SEO: What Makes Measuring ROI Hard?

The Internet is growing and search engine competition is gradually becoming more cutthroat. So, it is no wonder why search engine optimization (SEO) has really made a name for itself in the past two decades.

What Makes Measuring ROI of SEO Hard?The benefits of SEO can be immeasurable. By that I don’t just mean that you can’t put a price on the benefits, but I also mean that sometimes SEOs have trouble determining the specific value they add to a business. This is especially true when calculating return on investment (ROI).

Today, I discuss why SEOs have difficulty with gauging ROI. A big thank you to Phil Rozek, a specialist in Local SEO and owner of Local Visibility System for providing his own insights and expertise on the topic.

Playing field Is Constantly Shifting

SEO is a long-term investment; and, as is the case with most long-term things, it requires time. “It usually takes months or more to get significant work done and to see the needle move.,” said Rozek. “During that time, the business probably isn’t in stasis.”

Investment opportunities, management changes, new offices, and other internal factors will not only affect the business but will also affect the impact of SEO.

For example, imagine a new marketing campaign is launched and it’s successful. How can you tell exactly the contribution/ROI SEO had on the campaign?

Rozek stated, “Unless you’ve got no other marketing efforts, or you know for a fact they perform horribly, about all you can do is take a rough ‘before-and-after’ picture of how business has been after 6 months, 12 months, etc.”

This is not to mention the impact Google updates have on SEO. In the last month alone, Google made some waves for SEOs with what people are calling the Quality Update. These updates add to the difficulties of measuring SEO progress.

What Makes Measuring ROI of SEO Hard? MultidimensionalSEOs do not work in one-dimension, but a multidimensional galaxy in which several forces are continuously pushing and pulling one another. Sure, SEOs can get a general idea of their influence, but they can’t pinpoint it with absolute certainty.

How Can You Put A Value on That

Some of the metrics SEOs track include rankings, traffic, engagement, time on page, and bounce rate. It’s a good indication for SEOs to see these metrics improving; however, what does that mean for the client and business?

The hope is: if rankings increase, then traffic should increase; and if traffic increases, then (thinking optimistically) engagement will increase, which may lead to conversions and ultimately profit.

Sounds pretty simple right? Wrong.

These metrics, Rozek said, “may give you further Intel and a rough insight into ROI, but precise measurements, they are not.”

Rozek is right. Rankings, traffic, and engagement could all increase, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the client is getting ROI if conversions remain unchanged or decrease. Conversions are one of the easiest ways to measure ROI, but even conversions have their problems.

Conversion Funnel

“The conversion funnel is long, winding, and full of holes.” Rozek said. “Many customers will find you online and sleep on it…or they’re researching you months before they need your services…or you may have great rankings, but when they Google you by name and they see awful reviews.”

What Makes Measuring ROI of SEO Hard? Only so much SEOs can do.Conversions are an important metric in SEO and ROI. However, there is only so much SEOs can do in terms of turning a lead into a conversion. SEOs can’t force people to buy into a clients’ good or services nor can they can guarantee people will like a clients’ product.

That is not to say there is nothing more they can do. They can still help by having a…

SEO Superpower

What does that mean? SEOs should try to be more than just an SEO for their clients. It means there is something not strictly considered SEO that you can bring to the table.

“You need to have at least one superpower,” Rozek advised. “You’re a smoother designer or you’re trilingual or you develop tools or you write words people can’t stop reading or you have a big network of world-class pros.”

It’s as if you are applying to college all over again. What can you do that will add value to the group?

The Good News

Data is on your side. There is no need to panic. If you Google “ROI of SEO,” you will come across many articles with graphs that look like this:

What Makes Measuring ROI of SEO Hard?

Clearly illustrating that SEO can be one of the best returns on investments (ROI) for marketing if done right. So do it right! Put in the time and work. Improve metrics. Go for quality. Add a little something extra. And the payout should naturally ensue.

5 Types of Tools All SEOs Should Be Employing

In analytics, you don’t want to leave any stone unturned. You want to analyze data from every angle in order to determine the best approach going forward.

Last month SEMrush hosted an hour-long chat session where they asked various SEOs from different backgrounds about the tools they use at work. There were a wide range of answers and SEMrush concluded that all the tools could be sorted into at least one of five categories. (Many tools overlapped into two or more categories.)

These categories were:

  • Task managers and scheduling tools (Google)
  • Tools for analytics (Moz and Google Analytics)
  • Tools for data research (Screaming Frog)
  • Social media/content tools (BuzzSumo)
  • Tools for creating visuals (Excel)

It should be a goal for all SEOs to employ at least one tool from each category above so as to analyze their data with as much information as possible at their side. Are you utilizing a tool from each category?

If not, here are some suggestions you may want to consider using:

Google – Task Managers and Scheduling Tools

Not exclusively an SEO thing, but being organized and able to function properly is a key for any company. With Gmail, Google calendar, Google docs, and Google sheets (to name a few), Google offers the tools needed to operate in the business world.

5 Types of Tools All SEOs Should Be Employing

Moz and Google Analytics – Tools for Analytics

If you are an SEO and you’re not already using a tool for analytics, then what are you doing? Check out Moz or Google Analytics (yes, they also have an analytic tool) right away.

5 Types of Tools All SEOs Should Be Employing

Screaming Frog – Tools for Data Research

Manually checking every page on a site for problems would consume a lot of time. Fortunately, there is an SEO tool that makes this process quick and easy. Screaming Frog is an SEO spider that crawls sites and collects data for each page on a given website. It will let you know which pages have errors; redirects; URI issues; duplicate meta titles, meta descriptions,H1, and H2; missing meta titles, meta descriptions,H1, H2, and alt text; and more. Not only does it simplify the audit process, but Screaming Frog also makes it easier to research competing sites.

5 Types of Tools All SEOs Should Be Employing

BuzzSumo – Social Media/Content Tools

How much is a topic being shared? Who is sharing it? Which social media platform is sharing it the most? Where can I find someone to interview for a piece I’m working on? The answer to all these questions is BuzzSumo. But how does this relate to SEO? Well, if a client is producing content that no one is sharing or looking for, then it is going to be difficult for them to get traffic. Additionally, BuzzSumo makes it easy to find “influencers” in a field to talk to, interview, and/or share content with, which can help with link building. BuzzSumo is a valuable tool to teach to content writers.

5 Types of Tools All SEOs Should Be Employing

Excel – Tools for Creating Visuals

Microsoft Excel is not rocket science, but it is a basic digital skill that is practically required to learn for most businesses. Not only can it handle large amounts of data, but it can also turn that data into nearly any visual with a few clicks. Scatter plots. Bar graphs. Pie charts. Heat maps! We all know the importance of visuals and why they go hand-in-hand with analytics. Visuals are just as important to SEO, which is why Excel makes a great tool.

5 Types of Tools All SEOs Should Be Employing

Of course, these are not the only tools that make up each category. Please comment below with which tools you use for SEO.

BrandYourself.com: Representing SEO This Shark Week

BrandYourself.com: Representing SEO This Shark Week

It’s Shark Week! And in honor of that fact, why not write about sharks and SEO. Unfortunately, and this may come as a shock to many of you, but there aren’t exactly many connections between sharks and search engine optimization.

BrandYourself.com: Representing SEO This Shark Week
SEO is not a shark’s natural environment.

Unless you count Shark Tank, a reality TV show on ABC that features entrepreneurs presenting their business ideas to sharks. Not real sharks, but investors who can be greedy as sharks at times.

On an episode earlier this year, a company called BrandYourself appeared on the show. They call themselves a reputation management company.

But as you can see, BrandYourself is really just a SEO for you. The two main things they offer to do are to:

  • Optimize search around a keyword, which happens to be your name.
  • Structure your websites to be search-friendly

Why is reputation management important? Jobs. 78% of recruiters use search engine to look up potential employees before hiring. Therefore, it is to your advantage to have good results on Google search. Let recruiters find the right links, whether that is Facebook, Twitter, a personal website, a blog, etc.

This idea of reputation management online is not a new concept, but there is a reason BrandYourself was offered $2 million for 25% of their company.

Here are my positives and negatives regarding this survivor of the shark tank:

+ FREE: The company provides free services to users, which in itself can be priceless. You can help people find you for free. And for people who require more service, they do have premium and concierge options.

Finding the right you: Suppose my name is James Smith (the most common first and last name in the US). How will BrandYourself help people find me when there are thousands of others with the same name? Yes, this is an extreme example, but it gets the point across. Don’t expect to be the top result.

+ Simple: For people who don’t understand SEO, BrandYourself makes the process to improve your presence on search easy by offering guidance. (*Note: They make the process easy, but actually getting a top rank is hard). Also, you can recommend up to 3 sites (for free) that you would like to be found for and they will help you. And if that’s not convincing enough, BrandYourself says it can help with…

+ “Hiding” websites: If your true purpose for reputation management is to hide something bad from being found on search. BrandYourself will help to push negative pages down on SERPs as it brings the positive pages up.

“Hiding” websites: We’ve all heard our parents say, “Once you post it on the Internet, it’s there forever.” This remains true. BrandYourself doesn’t get rid of the negative stories; they simply remove them from the top results. But like anything on the Internet, it can still comeback to haunt us. To keep these negative stories off for good…

Takes time: This isn’t exactly BrandYourself’s problem, but I feel they should mention it upfront so people will understand it better (as there were a lot of negative reviews regarding this). SEO is not a one-and-done task. It takes time 1) to optimize your websites and 2) for results to occur. Not only that, but Google algorithms change all the time. So just because you’re successfully brand yourself, it could be drastically different in a year.

(SEO does take time and is an on-going process. This is why businesses pay for others to do their SEO work for them. And since there will most likely always be search, there will always be a need for SEO.)

Now for some shark footage!

Skechers: A Model for Rebranding

Skechers: A Model for Rebranding

Over the weekend, Jordan Spieth won the U.S. Open in a tournament that came down to the last shot. In just two years, Spieth has made a name for himself by winning two majors and becoming the #2 golfer in the world at only 21 years old. Strangely enough, ‘Spieth’ was not the golf-related name I was Googling after the tournament finished.

Who was I looking up? Skechers. The shoe company flooded the U.S. Open commercial time with “Golf Tips from Matt Kuchar.” In the commercials, Kuchar would say something like:

Skechers: A Model for Rebranding

“Here are a couple of pointers to improve your drive. First, make sure you are wearing Skechers’ Gogolf shoes–– designed for maximum comfort and stability. Then take a driver from your caddy and hit the ball about 300 yards, dead-center of the fairway. Just do that every time and you’ll be fine out there.”

Humorous, not overly complicated, and effective since I ended up looking through their shoe collection. I never knew Skechers made golf shoes; and, even if I had know, I never would have thought any professionals, especially one who is good, would wear them over the giant brands like Nike and Adidas. The shoes were very modern looking and actually pretty cool. I could see myself wearing them. So well done Skechers.

At the time, I didn’t mean this “well done” at all. In my mind I was really thinking “Well done for getting a sucker like me to search for your product without any intention of buying” and “Well done for getting someone noteworthy to endorse your product even though you have no chance of becoming a major golf shoe brand.

However, I must not have been paying close attention to fashion or marketing because that is exactly what Skechers plans to do in golf and what they have already done elsewhere in the sports footwear market. In May, Skechers became the #2 Brand for U.S. athletic footwear, jumping ahead of Adidas, Asics, and New Balance.

Establishing the Skechers Brand

I had always considered Skechers to be a second-tier shoe company that sold affordable shoes which were never too special because that was what they had been in the 2000s. How then were they able to grow into the second most consumed athletic shoe company in the U.S.? Successful rebranding.

Morgan Stanley analysts have said that Skechers’ improved presence in the market since 2010 can be attributed to a “shift from focusing on knock-offs of popular designs to establishing its own identity as a brand.” Skechers no longer wants to be the second (or third or fourth) choice for shoes. To reach their goal, they developed a branding strategy that included product development, aggressive marketing, and growth.

Recognizing that walking was becoming a bigger trend in the U.S., Skechers focused its rebranding there—creating modern and ‘fashion-casual’ shoes that didn’t look like normal running shoe. To lead their rebranding efforts in 2010, Skechers was able to get celebrity endorsements from Kim Kardashian and Joe Montana. At once, they saw a huge spike in sales.

After seeing their success as a popular walking shoe, Skechers began its campaign to be a causal shoe, running shoe, and—most recently—golf shoe brand. Each time they released a new product, they had a celebrity endorse their product. For golf, it was Matt Kuchar— a top ten ranked golfer. For running, it was Meb Keflezighi— the 2014 Boston Marathon winner. And for casual wear, they had various celebrities including Ringo Starr.

Well Done Skechers

Any company that wants to be the top dog in their respective market cannot have the mindset that what is successful for them today will also be successful for them tomorrow. They need to have a goal. The world is constantly changing and so are consumer preferences—that much is inevitable. Therefore, companies need to know what it is they are trying to do. Skechers didn’t like what they were doing and so they knew they had to change.

Rebranding a company image is never an easy thing to do. Many businesses make the mistake of trying to do too much. Saying your going to make changes and then following through with those changes is hard. It is even harder to make the changes and have successful results. When Skechers was trying to rebrand, they weren’t trying to be on a foot in every sport. They focused on one type and expanded afterwards.

Skechers has a much better idea of what they are trying to accomplish today than they did five years ago. I believe this is why they have been successful and I think other companies should take notes. Make a goal and find some way to accomplish it. And after you have, make another goal. You will be happy with the results.

P.S. I’m hoping Skechers will be focusing on their soccer shoes next because they need changes too.

Skechers: A Model for Rebranding

Unmasking Bounce Rate

Unmasking Bounce Rate

Imagine you are working at a deli and you put a tray of “free samples” out. Every customer that comes up tries a sample and then decides if they want to buy your meats and cheeses or not. If they try the sample and buy something, great; but if not, at least you tried. At the end of the day, you look at the percent of customers who ate a sample but didn’t buy anything. Your goal should be for this percent to be 0. How could you make that happen?

In SEO, there is a very similar situation. Think of the “free samples” as the page a user clicks to from an organic search. If the user then clicks on other links on the page or performs an action, then the user “bought” into the website. If they only viewed the one page and left, then they didn’t “buy” into it. This concept is called bounce rate and it measures the percent of those who only viewed one page.

Why is bounce rate important?

Many businesses consider it to be a success if they can increase the traffic to their website through organic search. But that is just half the battle. The next step is to get a user to explore the site further, which you can determine by looking at the bounce rate.

A low bounce rate means that users care enough about your content that they are clicking for more. The same is not necessarily true for a high bounce rate. If you have a high bounce rate and a high average time on page, then the user was interested in your content but only wanted to look at the one page. However, if bounce rate is high and average time on page is low, then there is a problem because Google factors in time on page for rankings.

In addition to bounce rate being used in Google’s algorithm, it gives SEO something thing to consider when trying to improve engagement on a site. Engagement could include linking to another article on the site, sighing up for a subscription, buying a product, etc. Any thing that would get a user to click.

How can you lower your bounce rate?

Before you get ahead of yourself, it should be understood that no website will obtain a bounce rate of 0%. Most websites won’t even get close. Your goal for bounce rate will depend on the type of site you have.

For example, a blog (such as this) tends have a higher bounce rate on average because a user will read the article and leave because they accomplished what they wanted on the site; whereas, a retail store will tend to have a lower bounce rate because people are looking to buy and will look on a site until they do. The picture below illustrates the average bounce rate for different types of sites. Of course, it is better to be below average.

 Unmasking bounce rate

To lower your bounce rate, follow some of these tips:

  • Know your audience – Who is looking at your site? Make sure any internal link is relevant to something they would want to click on.
  • Be navigable – You want to create an appealing site, but don’t let creativity get in the way of helping a person find what they want on your site. Simplicity can be your ally for getting clicks.
  • Dealing with external links – Having external links on your site is good for link building, but if someone clicks on one and it takes them to another site, it will hurt your bounce rate. Set up your site so that if an external link is clicked on, it will open in a new tab or new window.
  • Increase your website speed – We live in a world where speed is everything. If it takes your page a couple seconds to download, you may have already lost some users and increased your bounce rate in the process. Take some time to boost your website speed.
  • Are you mobile friendly – Similar to speed being essential in today’s world, being mobile friendly is almost more crucial. The number of searches from smartphones is increasing every year. That means half the traffic to your site could be from a phone. If you haven’t already, make your site mobile friendly unless you want users clicking “back.”

Following these tips wouldn’t just lower your bounce rate, it would also make your site more attractive and engaging for users ––metrics Google strongly considers for rankings. Now that you know about bounce rate, create a Google analytic account so you can track it. It is free and can be used to analyze other metrics on your site.

Google Algorithms and: How the Names Reflect the Updates

Google Algorithms and: How the Names Reflect the Updates
Meet the Google algorithms in their natural habitat.

The occupation known as Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is about the same age as me. Unlike me, it has become a common term in many businesses. It’s no mystery why it has really taken off in the last decade. Businesses want to be the “go-to” place for their customer needs; and today, these ‘needs’ are searched for online.

It is up to SEO to help make your website visible. But in the world of SEO, the platform for optimizing is constantly changing thanks to Google algorithms. Understanding what each algorithm is looking for is an essential part to making the first page of Google or the second.

Let’s take a look at a few of the main algorithms.

Panda

Panda, the first of the four algorithm updates up so far, was released in 2011. Unlike the other updates, the Panda update was named after a Google engineer: Navneet Panda. It is him we should thank for the rest of the updates being named after animals also.

The main objective of Panda is content; and if you think of bamboo as content, then the animal is not so different from the algorithm. For the times when a panda is awake, it is consuming and consuming and consuming. It will stay in an area where there is a lot to eat so it will not have to move. So, fill your website with good ‘bamboo’ for the Panda algorithm to digest and it will find it useful. It is as black and white as that.

Penguin

Another animal and algorithm that is black and white, is the Penguin. This little animal needs to bear with its other friends to stay warm in the cold of winter. The bigger the cluster of penguins, the warmer they all will be.

Think of each penguin as a valuable link. The more links, the warmer they will be. However this is only true for penguins. If a polar bear or walrus were to join the cluster, there would be a threat to the whole group. The Penguin algorithm follows the same process. Good links receive an added bonus, whereas unnatural links can hurt you badly.

Hummingbird

Unless you are a major company who can win basic keyword searches, you probably have to get creative with long-tail key phrases that people may search for. The Hummingbird update rewards websites who can be the answer to the question being asked.

If you are a small business, be like a hummingbird when optimizing your website (never thought I would say that). Be “colorful” with the word choice you use for your long-tail keyword.

Pigeon

Did I save the best for last? No. I hate pigeons. They are one of the only birds that don’t migrate (so you see them almost all year round) and they are extremely abundant and noticeable in cities. So I am not happy with the choice of name, but it does suit it well.

The Pigeon algorithm is the most recent Google update and quite important for small businesses. It gives an advantage to local businesses for searches about goods and services. This does not mean that just because you are geographically closer to a customer that they will come see your website on Google. The other algorithms have a much bigger part to play in the SEO process.

Remember: Algorithms are updated regularly

Now that you are familiar with some of the Google algorithms and how they affect rankings, it is important to be on the lookout for the next update. Google has been cranking out changes in the last few years to improve search engine results. Each change affects rankings.

Note: How did I choose a topic to write about? Well through lame association. Last week I wrote about “Game of Thrones” which stars Emilia Clarke who is going to be in “Terminator Genisys” which has an evil company named Skynet and Google is the real life Skynet. Plus Google really influences SEO with all its updates.

A Game of Optimization: 4 Reasons a “Game of Thrones” is Similar to SEO

A Game of Optimization
Sitting on the iron throne is like being the number one rank on Google.

With season 5 of “Game of Thrones” coming to an end soon, it brought to mind how analogous it is to SEO.

A Game of Optimization

In the early stages of SEO, people would trick search engines using techniques like spam and content farming so their websites would rank higher. Then Google came along, reexamined its own search engine process, and began to penalize those who were trying to scheme the system.

Thus began the game. Each new algorithm Google would change the way the rankings were organized. And with each new update, there were winners and losers— just like in George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones. (Except when you play the game of optimization and lose, you do not die, you simply go to page 2 of Google, which is a website’s death.)

Here are the four reasons winning the “Game of Thrones” is like the advice Google recommends for optimizing your website.

Wise Small Council

The small council in “Game of Thrones” is the group of people who give the king sensible advice on how to deal with certain situations. They are not some peasant on the street who knows nothing. They are qualified, thoughtful people who can provide comprehensive counsel. This is no different than what Google claims is the most important factor for SEO: in-depth content. Focus on creating smart content. In our world “Content is King” as long as the small council is knowledgeable.

Trustworthy Alliances

Building alliances is key to obtaining power. But as we have seen in “Game of Thrones,” only the trustworthy alliances have any use. (*cough cough, Red Wedding*). For Google, alliances are links and having as many reliable links from other websites to your page can give you a powerful ranking. A bonus Google has regarding links: the stronger the house aligning with your house (bigger the brand of the source linking to your page), the more power (higher ranking) you will have.

A Leader for the People

A ruler only exists if there are people to rule over. You can’t just go around calling yourself a leader if there is no one behind you. You have to give people a reason to follow you. The best way to do that is by providing something (food, money, intellect, protection from dragons). Be the person other people come to for answers. That is basically what Google says too. A good way to appear on search engines is by providing a service that people want. Help your customers find the information they need.

Long Family Line

Family lines that die out become irrelevant because there is no one to carry on the family name. If only the last remaining descendent had had a child, then more people would be talking about them. This is not something I am saying, it is what Google is saying. Don’t let your content become old and outdated. Give birth to new content every week so readers will continue to be engaged. This will help your ranking.

Just because you are ranking well on Google right now does not mean you will be there tomorrow because when you play the Game of Optimization, you win or you lose.