SEO Tracking 101: What to Track and How to Track It

SEO tracking is a critical component of search engine optimization which will allow you to see which Web pages are doing well and which need an SEO overhaul.

TM0810_searchglobe copyAs you probably already know, tracking is a critical component of search engine optimization (SEO). After all, you cannot possibly know what is working well and what still needs to be tweaked unless you track your results. Watching your trends over time will let you know how your website is performing overall, as well as which Web pages are doing well and which need an SEO overhaul.

Yet, with so much available data out there, it can be tough to know where to focus your tracking. Here are the essential elements that every business owner should track, and how to go about tracking them.

Keyword Rankings
The most obvious way to check your keyword rankings is to simply type your keyword phrases into Google and see what pops up. Unfortunately, your results will be heavily skewed. This is because Google personalizes search results based on previous browsing history. Since you are likely a frequent visitor of your own site, Google will artificially inflate your site’s rankings when you search for your keyword phrases from your own computer.

To get around this, you can use Google Analytics to learn your true, unbiased keyword rankings. Make sure you have an account at www.google.com/analytics and that the relevant code has been added to every page of your website. Also ensure that you have a Search Console (formerly known as Webmaster Tools) account at www.google.com/webmastertools and that the two accounts are linked.

Under Google Analytics’ Acquisition tab, click on Search Engine Optimization and then Queries. This will show you the keywords for which you are currently ranked, along with additional information for each keyword like the number of searches, your average Google ranking for that keyword, and your average click through rate. These numbers are unbiased, so they will not change based on your browsing history.

Search Engine Traffic
Your search engine traffic is all of the organic (non-paid) traffic that visits your website from search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing. Under the Acquisition tab in Google Analytics, click on All Traffic, then Channels, then Organic Search to view your search engine traffic trends.

The precise numbers here are not what’s most important. Instead, look for general trends over the past 6 to 12 months. Do you see a general climb? If so, then you are doing well. If you see a general decline, then your SEO needs attention. Also note any major spikes, whether upward or downward, and see if you can determine the reason for them.

How Much Should You Spend on Google AdWords?

One of the most frequent questions I receive about Google AdWords is, “How much should I be spending on my AdWords campaign?” That’s a great question, and the short answer is, “It depends.”

Editor’s Note: Don’t miss Phil Frost’s upcoming webinar “Old School SEO Is Dead: What you can do to adapt to Google and the new world of search marketing,” live on February 25. Click here to register.

One of the most frequent questions I receive about Google AdWords is, “How much should I be spending on my AdWords campaign?” That’s a great question, and the short answer is, “It depends.” One of the great things about AdWords is that it is highly customizable, allowing you to make the decisions that best fit your business needs. The downside is that it is not easy to see at a glance how best to manage your AdWords budget.

Fortunately, we have developed a formula that allows you to plug in your numbers and calculate a realistic budget. It breaks down into two phases: Testing and ROI.

Phase 1: Testing

When you begin your Google AdWords campaign, you will need to test several ideas to see what works for you and what doesn’t. While some campaigns are profitable right out of the gate, many others are not. Consider your testing phase to be a form of market research, and plan to invest those dollars without the expectation of getting them back.

Before you begin, gather the following information:

  • Target Keywords Cost Per Click (CPC): Google AdWords follows a pay per click (PPC) model. No matter how many times your ad appears, you only pay when a prospect actually clicks on it. For each keyword, you will pay a different amount of money for that click. This is known as the CPC, or cost per click. For example, Google estimates that “coffee shop” costs $2.90 per click, while “mortgage broker” costs $13.76.

Make a list of the keywords that you want to test, and then use the Google AdWords Keyword Planner Tool to estimate the CPC for each of those keywords. Remember that this is just an estimate, so your actual cost may be higher or lower.

  • Time Frame: How long can you spend in the testing phase before you need to see your results? This is partly dependent on your industry and the keywords you choose. Some keywords have a higher search volume than others, making it easier to get results in a shorter time frame. Also consider your normal sales cycle. Do customers tend to purchase in one day, or does it take months for them to make up their minds? The lower your search volume and the longer your sales cycle, the longer it will take for you to obtain accurate data.
  • Sales Conversion Rates: As a general rule of thumb it’s safe to estimate that 1 in 100 people (1 percent) who view an AdWords ad will click on it, and 1 in 100 clicks (1 percent) will convert into a paying customer. These are estimates, and your ads might drive more or less traffic, but they work for planning purposes in the testing phase.

Now you are ready to put together your testing budget:

  • Per Keyword Cost to Test: If you can turn 1 in 100 clicks into a customer, then the estimated cost per sale is the cost per click (CPC) divided by 1 percent. For example, a keyword that costs $3 per click will cost you an estimated $300 for one sale. Go through the same process for each keyword you want to test, and add up the results to get your total budget.
  • Monthly Testing Budget: To generate a per-month Google AdWords budget, divide your total keyword costs to test by the number of months you want to allot to the testing phase. For example, if your total costs calculated earlier are $2,000, then you could budget $500 per month for 4 months. Or if you wanted to test faster, then $1,000 per month for 2 months.

Phase 2: ROI

Once your testing phase is complete, and you have generated a handful of sales from your ads, then it’s time to move into the ROI phase. The goal here is obviously to maximize return on investment from AdWords.

What should your budget be in the ROI phase? If your ads are profitable, then the answer is you should ditch your budget altogether! If every dollar you spend nets you more than a dollar in sales, it only makes sense to invest as many dollars as possible.

While many businesses focus on writing better ads, which improves the AdWords quality score and reduces the cost per click (CPC), that’s only half of the equation. The real magic comes from the EPC, or earnings per click.

To find your EPC, just multiply your customer value times your conversion rate. Your Customer Value is the average amount that one customer spends on your product or service minus your fulfillment costs. Your conversion rate is the percentage of clicks that become paying customers. So if the customer value is $100 and you have a 1 percent conversion rate, your EPC is $1.00.

Why Is EPC so important?

Well, it tells you exactly how much you can afford to pay per click for every single keyword in your account! If you pay more than your EPC, then you’ll be unprofitable. If you pay less, then you’re profitable. It’s as simple as that.

That means the key to AdWords success is to maximize your EPC by increasing both your customer value and your conversion rates.

Google AdWords is a highly customizable and extremely powerful advertising network, but it can be a bit overwhelming for newcomers. That’s why I put together an AdWords checklist to help you get your campaigns set up for success. Click here to get my Google AdWords checklist.

Planning ROI? Turn the Funnel Upside-Down

Many marketers use a funnel to illustrate the progression from prospect to buyer because the narrowing graphic neatly shows the narrowing segments of the sales progression. Most construct the funnel by starting at the top and working their down chronologically through the sales cycle.  They apply projected percentages to each stage, funnel down to a number of buyers, calculate revenue based on average sale, and determine ROI based on promotion costs.

Many marketers use a funnel to illustrate the progression from prospect to buyer because the narrowing graphic neatly shows the narrowing segments of the sales progression. Most construct the funnel by starting at the top and working their down chronologically through the sales cycle. They apply projected percentages to each stage, funnel down to a number of buyers, calculate revenue based on average sale, and determine ROI based on promotion costs.

A different approach to using the funnel starts at the bottom. It has its roots in the tried and true direct response principles of Customer Lifetime Value (LTV) and Allowable Acquisition Cost (AAC). Because these two principles are the components that make up ROI (with LTV as the “R” and AAC as the “I”), the upside-down funnel becomes a useful tool for planning and creating ROI scenarios.

Start with the value of a customer. Set a target ROI and calculate your AAC. For this illustration, let’s assume that a buyer is worth $300 and we set our revenue target ROI at 3:1. This results in an AAC of $100.

See Equation No. 1 in the media player at right.

As you move to the lower portions of the upside down funnel, you apply assumptions about the conversion rates at each stage. For example, if you assume that 30 percent of all qualified leads will convert to buyers, then the Allowable Cost per Qualified Lead is $30.

See Equation No. 2 in the media player at right.

Similarly, you can calculate the Allowable Cost Per Lead, Per Response, and Per Impression all the way to the top of the upside down funnel. So if you estimate that two-thirds of your leads will be qualified, your Allowable Cost per Lead is $20, and so on.

When you reach the bottom of the upside-down funnel, it becomes particularly useful for media planning. You can determine the required response rates from each medium under consideration by:

  1. Dividing the cost of the media by the Allowable Lead Cost to determine the number of leads required from each medium
  2. Dividing the number of leads required by the circulation or number of impressions associated with the medium

For example, see Equation Nos. 3 and 4 in the media player at right.

Then, do a gut check. Is that response rate attainable? Don’t know? Test it. A carefully controlled small test will quantify your assumptions at each point of the upside-down funnel.