Marketers Look To Data And Analytics To Shape The Next Generation Of SEO

By Deena M. Amato-McCoy, Contributing Writer

SEO_MID featureAs marketers look to take SEO beyond keywords and rankings in the major search engines, they are increasingly relying on data and analytics to help optimize their online presence.

Marketers are looking to more robust analytical tools not only monitor organic traffic and top rankings, but also integrate with Google Analytics to deliver daily insight into the top-performing pages and keywords.

Analysis should also become more granular to ensure more targeted content is presented in searches. “Beyond the typical top 10 blue links [search engines return], brands should be looking at results across images, video, news, in-depth articles, instant answer results, and knowledge graphs, among other sources,” said Rand Fishkin, Wizard of Moz.

Fishkin added: “Brands should track thematic sections of web sites; monitor how search visitors perform by Web page and section, and then determine where search lives in their [marketing] funnel.”

Three Tips For SEO Success

As the marketplace continues to evolve, so must SEO strategies. The following tips can help keep marketers on track:

Move Beyond The Basics. Without a clear understanding of how to move beyond rudimentary, tactical SEO processes toward advanced SEO practices, the operation will remain a small piece of the web marketing puzzle. “In general, web marketers still don’t understand the full value of SEO, or prioritize for SEO education,” said Rand Fishkin, Wizard of Moz. “While it’s a long road ahead, over time, it’s my hope that learning about SEO will become a less complex, confusing process.”

Know Your Audience. Rather than create content and hope it resonates with an audience, marketers need to understand their market before creating content. “By developing messages based on client needs, marketers can tweak messages to personalize content,” said Chad Gingrich, SEO Account Manager, Seer Interactive. “Once the content is created, optimizing key words based on audience needs becomes an easier process.”

Look Beyond Individual Steps. SEO success revolves around client navigation and actions online before, during and after search results are presented. Brands should focus on what its audience searches for, why they are searching, what they’re seeking, and how a brand’s results can earn their interest. “By mapping this navigation in its entirety, brands can engineer an SEO strategy that will make a ‘win-win’ scenario a lasting reality,” said Graeme Noseworthy, Senior Director of Marketing at RapidMiner.

SEO is becoming more challenging as the number of channels, including social media, blogs, RSS feeds, videos and mobile, expand. For example, 43% of all smartphone traffic during Q1 2015 originated from searches, according to Branding Brand’s Mobile Commerce Index, a report based on 100 U.S.-based retailers’ mobile sites between January and March 2015. This was a 5% increase from Q4 2014.

“Search is the leading source of traffic to retailers’ smartphone sites,” according to Chris Mason, CEO and Co-founder at Branding Brand. “Retailers need to focus on providing mobile-friendly experiences that not only convert, but can also get found in the first place.”

Today’s marketers are expanding the idea of SEO beyond the traditional search engines to include these new channels, observers noted. “Sometimes, you’re trying to reach a new market — whether across social media, public relations, online content or email,” Fishkin noted, where traditional SEO practices won’t be effective. “Other times, you’re trying to compete in a crowded field with lots of awareness. Brand differentiation is crucial, so SEO must become integrated with web marketing tactics and channels when and where they make sense.”

But as interactive marketing tools evolve, SEO strategies must follow suit. “SEO is not about making a one-time investment, and then you are done,” said Chad Gingrich, SEO Account Manager for Seer Interactive. “A long-term SEO marketing strategy takes time to develop. To improve SEO strategies, brands need to incorporate new practices if they want to get found online.”

However, 53% of companies struggling with how to mine and analyze this robust digital information, according to research from the Direct Marketing Association. Marketers need a new strategy “to convert insights into relevance, and relevance into revenue,” said Graeme Noseworthy, Senior Director of Marketing at RapidMiner.

Going Beyond Google And Bing

To improve SEO efforts, brands need to embrace their presence on unconventional digital sources and integrate these within their SEO strategies, observers noted. Progressive brands are looking beyond the tried-and-true Google or Bing searches. “Companies also need to understand their brand’s relevance on other networks, including Amazon.com and Pinterest, for example,” explained Gingrich. “This is when metrics and benchmarking comes into play.”

While it may have been more of an afterthought in the past, analytics are a prerequisite to remain competitive in the digital marketing world. Conventional web analytics tools may have helped brands understand customers’ online behaviors, interests and actions, but there was not always insight into “the valuable leads, or the results of these search leads,” he noted. “Closed-loop reporting is a must. Analytical tools must tie all resources together so brands can actually see this insight, evaluate how valuable search leads are, and apply these leads to SEO strategies.”

Finally, these efforts can no longer be a siloed operation, and rather integrated within development of brand’s digital content. “Today’s evolving marketer needs to have a wide breadth of knowledge, but now they must be both creatively-qualified and analytics-savvy,” said Noseworthy.

“They have to understand and apply big data analytics as much as they apply consistent colors, fonts and well-written copy,” he added. “Consumers want to find a product, piece of content or tailored solution as quick and easily as possible. This next-generation SEO is changing the nature of marketing talent, and what businesses require to get the job done.”

Brands that are successfully transitioning SEO strategies to more digitally and analytically focused models are broadening their sales funnel, “and ensuring the right customers are finding your brand and [the content] they want, earning you more business,” Fishkin said, who added that “related traffic increases can range between 20% to 2,500%, depending on the site, investments made, and the audience opportunity.”

Between more granular insight into audiences, and their navigation across digital touch points, marketers are in a stronger position to covert this interaction into SEO action that produces more relevant engagement and brand experiences. “Today’s consumer — be it B2C or B2B — demands and expects a high degree of accurate personalization among their user experiences, brand engagements and the products and services they use on a daily basis,” concluded RapidMiner’s Noseworthy. “SEO ensures that consumers find a product, piece of content, or tailored solution as quick and easily as possible, which converts to solid business results and revenue.”