Analytics-Driven SEO: A lesson in 4 steps
Ian Lurie Nov 11 2009
I’m speaking at Pubcon tomorrow in the Real-World Content Creation Tactics session. I’m going to focus on how you avoid destroying copy with SEO, and how to do great analytics-centric SEO. If you know me, you know I rehearse, in part, by writing. So here you go – a preview of tomorrow’s talk.
“Write good content, and they will come.”
You’d better have more of a strategy than that. Ian’s Cynical Version of the same rule is:
“Write the right good content, and they’ll eventually show up.”
It’s that critical word – right – that can make or break your Internet marketing efforts. So here’s a formula I’ve used for years to make sure I’m writing what my audience actually wants to read:
Step 1: Figure out what’s got their attention
What’s bringing people to your site, and where do they go when they get there? You can figure it out with analytics.
If you don’t have traffic reports of any kind, bookmark this article. Then go kick your webmaster’s arse, get traffic reporting set up, and come back in about 4 weeks.
- Open your traffic reporting tool. I’m going to use Google Analytics in this example. Pick a date range that will get you a decent chunk of page traffic. Use your gut here – there’s no set ideal number.
- Go to the Top Content Report. This report lists the most popular pages on your site (it might be called ‘Top Pages’ or ‘Most viewed pages’). To find this report in Google Analytics, click ‘Content >> Top Content’.
- Click the most popular page (besides your home page).
- Then list the keywords driving traffic to this page. In Google Analytics, you do that by selecting ‘Entrance Keywords’ from the ‘Analyze’ drop down:
- Take a look at the time on site and exit rate for those keywords. If they’re average or close to average, then they’re probably a good starting point.
You can get a lot fancier with conversions and such, but I’m sticking with the simplest version of this procedure for now.
Step 2: Find your juiciest keywords
Now you have a nice, neat list of keywords that drive traffic to the busiest page on your site:
Copy the top 5-10 terms into a tool like the Google Adwords External Keywords Tool. You can delete any terms that are clearly branded. In this case, I removed ’22 things you don’t know about your customers’, because that’s the article title. I don’t need to optimize for that.
In my case, the best phrase generating traffic is ‘marketing strategies’. If I have a prayer of ranking for it, I need to pursue it:
Now I know: My post is getting traffic from ‘marketing strategies’. It’s decent quality traffic. I want more.
Step 3: Figure out if you have a chance
Can I compete for a top ranking for ‘marketing strategies’? A quick look at the Google rankings tells me I can dream: My home page is actually high on page 2 for the phrase. Click here to see the rankings.
The specific post doesn’t show up in the first five pages. But what the hell. I’m an optimist. Cough. I’ll take a shot at it.
Step 4: Optimize!
Armed with this knowledge, I’m going to do a few things:
- Change the title tag to start with ‘Internet Marketing Strategy’, so I’m a tad more relevant;
- Tweak the first paragraph’s copy a little so that it has the keyphrase in it;
- Build links to the post from other pages on my blog;
- Potentially write more marketing strategy posts and link them to this page, too.
Voila. Analytics-driven SEO.
Analytics-driven means customer-centric
This method is never perfect, of course. Once you make your changes, keep a close eye on how traffic patterns change. I also encourage you to learn more keyword research tools, so you can more thoroughly check on the phrases you select.
The real beauty of this strategy: You’re just doing what your customers tell you to do. Worst case, it should improve the page’s ‘curb appeal’ when visitors arrive.
Related Links and Stuff
- Go read that marketing strategy article I write about in this post.
- Learn your keyword research tools.
- Follow me on Twitter.
- Subscribe to this blog.
- Come see the content tactics session at Pubcon tomorrow. I’ve got pictures of moles. The furry clawed kind. Not the furry face kind.
Ian Lurie is CEO and founder of Portent Inc. He's recorded training for Lynda.com, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Forbes.com and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, SIC and ad:Tech. Follow him on Twitter at portentint. He also just published a book about strategy for services businesses: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle. Read More