At some point in the past you revamped your site for search engine optimization (SEO). Now it's time to measure your results, and share them with your client or development team. These people come from a variety of backgrounds. Some of the marketers will be perfectly happy to look at your Google Analytics page or stare at your graphs and spreadsheets. Others will quietly gaze at your numbers and wonder (to themselves) what any of this means—and they might not ask you for clarification.
This provides us with a teaching moment that we can use to enhance our SEO in the future. Rather than sending out a dry report or giving a presentation that falls on deaf ears, use this as an opportunity to remind people of what it is you are trying to achieve.
All we're trying to do with SEO is to make our sites more findable through search engines. The point is to optimize our site content and code in a manner that allows people with some interest in our organization, product, content or services to easily find our site, and the information they seek, when using search engines such as Google or Yahoo.
It's important to remind your team that SEO is not an end goal. It will not get students to apply to your program, buy your widgets or drink your Kool-Aid. But it will bring more traffic—from those with an interest in your stuff—to your site so that your content can encourage them to do those things.
If our SEO strategy is working we should see an increase in
These are the core things to review. To learn more, visit the sites listed at the bottom of this entry.
You've looked at those numbers and everything's gone up. Yay! Or perhaps it hasn't. Boo! How can you tell what's performing well and what needs to be improved? This is where your keywords come into play. If our point is to bring in qualified traffic—people more likely to enroll in our marine ecology program or donate to our new cosmology research center—then that traffic will come from people who have searched on words and phrases related to marine ecology or cosmology.
If what they find on our site matches what they were seeking they are more likely to enroll, donate, etc.
Google analytics, and other such programs provide quantifiable data on key words and phrases used, the number of visits per word or phrase, average time spent on site by those visitors, average number of pages visited, etc. The top 10 phrases for my blog for the past month were:
I can learn a lot from this (and the rest of the report listing 3,007 words or phrases.) In reviewing this data I'll consider:
I'm the kind of nerd that is perfectly content to spend time poking about in spreadsheets. But 3,007 phrases are still a lot to swallow, and those are just for my little blog. If you have a large university or corporate site your list could be exponentially larger.
Also, people don't all search the same way. They use variations on the same terms. In my list we have 4 variations on writing and tone. If I want to quantify those properly it means merging terms together adding up the combined results etc. How much data you need to quantify depends on your needs, but in many cases you just need to get a sense of which terms are prominent and which are not. This will help your content producers so they can edit their copy to enhance the results in the future.
To get a quicker sense of what's working, I like to copy my results into http://www.wordle.net which let's me create a word cloud of the terms, as shown in the two examples below. Terms showing up more frequently are larger while infrequent terms are smaller. Word clouds can be especially helpful in presentations and reports because they make it easy for readers with varying skill sets to get the point.
In this first example, I copied all phrases that generated 20 or more visits to the site so I could focus on the most frequently used phrases. (This narrowed the list to just a bit over 100). I also removed terms like "of" or "and" so that I could focus on keywords only.
As you can see, "tone" and "writing" show up prominently, as we'd expect from our list. The other words that are easily read are also things I've written about, and it would be easy to notice if a topic I was trying to promote was missing.
While it's most important to make sure that our topics show up, it's also important to watch for words we're not trying to promote. If, for example, I saw "Beluga whales" in large letters, and I'd only mentioned them casually in passing it would mean that I was bringing in a lot of people who wanted to learn more about whales. While traffic is good, misguided traffic is not. The people who want to know about whales could care less about my thoughts on Web development so there is no reason for me to waste their time. If that term showed up here I would want to rewrite my article to reduce the number of times I mention Beluga whales.
While this first Wordle word cloud is helpful, it's not overly precise. Some terms, such as "development," are smaller than I might expect. That's because my content wasn't weighted. My analytics report gave me both a list of phrases and the number of times they were used. I pasted in the phrases but not proportionally to their frequency of use. The words that are larger are showing up that way only because they were used in a variety of search phrases. Huh?
"Tone in writing" generated 949 visits in a given time period. "Flash embed script" generated 20. For my Wordle to more accurately reflect the frequency in which these terms were used, I'd need to paste the phrases in as many times as they were used, or in a smaller, but proportional, amount.
To determine how many times to paste in each phrase, I put all the phrases and their frequencies in a spreadsheet similar to the following table. I was only using phrases that brought 20 or more visits so my lowest frequency is 20. If I divide each of my frequencies by a factor of 20, then round the results to a whole number, I come up with a manageable number of phrases to paste.
|convert word document html||84||4.2||4|
|dreamweaver upload files||40||2||2|
|flash embed script||20||1||1|
To make my improved Wordle, I pasted "tone writing" in 47 times, "writing tone" 21 times, etc. as indicated by the chart. This rendered an accurate cloud, but "writing" and "tone" were so enormous that you could barely read anything else. To improve readability, I deleted several copies of those phrases so they were still dominant but not so much that you'd need a magnifying glass to read the other words.
This word cloud provides a more accurate representation of the frequency in which these words and phrases bring traffic to the site. When reporting to your client or team you can use such a word cloud to easily show which words are pulling in traffic and which are missing. This visual representation makes it easy for everyone to see what's going on, even those not fond of graphs and spreadsheets.
If you find that it takes too much time to generate the second version of the cloud, the first version is still helpful. You just have to remember that it's not as precise.
SEO can be confusing to both clients and other members of your team. A client may have overly optimistic expectations. A writer may not fully understand why you keep pushing them to use key words and phrases. But if you can teach them about SEO basics and give examples of what you are trying to accomplish, you can set realistic goals and ensure that all members of the team contribute to the success of the project.
Looking for more educational resources? Check out Learning for fun and adventure: online education comes in many flavors for sites that will entertain your brain.