strokes off my game. My point is, is a lot of us want to be the best at something, but don’t spend 30 minutes a day reading on it and that’s just hypocrisy at its finest. And so my point is, is the barrier to entry to success is so low, it should, should startle you, and you don’t have to do that much to beat 99.9% of the population.
Ben: I’ll be honest, Garrett, like I said, when we started this conversation I was like, Oh, where’s this going to go? It seems like, you know, we’re like, don’t take this the wrong way. Like you might not be a legitimate guest. I was worried that it was going to be like, oh, our clients are, you know, small businesses that are restaurants that have closed up shop. And I was worried about relevance for the SEO Community that’s listening to this. And as it turns out, you are this incredibly driven, motivated entrepreneur who is simplifying what it takes to be successful down to just do some work. Just read some stuff.
Garrett: Well here’s the thing with search jokes.
Garrett: I want to make sure your audience has something here, Ben. And I think what you have to do to be successful in anything, figure out horribly simple things differently. You have to pick an enemy and you have to create a villain in whatever you do. And it doesn’t have to be about the villain, but you have to figure out what’s wrong in your industry that no one else is noticing. And then figure out how to distill that in a really simple way. So here’s what I’ve found in search and what no one’s talking about and I’m obsessed with, and it’s the concept of discoverability. See, what no one understands and always forgets is people come to you for SEO and PPC first and foremost to make their brands, I want to be crystal clear here, not their websites, their brands discoverable for the products and services they sell.
Garrett: So what I mean by that is historically the reason our practice exists and why I get to be in search is because one day someone found out about Google and they were like, wait, how do I get my business to show up there? How do I get my products or services to show up there? It’s the theory of discoverability. Now it became to along the way was hacks and tricks and us for Google and all this BS that keeps you horribly unfocused and horribly unsuccessful. And so I kind of have pioneered this idea that I used to call share of syrup and now call discoverability because who cares about sharing syrup and a lot of people care about discoverability and I’ve actually written the book on it, I’m trying to get it published right now and I’m building software and tools around it, but it’s a concept that when someone searches for the products and services you sell, you need to make your brand more discoverable.
Garrett: Now, the reason I say brand and it’s so important, is if you’re sitting here in your computer, you can search the keyword top ERP software, okay? This is important because what you’re going to find the search set and then you’re going to find a bunch of third party sites. This is what I call the Yelp and Amazon effect. What’s happened is consumers who won’t buy a breakfast Burrito for $7 and 50 cents without looking it up on Yelp, aren’t going to buy an ERP software for $750,000 without looking it up online, okay? Now what that means is Google understands that, and so they’re really pushing and promoting comparison shopping across the binder, now especially when the timing is most right. See, search marketing is one of the most highly dependent marketing channels in the world. What I mean by that is you can only show up when someone’s searching and you can decide the value of showing up based on the intent they have in the queries that they’re putting for what they’re looking for.
Garrett: In other words, if they modify their category of ERP software with top best reviews, they’re at the buying stage when they search, what is ERP software? They’re at the discovery phase and you want to be discoverable in both, but you can’t weight them the same. Now the problem is there’s a lot of SEOs and a lot of PPCs are out there thinking that the game’s the same, but it’s completely changed and this is why they’re experiencing diminishing marginal returns. See, what’s happened is they’re trying to drive leads based on the amount of times they show up for the volume of keywords, not the amount of times they show up for the right keywords, in other words, and they’re only worried about their website, not their brand. Okay. So what you have to understand is if you can show up on Capterra GT crowd GetApp software advice and other sites that are at the bottom of the funnel for BB software, you’re making your brand 100% discoverable.
Garrett: And the way you know it was important, right, is cause the number one result in Google has a 28/30% click through rate, while the ads regardless of position hover between two and three on average. So let’s say a hundred people search top ERP software and your SAP, you have a world class spot, you have all these things but you’re grinding on him cause you’re not showing up for this keyword. Now the truth is is your website won’t ever show up on this keyword because it’s not the best answer to the person’s query. What is comparison shopping? And so you need to as an SEO or as a PBC, put yourself on these third party review sites. Because when you’re looking at your Google ads data and your search, you’re finding that these people who click on your ad 3% of the time are converting.
Garrett: So why don’t you just connect to your volume and take out an ad and be number one on the list for the number one spot. And you see the theory of discoverability is that you need to make your brand more discoverable when it matters not more discoverable when it doesn’t. You see most SEO and PPC, they look at the process of getting more traffic as getting more keywords instead of taking market share around the right keywords and by reversing this logic and reallocating funding based on cost per deal, not cost per acquisition. In other words, doing search marketing on sales data, not marketing data. You can do a very good job with time. You can unlock explosive growth for companies that already have market share or brands. And that’s kind of the key.
Ben: So that’s what I’m talking about. So as it turns out, well you’re starting this interview off by talking about, well I was doing some janitorial and some work on Fiverr and I had a restaurant client. It turns out you’re world class SEO and not just a world class SEO, but understanding the customer mindset and what the customer journey is and being able to map that to whether SEO or performance marketing, PPC or social media are the right different channels. So the interesting thing to me, cause this is a career day episode, is thinking about the growth for you going from, I wanted to learn a little bit about SEO, so I started reading some articles on Maus to becoming an outstanding and capable marketer that is across multiple different channels related to search and visibility. So talk to me about what you’ve done to not only expand your mind, right. Obviously there’s a lot of hard hustle, a lot of hard work and the right mindset, but what are some of the practical tips that you’ve had to go from, I’m hungry and I want to learn this to I’m a world class expert in marketing across multiple channels.
Garrett: It all comes down to context Ben. I think so many people are really good at SEO but can’t tie their shoes in life or in finance.
Ben: I love it.
Garrett: Or anything that matters. SEO doesn’t intrinsically in isolation matter. It doesn’t, it doesn’t do anything for anybody in isolation when it’s a really perfect fitting piece of a puzzle, it’s magical. And so for me, I maybe spent 5% of my time reading on SEO and 95% of my time reading on leadership, finance, economics, marketing, business, and all the other pieces that allow me to actually communicate a strategy. You see, you don’t understand how gross profit works, how can you effectively pitch the most or the least expensive cost per acquisition channel in the market and SEO? You’re actually missing out on the greatest reason why an in house enterprise marketer needs to be funding this channel because it’s the only one that’s experiencing increasing marginal returns instead of decreasing marginal returns.
Garrett: Right? So if you’re doing PPC, every time a new competitor enters the marketplace, it drives up the auction price for your most successful terms.
Ben: And you have to pay a toll every time you go through the toll booth.
Garrett: Exactly. Now the problem is, is that at a certain point that cost per click increases more than you’re able to increase your conversion rate to counterbalance it or your ability to increase your price. So eventually, regardless of how successful you are from paid, you are going to experience diminishing marginal returns, especially as incumbents enter the marketplace and also drive down price. Nobody enters the marketplace and increases your price point. And so when you put all these pieces of just reality together, it helps you communicate a balanced strategy that grows someone’s cash, not just their revenue and understanding the difference in revenue and cash and why it all matters, that’s really the key and that’s what makes the difference between a great marketer and a good marketer is understanding everything outside of marketing.
Ben: Last question I have for you. You’ve gone from somebody who was hungry, willing to put in the work, but inexperienced, to running an agency or consultancy of 60 plus people in four different locations internationally in a very short period of time. For people that have high aspirations like yourself, what advice do you have for them to go from, I want to learn a little bit about SEO to eventually becoming a consultancy owner that they might not think about when they are at the beginning of their journey.
Garrett: Yeah. You gotta figure out what you want in life and what, what you want to be the best at, because you see, if I just wanted money, I would just take my three big clients or four big clients and now I’d make more money than I ever dreamed of a month with two employees. Okay. No headaches, more money that I could ever spend and do that, but that’s not what I’m truly passionate about. I’m really passionate about developing myself as a man and becoming a better leader and developing my character. And the best way to develop your character is to go through the fire and the biggest fires you ever go, trust me occur, the bigger your organization gets, the more you’re stretched with demands as a leader.
Garrett: And so you have to ask yourself what you want to build based on your values. Like for us, we had to decide that we weren’t going to service really small business anymore because we could do a really good job serve this small business, frankly, I think better than anyone else could serve this small business but not as good as we could serve the small business. In other words, like there’s no magic for time and there’s no magic for cost and so great people are expensive and great work takes time. Small accounts take about the same amount of time as mid-market accounts. It’s not the same as enterprise, that’s a lie people haven’t done enterprise if they think that. Enterprise takes a lot more time than small business, but small business and mid-market are actually pretty much the same. The only difference is you make money on one and you don’t the other.
Garrett: And the problem is it’s not even about you making the money. It’s the kind of company you want. You want to have a brand. You can’t do bad work for sustained amount of time because the damages of current revenue are so big that they’re going to drastically hinder any future revenue you can generate because the quality of your brand is dipping. And so if you want to become really successful in the agents and space, you’ve got to decide if you want to be big or you want to be small and there’s no problem being either. See if you want to be big, you’ve got to build it to be big and then decide if you want to have world-class deliverable or a world-class deliverable for a certain market. So I don’t think there’s anything wrong with giving a small business the best the small business can get.
Garrett: But don’t lie to yourself or to them and say you’re the best anyone could get cause it’s not true, but always the best when you’re trying to build. That’s great. Now if you want to be a boutique firm and you want to just have more of a lifestyle and a little bit more freedom and a little less headaches than build that, but don’t expect you can have the lifestyle, the freedom and none of the headaches and be the biggest agency. So you just got to understand what it is that you’re truly passionate about. And then don’t get distracted when crap gets hard cause it’s what you asked for, like don’t be upset if you want to be the biggest agency and all of a sudden you know you have all these headaches and you’re stressed out. It’s like you want to be the biggest, what do you think? It’s going to be easy? And if you want to be a boutique firm, don’t keep trying to be the biggest if you’re not willing to hire a head, trust other people, allow them to do the work because you’re never going to be it. Right? So you just gotta decide what it is you want. As long as you stayed fully committed to that and all the realities that go along with it, you can be hyper successful at anything you do.
Ben: I think it’s amazing advice. I think understanding the impact of the journey that you’re heading down is 100% true. Thinking about whether you want to be an agency owner, an independent consultant working in house, something that we all struggle with. I think that the thing that resonated the most with me is you saying that you know you want to build yourself and to be the best possible man that you can, and I’m going to bring this full circle in my experience, the best way to do that is by having to show up every day and be a great parent. So again, let me just say congratulations on having a baby. I think your story is outstanding. It’s amazing the way that you’ve been able to be self-taught and develop a brand that has become a world class marketing agency is inspiring to me and I hope the other SEOs that are listening to this story learn from it as well. Congratulations and thanks for being our guest.
Garrett: Thanks Ben. I got a baby to go home to and I’m so glad I could be on here
Ben: All right that wraps up this episode of the voices of search podcast. Thanks for listening to my conversation with Garrett Mehrguth, the CEO at Directive. If you’d like to learn more about Garret, you can find a link to his Linkedin profile on our show notes. You can send him a tweet at Gmehrguth. Or you can visit his company’s website, which is Directive Consulting. If you have general marketing questions or if you’d like to talk about this podcast, you can find my contact information in our show notes or you can send me a tweet at BenJShap. If you’re interested in learning more about how to use search data to boost your organic traffic online visibility or gain competitive insights, head over to searchmetrics.com/diagnostic for your complimentary advisory session with our digital strategies team, and if you’d like to join our webinar about the combination of SEO and SEM, go to searchmetrics.com/webinar if you liked this podcast and you want a regular stream of SEO and content marketing insights in your podcast feed, hit the subscribe button in your podcast app and we’ll be back at your feet next week.
Ben: Lastly, if you’ve enjoyed this podcast and you’re feeling generous, we’d love for you to leave us a review in the Apple iTunes store or wherever you listen to your podcasts. Okay, that’s it for today, but until next time, remember, the answers are always in the data.
Did you notice Google is offering fewer options for your search results to shine? It seems like Google regularly adds a new box to the search result pages that answers searchers’ questions immediately, without them having to click on anything. For instance, type in [Blade Runner 2049] and you’ll be bombarded by four ads, a full knowledge graph panel, showtimes for the movie, top stories and Twitter feeds until you finally reach the first organic result. Google’s push to rich results not only brings challenges but also opportunities: answer boxes can make you an instant star in the search results. Find out how to get a Google answer box.
Update: Since the 11.0 release, Yoast SEO builds a full structured data graph for every post or page on your site! A graph is a complete piece of structured data with well-defined connections to all the different parts. Search engines now not only know what all the parts mean but also how they fit together. Want to know what it does for your website? Read all about Yoast SEO 11.0!
What are answer boxes?
A Google answer box (or featured snippet) is a highlighted search box that answers the question you type in the Google search bar. Since this answer box is situated above the regular organic search results, everybody is bound to notice this. So, you can imagine the effect that might have. Having your content as an answer box not only brings in a lot of traffic, but it also proves your authority on the subject – Google picked you, right?
Answer boxes often appear as a paragraph or a bulleted list, accompanied by an image. The image does not necessarily have to come from the article itself. Google seems to pick it, sometimes even from the site of a competitor, although that doesn’t happen that much anymore.
Take the search result [improve mobile site] or [how to improve mobile site]; both yield answer boxes with eight tips to improve your mobile site. I wrote and structured that article with Google’s answer box in mind and it paid off. By structuring the information in an easy to understand way and by giving great suggestions, Google put two and two together and found this post to provide the best answer to the question above. You can do this too.
Featured snippets let you jump to the top of the charts
Now to understand the value of answer boxes, it’s important to see how they live within the search results page. The search results page consists of several parts, among others, the organic search results, ads, and one or more dynamic search blocks. Google is increasingly trying to keep as many clicks as they can to themselves or send them to ad partners. Ads and inline search results like answer boxes, featured snippets, knowledge graph items, et cetera increasingly obfuscate organic search results. For certain searches and industries, that leaves a lot less room to shine with your organic results.
Take that Blade Runner 2049 example I mentioned in the intro. Check the screenshot below (click to enlarge), and you’ll see what I mean. Yes, this is an extreme example, but it does prove my point. Luckily, we can try to get answer boxes to bring us an additional stream of traffic. Not to mention that answering questions is an excellent way to get your content ready for voice search.
How to write content for Google answer boxes
There are several ways to try and aim for answer boxes. In the list below, I’ve listed some things you need to keep in mind when writing for Google answer boxes:
Make your content super helpful and easy to understand
Keep your answers short and snappy, at a maximum of 50 words
Make the article easy for Google to digest, so use lists, subheadings, etc.
Mark up your article with structured data (although you don’t always need it)
Watch out that your content doesn’t become/feel unnatural
Not every search will yield an answer box (there are even regional variations)
To top it off, find a way to get people to click on the answer box. You don’t want people to read the answer box and move on. In the end, you want them on your site. Don’t give away all the answers immediately, but try to trigger people to come to your site so they can get the full picture.
Answer boxes and structured data
There’s a common misconception that you must always markup your articles with structured data if you want to get answer boxes. That’s not true. The article I mentioned above doesn’t have structured data attached to it, and it still got an answer box. In some cases, however, it is very helpful to add structured data to your content. Case in point: recipes.
If you have content like recipes, or any type of the content types listed by Google, adding the correct structured data will improve your chances of getting an answer box. It’s like telling Google what your page is about by shouting it in a megaphone. Now, Google instantly understands content that has been enhanced with structured data and will use it to show it in all kinds of cool search features. If you want to learn how to apply structured data to your site so you can be rewarded the highly valued rich snippets, you should try our Structured data training.
The old ‘Google determines everything’ adagio
As always, Google and only Google will pick the answers it shows in its search results if it shows them at all. In the end, there’s no magic formula for answer boxes. Google says the science behind it is very much in flux. Even the way Google finds and presents answer boxes is continually changing. For instance, Google is almost certainly looking at engagement and CTR when determining which answer to award an answer box. But there are also instances where Google picks an answer from a site on the second page of the results, or even further down the list. In the end, it always boils down to the simple question: “Does my answer deliver?”
Yes, you can do it too!
Aiming for Google answer boxes can be good fun. It’s hard to predict whether it will work, but once you get one, it’s a blast. You can easily incorporate this when you are writing new content for answer boxes, but updating old posts is worth a shot too. If you have particular pieces of content, like recipes, for instance, structuring your content for answer boxes is almost a must. And while you’re at it, please add structured data for this type of content as it is very important as well. Now, get to it!