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How Analytics Can Help You Debunk a Perceived Failure (or Not)

Problem: Client says that site traffic and sales have decreased since starting SEO campaign. You know that since taking over SEO you have eliminated hundreds of pages of duplicate content and increased search spidering of important pages. Site usability has improved significantly and rankings for key terms are also improving. Many site architectural issues have been uncovered but remain unresolved and can only be fixed by the client. What do you do?

I was posed this problem recently and my first thought was, let’s look at the analytics. Unfortunately, the client refuses to give us access to their analytical data, which means everything I’m about to say here falls under the category What-Could-Have-Been-Though-We-Won’t-Know-For-Sure.

AnalyticsSolution: The only real way to find a solution, or rather to find the real problem that will allow us to develop a solution, is to dive into the site analytics. From the limited information we gathered from the client it appeared that the decline in traffic and sales are part of a much bigger issue that started several months before SEO began. It is unfortunate that the SEO efforts were not able to offset the decline in a noticeable way, but it may have done so in a measurable way.

Here is what I was hoping to find out:

First I wanted to look at the traffic numbers to see if the optimized product and pages are showing the same level of traffic decline as pages we had not yet optimized. This could be quite telling. If we found that while other pages show a decrease in traffic by X amount but the pages we have optimized for specific keywords are showing less of a decrease, or even an increase, then this can show that the optimization is effective in bringing in traffic.

We would also want to look at traffic that came to the site via search engines to see if that has increased or decreased. We could compare pre-SEO search traffic with post-SEO traffic while also looking at the keywords that are driving the traffic to see if there have been any changes that correlate to the optimization efforts.

Next we would want to look at conversion data. Has the conversion rate increased or decreased on the site overall? How about just the areas that have been optimized?

Without access to the data I’m not even able to guess as to what’s causing this client’s decline. And beyond that we can only make assumptions as to the benefit that the SEO campaign has provided them, though the measures I stated in the problem above help us make some of those assumptions.

The bottom line, without analytics there really is no way to measure success. You won’t know if you are successful and you won’t be able to determine what’s causing the perceived failure. And if you can’t know that, you’re better off not doing a marketing campaign to begin with.

Did I miss anything? What else would you want to analyze in this situation?

Stoney G deGeyter

Stoney deGeyter is the author of The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist, Period!. He is the founder and CEO of Pole Position Marketing, a web presence optimization firm whose pit crew has been velocitizing websites since 1998. In his free time Stoney gets involved in community services and ministries with his “bride enjoy” and his children. Read Stoney’s full bio.

7 Responses to How Analytics Can Help You Debunk a Perceived Failure (or Not)

  1. Todd Mintz says:

    You would take on a client that won’t share their website analytics with you? How are you supposed to help them?

  2. Dave says:

    I am with Todd there Stoney – analytics are a huge part of how I measure success and understand the end user better (demo’s being handy for SEO as ya know). If a client is sensitive about us rooting around in their data, I simply tag it and use our own solution.

    I can’t imagine not having my precious data… sure, it’s business intelligence, but with the proper NDA’s in place, it shouldn’t be a problem.

    While conversion maximization isn’t really in the realm of SEO, it is troubling. The measuring stick seems to be focussed on said conversions which could be unjust unless conversion funnel work was also part of the contract. That then gets into MVT and so on – at which point complaining about ‘sales’ would be just.

    In the end, without any meaningful data, who can say?

    Dave

  3. Stoney G deGeyter
    Stoney deGeyter says:

    Dave, I’m with both you AND Todd. We were able to get our own analytics data in there but it really provided no meaningful comparison as we could only see what’s happened since we started, and no way to look at previous years. You’re right about the NDA and we certainly pushed for that but they never budged. This had never been a problem for us in the past so we were taken off guard after the contract was signed when they would not give us access. Live and learn, eh?

  4. Craig Smith says:

    We are a web analytics consulting company and the degree for which smaler businesses are leveraging analytics is staggering. In the past two years, with the advent of Google Analytics and ease of use of PPC interfaces, analytics platforms have now become a part of over 90% of potential clients we speak with.

    That is not to say that folks always pay attention to the most vital metrics. Instead of tracking page views, folks should be measuring bounce and conducting path analysis.

  5. bingo downloads says:

    I am new in the field of SEO. But many of my friends thought that it has no future at all. Though they are web designers. But as i read many articles online and i think that this field has a very bright future. I know web designing and want to progress here. How could i be able to know that i am going in the right direction ?s

  6. Stoney G deGeyter
    Stoney deGeyter says:

    people have been saying SEO has no future since the beginning of SEO. For as long as people use search engines there will be a future in search engine optimization.