In order to optimize your SEO results, it’s important to measure the impact of your efforts on web site traffic and lead/sales generation. Google Webmaster Tools can give you important insight into how your site is functioning and identify potential errors you should correct. An analytics tool such as Google’s Universal Analytics is helpful for measuring changes in search traffic as well as tracking visitors interactions with your web site that are a direct result of SEO. Marketing automation tools and call tracking tools can help you tie leads and sales back to SEO.
Most businesses are aware that the search engines can drive massive traffic to their web properties. Not just any traffic, but traffic that actually converts into leads and sales. Even though there are other ways to gain online exposure, Google still leads the pack when it comes to helping you get the best bang for your marketing buck. This is mainly due to its huge user base and market share.
The advantage of paid search is that you can have your website listed on the first pages in a prominent spot on Google and other search engines. However, showing up is only part of the process. You need to create an ad that not only leads to clicks, but to sales or whatever result you're looking for. If you don't know what you're doing, it's possible to write an ad that people are drawn to and click on, however, you don't make sales. Since you pay per click, and clicks can add up quickly, you can lose money.
Additionally, there are many situations where PPC (a component of SEM) makes more sense than SEO. For example, if you are first launching a site and you want immediate visibility, it is a good idea to create a PPC campaign because it takes less time than SEO, but it would be unwise to strictly work with PPC and not even touch search engine optimization.
Kristine Schachinger has 17 years digital experience including a focus on website design and implementation, accessibility standards and all aspects of website visibility involving SEO, social media and strategic planning. She additionally specializes in site health auditing, site forensics, technical SEO and site recovery planning especially when involving Google algorithms such as Penguin and Panda. Her seventeen years in design and development and eight years in online marketing give her a depth and breadth of understanding that comes from a broad exposure to not only digital marketing, but the complete product lifecycle along with the underlying technology and processes. She is a well known speaker, author and can be found on LinkedIn, Google+ and Twitter.
That said, ground-up marketing works because it’s work. There’s no substitute for careful attention to your website’s content and careful curation of your business’s social media presence. Paid ads can be an effective tool within a high-budget marketing strategy, but if the consumer arrives at your website and doesn’t find what they’re looking for, how is that investment working for you? It’s not. If a sponsored tweet draws them in but a discrepancy in expectation chases them away, what’s the benefit there? It’s absent. Organic marketing is a long process, but ultimately it will yield more authentic customer engagement and more accurate SEO.
There is absolutely no reason why your on-page optimization should not be perfect. It can mean the different between your website showing up on page three of the search results and your website being the top listing. We encounter so many local businesses that simply ignore their on-page optimization (or the prior SEO company didn’t optimize correctly).
SEO may generate an adequate return on investment. However, search engines are not paid for organic search traffic, their algorithms change, and there are no guarantees of continued referrals. Due to this lack of guarantees and certainty, a business that relies heavily on search engine traffic can suffer major losses if the search engines stop sending visitors. Search engines can change their algorithms, impacting a website's placement, possibly resulting in a serious loss of traffic. According to Google's CEO, Eric Schmidt, in 2010, Google made over 500 algorithm changes – almost 1.5 per day. It is considered wise business practice for website operators to liberate themselves from dependence on search engine traffic. In addition to accessibility in terms of web crawlers (addressed above), user web accessibility has become increasingly important for SEO.
The objective of (SEM) is to drive traffic to your website with the intent of converting those visitors into customers. With SEM, it is important to have your business site listed near the top of the search engine rankings since very few internet users will actually look at search results beyond the first couple of pages. SEM can be divided into two categories: organic and paid. Both are important.
As pointed out, they are certainly not the same, but it might not be a bad idea to track and report on the direct traffic. If there has been outreach done and the company is mentioned in print with a URL, direct traffic (along with some search traffic on the URL or business name itself) is likely to go up. If your email newsletters are not tagged, they're likely to show up under direct traffic. Depending on your role, some of what you do under the greater SEO/inbound marketing role can show up under the direct traffic.
Some search engines have also reached out to the SEO industry, and are frequent sponsors and guests at SEO conferences, webchats, and seminars. Major search engines provide information and guidelines to help with website optimization. Google has a Sitemaps program to help webmasters learn if Google is having any problems indexing their website and also provides data on Google traffic to the website. Bing Webmaster Tools provides a way for webmasters to submit a sitemap and web feeds, allows users to determine the "crawl rate", and track the web pages index status.
Many page owners think that organic reach (the number of unique individuals who see your post pop up in their news feeds) is enough to make an impact. This was true in the first few years of Facebook but is no longer the case. Facebook, and many other social media networks is truly a pay-to-play network. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn are all on algorithmic feeds, meaning posts are shown to the user based on past behavior and preferences instead of in chronological order. Organic posts from your Facebook page only reach about 2% of your followers, and that number is dropping. Facebook recently announced that, in order to correct a past metrics error, it is changing the way it reports viewable impressions, and organic reach will be 20% lower on average when this change takes effect.
An organic marketing strategy generates traffic to your business naturally over time, rather than using paid advertising or sponsored posts. Anything you don’t spend money on directly – blog posts, case studies, guest posts, unpaid tweets and Facebook updates – falls under the umbrella of organic marketing. That email blast you just sent out? Yup, that’s organic. So is that user-generated content campaign you just launched.
Optimization techniques are highly tuned to the dominant search engines in the target market. The search engines' market shares vary from market to market, as does competition. In 2003, Danny Sullivan stated that Google represented about 75% of all searches. In markets outside the United States, Google's share is often larger, and Google remains the dominant search engine worldwide as of 2007. As of 2006, Google had an 85–90% market share in Germany. While there were hundreds of SEO firms in the US at that time, there were only about five in Germany. As of June 2008, the marketshare of Google in the UK was close to 90% according to Hitwise. That market share is achieved in a number of countries.
Paid search advertising focuses on investing in the right types of ads to achieve prominent positions on search engine results pages and drive traffic to the site. Well optimized search ads can sometimes achieve higher positions than organic search results, while others might be displayed on the right side of the browser page. The success of paid search campaign rests on targeting the right keywords and selecting optimal advertising channels.
Beyond organic and direct traffic, you must understand the difference between all of your traffic sources and how traffic is classified. Most web analytics platforms, like Google Analytics, utilize an algorithm and flow chart based on the referring website or parameters set within the URL that determine the source of traffic. Here is a breakdown of all sources: