The sophistication with which companies analyze their natural search visibility and the metrics they use to do so can vary widely up and down the spectrum. There is often little correlation between how sophisticated a company is in other areas of their online business and their level of sophistication when it comes to their natural search metrics.
There are, however, definite benefits to becoming more savvy in how you look at your natural search programs. Visibility trends can inform strategy, competitive insight can impact a tactical approach, and gradual increases in your sophistication can start you down a road of looking at your SEO from a holistic perspective rather than a limited one-off view.
If you’ve been considering becoming more advanced in how you approach your natural search metrics, here are three ways you can dip a toe in the water and ramp up your sophistication.
In each example, we’ll describe ‘how’ to advance your SEO metrics and we’ll also elaborate on the insight you might gain from your newfound prowess. We’ll use ‘Ann’, the SEO Manager for Acme Co., a medium-sized online clothing retailer, as an example with a ‘before’ and ‘after’ to highlight the changes. For visualization purposes, I have accelerated the rate at which some of the trends may have occurred.
1. Group Keywords Into Visibility Zones & Track Trends Over Time
Ann currently tracks the rankings for a group of high-value keywords on a monthly basis. She does not track visibility trends from one period to the next.
By grouping keyword ranks into visibility zones, natural search trends can start to emerge that may help inform strategic or tactical approaches to her SEO.
For example, the illustration below shows how grouping keywords by visibility zone reveals an increase in striking distance keywords (page 2) from June to July which means she can focus on tactics to move keywords from page two to page one of the search results.
2. Analyze Search Visibility By Keyword Segment
Now that Ann has become comfortable grouping her keywords into visibility zones, she is ready to take it to the next level and start segmenting her keywords by business line. Before, she was limited to seeing her keyword’s visibility on an aggregate basis.
By segmenting her keywords by business lines she can discover trends that would otherwise be missed such as the stark differences in visibility in keywords for women’s vs. men’s clothing in the example below.
3. Track & Discover Competitors
Ann then turns her attention to competitive discovery. Before, she scanned the search results for her core keywords to get a rough sense of the competitive landscape, and did not track trends over time.
Now, she aggregates and plots the top ten appearances for competitor domains of her keywords month over month. Doing so exposes shifts in the competitive landscape and allows for actionable response to positive or negative changes.
For example, in the illustration below, Ann calculates the number of times competitors appear in the top 10 search results across her keyword set and tracks it over time. She is then able to determine that the Gap has been taking share from Acme from July to August. With that knowledge, Ann can analyze the tactics Gap utilized and develop a strategic response.
Conclusion: Embrace Advanced SEO Metrics for Better Insight
While it may initially seem like a daunting task, advancing the sophistication of your SEO metrics can lead to insight that can have real, measurable traffic and revenue benefits. Tools and technology that can help run up and down the cost and functionality spectrum, ranging from the basic rank tracker/Excel combination to the fully automated enterprise SEO platform.
Whatever your technology choice, if you are still in the early stages of how you look at your natural search visibility, consider adding some sophistication to how you look at your natural search metrics.
A version of this article was originally featured at Search Engine Land on August 10th, 2012.