Scoring SEO Efforts Realistically

What do you put in a progress report to an SEO customer? This article will look at what "not" to worry about too much and what to consider as indices of a good SEO program. It also gives an estimated time frame and a sketch of how to outline it to a customer (or to yourself if you are a DIY person).

Scoring your SEO efforts can help for a number of reasons. If you can "grade" yourself adequately when it comes to SEO efforts, you can charge on a performance basis. You can also know when to drop a project you are not succeeding in and honestly tell the customer to get someone else to work on the project.

Working as a solo SEO practitioner, or even as an SEO analyst in a large company, can be a confusing experience. Being so dependent on the SERPs makes search engine marketing seem vague and nebulous, and sometimes you feel like you are boxing with shadows. With web development or programming there are few external variables (except management and acts of God) and with SEO the search engines themselves are pretty much the external variable. Many things can throw off your scoring, so we will have a list of things to pay attention to and what not to pay attention to. First we will have what not to pay attention to.

SEO Target Marketing

There is a special style of SEO that is "goal oriented." I ran into a site that offers tips on metrics to watch. The metrics include tips on the user side and on the keyword research side.

Keyword Research

  • Identify the keywords your customers are actually using to find sites like yours – not just the ones you think they might use.

  • Optimize your web site to achieve the business goals you want to achieve.

  • Monitor the best keywords for your web site, which change over time.

  • Monitor your site’s performance to ensure you aren’t missing out on any business.

  • Identify specific ways you can increase your site’s performance.

  • How many new visitors come to your site every day?

  • How many of those visitors become customers?

  • How do visitors find your web site?

  • How can you drive highly qualified traffic to your web site?

{mospagebreak title=Google Page Rank}

First off, there is great thread on SEO Chat for Google PR right here. It makes the entire Google PR system more or less irrelevant (but few people read it so the Google PR thread still gets tons of hits). I read it once and I stopped worrying about Google PR. I will give the whole post by djstreet a quick rundown and then offer a time when I thought PR actually gave me information. I was actually quite uninformed. Then i will look at other things about PageRank.

The visible PageRank on the Google toolbar IS NOT the website’s PageRank as of that moment! That’s a big deal isn’t it? SEO practitioners (and the endless rank and file of management and customers) have turned PageRank gazing into navel gazing for Internet marketers. The "visible green toolbar" is a loose representation of the real PageRank.

The real PageRank value of your site is extremely important. You can calculate it, but you can’t be sure of the exact value (the equation used to calculate it is here, but it may have been changed). The "visible green toolbar" is updated quarterly, so don’t worry too much about that value. Just do the best to get your PageRank up and you can come back and check in three months.

The problem is that in three months you should have some quantifier that is able to represent how much progress you have made in your search engine marketing, but that indicator may not be PageRank. Even after being renewed, PageRank is good for telling you how good your quality linking is — or how bad it is.

I would love to do an article on PageRank, since it does tell you exactly how Google rates your incoming links. But it should factor in what happens when you are link trading, since it calculates all your incoming links and all your inward links and gives you a score. The problem is that it is not known how that score converts to the green toolbar. 

A brand new site getting linked to by two PR8 or higher sites will increase the new site’s PageRank, but I cannot say exactly "how" it will help you climb up the SERPs. That’s your "actual" PageRank value, not the value the green tool gives. The PageRank tool is confusing and cannot be used as a definite indicator of what is going on in the site. It cannot be used to score your SEO realistically. If it can be interpreted properly, then it can be used as a definite indicator.

{mospagebreak title=Define Search, And Search Objectives}

The very first thing that you need to do is set up scoring objectives. That starts with being sure about what kind of search marketing you are doing. Is it paid search or organic search? Paid search allows you to base your campaign on your advertising income. You get instant results based on your bidding for keywords.

With paid search, conversion of hits can be counted and traffic can be enumerated, since it is a pay-per-click version. Lead conversion in relation to traffic is easily viewed and really, this is the easiest form of search marketing to score. You bid on keywords and see if the traffic comes in. If it doesn’t, you change your keywords. This is a simplistic view of it, but it’s basically what happens.

This write up is going to concentrate on natural search methods. But as a quick suggestion: if you want your scoring easy, stick with paid search. It’s easy to know exactly in what direction your SEO campaign is going and there are visual aids and graphs that make it easy to communicate with your team.

But when it comes to natural search marketing, targets have to be strictly defined and (hopefully) adhered to. The first thing to be defined are the keywords for which you will optimize, since only a few keywords can be optimized in an organic SEO campaign.  After deciding what keywords will compete for you, set time and traffic targets.

According to a white paper by Apogee here on SEO Chat, "SEO efforts must be tied to the specific goals of the website. If a web site’s purpose is to generate leads, those leads must be able to be tied back to the specific key phrase and search engine. Similarly, if a web site’s purpose is to generate sales directly, the sales (and their value) must be able to be tied back to the organic listing from which they came." Apogee is simply saying that SEO targets must be directly related to the website’s marketing targets.

Defining Targets

A definite time, a definite traffic density, and a specific action taken by a specific number should all be part of the defined target. For example, an e-commerce site will not just need traffic; the conversion rates determine the success of such sites. No matter how much traffic an e-commerce site gets, if there are no sales, the site will fail. The targets (predefined) will have to tie in with the specifics of the website’s marketing plan.

{mospagebreak title=Getting Hits} 

Page Hits

The hits each page in a site get should be the first indicator of how the SEO campaign is doing. Even in a highly competitive sector (a tech site or an online pharmacy site), defining and attaining traffic targets should be a clear indicator of progress. An illustration of a target description could be "twenty thousand page views a month starting on so-and-so date."

By the time keyword research is done, you will know how many searches are being made for particular terms. And with a first page or top 3 ranking, an idea can be obtained of how much traffic can be funneled into your site. This sounds relatively fuzzy, but for want of a better way to express it, you set a target, then do all you can to achieve it.

Desired Outcome Conversion Rates

A certain amount of your hits must have a desired outcome. Whether it’s buy a product, fill out a form, or perform any other desired action (click on an advertisement or stay on the site for a specified period of time), offers some suggestions about measuring and increasing conversion rates.

  • Increased conversion rates: turn more visitors into customers.

  • Improved results: instead of leaving your site, visitors stay and find the information they want.

  • More return business: draw your customers back to your site with newsletters, special offers, and other campaigns that will dramatically increase your back end sales.

Copy-writing Targets

As a professional, you should set targets that are NOT dependent on the search engines, but are solely dependent on you. One such thing is copy. An illustration is "ten 500-word keyword rich articles a week (or month, or day, or quarter)." Such a flood of content will almost be impossible for search engines to miss. These kinds of targets are yours and are set by you or with your team, so that you can reach marketing targets.

Link Targets

You can also set a target for the amount of inbound links you should get during a specified time frame. Again these are targets that should be discussed within teams. Good luck!

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