While metrics like share of voice and SERP rankings provide some valuable insights, the primary goal of SEO should be to grow traffic that converts.
If you aren’t doing that, then other SEO metrics simply don’t matter.
On July 14, I moderated a sponsored Search Engine Journal webinar presented by Tanya Nam, Solutions Consultant at Botify.
She shared how your first-party data can unleash the hidden potential of your digital presence to drive more profitable and sustainable revenue.
Here’s a recap of the webinar presentation.
Organic Search Is Essential
Organic search is so foundational to any digital marketing strategy.
It is a massive and trusted channel and, as big as it is, it’s getting even bigger in a post-COVID world.
The above numbers tell you something else as well: organic search has a tremendous amount of influence on the effectiveness of other channels.
Improvements to organic search benefit a variety of other channels and elements of customer experience. You’ve likely heard about Core Web Vitals and the importance of creating a page experience that benefits your actual users.
Organic Search Is Foundational
Search itself is an incredible source of customer intent.
High-traffic sites with significant digital audiences don’t need to buy this data.
Yet, it’s often sitting in their Google Search Console account and unleveraged despite its potential to inform everything from digital content strategy to multi-channel messaging – even outside of digital marketing.
This is your own first-party data and Botify is the only platform that helps you unlock and understand this data.
And while that intent data can guide paid media strategies, studies have also shown that organic results showing up next to paid results increase the click-through rate of paid campaigns.
That’s a product of the trusted nature of organic search that we mentioned a minute ago.
For companies making major investments in a web property, improvements to organic search are the most efficient and cost-effective way to drive traffic and create immediate ROI.
This is not just for your search efforts, but for that web infrastructure itself.
Modern SEO isn’t just for search bots. The same improvements to site structure and coherence that improve the search experience remove confusion and friction for human visitors as well.
If you aren’t thinking about key technical SEO elements like page experience, site structure, or how your site renders and crawls… you’re missing massive opportunities.
Search is becoming more and more unpredictable.
Today, almost 30% of ecommerce conversions from organic came from long-tail keywords – search terms that you can’t predict.
The stronger the technical foundation your website has, the better your chances of ranking for terms you can’t predict right now. This helps to “future-proof” one of your biggest channels in an increasingly changing world.
This is both what’s necessary to accomplish with search these days, as well as a little bit of what’s possible with the right approach.
Organic Search Is Misunderstood
Despite the huge opportunities organic search has to offer, we still see a lot of organizations struggle with the same, classic “SEO” type problems.
1. Too Reactive, Too Generic
Best practices are important, but they’re not a strategy. Ranking well is like having a good open rate on your email. It’s good, but it doesn’t tell you if your email strategy is working.
2. Missing Hidden Potential
When you chase others (share of voice, a #1 ranking), you miss what you could potentially accomplish yourself, whether it’s traffic, conversions, or revenue.
3. Optimizing for the Wrong Things
The biggest blocker between you and better search performance probably isn’t a competitor – it’s your own site failing to be discoverable at all. But many search strategies just don’t measure this.
4. Unable to Show True ROI
If you aren’t focused on optimizing search for business outcomes, how can you justify doing the work? This is a challenge for a lot of organizations and search teams.
So How Can First-Party Data Help?
First-party data is crucial for understanding SEO performance.
Various analytics platforms enable you to collect first-party data by installing tracking pixels on your pages.
There are also other tools you can leverage to track other areas such as crawl and log file data.
However, first-party data is often:
- Disconnected: Most SEO pros use 2-4 paid SEO tools and often, there’s no easy way to integrate all the data into one view.
- Incomplete: Even with the wealth of tools available right now, we’re still looking at partial datasets.
- Invisible: Smaller sites may not have crawl budget issues, but can still benefit from understanding search engines’ behavior.
Log File Data: Why You Should Care
Want to learn how search engines and visitors interact with your website?
Then you’ll want to start looking at your log files.
Log files are large text files that capture all website activity (including that of search engine bots and visitors).
For smaller sites, they live on the web server. While larger sites have them on CDNs.
Log File Analysis: Issues & Opportunities
But many SEO pros are still facing difficulties with analyzing log files because they are:
- Hard to find.
- Hard to parse – size and Personally Identifiable Information (PII).
- Hard to analyze and mine for insights.
Despite these issues, log files are a goldmine for first-party data.
Logs can show you:
- Crawl ratio
- Crawl depth
- Crawl frequency
- Status codes
- Results from changes and migrations
How Search Works
The basic idea is that search, like a lot of other things, is basically a funnel.
Anything that wants to get found through organic search has to go through a bunch of different steps before it can be found.
And as in any other funnel, if the process fails at an early step, the later steps do not matter for that page or URL.
You can do everything else right, and it won’t matter. You’ve got to get all the way to the end to get discovered and make an impact on the business.
Here are the steps.
- Crawl: First, content has to be crawled, which just means search engines have to be able to find it and get to it.
- Index: Once the content is rendered, it can be read by a search engine and added to its index. If it’s indexed, that means people can potentially find it, so this is an important step.
- Rank: When you think of SEO, you probably think of the rank stage – that’s about where and when search engines decide to show your content to searchers.
- Convert: As the last stage, conversion really just means that once your content was suggested to people, that they actually navigated to it, and preferably performed some kind of action that’s good for your business. That’s ultimately the point of investing in organic search, after all.
This is how search works and the same process happens with billions and billions of URLs every day.
Everyone has to overcome the same hurdles to get discovered organically.
But here’s the crazy part. As much as 50% of the content on a large enterprise site – a big ecommerce brand, for instance – don’t get through the first three stages.
Ranking and conversion don’t even matter because those URLs simply aren’t indexed by search engines.
To make matters worse, this is often some of the highest converting, most business-relevant content, like long-tail product pages.
That brings us to the ideal customer profile for Botify’s full-funnel methodology.
Optimizing for Organic Search with First-Party Data
The keys to this performance are locked inside your own data.
To execute on this performance marketing approach, you need to have insight into the full organic search funnel. And that means you need to understand a lot of data, and more specifically, a lot of first-party data.
The Botify platform is powered by a unified data model that pulls exactly that kind of essential first-party data from a variety of sources.
This is a critical distinction. Customers and analysts often ask if they have some SEO-typical “type in a URL and get an audit” feature, and they don’t, specifically because that kind of analysis is so generic and so limited.
Botify specializes in extracting insight from that first-party data because that’s where all the value for their customers is.
Those data sources include Botify’s own industry-leading site crawler, their customers’ server logs, search data from their Google Search Console accounts, and their business/conversion data.
Botify works with all of this, and not just because it’s nice to have in one place. They actually cross-index this data to derive higher quality insight, and also report on things that you literally couldn’t see from just one data source.
[Slides] Why Your First-Party Data Should Lead Your Organic Search Strategy
Check out the SlideShare below.
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How Marketers Can Thrive in a Remote-First Landscape
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All screenshots taken by author, July 2021