There has been a lot of thought-provoking debate and discussion of late, (both here and elsewhere) around the issue of the importance and validity of keyword ranking as a sole measure of success in search engine optimisation. As personalised search is now default for Google users, rank variations and swings can be witnessed first-hand by anyone trying a few searches; interacting with certain results, rinse and repeat. Whilst I personally, think that rank checking; (providing clients are informed and educated as to the individual and variable effects of personalised search) is still a fundamental benchmark for SEO campaign effectiveness, I thought it might be useful to mention some other complementary measurements. 1. Traffic. Whilst extremely obvious, let’s not lose sight of the fact that this is an industry (like every other) with its cowboys. If you have ever had a client come to you with tales of woe, about an SEO company who got them to position one on a set of generic “informational” keywords whilst their overall traffic and conversions bombed; then you know what I’m talking about. Don’t forget your seasonality research and do set some client expectations. It would be unreasonable to expect great volume increases if you started work on say, a Ski-resort in Scotland about this time of year. This is where share of voice comes in. 2. Share of Voice Share of voice is a traditional marketing term, used to describe a brand or product share of market or inventory available. As an example if there are 1000 total pages of display advertising available in the luxury women’s monthly magazines; and Vogue has 30 pages booked, then that brand has a 3% share of voice in that space for that month. In search terms, you can use Google Keyword Tool volume data to establish total search volume for your market and term (that’s your voice) and now with the impression data in Webmaster Tools you have a clear indicator of your share of that ‘voice’. It is useful to look at share of voice particularly during off-peak times with seasonal products and sites. When traffic/demand is naturally declining off-season; if your rank and share of voice is improving, you are clearly improving search performance and setting a great foundation for peak season. 3. CTR Click through rate, is a very familiar metric for any search professional and is the rate (expressed as a percentage) of clicks to your site, when it appears in results i.e. clicks, divided by search impressions. As the main point of search engine optimisation is to increase web traffic, it makes sense that improving CTR is an integral part of an SEO strategy. You can work to increase organic search CTR, by increasing the number of types of result per query, (using universal search types such as news, local, etc.) optimising meta-descriptions, taking advantage of Microformats and RDFa for Google Rich Snippets and Yahoo! Search Monkey. I wrote a fairly detailed piece on this over at Econsultancy, if you want to know more. Given that CTR data is now available in Webmaster Tools, it is even easier to measure the uplift and effectiveness of CTR work. As a percentage- rate value, improving CTR can be extremely effective particularly on high volume terms as any paid search professional knows. To illustrate; if CTR on a 75,000 impression volume term is 2% and improvement work increases this to 4% that is a gain of 1500 clicks. Let’s imagine this is on a term that would have CPC value of say, 50p; then that’s £750 worth of extra traffic. Of course, paid search traffic and organic traffic are not exact like-for-likes, but it is useful to have some comparative worth in mind – though perhaps not in a client report. Finally; whilst traffic is an absolute measure, share of voice and CTR are derivative values of multiple component measures, all of which are ultimately governed by rank. Regardless of how little or much control we have over this as search evolves, aggregate rank and effect still matter.
Nichola Stott is owner and co-founder of theMediaFlow; online revenue optimisation and audience services (including SEO, SEM and SMM). Prior to founding theMediaFlow, Nichola spent four years at Yahoo! as head of UK commercial search partners.
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