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An Analytics Nerd’s Guide to Modern SEO Metrics – Brianna Anderson // BEAST Analytics

Episode Overview: Google’s SERP is chock full of different options and with algorithm updates getting published more frequently, acquiring metrics becomes more difficult. Join host Ben as he chats with BEAST Analytics founder Brianna (Brie) Anderson about the essential modern SEO metrics SEOs should focus on to get ahead.

Summary 

  • As zero click, answer boxes and featured snippets rise in prominence SEOs need to examine where keywords fall within search intent to better gauge customer journeys.
  • SEOs beginning partnerships with new clients should start with the highest ROI keywords to generate clear analytics to present to clients in three to six months.
  • High ROI keywords generally have more people click through and convert, which helps SEOs provide value up front with clients.

GUESTS & RESOURCES

Ben:                 Welcome to the Voices of Search podcast. Today we’re going to discuss how to think about SEO analytics and the impact that they have. Joining us today is Brie Anderson, who is the founder of BEAST Analytics, which offers data-driven digital marketing strategy and analytics consulting, audits, workshops and content production services.

Ben:                 She’s also a contributor to well-known SEO publications including Moz and the Search Engine Journal. And today Brie and I are going to talk about an analytic nerd’s guide to modern SEO metrics. Ok. On with the show, here’s my conversation with Brie Anderson, founder of BEAST Analytics. Brie, welcome to the Voices of Search podcast.

Brianna:       Thanks for having me, excited to be here.

Ben:                Excited to have you here, it’s been a crazy time I know that we’ve had to reschedule a few times, life is a little different because, hey, it’s the post-coronavirus era. There’s a lot that’s changing in the world.

Brianna:        Yes.

Ben:                 There’s also a lot that’s changing in terms of how we think about SEO. Tell me a little bit about your practice, your background, and talk to me a little bit about your view on modern SEO metrics.

Brianna:        Ok, so I got started in agency life, right? And I actually started with Google Ads. I told them, “Hey, I saw on their website that they were doing some Google Ads stuff, and I basically just told them, ‘Hey, I’m researching it.’” Which meant that I looked it up right before I called them. And so I learned Google Ads and that morphed into search engine optimization.

Brianna:        And I started finding very quickly that the two things worked together pretty well. And after a lot of time and looking through analytics and things of that nature, I started finding patterns within PPC and SEO and finding the opportunities within those patterns to create better strategies for people. So that’s where the data driven digital marketing comes from, is having the experience from an agency, seeing digital marketing from a bunch of different angles and how they work together in order to create better campaigns.

Ben:                 So talk to me a little bit about what you’ve seen running both types of marketing channels for Google. There’s the performance marketing, the paid side, their AdWords or Google Ads.

Brianna:       Right.

Ben:                And then there’s your SEO. Google has been pretty adamant about saying that your AdWords do not have an impact on your rankings. And you’re seeing that doing both of them at the same time does provide a positive lift. Maybe Google isn’t necessarily having one influence the other, but why the combination of the two actually matter?

Brianna:       Well so Google when they look at your search performance, right? When they are looking at whether or not your website is getting people the answers they need in the quickest way possible, they’re looking at a combination of things, right? Like how many people are coming to your website? How long are they staying on your website? Are they getting that information, right? And it doesn’t really matter where they come from. Whether they’re coming from social media, they’re coming from organic search, or they’re coming from paid search.

Brianna:         If they come to your website and they get the information they need off of a specific query, Google is still taking tally of that and saying, “YUp, they’re actually doing what they’re supposed to do.” So that’s going to influence your organic search rankings, right? It may not be like, “Ok, they’re spending money on this keyword so we have to boost them in the rankings.” That’s not really what it is.

Brianna:         And let’s just get this out there right away. Google does not always tell the whole truth. They want you to know what they want you to know. They hold some of their cards close to their chest and they do that on purpose. Now at the same time, they don’t know everything that impacts their algorithms because they are computer-led just, that’s the nature of an algorithm, but what we do see is if something’s working on search, a really good example of this is if you test headlines on search, right? We have responsive ads now, and you can put tons of headlines in there. If you test those headlines and you can find the combinations that work the best. If you turn around and use those on your organic search listings, they’re going to perform well also. Because a lot of what gets people to click on your listing is that headline and meta-description.

Ben:                 Google has moved closer and closer to make their ads look like organic content. It’s something that they’ve walked a fine line trying to figure out what’s the way that they can make ads perform the best while still somewhat differentiating between the ads and the organic listings. The moral of the story here is that what works for your performance marketing ads that copy, if they look very similar to your organic listings is likely going to work for those organic keywords as well.

Ben:                As we start to think about SEO metrics in general, obviously there’s the overlap and you can get some data from PPC to optimize your search performance, your organic search performance. But times are changing, right? There’s more zero click, answer box, featured snippets, maps, shmaps, raps, a whole bunch of stuff is getting just dropped onto the SERP, right? It’s a cornucopia of nonorganic listings. As you start to think about all the different options that are there on the SERP today, what are the key metrics that you’re looking for to evaluate SEO performance?

Brianna:       I think everything has to go back to the search intent, right? And knowing where each of your keywords fall within the intent. So if you’re a camera brand and you want to show up for the keyword camera, if people look that up, they’re probably not looking to buy a camera right then and there. And so if you have a no click SERP, but it’s still branded, right? That’s going to be of value.

Brianna:      So you can look at things like impressions. Now if the keywords are a little more specific like, how to buy a camera, right? That has a little more intent behind it, or like how to pick out a camera to buy-

Ben:               Or where to buy a camera.

Brianna:      Right, exactly. Those keywords have a lot more intent behind them. So the impression in a no click SERP while it may be beneficial, it’s not as beneficial. Does that make sense?

Ben:               Yeah, I understand the concept of segmenting your keywords to understand what are brand keywords, what are buying keywords and looking at them at different metrics. When you start thinking about evaluating brand SEO, obviously there are impressions, right? There’s where you’re showing up in the search listings, how many times are people just seeing your brand terms. Do you have any rules or guidelines for how you can evaluate whether that actually has a business impact?

Brianna:       Yeah you look at your revenues, right? I think everything comes back to if you’re making money, if you see a lift, so you can’t rely on one metric, right? Or even two, most of the time, you can’t rely on just two metrics. If people click to your website and they spend time on your website, but they don’t buy something still going wrong, or not wrong, but there’s still another part of the journey that we have to get them through. And if we can’t get them through there, there’s still a gap.

Brianna:        So when you look at the lift of your brand visibility through search, right? So let’s say now all of a sudden you’re getting 15,000 impressions instead of 11,000 impressions a month in search. If you overlay that chart with your revenue charts, and you’re looking at past years, obviously you have to take a lot of things into consideration. That’s why I love being an analyst because I can look at so many things at once. You have to put all of those things together and go, “Ok, did we actually get a lift for the extra impressions?” And if you didn’t, then we have to reevaluate and look at different keywords.

Ben:                 So it’s a brave new world for SEOs. Normally SEOs sits somewhere in between the brand team and the performance marketing team. And our metrics are starting to look like that as well where, and maybe there’s the engineering team around there and there’s probably some executives, but moral of the story is there’s the performance marketing angle, the PPC, the paid social, any of your performance marketing efforts are going to be looked at out of direct response basis.

Ben:                Did we get a click? Did that click convert? Did that person buy something? How much revenue was it? Ok, now we have an ROI on that spend. The brand campaigns are totally different. Hey, we did something, there is no click. We just talked about our brand in these places. There is no way to attribute any sense of value, but the business is doing so we get credit for it.

Ben:               And SEO is now somewhere in between where you do get a direct click some of the times, but you don’t get it direct click some of the time. And the problem is all of these things are happening at once. And this is really my problem with thinking about organic search and zero click and all the other widgets that are shown that Google is essentially harvesting everyone’s content and taking credit for themselves on some level.

Ben:              You don’t really know if your brand campaigns are driving that lift. If it’s your organic search that’s driving that lift. If your performance marketing has some sort of a brand lift. How do you advise brands who are starting to think about evaluating SEO as a brand channel to start to understand if it’s actually the SEO or if it’s some of your other marketing efforts that are driving a lift if you’re seeing one?

Brianna:      When I start a strategy with a client, I always start with the highest ROI keywords. I think anyone’s going to do that, right? ROI opportunity keywords. So anything we can make money off of and we can make money off of within the next three to six months, right? That’s where I’m going to start. And you’ll be able to see that in analytics, because those are generally keywords where people are having to click through and then convert from those clicks.

Brianna:       And so you have to prove that value up front, I think, and then you work your way up the funnel. So you start at the bottom and you work your way up the funnel. So you prove the value and then you start working up and saying, ok, well we saw that initial lift and now we’re going to kind of like, we had our lift and now we’re going to plateau and go up slightly.

Brianna:       But at the end of the day, and this is where my strategist hat gets put on. At the end of the day, all of our marketing should be working together. It’s going to take multiple touches to get someone to convert. So you can’t just say, “Well, SEO is the reason that that happened.” If you look through the funnel visualization within Google Analytics or Domo or whatever you use, you’re going to see that most of the time there are multiple touch points.

Brianna:       Even if we think about traditional marketing, they’ve probably seen a billboard and didn’t even notice and then heard something on the radio and something on TV. It’s gotten to that point when we talk about those no-click SERPs and then people watching a video maybe in the SERP, things of that nature. That’s almost like traditional marketing in the sense that we don’t necessarily get to track that as easily. And so I think it’s those two things, right? Proving value up front, and then saying as a strategist, you can’t attribute everything to one specific channel and you shouldn’t expect SEO to work that way either.

Ben:              Yeah, I think that’s why it is advised that SEO is part of your greater marketing mix. And as the SEO community, we really need to start thinking as digital marketers and general marketers to truly evaluate our channel. Gone are the days where we could say, “Ok, here’s what my rankings are, here’s the clicks, here’s the revenue I get credit for.” It’s really a broader focus and SEO is more of a strategy than just a medium of marketing.

Ben:              So I guess the last question that I have for you as we start thinking about the metrics for modern SEO, and we’re saying, hey, you need to understand what your general marketing metrics are. Your brand marketing metrics, direct response is still a very important component to this. How do you think about the direct response metrics that you use to understand what you should be optimizing with your SEO campaigns?

Brianna:     I like that. So another favorite of mine then, is I like to look at the behavior flow. So if you go to strictly organic and then you put in the secondary dimension of keyword-

Ben:              In Google Analytics.

Brianna:     In Google Analytics, this is all in Google Analytics. You can see which keywords are driving people to actually interact with their website and go through it, right? So for me that tells me, I can see intent from that one chart because I can see which pages they’re going to, and if they end up going five pages deep. And sometimes that can be a good thing, sometimes that can be a bad thing, right? That’s what I say when I say you can’t just look at one metric because if you see people go five pages deep that’s great, unless they’re lost, then that’s not great, right? So that’s another one of those things as an SEO, you have to be looking at because you should be concerned about site structure and things of that nature, right?

Brianna:     So for me I always start in that behavior flow and then I go out and go to obviously the number of organic entrances to a page. Then from there the bounce rate, you have to look at time on page, then time on site, and then what pages they go to afterwards. You just have to get the whole picture, right? You can’t just look at the initial, like we got this many clicks.

Brianna:     And you can’t just look at the conversions either, right? So you can set up goals in Google Analytics and it can tell you, “Oh, you got 50 goal completions from this keyword, but that still doesn’t give you the whole story.” Maybe you got 50 completions, but what if you set 7,000 people? That’s not a very good conversion rate. So it’s taking all of that into consideration I think. But those are generally the two views that I look at.

Ben:             Yeah, and it goes back to the original part of the conversation where understanding the intent of the keywords helps dictate whether you’re being successful with the landing pages you’re driving people to. A lot of it has to do with if this is a page that has buying intent, what’s the conversion rate to buy. If it’s an introduction to your brand page, is it getting someone to a product page? And so there’s these micro conversions that you can set up as tracking and Google Analytics or whatever tool that you have that really understands the purpose of each page.

Ben:            So we’re going to talk a little bit more about thinking of analytics and SEO optimization with Brie tomorrow. And that wraps up this episode of the Voices of Search podcast. Thanks for listening to my conversation with Brie Anderson, the founder of BEAST Analytics, we’d to continue the conversation with you, so if you’re interested in contacting Brie, you could find the link to her LinkedIn profile in our show notes. You can contact her on Twitter, her handle is Brie E Anderson, that’s brie_e_anderson, or you can visit her company’s website, which is brieeanderson.com.

Ben:           Just one more link in our show notes to tell you about, if you didn’t have a chance to take notes while you were listening to this podcast, head over to voicesofsearch.com, where we have summaries of all of our episodes, contact information for our guests. You can send us your topic suggestions, your SEO questions. You can even apply to be a guest speaker on the Voices of Search podcast.

Ben:           Of course, you can always reach out on social media. Our handle is voices of search on Twitter, or you can reach out to my personal handle, which has Ben J Shap, B-E-N-J-S-H-A-P. And if you haven’t subscribed yet, and you want a daily stream of SEO and content marketing insights in your podcast feed, in addition to part two of our conversation with Brie Anderson, the founder of BEAST Analytics, we’re going to publish an episode every day during the work week. So hit the subscribe button in your podcast app, and we’ll be back in your feed soon. All right, that’s it for today, but until next time, remember the answers are always in the data.