SEO Analytics: How to Measure Organic Success

Visits increased last month! Visitors spent more time on the site and viewed more pages per visit. Congratulations!

Now what do you do with that information? If you’re stumped, please keep reading. If you never get past your Google Analytics dashboard, please keep reading. If you still refer to website visits as “hits,” please keep reading.

The Most Costly Mistake Website Owners Make

There are lots of places to spend money to market your business online. You could buy banner ads, pay for premium listings in the online yellow pages, bid on clicks from Google AdWords, hire an SEO firm or build an email marketing campaign.  

There are countless ways to spend your marketing dollars. It doesn’t matter which tactics you deploy, the biggest mistake you could make is not measuring how well each marketing dollar performs.

I’m not just talking about overall visits, page views or time on site. The most important metrics are based on outcomes, such as a lead form completion, phone call, e-commerce transaction, or white paper download.  These are the visitor actions that actually propel your business forward and generate sales. We call them “conversion events” or simply “goals.”

How to Measure SEO Campaigns

SEO campaigns are a bit trickier to measure than a normal advertising campaign. It can be hard to tell what constitutes a successful SEO strategy, but we have a few tricks that will help you understand how effective your efforts are.

Remember that trends are the best indicator of success. When possible, look at data over a period of weeks, months or years to compare to previous performance rather than just focusing on one data point.

Metric 1: Organic, Non-Branded Visits

Let’s break this down. “Organic” visits are simply clicks from a search engine’s primary search results, not the sponsored links. “Non-branded” refers to clicks on keywords that don’t contain your company name or other clues that could indicate the visitor already has some awareness of your company and was seeking you specifically.

For example, Bob’s Used Autos in Miami would want to increase traffic from non-branded keywords such as “used car dealers in Miami.” An increase in searches for “Bob’s Used Autos in Miami” might indicate his TV ads are helping build awareness, but the non-branded traffic is purely incremental.

To track this metric, filter your Traffic Sources > Keywords report by “non-paid” visits. Next, exclude your brand names in the Keyword Filter at the bottom of the list.  Finally, you’ll have an accurate count of organic, non-branded search visits.

Advanced Tip: Set up an Advanced Segment ( to make this analysis easier in the future, and to compare goal conversion rates for this segment against branded terms, PPC traffic and other sources.

Metric 2: Unique Landing Pages

To get an idea of how Google values your content, you’ll want to know how many unique pages are receiving organic, non-branded traffic. This is a great indicator of how many pages rank well enough in Google to get clicks.

If your site has 10,000 product pages, wouldn’t you want to know if only 100 of them are getting any traffic from your SEO campaigns?  To track this metric in Google Analytics, use the Content > Top Landing Pages report and change your Advanced Segments to Non-paid Search Traffic.  Now, your Top Landing Pages report will show your most popular landing pages for organic search traffic.

Spend some time reviewing this list and looking for gaps in your site structure. You might be able to identify pages or sections of your site that are noticeably absent.

Over time, you can use this report to see if Google is sending traffic to more of your pages as your search visibility improves. If not, reconsider your SEO strategy and focus on filling in the gaps.

Advanced Tip: Compare bounce rates on your top landing pages to identify pages where visitors land but immediately leave without clicking deeper into your site. Are you missing any opportunities to convert them into customers?

Metric 3: Goal Conversion Rates

Remember, traffic is good, but conversions are the real reason your site exists. If your site isn’t converting visitors into customers efficiently, you may be wasting money and missing opportunities to grow your business, lead pipelines or ad revenue.

Website objectives depend on your business objectives.  If you need sales leads, measure lead form completions and track phone calls. If you sell products online, measure your e-commerce transaction rates and ROI. Whatever it is, it can be measured.

If you don’t know how to measure your desired outcomes, consider hiring a web analytics consultant to configure your site to track these events and design a simple reporting structure that shows you the information you need to make more informed business decisions.

By comparing the conversion rates from your organic, non-branded search visits over time, you can see whether or not your SEO efforts are attracting higher quality traffic in addition to (or instead of) higher quantities.  Quality always trumps quantity.

Advanced Tip: Assign dollar values to goals that don’t necessarily generate direct revenue so you can measure the impact of your traffic sources and compare them apples-to-apples. For example, if 10% of the people who download your white paper become customers, and a new customer is worth $100 to your business, assign a goal value of $10.

Wait, What About Search Rankings?

You noticed I didn’t even mention search rankings as an SEO metric? I don’t think rankings matter anymore. Given the highly personalized, geo-targeted, socially influenced rankings that Google and Bing provide today, no two people see the same search results in the same order.

Try searching for a keyword from your office computer and compare it to results you see at home. Search while logged into Google and when logged out. Compare your search results pages to your office-mates. They will be tailored to each person’s search history and preferences.

Once you realize and acknowledge this, search rankings are best considered an ego metric. Higher rankings make us feel better, but if traffic, sales and other metrics are not improving, your business is no better off in position 1 than position 100.

In Conclusion

Sales matter. Leads matter. Total visits and rankings are fun to look at but provide no real insight into how well your website is performing. Focus on the metrics that drive your business and adjust your strategies to continually improve them.

Andrew Miller is a Search Engine Marketing Consultant based in Richmond, Virginia, and a frequent contributor to our clients’ success online and offline with SEO, PPC, web analytics and conversion rate optimization strategies.

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Buying vs. Renting E-mail Lists: The Answer Lies in Loyalty

A recent strategy session introduced a common question marketers face: Is it better to buy or rent e-mail lists for digital direct response and database-building efforts? Let’s agree that budgets, industries and business needs are different, but there are some consistent rules of thumb on this issue.

It’s widely accepted that one of the benefits to purchasing an e-mail list for either b2b or direct-to-consumer efforts is the control factor. You can now manipulate and mold the data you own. Segmentation marketing and appending data is easier as you convert these list contacts to qualified leads. All of this, though, comes at a price.

Renting an e-mail list can cost as little as 10% of the expense of purchasing a similar file. There’s also the safety factor. Rented lists are generally better protected and monitored to avoid overuse. Rental companies are more interested in protecting their valued data. This keeps the lists cleaner and hopefully increases response rates. You can see which way I lean…

What’s important, though, is if you are going to rent a list, make sure it’s “branded” by a trusted industry source.  The key is to focus on what’s relevant to the prospect.  As Dave Scott, CEO of online marketing startup Marketfish, observes, “When you rent a list, your message comes directly from another brand. The most respected brands are the ones that are going to inspire the best click-and-open rates.” 

Be sure to partner with a credible industry source that has developed a protected customer file. For example, if you rent a list from The Wall Street Journal, their branding will remain visible as the email distributor and help get your foot in the door.  It’s a fact that customers are more inclined to open e-mails from companies and brands they recognize.

In the end, it’s all about respecting privacy and trust. If done properly, e-mail marketing can still be a viable lead-generation.  I simply believe that brand loyalty is at the foundation. Let us know your thoughts on the subject.

Posted in Branding, Business Development, E-mail Marketing, Integrated Marketing, Interactive, Marketing, Marketing Technology, Online marketing, Sales | Leave a comment

To Blog or Not to Blog?

Corporate blogs are rapidly becoming the new faces of business. But, unfortunately, they don’t get the respect that they deserve.

Blogs, when used effectively, can play a powerful role in your company’s public relations and marketing strategy. Still, blogs may be the most overlooked tool in social marketing.  According to eMarketer, only 43 percent of U.S. companies will be using corporate blogs specifically for marketing purposes this year. 

While a blog can’t replace a company’s website, it can certainly complement it. A website is used for news and information. A blog is a less formal platform that gives your company a chance to really show its personality.

If you are wondering whether your company needs a blog even if you already have a Facebook page or Twitter account, the answer is yes! Anyone familiar with Facebook and Twitter knows that the main drawbacks with these sites are the lack of space and limited design flexibility.

The upside of Facebook and Twitter is that they do have huge followings, something your company blog likely does not have yet. The solution? Use Facebook and Twitter for short teaser stories that include web links to bring traffic back to your blog. And every time a new article is posted on your blog, make sure to announce it on your Facebook and Twitter sites. That’s a coordinated social marketing strategy that is sure to get your company noticed and respected.

Here are a few quick tips to make your corporate blog a hit on the blogosphere:

Keep it conversational – avoid corporate language if you can.

  • Make frequent updates – at least once a day if possible.
  • Know your audience – blog about topics that your audience will find interesting.
  • Make it interactive – encourage feedback and comments.
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Let’s All Talk About It

In the aftermath of Super Bowl LXV, folks are still recounting, reviewing and replaying those thrilling … commercials. Which were the favorites at your Super Bowl party? How about the Monday-morning water cooler roundup? Which did you have to see again and again?

If you were left craving more commercial talk (and guacamole), you could satisfy that hunger all week long. Ad Age’s Brian Sternberg conducted a thoughtful Q&A analyzing the commercials for the Washington Post. A funny animated video parody from the Follis Marketing Report offered this tongue-in-cheek analysis.

There were plenty of online trackers, including the USA TODAY Ad Meter. ADBOWL, a website that lets consumers rate Super Bowl commercials in various categories every year, tallied up its totals by demographics.

Social media reactions to the commercials (and the halftime show, and Christina Aguilera’s rendition of the national anthem, and everything else) were duly catalogued. Twitter was the best place for consumers to share specific reactions – positive (Chrysler, Doritos) and negative (Groupon). Facebook gives users the simple (and measurable) ability to “like” or “unlike” a brand. This, of course, led to metrics assessing the effectiveness of the brand, most notably chronicled at Brand Bowl 2011, where more than 300,000 tweets were tallied.

Advertisers, meanwhile, tied in to other media to keep the buzz going. Did you like Volkswagen’s Black Beetle ad? Watch what happens when you view it on their YouTube channel.

For the record, our old-school lunchroom analysis gave high praise to Volkwagen’s little Darth Vader spot – adorable, smart, good story, skillfully told!  Longer version, here;  and the making of, with hilarious outtakes, here.

Oh, and dogs. Cute, cute dogs.

Now, you tell us who the big winner REALLY was on Super Bowl Sunday…

Posted in Branding, Broadcast Advertising, Marketing, TV | Leave a comment

Heads up! Postage Increase Coming … Yes, Again.

Stamp image

US Postage Stamp

Funny enough, I received an email from the US Postal Service the other day warning … OK, informing me, that yet another postage increase is on the way. Come April 17, prices for first class and standard mail, periodicals, package and extra services are all going up. That pretty much covers everything mailed, from B2B newsletters to that humorous card you picked up for your nephew’s 12th birthday.

What does it mean to us? Well, for the first time in two years, prices for each “Mailing Services” class of mail will go up by an average of 1.741%. You can check out the new prices at Keep this in mind from a budgeting standpoint for your client mailing recommendations moving forward.

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news. If you’d like to receive “advisories” like these directly to your inbox from the Domestic Mail Manual (DMM) division of the USPS, simply send an e-mail to and type “subscribe” as the subject line.

Posted in Custom Publishing, Magazines, Mailing, Marketing, Print Production, Publishing | Leave a comment