Posted by BrankoK

Too often do you see SEO analyses and decisions being made
without considering the context of the marketing channel mix.
Equally as often do you see large budgets being poured into paid
ads in ways that seem to forget there’s a whole lot to gain from
catering to popular search demand.

Both instances can lead to leaky conversion funnels and missed
opportunity for long term traffic flows. But this article will show
you a case of an SEO context analysis we used to determine the
importance and role of SEO.

This analysis was one
of our deliverables
for a marketing agency client who hired us
to inform SEO decisions which we then turned into a report template
for you to get inspired by and duplicate.

Case description

The included charts show real, live data. You can see the whole
SEO channel context analysis in this
Data Studio SEO report template
.

The traffic analyzed is for of a monetizing blog, whose
marketing team also happens to be one of most fun to work for. For
the sake of this case study, we’re giving them a spectacular
undercover name — “The Broze Fellaz.”

For context, this blog started off with content for the first
two years before they launched their flagship product. Now, they
sell a catalogue of products highly relevant to their content and,
thanks to one of the most entertaining Shark Tank episodes ever
aired, they have acquired investments and a highly engaged niche
community.

As you’ll see below, organic search is their biggest channel
in many ways. Facebook also runs both as organic and paid and the
team spends many an hour inside the platform. Email has elaborate
automated flows that strive to leverage subscribers that come from
the stellar content on the website. We therefore chose the three
— organic Search, Facebook, and email — as a combination that
would yield a comprehensive analysis with insights we can easily
act on.

Ingredients for the SEO analysis

This analysis is a result of a long-term retainer relationship
with “The Broze Fellaz” as our ongoing analytics client. A great
deal was required in order for data-driven action to happen, but we
assure you, it’s all doable.

From the analysis best practice drawer, we used:

  • 2 cups of relevant channels for context and analysis via
    comparison.
  • 3 cups of different touch points to identify channel roles —
    bringing in traffic, generating opt-ins, closing sales, etc.
  • 5 heads of open-minded lettuce and readiness to change current
    status quo, for a team that can execute.
  • 457 oz of focus-on-finding what is going on with organic
    search, why it is going on, and what we can do about it (otherwise,
    we’d end up with another scorecard export).
  • Imperial units used in arbitrary numbers that are hard to
    imagine and thus feel very large.
  • 1 to 2 heads of your analyst brain, baked into the analysis.
    You’re not making an automated report — even a HubSpot intern can
    do that. You’re being a human and you’re analyzing. You’re making
    human analysis. This helps avoid having your job stolen by a
    robot.
  • Full tray of Data Studio visualizations that appeal to the
    eye.
  • Sprinkles of benchmarks, for highlighting significance of
    performance differences.

From the measurement setup and stack toolbox, we used:

  • Google Analytics with tailored channel definitions, enhanced
    e-commerce and Search Console integration.
  • Event tracking for opt-ins and adjusted bounce rate via
    MashMetrics GTM setup
    framework
    .
  • UTM routine for social and email traffic implemented via Google
    Sheets & UTM.io.
  • Google Data Studio. This is my favorite visualization tool.
    Despite its flaws and gaps (as it’s still in beta) I say it is
    better than its paid counterparts, and it keeps getting better. For
    data sources, we used the native connectors for Google Analytics
    and Google Sheets, then Facebook community
    connectors by Supermetrics
    .
  • Keyword Hero. Thanks to
    semantic algorithms and data aggregation, you are indeed able to
    see 95 percent of your organic search queries (check out Onpage
    Hero, too, you’ll be amazed).

Inspiration for my approach comes from Lea Pica, Avinash, the Google
Data Studio newsletter, and Chris Penn, along with our
dear clients and the questions they have us answer for them.

Ready? Let’s dive in.

Analysis of the client’s SEO on the context of their channel mix1)
Insight: Before the visit

What’s going on and why is it happening?

Organic search traffic volume blows the other channels out of
the water. This is normal for sites with quality regular content;
yet, the difference is stark considering the active effort that
goes into Facebook and email campaigns.

The CTR of organic search is up to par with Facebook. That’s a
lot to say when comparing an organic channel to a channel with high
level of targeting control.

It looks like email flows are the clear winner in terms of CTR
to the website, which has a highly engaged community of users who
return fairly often and advocate passionately. It also has a
product and content that’s incredibly relevant to their users,
which few other companies appear to be good at.

There’s a high CTR on search engine results pages often
indicates that organic search may support funnel stages beyond just
the top.

As well, email flows are sent to a very warm audience —
interested users who went through a double opt-in. It is to be
expected for this CTR to be high.

What’s been done already?

There’s an active effort and budget allocation being put towards
Facebook Ads and email automation. A content plan has been put in
place and is being executed diligently.

What we recommend next

  1. Approach SEO in a way as systematic as what you do for Facebook
    and email flows.
  2. Optimize meta titles and descriptions via testing tools such as
    Sanity Check. The organic
    search CTR may become consistently higher than that of Facebook
    ads.
  3. Assuming you’ve worked on improving CTR for Facebook ads, have
    the same person work on the meta text and titles. Most likely,
    there’ll be patterns
    you can replicate from social to SEO
    .
  4. Run a technical audit and optimize accordingly. Knowing that
    you haven’t done that in a long time, and seeing how much traffic
    you get anyway, there’ll be quick, big wins to enjoy.

Results we expect

You can easily increase the organic CTR by at least 5 percent.
You could also clean up the technical state of your site in the
eyes of crawlers -— you’ll then see faster indexing by search
engines when you publish new content, increased impressions for
existing content. As a result, you may enjoy a major spike within a
month.

2) Insight: Engagement and options during the visit

With over 70 percent of traffic coming to this website from
organic search, the metrics in this analysis will be heavily skewed
towards organic search. So, comparing the rate for organic search
to site-wide is sometimes conclusive, other times not
conclusive.

Adjusted bounce rate — via GTM events in the measurement
framework used, we do not count a visit as a bounce if the visit
lasts 45 seconds or longer. We prefer this approach because such an
adjusted bounce rate is much more actionable for content sites.
Users who find what they were searching for often read the page
they land on for several minutes without clicking to another page.
However, this is still a memorable visit for the user. Further,
staying on the landing page for a while, or keeping the page open
in a browser tab, are both good indicators for distinguishing
quality, interested traffic, from all traffic.

We included all Facebook traffic here, not just paid. We know
from the client’s data that the majority is from paid content,
they have a solid UTM routine in place. But due to boosted posts,
we’ve experienced big inaccuracies when splitting paid and
organic Facebook for the purposes of channel attribution.

What’s going on and why is it happening?

It looks like organic search has a bounce rate worse than the
email flows — that’s to be expected and not actionable,
considering that the emails are only sent to recent visitors who
have gone through a double opt-in. What is meaningful, however, is
that organic has a better bounce rate than Facebook. It is safe to
say that organic search visitors will be more likely to remember
the website than the Facebook visitors.

Opt-in rates for Facebook are right above site average, and
those for organic search are right below, while organic is bringing
in a majority of email opt-ins despite its lower opt-in rate.

Google’s algorithms and the draw of the content on this website
are doing better at winning users’ attention than the detailed
targeting applied on Facebook. The organic traffic will have a
higher likelihood of remembering the website and coming back.
Across all of our clients, we find that organic search can be a
great retargeting channel, particularly if you consider that the
site will come up higher in search results for its recent
visitors.

What’s been done already?

The Facebook ad campaigns of “The Broze Fellaz” have been built
and optimized for driving content opt-ins. Site content that ranks
in organic search is less intentional than that.

Opt-in placements have been tested on some of the biggest
organic traffic magnets.

Thorough, creative and consistent content calendars have been in
place as a foundation for all channels.

What we recommend next

  1. It’s great to keep using organic search as a way to introduce
    new users to the site. Now, you can try to be more intentional
    about using it for driving opt-ins. It’s already serving both of
    the stages of the funnel.
  2. Test and optimize opt-in placements on more traffic
    magnets.
  3. Test and optimize opt-in copy for top 10 traffic magnets.
  4. Once your opt-in rates have improved, focus on growing the
    channel. Add to the content work with a 3-month sprint of an
    extensive SEO project

  5. Assign Google Analytics goal values
    to non-e-commerce actions
    on your site. The current opt-ins have different roles and levels
    of importance and there’s also a handful of other actions people
    can take that lead to marketing results down the road. Analyzing
    goal values will help you create better flows toward pre-purchase
    actions.
  6. Facebook campaigns seem to be at a point where you can pour
    more budget into them and expect proportionate increase in opt-in
    count.

Results we expect

Growth in your opt-ins from Facebook should be proportionate to
increase in budget, with a near-immediate effect. At the same time,
it’s fairly realistic to bring the opt-in rate of organic search
closer to site average.

3) Insight: Closing the deal

For channel attribution with money involved, you want to make
sure that your Google Analytics channel definitions, view filters,
and UTM’s are in top shape.

What’s going on and why is it happening?

Transaction rate, as well as per session value, is higher for
organic search than it is for Facebook (paid and organic
combined).

Organic search contributes to far more last-click revenue than
Facebook and email combined. For its relatively low volume of
traffic, email flows are outstanding in the volume of revenue they
bring in.

Thanks to the integration of Keyword Hero with Google Analytics
for this client, we can see that about 30 percent of organic search
visits are from branded keywords, which tends to drive the
transaction rate up.

So, why is this happening? Most of the product on the site is
highly relevant to the information people search for on Google.

Multi-channel reports in Google Analytics also show that people
often discover the site in organic search, then come back by typing
in the URL or clicking a bookmark. That makes organic a source of
conversions where, very often, no other channels are even
needed.

We can conclude that Facebook posts and campaigns of this client
are built to drive content opt-ins, not e-commerce transactions.
Email flows are built specifically to close sales.

What’s been done already?

There is dedicated staff for Facebook campaigns and posts, as
well a thorough system dedicated to automated email flows.

A consistent content routine is in place, with experienced staff
at the helm. A piece has been published every week for the last few
years, with the content calendar filled with ready-to-publish
content for the next few months. The community is highly engaged,
reading times are high, comment count soaring, and usefulness of
content outstanding. This, along with partnerships with
influencers, helps “The Broze Fellaz” take up a half of the first
page on the SERP for several lucrative topics. They’ve been
achieving this even without a comprehensive SEO project. Content
seems to be king indeed.

Google Shopping has been tried. The campaign looked promising
but didn’t yield incremental sales. There’s much more search
demand for informational queries than there is for product.

What we recommend next

  1. Organic traffic is ready to grow. If there is no budget left,
    resource allocation should be considered. In paid search, you can
    often simply increase budgets. Here, with stellar content already
    performing well, a comprehensive SEO project is begging for your
    attention. Focus can be put into structure and technical aspects,
    as well as content that better caters to search demand. Think
    optimizing the site’s information architecture, interlinking
    content for cornerstone structure
    , log analysis, and technical
    cleanup, meta text testing for CTR gains that would also lead to
    ranking gains, strategic ranking of long tail topics, intentional
    growing of the backlink profile.
  2. Three- or six-month intensive sprint of comprehensive SEO work
    would be appropriate.

Results we expect

Increasing last click revenue from organic search and direct by
25 percent would lead to a gain as high as all of the current
revenue from automated email flows. Considering how large the
growth has been already, this gain is more than achievable in 3–6
months.

Wrapping it up

Organic search presence of “The Broze Fellaz” should continue to
be the number-one role for bringing new people to the site and
bringing people back to the site. Doing so supports sales that
happen with the contribution of other channels, e.g. email flows.
The analysis points out is that organic search is also effective at
playing the role of the last-click channel for transactions, often
times without the help of other channels.

We’ve worked with this client for a few years, and, based on
our knowledge of their marketing focus, this analysis points us to
a confident conclusion that a dedicated, comprehensive SEO project
will lead to high incremental growth.

Your turn

In drawing analytical conclusions and acting on them, there’s
always more than one way to shoe a horse. Let us know what
conclusions you would’ve drawn instead. Copy the layout of our

SEO Channel Context Comparison analysis template
and show us
what it helped you do for your SEO efforts — create a similar
analysis for a paid or owned channel in your mix. Whether it’s
comments below, tweeting our way, or sending a smoke signal,
we’ll be all ears. And eyes.

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