Using data to inform SEO strategies.
Every strategy should be designed to meet an objective, and the more information you have to hand before you begin the easier it is going to be to align activity to the end goal. That said, a strategy is only as good as the data used to create it – if you’re working from an incomplete or inaccurate dataset then the tactics you deploy won’t necessarily be the ones you need.
Generally, there are two types of data you can use to form a strategy:
Wherever possible, a mixture of both should be used so you can approach the strategy from different standpoints.
Using internal data
Internal data is a goldmine and should be the first thing you look at when forming a strategy, but many people confuse internal data with platform data like you would get from Google Analytics and similar platforms. When we reference internal data, it is information specifically from the company, including:
- Financial data (sales, refunds/cancellations, upsell rates)
- Marketing data (plans, promotions, positioning)
- Audience data (demographics, interests, geographies)
- Promotional data (platforms, technologies, website)
Clients know their business, and they know it better than you. But they can also reach out to other people in the company to get information much easier than you could, you just need to remember to ask them for it.
- If you know the general conversion rate of sales to upsells (e.g. at-basket addons, in-platform feature upsells), you can work out how many conversions you’d need to generate to increase the average customer value, resulting in a higher lifetime value for each customer and thus higher revenue
- If you know the rate of refunds (and average refund value) that occur, you can bake them into your forecasts and make sure that you’re goals are set on driving X% more revenue to cover the cost of the refunds
- If you’re working on a lead basis, you can ask your client for information on the value of leads being driven by different conversion points (and channels) so you can focus your Organic efforts on the pages, or sections, of the site which result in the highest value leads for them
- Any information around a client’s own plans to market the company, product, or service should always be baked into your own plans for new landing pages, on-page optimisation, and new content
- Positioning data is what sets your client apart from their competitors – use this to inform landing page optimisation, new content, and general tone of voice across the website
- Target vs. actual audiences often differ slightly, and platform data only gives you estimations, so the more you know about their audience the more you can tailor content on the site to capture and engage them
- Any kind of terminology that is specific to their audience should be used in keyword research and page creation
- Ever had a client spring a migration on you? The more information you know about their platforms and technologies, the easier it is to prepare for last minute changes or mid-strategy pivots
- Knowing what other platforms they own or operate on can also give you insight into the types of activity that could be completed – heavy on affiliate sites? May be worth building their own voucher page
Using external data
External data can come from a variety of sources and give you ample opportunity to explore and dissect opportunities from different angles, including:
You can also get external data from things like similar clients (even if not competitors, applying similar thought processes to similar client challenges is a good starting point), past experience, and even conferences and webinars.
- Without knowing how you’re performing currently, or how you have done previously, you won’t be able to accurately predict where you could go or what you need to do to get there – use Analytics platforms as a base for your data
- Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools give you great insight into how the two crawlers are accessing and understanding the site currently – use this to determine key focus areas for improvement, whether that is at a query level or a general site health/accessibility level
- Not technically analytics, but crawl simulators like Screaming Frog, Deepcrawl or Sitebulb are also essential for understanding site health so if you combine this data with standard analytics data you can determine areas on the site that may be under or overperforming based on site data
- You’ve already got some audience insight from your client and general research, and can combine that information with the Analytics information above to determine how accurate that audience profile is compared to the site profile; if it is wildly different you know you’ve got work to do to realign them
- Platforms like Global Web Index and SimilarWeb can also give you huge amounts of information on prospective audiences, where they go, what they do, and what they want to see so you can apply this to onsite content changes and even structural changes
- Although just because your competitors are doing something it doesn’t mean you should be too, you should at least be aware of what they’re focusing on and how effectively so you can determine whether you need to do the same, different, or similar to continue competing with them in the space
- Tools like Ahrefs are great for exploring content so if that’s a big part of your focus then I’d strongly recommend taking a look at the content explorer (and keyword explorer) to see what kind of content is appearing, what your competitors are doing and appearing for, and what is and isn’t working
- Tools like Sistrix and SEMRush (and most rank tracking tools) give you good top-level insight into things like visibility, keywords, SERP features, and general top-line SEO data on your site, your competitor sites, and even industry benchmark sites so a look at these will give you a great deal of information to apply to your strategy
- Opensource datasets like the ONS and NOMIS give you huge amounts of data on the economy, business, and different industries so if you’re wondering what the next 6 months might hold for your client’s industry this is a great place to start looking at trends that may continue so you can adapt accordingly
- Industry news websites, while often a bit of a dig to get through, are filled with information you can use about what has happened at different points in the past and what the outcomes have been so you can start factoring in things that are likely to affect your strategy should certain elements change again
5 steps to a winning strategy
- Work backwards from your objectives
- Interrogate your available data
- Research trends and plot key changes
- Form data-driven tactics aligned with objectives
- Revisit frequently
Strategies can, and should, change as frequently as they need to and one of the traps people fall into is setting a strategy and then forgetting about it for the next 6 months or however long they’ve set the strategy before. But situations change, data changes, and needs change so if you’re not adapting your strategy based on the latest information available, you’re going to be left behind.
If you need help getting a strategy in place or want to see if there is more you could be doing to take performance to the next level, take a look at our SEO Services and get in touch.