The ABCs of SEO and How to Measure Performance

What is SEO?

Firstly the let’s get some acronyms out of the way.

  • SEO = Search Engine Optimisation – optimisation of anything within your website, app or property that you are in control of
  • SEM = Search Engine Marketing – anything related to promotion of your site that you are not directly in control of

Un-geeky version

SEO is about offering solutions to the potential indexation barriers that your website faces.

Geeky Version

Knowing the difference between Canonical, HREFLANG, header responses and redirect paths through to why your parameters are incorrectly configured in Google Search Console. That’s a bitesize version! There are hundreds of potential issues a website can face and that’s even before we begin to consider the hundreds of ranking factors Google tweaks every year. The following image is from 2012. Just the 665 updates pushed live.

Search Engines? Plural? Surely there is only one search engine?

The one that immediately came into your head was Google, never forget that Youtube, Amazon, iTunes, Google Play and now even Facebook all have search engines with engaged audiences looking for your products and services. While Google may be the big boy on the block when it comes to free organic traffic, they are not the only channels to your products and services.

We are all searching across hundreds of different devices from Desktop, Mobiles, Tablets, Gaming Consoles and even smart TVs. All of these offer a completely different search experience, SEO historically would be about targeting specific terms and aiming to be in the first 10 blue links aka the first page of Google’s search results. Those days are long gone, we have blended search results, universal search results, knowledge graphs, local search, personalised search, voice search and now the introduction of “RankBrain” which is a machine learning Artificial Intelligence system. So search results that now teach themselves to be better!

Now add in semantic search and understanding relationships between “things”, entities, people, places. This is what search to an SEO looks like. It’s understanding how our content and services plugs into all of the signals that Google consider “Ranking Factors”, purportedly 200 or so ranking signals, of which Google has only ever held their hands up to a few that they say “may” have an effect on how a site performs in their search results. The rest is down to SEO community and individual testing (Google’s not a fan of us trying to figure them out).

Channels?

Every site acquires traffic from a mixture of channels, as an SEO my concentration is on acquiring traffic from Organic Search but this is still only one route, you can also look to improve website traffic via;

  • Paid Search – think Google Ads, Facebook Ads, LinkedIn ads, remarketing etc. You pay for your visibility
  • Referral – followed a link from one website to another? That’s a referral
  • Email – those guys that love you so much they signed up for your offers and wit
  • Direct – see the address bar up there? Typing a website directly in there or following a bookmark would be considered direct
  • Social – There are a few sites that are considered “social platforms”, twitter, facebook, Google+, Pinterest etc – all social

They all have potential to varying degrees and some work better than others, it completely depends on what your products and services are, but ultimately they all lead to your content and the journey they take through your website and fill out that form or buy that product. This journey can be broken down once again into a simple ABC.

Acquisition

Where is the traffic coming from?

Behaviour

What are my website’s visitors doing when they are absorbing my content?

Conversion

Are they filling out my form, are they buying my products? If not why?

So how do I measure a visitors journey through my website?

You hopefully will have an analytics solution in place within the site measuring all of this for you while you sleep, one of the more popular solutions and one of the easiest to setup is Google Analytics. I have come across large eCommerce websites that had no analytics in place, I am serious, none! There will also be companies that want to charge a fortune to set you up on Google Analytics and add the tracking to your website. Let me let you into a little secret, you can set Google Analytics up yourself and have it within your own site in under 5 minutes.

Within Google Analytics you have the power to understand every page, every click, how long and a 100 thousand other potential variables to visualise through data exactly how visitors are interacting with your site.

All of this is just the very tip of the iceberg in what SEO is and how it can help you and your business grow. There are so many more facets to consider, how about Google Search Console and using all of the search query data that visitors are finding your site with and you are not targeting? Or have you wondered after all of this time why your site just seems to get nowhere and generates very little interest? Many, many questions can be answered by auditing your current site through to how your auto-event tracking is set-up.

All of your data tells a story. It’s powerful stuff!