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How to tell if your SEO campaign is actually working

(BUSINESS MARKETING) Search Engine Optimization is more complex today than it ever has been, and whether doing it yourself or hiring a pro, you need to know if your SEO is on track. Here’s how.

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SEO search engine optimization

Search engine optimization (SEO) is a complex strategy, and one where there’s rarely a single “right” answer to any question. Your rankings are a the result of hundreds, if not thousands of interacting factors, and Google doesn’t disclose exactly how their algorithm works (though we have some good guesses based on its algorithm update history).

Measuring the results of your SEO campaign can also be challenging, especially for newcomers to the online marketing field. How are you supposed to determine whether your SEO campaign is actually working? And what do you do if it isn’t?

Before we get into how to tell if an SEO campaign is working, it’s important to define what “working” means for you. SEO serves many purposes for your organization; ranking higher can increase your brand visibility and your incoming traffic. But are you more worried about the sheer number of visitors you’re getting, or which pages are ranked number one? Is it better for your company to have 100 visitors with a 5 percent conversion rate or 200 visitors with a 2.5 percent conversion rate? There aren’t objective right answers to these questions—only what’s right for your brand.

You should also consider the peripheral effects that SEO can have. For example, most companies that pursue SEO invest heavily in their onsite content strategy, which can improve their brand reputation and help secure more conversions. How do these peripheral benefits factor into your judgement of your SEO strategy’s success?
We’ll get into the most important key performance indicators (KPIs) in the next couple of sections, but before that, take some time to clarify what your SEO goals truly are.

Typical KPIs for SEO – is your campaign working?

Let’s say you’ve been working on an SEO campaign for a few weeks now, and you’re interested to see if your efforts are making a difference. You’ve been producing onsite content, you’ve got your website’s technical SEO factors in order, and you’ve been building backlinks just as all the experts suggested.

What now?

There are a handful of key performance indicators (KPIs) that stand out as hallmarks of an effective SEO campaign overall:

1. Rankings. This is the most obvious factor, and the one most SEO newcomers gravitate toward, but it isn’t the be-all end-all measure of success for your campaign. “Rankings” are how the various pages of your site rank for your target keywords and phrases; typically, you’ll keep a list of all the words and phrases you’re actively targeting, and will use a tool like SEMRush to determine where you’re ranking (and where your competitors are ranking). Obviously, upward trajectory here is a good sign; if you’re ranking higher for all your targets, month after month, it means you’re making forward progress, and your tactics are making an impact.

However, these expectations should be tempered; some keywords are incredibly easy to rank for, allowing you to skyrocket to the number one position, without giving you much traffic or being especially relevant to your brand. The reverse is also true; you may spend a ton of effort increasing your rank only slightly for a highly competitive keyword, seeing only marginal bottom-line benefits from your efforts.

2. Organic traffic. Rankings are perhaps best held in consideration in the context of organic traffic, or the number of people who visit your site after discovering it in search engines. In some ways, this is the truer indicator of SEO success; regardless of how many keyword terms you’re ranking for, or how high in the rankings you climb, this number could be high or low depending on factors like click-through rates (CTRs), search volume, and your competition. You can find your organic traffic figures in Google Analytics, and tinker with the settings to see your traffic both for your entire domain and for individual pages of your site.

3. Domain and page authority. Google measures the trustworthiness of your site and its individual pages based on the quantity and quality of links pointing to them, eventually resulting in an “authority” score. The higher your domain authority, the easier it will be for all the pages of your site to rank. The higher your individual page’s authority, the more likely that page is to rank. Accordingly, you could use domain authority as an indicator of your campaign progress; a domain authority that’s growing is a sign you’re doing things right and a foundation on which you can create pages that rank more easily. There are a few ways to discover your domain and page-level authority, including through Moz’s Link Explorer.

There are a few other SEO-related metrics that warrant your attention, though they aren’t as direct an indicator of your progress as the aforementioned KPIs.

1. Referral traffic. Also discoverable in Google Analytics, if you’re big into link building, you’ll want to look at referral traffic. Referral traffic is a measure of how many people are visiting your pages from the links you’ve built. This metric doesn’t affect your search engine rankings, nor is it a byproduct of them, but it is a byproduct of one of the most important elements of your SEO strategy: your backlinks. Rising referral traffic is an indication that you’re getting published in bigger and more important publishers, and that you’re earning more authority for your work. Referral traffic is also a secondary way SEO provides value to your brand, since these visitors are as likely to convert as your organic traffic.

2. Click-through rates (CTRs). What happens if you’re ranking at number one for your most heavily favored keyword phrase, yet nobody’s visiting your site? This scenario is unlikely, but you might be getting less traffic from your rankings than you expect if your click-through rates (CTRs) are low. CTRs have a complex relationship with SEO, affecting it and being affected by it, but you can definitely improve your CTRs (and therefore improve the value of each search ranking) by tweaking your title tags and meta descriptions to better appeal to your target audience.

3. Onsite behavior and conversion rates. Even with tons of organic traffic, the value of your SEO strategy still depends on your ability to convert that traffic. Spend time studying how your incoming organic visitors behave on your site. Do they spend minutes on your best content pages, reading it and engaging with it? Or do they bounce almost immediately? Better onsite behavioral metrics, like lower bounce rates, may have a marginal effect on your search rankings, but more importantly, they impact the net value of each incoming visitor. If you neglect these factors, even thousands of organic visitors may not be enough to make your search optimization efforts “worth it.”

4. Overall return on investment (ROI). Adding to that, for most businesses, the true measure of an SEO campaign’s success is your return on investment, or ROI. That’s because all the nice-looking numbers in the world (like high rankings and organic traffic) won’t mean much if you’re spending more money than you’re seeing from your core tactics. If you’re earning more in new sales than you’re spending on all your tactics, and that gap keeps positively widening, you’ll be in a good place. Use your conversion rates in combination with your organic and referral traffic to estimate how much value you’re getting, and compare that to your expenses. Expenses are easy to calculate if you’re outsourcing your work to an agency, but you may have to get creative if you’re working with an internal team.

Why SEO takes time (and why not to bail out too early):

There’s one important caveat to all these considerations. Up until now, we’ve been covering key metrics and indicators that your SEO campaign is working; if they’re showing signs of growth, it means your efforts are worthwhile. However, SEO is a campaign that necessarily takes time, which means you may not see positive results in these areas in the first few months even if you’re doing all the right things. In fact, the majority of campaigns only start seeing the fruits of their labor after 3 to 6 months.
Building authority and developing onsite content often takes months, and you’ll have to wait for Google’s index to fully catch up to you as well.

More importantly, the rewards of an SEO strategy in its developed stages are much richer than the rewards in its developing stages; at a higher level of authority, all your links and pages will generate more traffic, and you’ll get more value for even trivial efforts, like writing a new offsite post (assuming you’re doing everything correctly). If you’re not growing quickly, do analyze and critique your own efforts, but don’t panic; if you bail out of your campaign too early, you’ll miss out on the best benefits.

Don’t be discouraged if you find that your SEO campaign isn’t working, or isn’t working the way you thought it would; in fact, this is to be expected. SEO is both an art and a science; the most successful practitioners aren’t able to launch a perfect campaign from day one, but instead are the ones able to recognize flaws and make corrections where necessary.

Diagnose your campaign early and consistently, at least once a month, and make adjustments so you’re always moving in the right direction.

Larry Alton is an independent business consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. When he's not consulting, glued to a headset, he's working on one of his many business projects. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Business Marketing

Unpopular opinion: Coworkers are not your ‘family’

(MARKETING) “I just want you to think of us as family,” they say. If this were true, I could fire my uncle for always bringing up “that” topic on Thanksgiving…

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family coworkers

The season 10 opener of “Undercover Boss” featured Walk-On’s Bistreaux & Bar. Brandon Landry, owner, went to the Lafayette location where he worked undercover with Jessica Comeaux, an assistant manager. Comeaux came across as a dedicated employee of the company, and she was given a well-deserved reward for her work. But I rolled my eyes as the show described the team as a “family.” I take offense at combining business and family, unless you’re really family. Why shouldn’t this work dynamic be used?

Employers don’t have loyalty to employees.

One of the biggest reasons work isn’t family is that loyalty doesn’t go both ways. Employers who act as though employees are family wouldn’t hesitate to fire someone if it came down to it. In most families, you support each other during tough times, but that wouldn’t be the case in a business. If you’ve ever thought that you can’t ask for a raise or vacation, you’ve probably bought into the theory that “work is a family.” No, work is a contract.

Would the roles be okay if the genders were reversed?

At Walks-Ons, Comeaux is referred to as “Mama Jess,” by “some of the girls. I have to wonder how that would come across if Comeaux were a man being called “Daddy Jess” by younger team members? See any problem with that? What happens when the boss is a 30-year-old and the employee is senior? Using family terminology to describe work relationships is just wrong.

Families’ roles are complex.

You’ll spend over 2,000 hours with your co-workers every year. It’s human nature to want to belong. But when you think of your job like a family, you may bring dysfunction into the workplace.

What if you never had a mom, or if your dad was abusive? Professional relationships don’t need the added complexity of “family” norms. Seeing your boss as “mom” or “dad” completely skews the roles of boss/employee. When your mom asks you to do more, it’s hard to say no. If your “work mom or dad” wants you to stay late, it’s going to be hard to set boundaries when you buy into the bogus theory that work is family. Stop thinking of work this way.

Check your business culture to make sure that your team has healthy boundaries and teamwork. Having a great work culture doesn’t have to mean you think of your team as family. It means that you appreciate your team, let them have good work-life balance and understand professionalism.

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Business Marketing

UI/UX design trends in 2020 for maximum user friendliness

(BUSINESS NEWS) 2020 brings back classic UI and UX themes centered on beautiful visuals, rich written content, and authentic presentation. These are the trends to know.

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UI/UX design trends for 2020

User interface (UI) and user experience (UX) protocol have shifted so much in the last few years that it can be daunting to try to keep up with what’s hip and what’s…well, not. Fortunately, Shakuro has compiled a list of trends to guide you through 2020. Here are our thoughts on design trends you can expect to see (and use) this year.

Content
When creating content this year, make sure it emphasizes the meaning behind your work rather than simply focusing on SEO. Too often, the meaning behind our words becomes more about selling a product or service and less about the product itself.

Other areas to focus on vis-à-vis content development include dynamic presentations for variable audiences, visual representations of data (charts, tables, and infographics easily check this box), and mobile-friendly UX and UI—something which should be at the forefront of your mind at all times.
Finally, Shakuro suggests taking 2020 to establish your own organic, opinionated content. Reposts and testimonials are fine in moderation, but the core of your page should belong to you.

Visuals
Desirable website visual trends are somewhat contradictory, but as long as you stick to the core premise—keeping your website organic and appropriate to your brand—you should be fine.

2020 sees the return of asymmetrical design trends; for example, you might have a logo on your landing page that takes up a third of the left side of the page. However, another trend anticipated by Shakuro is the use of negative space to emphasize an image—or, if you aren’t confused enough, an image that takes up the full screen with a focal point in the middle. A/B testing with different designs will be your friend this year.

Animation, high-definition renders of images, and a profound focus on aesthetically pleasing images (especially illustration) is something else you’ll want to incorporate into your design. One tip that holds true for all is that the integration of design and development from the bottom up; doing this will help streamline your process going forward.

Colors
Unlike in prior years, color schemes are largely unchanged; you’ll want to ensure that any changes you make evoke a subtle, soft quality, and some services (e.g., Shakuro) suggest incorporating natural colors as opposed to bright or bold ones. Aside from these two minor updates, keep doing what you’re doing—as long as your selected palette isn’t so dissonant that it causes stress, you’re probably safe. Just so you know Pantones color of the year for 2020 is classic blue.

Text
More than anything, your text should be written to be read by humans—not search engines. This is a common trend this year; you’ll notice that many of the items on this list are more geared toward making the human experience pleasant and noteworthy rather than simply “good enough.” This philosophy also carries over to your text design, which should communicate your brand via visual. In short, don’t use Comic Sans if you want to convey professionalism.

Another couple of minor text changes to make involve moving text overlays and combining text with visuals (e.g., videos or high-definition photos). These themes aren’t new to UX and UI by any means, but they were overplayed for a few years; luckily, it looks like they’re coming back into favor.

Experience
Perhaps the most difficult—and important—aspect of your website is the user experience. This is a good time to remind yourself to check on your mobile experience as well; often, a user’s mobile experience will determine whether or not they return to your page.

An easy way to stand out to your audience is by customizing your navigation options to fit your visual theme rather than using a default navigation setup. This can be tricky, however: you don’t want to create a site that’s unique to the point of being gimmicky—and, thus, difficult to navigate.

And, if you’re looking for an easy way to lower your audience’s blood pressure, designing a UX that requires fewer refreshes, page clicks, and redirects is a sure way to do so.

2020 may not be the flashiest year in terms of web development, but what these trends lack in star power they make up for in subtlety and depth of meaning. Don’t miss out on what could be the most content-rich year for your website!

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Business Marketing

Hiring Managers keep you on your toes, so you should step up

(BUSINESS MARKETING) If you want to stand out from other job applicants, weird outfits, stunts, and baked goods will only get you so far – and in fact, may backfire.

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hiring managers interview

In an increasingly competitive job market, how do you make sure that your application doesn’t get buried in a pile of paper? How do you stand out from the pack?

According to research by employment search website Simply Hired, hiring managers get an average of 34 applications per job listing, but they spend time genuinely considering an average of only 12.6 percent of them – that’s less than one third. Some applicants may feel the need to go above and beyond the average application and do something unusual or unexpected to grab the hiring manager’s attention.

Simply Hired conducted a survey to find out whether or not “nontraditional” strategies to stand out are worth the risk, or whether it makes sense to stick to a traditional resume and cover letter. They surveyed over 500 hiring managers and over 500 job applicants to find out what sort of outside-of-the-box approaches applicants are willing to take, and which ones do and don’t pay off.

Most notably, the survey found that a over 63 percent of hiring managers find attention-grabbing gimmicks totally unacceptable, with only 20.2 percent saying they were acceptable. Hiring managers were also given a list of unusual strategies to rank from most to least acceptable. Unsurprisingly, the least acceptable strategy was offering to sleep with the hiring manager – which should really go without saying.

Interestingly, hiring managers also really disliked when applicants persistently emailed their resume over and over until they got a response. One or two follow up emails after your initial application isn’t such a bad idea – but if you don’t get a response after that, continuing to pester the hiring manager isn’t going to help.

While sending baked goods to the office was considered a somewhat acceptable strategy, sending those same cookies to the manager’s home address was a big no-no. Desserts might sweeten your application, but not if you cross a professional boundary by brining them to someone’s home – that’s just creepy.

Another tactic that hiring managers received fairly positively was “enduring extreme weather to hand-deliver a resume” – but waiting around for inclement weather to apply for a job doesn’t seem very efficient. However, hiring managers did respond well to applicants who went out of their way to demonstrate a skill, for example, by creating a mock product or presentation or completing their interview in a second language. A librarian who was surveyed said she landed her job by making her resume into a book and creating QR codes with links to her portfolio, while a woman applying to work at the hotel hopped behind the counter and started checking customers in.

It’s worth noting that while most hiring managers aren’t into your gimmicks and games, of the 12.9 percent of applicants who said they are risked an unusual strategy, 67.7 percent of those actually landed the job.

Still, it’s probably a safer bet to stick to the protocol and not try any theatrics. So then, what can you actually do to improve your chances of landing the job?

Applicants surveyed tended to focus most of their time on their resume, but according to hiring managers, the interview and cover letter are “the top ways to stand out among the rest.” Sure, brush up your resume, but make sure to give equal time to writing a strong cover letter and practicing potential interview questions.

In the survey, applicants also tended to overestimate the importance of knowing people within the company and having a “unique” cover letter and interview question answers; meanwhile, they underestimated the importance of asking smart questions at the interview and personality. In fact, hiring managers reported that personality was the most impactful factor in their hiring decisions.
It appears that the best way to stand out in a job interview is to wow them with your personality and nail the interview. Weird outfits, stunts, and baked goods will only get you so far – and in fact, may backfire.

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