Episode Overview: Google’s algorithm updates shook up the SEO landscape in 2019, forcing expert SEOs to question what the best method is to evaluate their content’s performance throughout a year full of changes. Join Ben as he chats with SEO expert John Lincoln from Ignite Visibility, who was recently named the Search Marketer of the Year by Search Engine Land, as he shares his expertise on the best way to evaluate your content’s performance in 2019 and how to create a new content marketing roadmap for 2020 inspired by the year’s changes.
- In a year over year performance evaluation, it’s best to gauge SEO efforts by segmenting your website’s pages and evaluating each based off the number of new visitors, conversions, revenue, seasonality, keywords, and landing pages.
- Social sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn have their own respective top to bottom funnel, awareness to conversion, processes that content needs to be evaluated against when planning future content marketing efforts.
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Ben: Welcome to Planning Month on the Voices of Search podcast. I’m your host Benjamin Shapiro and this month we’re taking a minute to evaluate our 2019 performance and set our SEO plans for 2020. Joining us today is an SEO who was recently named the Search Marketer of the Year by Search Engine Land. John Lincoln is a returning guest to the Voices of Search podcast. He’s also the cofounder and CEO of Ignite Visibility, which is a digital marketing agency that offers a suite of services including earned and paid media campaign optimization, website development and creative design. John is also the author of the recently published Forecaster Method book which is available on Amazon. And today he and I are going to talk about how you can evaluate your content performance for this year.
Ben: But before we hear from John, 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 to support you our loyal podcast listeners we’re offering a free trial of the Searchmetrics suite, which gives you access to not only search metrics as research cloud, it also gives you access to the content experience tool as well, which will help you optimize all of your content. To sign up for your free trial, go to searchmetrics.com/freetrial. Okay, on with the show. Here’s my conversation with John Lincoln co-founder and CEO of Ignite Visibility. John, welcome back to the Voices of Search podcast.
John: Hey, thanks so much for having me on, beautiful day today. I’m here in Utah actually standing outside of a conference and staring at the snow and excited to be chatting with you about digital marketing, all things measurement.
Ben: It’s in the low seventies here in the suburbs of San Francisco, early November. It’s beautiful and I hope you’re enjoying your event. I appreciate you making the time. I know you’ve got a busy schedule, so let’s dive into it. Lots going on. First off, you published a book. Tell us a little bit about it.
John: Yeah, so I’ve been working for a long time on what I feel is the perfect way to measure all things digital marketing. Ignite Visibility, you know, we’ve grown a lot. We’re 80 employees, manage over a $100 million in advertising. You know, we’ve got a 30 person SEO team and we work with a lot of bigger businesses now. So when you’re looking at the overall marketing mix, it gets a little complicated. How do you actually measure the success of every single source of traffic that comes to your website online? How do you pin it against each other? And how do you figure out what’s the best place to spend your money so that you can accurately scale from where you want to go.
John: So the book for the first time ever, I believe, allows you to plot a very clear roadmap for performance-based marketing on how you can scale three to six channels, whether it be Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Google pay per click, SEO, email marketing. How can you invest in each channel and where can you put the least amount of money in so you can scale for the largest return. And it allows you to accurately measure all the different channels, pin them against each other, and then create a diversified portfolio traffic.
John: So that’s what the Forecaster Method is all about. It’s about really putting those things in place. And then once you have it in place, how do you convert the traffic for less? How do you generate audiences that you have reliable places that you can go and you can advertise at any time to get more sales. How do you improve your conversion rates once they hit the website? And what are all the most innovative and best ways to advertise and how should you be measuring each type of advertising as you go deeper into each one. So that’s kind of the gist of the book.
Ben: So, little did we know, I thought we were going to be talking to an SEO expert and as it turns out you’re a performance evaluation expert as well. Which is great because we’re doing our planning month. I want to double click into how you think about evaluating content performance and SEO. As the SEO community looks back on 2019 they’re trying to figure out what their performance was, how should they evaluate themselves, and then how should they compare themselves to some of the other channels that are in their company’s marketing.
John: Yeah, so my role has really changed. You know, I’m a digital marketing strategist at this point. I’ve been doing it for 16 years. SEO I think is what a lot of people originally think of before. But let’s talk about that. So the thing when it comes to measuring SEO performance, it’s always year over year, right? And you always are looking at the margin from where it started and where you are now.
John: So, for example, if a client comes to you or if you start doing SEO and you’re down 10% right? And six months go by and then you’re up 10% you have a marginal increase of 20% that’s happened there. And I think what people really need to look at is not just overall traffic, not just overall sessions. SEO should really be gauged off of new visitors. They should be gauged off of conversions and they should be gauged off of revenue. And they should be gauged off of keywords and landing pages that have the biggest impact on the business.
John: So, some of the things that I feel a lot of people don’t do is they don’t break the website down by segment. That’s really, really important too, because every single website has different areas that have a higher contribution margin to the business. So any given website might have five to 10 different segments of landing pages that have different subjects. And each of those subjects basically feeds into a funnel that then has a conversion.
John: So, generally what people want to look for is they want to look at growth, they want to look at year over year, they want to make sure they’re taking into account seasonal adjustments. They want to look at top landing pages, segments. They want to look at buckets of keywords from top of funnel to bottom funnel and for most profitable to least profitable. And you know, the way you know it’s working is for me with our team and just in general, I mean I feel like generally we try to shoot for 30% to 80% growth for clients and even ourselves year over year. So if you’re doing that, you’re doing a pretty good job.
Ben: So, tell me a little bit about how you view this year for SEO. You have a 38% to 80% benchmarks. Is that something that’s standard every year or was there anything specific that happened this year that you think is interesting?
John: SEO has really changed this year. Thanks for asking that. And the main thing is with all of these different updates that have happened. So you know, you’ve got these updates that have occurred that have really hurt certain financial sites, certain medical sites, and they’ve taken huge dives. So E-A-T, expertise, authority and trustworthiness. If you didn’t have that in place, that really hurt a lot of people as a result.
John: So, I think that that’s really important to keep in mind. And then also we’re seeing the rise of no click. So one of the things that our company’s been working on a lot is how do you get involved with Google even when there’s not the click, how do you get involved in Google Assistant, Google Action, how do you show up when all of these features that are within Google now? And so I believe measurement for SEO is going to be changing a little bit in some ways to a bit of an impression count, for some of these additional features that you can create. So things are changing a little bit.
Ben: You mentioned that you want to segment some of your keywords and your portions of site. One of the things that I’ve talked about with Jordan Koene, CEO of Searchmetrics is thinking about what the purpose of your queries are. Is it an informational query, is it a transactional query, is it a navigational query, are those are the types of segments that you’re talking about or how do you recommend SEOs break up their pages to evaluate them effectively?
John: Yeah, so it is definitely based off of those type of things. So a coupon website, for example. A coupon website would be broken down by category. It would be broken down by brand, you know, the brand of coupon. It would be broken down by, from the brand, it would be broken down by the deviation. So is it a printable, is it a coupon code? And then type, you know, and that’s that whole kind of lower funnel conversion focus keyword. But we’re seeing a lot of content marketing of course as well. So that’s another segment also.
John: So generally, what I like to do is break down the content marketing into one bucket and then if it becomes a really big website, like a news site, you might break that down further into the subject of the content. But generally content’s in one bucket and then the other buckets on the other segments are just based off of the subject matter.
Ben: So, you bring up content marketing, which is something that I want to separate out from SEO here because I think as we’ve talked about it more and more this year, content really has utility outside of just organic growth in what’s happening with the performance marketing channels. People don’t want to be advertised to. So you’re seeing more brands starting to use their content as a promotional vehicle.
Ben: Outside of just organic growth, how are you thinking about evaluating your content, the efficiency, the effectiveness, so you can figure out what your plan is for next year.
John: So, things are really changing with content. So what I want everybody who’s listening to this to think about is Google, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn. Every single website out there that has the ability to send you traffic has a top of funnel to bottom funnel. And within the top of funnel to bottom funnel from awareness all the way down to conversion, all the way down to remarketing you want to think about what’s that perfect piece of content that you can get in front of that user to start them on the journey with your brand.
John: So, when it comes to content marketing, sure I could write an article on how to choose the best SEO company or something like that. It’s been written a million times. Or I could create this amazing article and I could have that be a component of my paid traffic for Google pay per click. I could have it be something that I promote on LinkedIn. I could have it be a YouTube video. I could have it be a Facebook ad. And the more exciting the better because people have fatigue from too much just direct click. And if you want to get them before the journey even starts and in that buying process, that’s how you really want to craft your content. So it’s really just important with your content marketing, you think about upper funnel and then integrating it more with your advertising strategy.
Ben: Yeah, that’s really the confusing thing to me in terms of evaluation for content. Is, you know, for the SEO community we think I created a piece of content, I can evaluate it based on how many clicks Google sent me, how many visitors I use, where does that page rank. But the utility of that piece of content might not actually be in driving organic traffic. It might be that it’s great content for Facebook. And we’re going to pay a ton of advertising budget to promote that piece of content because the conversion rate is outstanding. And as an SEO or the person that suggested that was going to be an interesting piece of content or right credit isn’t always attributed to that. How do you factor in the value of a piece of content from an organic perspective and the value it has across other channels?
John: Sure, so I think all SEOs now they need to have a digital strategy component and I taught analytics at UC San Diego for six years. And one of the things I love to teach inside of that class is multichannel funnel and attribution modeling. So here’s the thing, in any given analytics profile, generally you’re going to see SEO is going to be about 30% to 40% of the breakdown. Paid media is going to be 20% to 30% if you’re going to have referral, direct display and then social traffic that are going to make up the rest of that. And what’s to note is SEO is still generally the biggest piece of the pie there. So you need to be measured on that. But I highly recommend people look up the multichannel funnel report. That’s going to show you how many different touches it takes across all the different sources before conversion happens.
John: And if you’re on the content creation team and you are making stuff that other people are using, you should get some credit for that. Especially if you came up with the idea, you publish the article, you made this great piece of content. And then it turns into a three-touch user path until somebody converts. So I think that’s the way to think about it. And you really need to be integrated nowadays. You cannot not be because the customer journey has changed. It’s not top of funnel, you know, one click you’re in, you’re done. It’s this helix now where people are jumping inside and out. And the role of SEO has never been more important, but it’s mixed now. And SEOs need to understand that.
Ben: So as you think about figuring out the value of your content and what your SEO performance was, how do you think that should dictate what your plans are for the upcoming year?
John: So I have seen huge success in investing in more content. I mean we’re a three time Inc. 5,000 company ourselves. You know, we’ve grown significantly. I work with large businesses often to help them scale. So for me, and a lot of the stuff I talk about in the forecaster method book is how to establish a model just like any business model and then how do you scale it.
John: So if you can determine the return on ad spend for the content for each source and you develop a report on that, he makes a nice easy report inside of a Google Data Studio Dashboard so that you can actually see those numbers. Once you know that it’s just as simple as going to your executive or your team and just showing them, “Look, this is how much you pay for this. If you pay this much more, it’s going to take you to this.” And now for the first time ever, we can do that for digital. So for me, I am investing personally and encouraging clients to invest more in content creation and more in advertising. And when you do those two things together, it works really, really well. And that’s the way to think about it.
Ben: I think my biggest takeaway is that as you think about your SEO and content strategies and you’re evaluating what happened last year, this is not just as simple as, “Okay, what’s the organic traffic value.”
John: It’s not.
Ben: It is not. What’s the content I produced? How did it have any impact on Google? Did it drive a click? What were the impressions? Is there a zero click? And then also what was the value of that piece of content to the other channels. So it really is more of a multitouch attribution tracking exercise than it is just looking at webmaster tools or something like search metrics to figure out what your visibility is. You have to think about multitouch attribution and think about your content and your SEO strategies more broadly.
John: Correct. And I’ll make one last comment on that. I mean one of the things that I really like to do, go into Google Analytics, look at the landing page report, your top landing pages, and then set a secondary dimension for source. And what that’s going to show you is that’s going to show you the different sources that are contributing to the conversions on that landing page. And it’s basically the individual business model for that one landing page.
John: And if you’re in charge of content creation, you want to know those numbers and you want to be able to scale them. And you know, one of the things that we’ve been doing more and more, which I’m so excited about, we call it customer journey mapping. I know that’s general term, but you know, looking at every segment of the website, every template, the conversion rate, the sources and mediums that are hitting them and understanding that whole business model. And when you have that in a snapshot, you can scale and have, you know, much more just credibility. You can ensure that you get to those places you want to go. So SEO is going to be great going into 2020, be excited, and 2021. There’s no question about that. But I think the technology is evolving and people are getting smarter and SEOs need to think about the whole strategy. That’s my main point. So…
Ben: Yeah, and I’ll add that, you know, SEOs are not as siloed as they used to be. It’s not just a separate channel. Advertising and content and SEO and PR, they’re all getting blended together. So not only, evaluate your content, but learn a little bit from the rest of your team. We’re going to talk about that more than this month. John, before we let you go, give me one last little fact about the Forecaster Method book. Sounds like a great resource. Tell the SEO community here a little bit about it and where they can find it.
John: The Forecaster Method is on amazon.com, go check it out. It’s really inexpensive. It’s not a long book, it’s an hour read. I did that on purpose. It starts slow and then it ends super, super advanced. And it’s going to really give you the tools that I’ve used for a long time to scale businesses online, digitally. And there’s a pretty good component of SEO in there, but it’s really everything. So I really hope you enjoy it. If you do, do me a solid leave me a review. I’m not making tons of money off the book, just looking to add value to people. So…
Ben: I appreciate it. Ordering my copyright now, looking like $5.99 as we stand today, paperback, great picture of our buddy John on the front. John, thanks for coming on back to the Voices of Search Podcast and for being our guest.
John: Yeah, thanks for having me. See you soon. Bye.
Ben: All right, that wraps up this episode and the Voices of Search podcast. Thanks for listening to my conversation with John Lincoln, the cofounder and CEO of Ignite Visibility and the author of the book, The Forecaster Method. We’d love to continue this conversation with you, so if you’re interested in contacting John, you can find the link to his LinkedIn profile in our show notes. You can send him a tweet where his Twitter handle is John E. Lincoln, J-O-H-N-E-L-I-N-C-O-L-N. Or you can visit his company’s website, which is ignitevisibility.com. And of course look for his book on Amazon. It is The Forecaster Method.
Ben: And if you have general marketing questions or if you’d like to talk to me about this podcast, or if you’re interested in being a guest on the Voices of Search Podcast, you can shoot me a tweet @BenJShap, B-E-N-J-S-H-A-P. And if you’re interested in learning about how to use search data to boost your organic traffic online visibility, or to gain competitive insights, head over to searchmetrics.com/freetrial for your free trial of their SEO suite and content experience software. And if you like 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 in your feed soon with more SEO tips. All right, that’s it for today, but until next time, remember, the answers are always in the data.