Times are a changing. I started SEO back in the good old days, when SEO had an air of mystique about it and unfortunately the perception as a bit of a ‘dark art’. This perception is still something that you find today, albeit I would add that this is the exception rather than the norm.
Much of this can be attributed could potentially be attributed to a number of factors however communication, lack of accountability and general terminology all probably played a part in that perception. These days however, marketing managers are becoming more and more online savvy and more aware of both what SEO is and what it involves.
Further to this, Google and the other search engines are a work in progress. The Google of 5 years ago may look very similar, however behind the scenes is a very different picture. The advent of personalisation, the rise of social media and the development of frameworks able to deal with real time indexation and evaluation means that Google is able to return far more dynamic results than ever before and as a result the metrics used to evaluate are having to move with this.
In particular personalised search could potentially have the biggest impact on measuring SEO success. Working in the industry it still amazes me how many times you come across organisations who still measure the success of their campaigns onhe position of their sites within the search engine results pages, however this approach carries a number of caveats
- Personalised search means that whats number 2 for me, may not necessarily be number two for you. Based on my behavioural trends number two could be a far different scenario – as could many of the results below.
- Results are not constant. Whats here today may not be there tomorrow. The search engine results are hugely dynamic, something I believe is only likely to increase once Caffeine is fully rolled out across the Google framework. Thus content won’t have as much of a lag effect, potentially indexed, evaluated and returned within a matter of minutes. Old school results were a far more reliable and consistent metric
- Rankings does not necessarily mean traffic. OK that comment certainly needs further breakdown as being number one for a ‘jackpot term’ such as car insurance certainly is going to mean traffic, but the amount of examples I have seen which highlighted ranking wins on obscure terms which are never likely to produce more than a handful of visitors. Further to that ranking on vanity terms may produce traffic, but if its not relevant to conversion that visibility is flawed.
As such I believe that rankings are a KPI living on borrowed time. Yes, we can look at results by turning personalisation off however how many users actually do that when they search. Therefore success needs to be based on very different metrics, and SEO campaigns have to bear this in mind as this not only affects how we measure SEO, but the framework and strategic focus of the campaign from the very outset.
In particular incremental sales, should be considered an absolute essential aspect of modern day SEO campaigns. With more and more tools allowing search marketeers (both paid and organic) to measure their campaign success both in terms as a standalone channel and as part of the integrated mix, the requirement to put more solid and commerically focus KPI’s being campaign success is now a no brainer.
Further to that, modern day search campaigns are far more widespread than simply optimising websites, which once would have worked. Social media, PR, Brand Advocacy amongst others have all eaked their way into modern day SEO campaigns, and thus the impact of work undertaken by us SEO’s may also be extended to include brand noise and coverage.
SEO has grown up, and with that maturity needs to come accountability. Measurements by rankings may be obselete but in its place are far more tangible measurements of success, and ones that could have a far more significant effect on our bottom lines in the long run…..