Important Key Performance Indicators for SEO

Tracking success in SEO depends on certain performance indicators. If you’re not sure what you should be tracking to ensure your marketing efforts are taking you in the right direction, review these KPIs and start tracking them this month.

Success online depends on how well you are optimizing your website and marketing your brand off-site. Times have changed, so have key performance indicators for SEO, and it’s no longer easy to rank a website for whatever keywords you believe people are searching for on Google. A lot goes into the process, and because there is an extensive process, you need to find a way to track the results of it to see if what you’re doing is successful. Here are the new, important KPIs.

How to Track SEO Success

Tracking success in SEO depends on certain performance indicators. If you’re not sure what you should be tracking to ensure your marketing efforts are taking you in the right direction, review these KPIs and start tracking them this month.

KPI 1: Traffic

The first KPI to monitor your SEO is website traffic from organic search. To track this KPI, use Google Analytics. Analytics is free and easy to install on nearly every website platform. Once installed, go to the “Channels” report within the “Acquisition” section. By default, the Channels report will show you how much traffic is coming from organic search (AKA, your SEO traffic).

KPI 2: Leads

The next KPI you should track is leads from organic search. Conversions are obviously your goal, so knowing how many leads you’re generating is critical for monitoring your SEO performance.

To measure leads, you’ll need to set up “Google Analytics Goals.” A Goal can be a website form submission (ex: a quote request, a demo request, appointment request, etc.) or a phone call. Tracking phone calls within Analytics requires a phone call tracking tool, like Dialogtech or Convirza.

KPI 3: Rankings

The third KPI is your keyword rankings. Contrary to popular belief, ranking your website high in the search engines is not the No. 1 goal of search engine optimization. The No. 1 goal is to drive more leads and sales, which is why traffic and leads are the first two KPIs listed above.

Of course, keyword rankings are important, and you want to monitor trends to spot opportunities to drive more traffic and leads or to spot potential problems that could decrease your traffic and leads.

To track your keyword rankings, use a paid tool, such as RankRanger and/or a free tool like Google Analytics. By default Google Analytics, does not show keyword rankings until you connect your account to “Search Console.”

KPI 4: Website Bounce Rate

Website bounce rate is the percentage of people who visit the site and then leave without visiting another page. A high bounce rate indicates that visitors couldn’t find what they were looking for when they clicked through to your site. A low bounce rate means that visitors found something on the page they were interested in, and then navigated to other pages of the site.

Bounce rate has a lot to do with conversions. Many times, a page with a low bounce rate has a high percentage of conversions. In other words, people who visit the page are interested in the content and because of that, they act on it. When the bounce rate is high, conversions are lower, because the people going to it are not interested in the content.

Paying attention to bounce rate helps you know how well you’re targeting the right audience. If you see that a particular page has a high bounce rate from Google Search, then your message is not matching the market. Adjusting that content to better match the intent of the searcher will not only reduce the bounce rate; but in turn, you’ll improve the rankings and leads!

Stop Stabbing in the Dark and Track KPIs for Success

If you don’t track your KPIs, you’re simply stabbing in the dark when trying to be successful with your SEO. Start tracking your SEO traffic, leads, rankings, and bounce rate, and then adjust your marketing plan based on the results. When you do this, you’ll likely end up seeing much more success.

Want more tips on improving your SEO? Grab a copy of our “Ultimate SEO Checklist.” (Link requires email registration.)

B2B Marketing ROI — Focus on Quality Over Quantity

The efficacy of B2B marketing can be notoriously hard to measure. Due to long sales cycles and channel conflicts, most B2B marketers are underestimating the ROI of their campaigns. In an effort to improve ROI, B2B marketers often fall into the trap of measuring quantity over quality. Here are three things that B2B marketers are regularly doing but should stop.

The efficacy of B2B marketing can be notoriously hard to measure. Due to long sales cycles and channel conflicts, most B2B marketers are underestimating the ROI of their campaigns. In an effort to improve ROI, B2B marketers often fall into the trap of measuring quantity over quality. Here are three things that B2B marketers are regularly doing but should stop.

  1. Stop Making Sales Conversion Your Only Marker of Success. Yes, sales conversion is a very critical metric, but it is notorious for getting diluted or lost in a long sales cycle. Examples of this include: credit for a sale being split along multiple marketing and non-marketing touchpoints or the sales department wants full credit for the sale. The latter happens because five years back, the customer had briefly talked to a sales agent — and marketing gets no credit. As a result, marketers should have multiple conversion metrics (aside from sales) which are within the marketer’s sphere of influence. Examples include: white paper downloads, social sharing of content or mail list sign-ups.
  2. Stop Assigning Click Volume as a KPI. Yes, it is a performance indicator; however, it is not a KEY performance indicator for most B2B campaigns. First, let’s get past the fact that a clickthrough can be unintentional, click-baited or a bot. None of those clicks will have any value and baited clicks usually have negative value. However, even legitimate clicks tell you nothing about why the prospects are there and their level of engagement or sales disposition, which are the real metrics in B2B sales. Instead, focus where those clicks lead to macro-conversion activities, such as downloads or contact information shares. These post-click activities tell you much more about the level of engagement with site visitors, the types of prospects you are attracting and the relevance of your content.
  3. Finally, Stop Cold-Selling Through Digital Channels. As a B2B customer, if I don’t know you and you have not come recommended by someone, why would I take the time to learn about your company? Unless you have a very unique product that addresses an acute need and you catch me at the right moment, I am simply not going to “click here to learn more.” In my experience, these campaigns are full of low-quality clicks. Jeff Molander’s recent post “Ditch the Call to Action in Your Cold Email Strategy” provides a great discussion on why you should be aware of selfish calls to action. Aside from just being ineffective, these communications can also place your email campaigns on blacklists and hurt your overall brand.

A healthy B2B measurement program begins during the campaign planning stages. I often recommend the clients think about the digital sales development journey and how they want to develop sales opportunities. When thinking about content, I suggest that they don’t simply focus on sales conversion, but also think about content that helps prospects develop a relationship with their company. Finally, I ask them to think about measuring immediate content’s effectiveness. Tracking shares, mail list signups and other engagement activities help you understand prospect intent and confirm marketing effectiveness faster than waiting for the eventual sale.

Building Brand Trust Through Trusted Advocates

Nothing builds trust like a third-party endorsement; especially an endorsement from someone the consumer knows and trusts. Brand advocates extend your brand to their personal networks, generating more inherent trust among prospects. Customer advocacy and brand advocacy programs are interchangeable terms describing when companies cultivate brand advocates in a dedicated effort.

customeradvocacyNothing builds trust like a third-party endorsement — especially an endorsement from someone the consumer knows and trusts. Brand advocates extend your brand to their personal networks, generating more inherent trust among prospects. Customer advocacy, or brand advocacy, occurs when companies cultivate brand advocates in a dedicated effort.

A customer advocacy program aims to build consumer trust by increasing the volume of trusted voices on behalf of the brand. Brand advocates are most likely to be your customers or employees, but they could also be analysts, partners, writers or others involved with your industry, category, company, or products and services.

While advocates can appear naturally and organically, a successful customer advocacy program requires the structure, funding, time and talent to find, recruit and nurture these valued relationships. The program must meet the needs of both new and long-time advocates, from various locations, across target populations, in different channels, with different motivations and different response triggers.

It may seem like a monumental amount of work, but it will be worth it. All evidence suggests that quality personal recommendations and objective reviews highly impact buying decisions. And the results are even more exaggerated in decisions regarding technology, high-ticket items and B-to-B.

As consumers become less reachable through traditional advertising methods, a customer advocacy strategy becomes a necessity. The crux of a consumer advocacy program is finding the right advocates to engage in strategic brand conversations. These advocates may have a lot of followers and influence, or they may serve a niche audience. Most importantly, you want them to have passion and knowledge of your subject area and relevant topics to assure credibility. These advocates are often found on social media, but can also be gleaned from customer email lists and other channels.

Dedicate social listening and other research efforts to look for those with digital influence, quality content and brand affinity. You want them to already have a platform that you can enhance with product trials or betas, special access to company leadership, partnership opportunities and special offers for their followers. But reward their brand participation only through a completely transparent relationship, so as to protect the your public integrity and trust.

A brand with a customer advocacy mindset thinks of their advocates as more than opportunistic sources of content, leads or sales. Smart brands cultivate customer advocates as precious resources that create credibility and positive sentiment, reaching into and influencing populations the brand can’t touch as effectively itself. If a brand is authentic and responsive to these advocates, the relationship can start dialogue that returns immediate value.

The brand derives value from customer advocacy in numerous ways, including:

  • Frank feedback from knowledgeable and objective resources.
  • Reviews and testimonials that ring honestly to broad audiences.
  • Increased referral rates.
  • Humanization of the organization or brand.
  • An empowered staff.
  • Personalization of the customer experience.
  • Development of third-party resources, knowledge bases and assets.
  • Increased positive brand sentiment.
  • Increased overall awareness, share-of-voice and influence in your industry.
  • Increased leads and sales.

Tracking the value of an advocacy program requires the same strategic approach as other marketing program analytics. Start by crafting a goal statement that outlines specific, quantifiable objectives and then benchmark the appropriate KPIs. Regularly track and report against goals to keep the program performance on target, and to understand the relative value of different advocates. Look for impacts on business outcomes, not just measures of activity, to draw a straight line between this critical effort and your strategic business goals.

It is likely that your program analytics will identify some assets and channels that have more activity than others. Share these great stories and numbers with your team to develop key insights about your audiences and inform content planning across the organization.

Many organizations are investing in some of the activities that define a customer advocacy program but have yet to combine the elements into a cohesive plan under dedicated leadership with appropriate goals and funding. Plant the seeds for a true customer advocacy program by following these few key rules for advocacy within your organization:

  1. Earn Trust: Brand trust is essential to advocacy success. Organizations or brands challenged by scandal or disappointed customers should reform their business practices before attempting to encourage word-of-mouth marketing.
  2. Show Empathy: Understanding and communicating an emotional brand message will resonate with audiences in a way that other messaging approaches cannot.
  3. Focus on Quality: You don’t need the biggest network of advocates — you need the most impactful.
  4. Think Long Term: You will need to dedicate resources and incorporate advocacy activity into strategic planning.

Want to know more about building an effective customer advocacy program? View our free, one-hour webinar on the topic with audience Q&A, available here until 3/2/2017.

Customer Value: Narrowcasting vs. Broadcasting

The traditional model for customer acquisition has essentially been a broadcast approach, reaching a large audience generally descriptive of the customer base. Contrast this with what is sometimes described as “narrowcasting.”

Virtually every brand we’ve met with in the last few months is hungry for new customers: The war for the customer is on. For more on growing your customer base, consider reading “Bigger is Better: How to Scale Up Customer Acquisition Smarter,” which is an article we published recently about how to grow your customer base.

Many organizations are hooked on customer acquisition. That is, in order to hit sales plans for the organization, new customers will be required in large numbers. It’s about as easy to kick the “acquisition addiction” as it is to kick any other for most brands. Try going without coffee suddenly, and see how your head feels. It’s not very different from reducing a business’s dependence on customer acquisition as a means to achieving revenue and profit targets.

Organizations that need ever larger numbers of new customers to achieve growth goals eventually will find the cost of acquiring incremental net new customers can become prohibitive.

Broadcast vs. Narrowcast
The traditional model for advertising and customer acquisition has essentially been a broadcast approach, reaching a large audience that is generally descriptive of the customer who a brand believes to be a fit. Contrast this with what is sometimes described as a “narrowcasting” strategy. Narrowcasting uses customer intelligence to understand a great number of discrete dimensions that a consumer possesses and can leverage statistical methods to validate the accuracy and predictiveness of targeting customers through these methods.

The chart below, depicting the value of customers acquired through traditional broadcast capabilities upfront and over time helps illustrate why “broadcast” strategies for customer acquisition alone aren’t enough.

Research for Mike Ferranti blog

Broadcast Acquisition Strategies Lack Focus on Customer Value
Large numbers of customers have been acquired in a trailing 13-month window – lots of them. The challenge is this cohort of customers has been acquired without adequate consideration of the right target.

Consider the fact that the target customer value of average or better customers is around $500. In the example above, the marketer has acquired a large number of customers who are lagging in their economic contribution to the business. While the customer acquisition metrics may look good, this was a large campaign and produced several hundreds of thousands of customers over its duration – the average value of those customers is quite low indeed.

Low Customer Value Manifests Itself, Even if Acquisition Volume Is High
When sales targets are rising, it becomes harder to justify the high cost of customer acquisition if the customers previously acquired are underperforming. This leads to a very common bind marketers are placed in. The only way to “make the number” is to acquire more and more.

The most competitive and high quality businesses steadily acquire and have a robust customer base whose economic contribution is materially higher. Consequently, profits are higher, and we have a fundamentally better business.

Oftentimes, “broadcast” advertising approaches define the target with a single criteria like age, income or geography. This can be effective, especially when the media is bought at a good value. However, “effective” is almost always defined as “number of customers acquired.” This of course is a reasonable way to judge the performance of the marketing – at least by traditional standards.

There is another way to measure the success of the campaign that is only just beginning to be understood by many traditional “broadcast” marketers: customer value. The chart above shows that this cohort of acquired customers had relatively low economic value.

Root Causes of Low Customer Value
What are the causes of low value? It would be fair to start with the ongoing marketing and relationship with the customer. Bad service could keep customers from returning. Poor quality could lead to excessive returns. Over-promotion could drive down value. Getting the message and frequency wrong could lead to underperformance of the cohort. These are all viable reasons for lower value that need to be rationally and methodically ruled out prior to looking elsewhere.

Therefore, if operational issues are not clear – either through organizational KPI tracking, or simply by monitoring Twitter — then a marketing professional needs to start looking at three things.

  1. The Target (and Media)
  2. The Offer (and Message)
  3. The Creative

Given the target is historically responsible for up to 70 percent of the success of advertising, this is the first place a professional data-driven marketer would look.

Target Definition Defines the Customer You Acquire, and It Drives Customer Value.
A fact that is often overlooked is that target definition means not just focusing efforts and advertising spent on consumers who are most likely to convert and become customers, but it also defines what kind of customers they have the potential to become.

In conversations with CMOs, we often discuss “the target customer” or the “ideal customer” they wish to introduce their brand to. The descriptions of course vary by the brand and the product. Those target definitions are often more qualitative in nature. In fact, only about 30 percent of CMO’s we engage with regularly are focused on using hard data to define their customer base. While these are helpful and create a vocabulary for discussing and defining who the customer is, those primarily qualitative descriptors are often sculpted to align with media descriptors that make targeting “big and simple.”

“While simplifying is good business, when simplicity masks underlying business model challenges, a deeper look will ultimately be required, if not forced on the organization.”

While we would not refute a place for those descriptors of a valued consumer, they do fall short of true target definition. Ideally, the process of defining the customer who a brand wishes to pursue must begin with a thorough inventory of the customers it already has, and a substantial enhancement of those customer records which provides vibrant metrics on affluence, age, ethnographic, urbanicity, purchasing behaviors, credit history, geo- and demo-graphics, net worth, income, online purchasing, offline purchasing and potentially a great deal more.