Determining Future Potential with SEO Data Forecasting
Find out how you can get a more accurate idea of your site’s and business’s future performance through a mix of SEO tactics.
Though it’s been a term used by digital marketing experts since Google started paving the way for white hat advertising methods in the early 2000s, what we think of as search engine optimization today is very different from its earliest iterations. Largely driven by innovation in Google’s search engine results algorithm, SEO has been a way for website owners to organically increase traffic. What’s changed over the years, and what makes SEO so crucial to the modern marketing campaign, is the combination of technical and non-technical website elements that impact a given website’s search engine performance.
Until several years ago, keyword usage in both the metadata and the content of a website was one of the sole driving factors that seemed to have a real and immediate impact on search engine result pages (SERPs). This changed when the BERT update to the algorithm in 2019 forced websites to reassess these old tactics in lieu of having to focus more on content optimization and quality as well as website performance metrics such as page loading speed and other technical elements. Keywords remained somewhat important, but it was how they had to be used in more organic ways that truly changed the way the marketing industry approached website design and content in the subsequent years.
According to the Moz marketing platform, SEO has evolved into the practice of increasing not only the amount of web traffic your site gets, but also focusing on the quality of that traffic from more organic search results. Over time, this decreases the effort you have to put into paid methods of generating leads, as the tools you have deployed will be attracting traffic through non-paid avenues.
There are myriad factors that go into SEO effectiveness, but what we’re more concerned with in this discussion is the role SEO and the data it generates has in determining the future potential performance of your website. First, we’re going to talk about data sources and the role differently sourced data plays in maximizing your marketing strategy. Then we’ll dig into how we can use these sources of data to create models to help anticipate how your site will perform in the future in order to tweak and adjust current practices to maximize future profitability.
Your Data Sources Matter
Big data trends have shown the marketing industry that tracking, analyzing, and leveraging user behaviors and activities across websites and the full digital real estate of your brand can bring significant value to the table. When we talk about this sort of data gathered from across your own organization’s website and digital assets, we’re talking about data that you can gather directly and that your team has free and unlimited access to at the level where that data is being generated. It’s your data from your users. In order to understand why this is key to establishing a baseline for future analysis, we should first look at how your first-party data differs from that you might find from other sources, and then how to best use the data captured first hand to guide other analytics activities.
First-Party Data Versus Third-Party Data
From the systems we use to manage websites to the marketing tools we use to create and manage marketing campaigns across our various social media platforms, we have access to enormous reservoirs of data. As it’s sourced by our own systems, we can rely on its integrity, accuracy, and the fact that it’s secure and collected in compliance with any privacy or confidentiality requirements that regulate your organization.
On the other hand, you have various organizations throughout your market segment that provide the same sort of data, but sourced from competitors and other similar operators and made available through organizations that specialize in acquiring, collating, and reselling data. The scope that this data represents is massive, bringing value in that it is useful to identify industry trends, but relying solely on third-party data can skew your reporting by introducing a lack of specificity or accuracy relative to your collected data.
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Advantages of Generating Your Own Data
Aside from providing an increased level of accuracy to the data you’ve collected relative to your market niche, first-hand data is easily integrated into your customer relationship management systems (CRM) to help and create highly targeted and impactful campaigns. And because the CRM is also capturing data and feeding it back into the system, subsequent campaigns will be only that more effective through remarketing and retargeting strategies. This holds true for any new products or services you bring to market, as the development and iteration cycles can be tweaked with the use of analytics to help solve problems before customers even realize the pain point that you’re there to solve.
Leveraging Third-Party Data to Increase the Value of Your Internally Sourced Data
We use third-party data in a broad sense to benchmark and establish industry standard best practices that we can then verify, improve upon, and execute based on the data we already have on hand through our own systems. For example, third-party data research might indicate that you’re excluding key demographics from your content strategy. You can then use that guidance to adjust your content management approach to target that demographic, and then verify over time with your own internally generated data the effectiveness of the pivot. You might find that the external data did in fact reveal an opportunity, or you might find that your original approach was more effective and that you might have other opportunities to address. All of this through the combined approach of internally sourced and externally acquired data.
Integrating Third-Party Data To Create an Effective Forecasting Model for SEO
Search engine optimization requires a level of precision in your marketing practices that can only be achieved by combining first- and third-party data analytics strategies. It’s important to use these strategies as a basis for your model for forecasting future performance because they are metrics that can clearly be measured and can clearly be mapped to the crucial KPIs that drive your decision-making in marketing.
What is SEO Forecasting?
It was necessary that we start this discussion with an overview of how we acquire and use data from different sources, as SEO forecasting depends on that data to determine what results we can ultimately expect in the future as a result of any changes or modifications we make to the current state of our SEO. Much like other technology and digital solutions, we’re creating a business use model that uses historical data to provide leadership with tangible justification to the strategic business initiatives the marketing team is requesting funding to implement.
Marketers Need to Align SEO Forecasting With Organizational Goals
Let’s consider the goals of SEO and how they directly correlate to the marketing goal of improving sales.
Search engine optimization is primarily concerned with improving the performance and ranking of your website on SERPs, with the goal of being on the first page of results. Click-through-rate studies show that there is even an exponential difference in how often the first result on the page is chosen over the second, with subsequent results competing for whatever is left. Other coveted positions include the Google Answer Box and Featured Snippet. Data can be used to determine what’s impacted ranking increases in the past, and then your team can implement changes in line with those drivers, whether that be new content, improving your keyword research tactics to improve keyword rankings, technical enhancements to the website for performance, or on-page SEO improvements.
Improving Organic Traffic Growth
The higher or more visibly your site ranks on a SERP, the more impressions and interactions you can expect to receive, increasing your overall site traffic. This can be accomplished through improved content marketing tactics, link building, and properly leveraging keywords to increase search volume. However, the only way to truly track CTR data at that level is Google’s Search Console—not even Google Analytics gives access to the level of CTR behavior on your website. After establishing page ownership, you can dig into user behaviors on your own page and how it stacks up to other sites with similar keyword strategies, competitors in your industry, and other KPIs. We’ll dig more into this tool below.
Increased Conversion Rates Lead to Increased Sales
While one organization’s technical definition of a conversion might differ from that of others, the bottom line concept is that if we’re driving more traffic to our website from other channels, that increased traffic will increase the number of potential conversions, and overall revenues will increase over time as well.
Circling Back to Google Search Console and Using the Data With Other Tools
The Google Search Console tracks the last 90 days’ worth of data and provides a strategic insight into your website’s performance that can then be loaded into other SEO tracking and strategic planning tools in order to determine next steps for targeted improvements. These tools then spin that data through internal algorithms and let you compare your site’s performance relative to keywords or other competitors in the same industry. Many of the interfaces will allow you to then predict metrics such as:
- A range of future traffic based on your own traffic patterns and those of similar businesses. If the traffic doesn’t align with your goals, you can use the analytics to make site changes that will impact future traffic levels based on this insight.
- Some tools reveal your future traffic value or the investment in paid marketing it would take to generate the same traffic in paid advertising. This is essentially a measure of the return on investment of your organic marketing efforts to show how much you’re saving by instituting effective inbound marketing through content.
- If you’re looking for insight into the competition, you’ll be able to compare your own growth to that of others in the industry based on current state website performances.
- You can use this data to also properly plan for service disruptions due to site maintenance, service upgrades, or product launches by determining when site traffic is slowest.
Unleash the Power of Your Website’s Data with SEO Forecasting
These are only some of the methods and best practices for translating your current SEO efforts into powerful business case arguments to support your strategic marketing efforts. By using the data that Google tracks and the other data collected from your various digital channels, you can create powerful forecasting tools that will help you to improve your site’s ongoing SEO performance.