Search engine optimization is more than just the creative work that goes into our strategies. You can spend a lot of time and money carrying out elaborate SEO campaigns, but they will be worth little unless you understand the results. That’s where reporting and attribution come in—they help you identify your successes (and failings) and figure out what you did that caused them.
Reporting and attribution are necessary for any marketing campaign, not just for SEO, and certainly not just for SaaS companies. Of course, it is when you get into the nitty gritty that you begin to see how reporting SEO success for you SaaS company is different from other industries.
For SEO, there are two areas we care about the most: search engine rankings and on-site performance. If you aren’t showing up on the first page, you aren’t getting valuable organic traffic and leads. And if your on-site performance isn’t working well, then you’re not converting that traffic into valuable leads or sales.
It’s possible to manually check your rankings for specific keywords, but you work for a SaaS company. You know there are better and more efficient ways to automate simple tasks like this.
In addition to understanding where your website is ranking for targeted keywords, you want some historical perspective to help you understand performance over time. You need something that will continue tracking data while saving past rankings so you can see the big picture.
Google and Bing provide some help on this front with Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools. Each site has a tool where you can view the keywords where your site is showing up within their search engine.
Google calls theirs Search Analytics, while you can find Bing’s data under the Search Keywords in their Reports & Data section.
Each of these tools has some similar features and a few slight differences. These include:
- Clicks from organic search results,
- Impressions or number of times your site has appeared in a search result
- Click through rate, or the percentage of times someone clicked on your result
- Average position over the timeframe you are viewing
The average position can provide quality insight into how you are performing across the board, as Google doesn’t always serve up the exact same results to every searcher. Rather, Google personalizes the search as they attempt to offer up the most accurate results for their users.
Other Helpful Ranking Tools
There are some drawbacks to using these tools exclusively. One, they use aggregated data. Second, they only allow you to look at historical data for a specific time frame. Google’s allows you to review the previous 90 days, while Bing allows you to go back six months. It is a recommended practice to download monthly results and create your own historical data base.
Although we can gain solid insights into the organic performance of an SEO campaign with these tools, it doesn’t provide a complete picture. Because of these limitations, it is good practice to other tools that will provide the following:
- Daily Rankings
- Historical Tracking
- Track Multiple Targeted Keywords
- SERPs Research
Some of our favorites ranking tools at Big Leap include Agency Analytics, SERPs, Authority Labs, Moz, and SEMRush. We use these tools for historical tracking, to spot check up-to-date rankings, and to research the search results.
Reporting & Attribution
Tracking your rankings is just the beginning. Understanding how users act once they are on your website is where the fun starts.
We live in a world where potential clients and customers will come into contact with your business from multiple touch points. This could include billboards, TV and radio ads, and even personal interactions. There are also multiple online touch points, such as social media, paid ad listings, and organic search results.
Giving proper attribution to each of these channels is important to understand the full success of you offline and online marketing initiatives. It will also help you to better serve existing customers in addition to capturing potential leads.
To begin we will need an analytics software. The most popular available is Google Analytics and this in thanks to their free version that offers up nearly immeasurable ways to analyze the performance of you site.
Let’s look at some of the basics to help you get started.
There are a few key areas within Google Analytics to help us measure the overall effectiveness and success of our SEO efforts. We are not just looking at organic traffic—we want to measure every area that may have helped drive traffic. Two of the most powerful tracking capabilities within Google Analytics are Analytics Goals and Acquisition Channels.
We will start with goals. A goal is an action a visitor takes on your site, such as a click of a button or a click on a link.
For many SaaS companies a goal could include:
- Free trial signups
- eBook or white paper downloads
- Signups for webinars
- Subscribing to an email list.
Setting up the right goals will go a long way in helping you determine the success of your SEO campaign.
Google Analytics has made it easy to set up goal tracking with three ways to track goals. To set up and track your goals in Google Analytics, go to the Admin section and under All Web Site Data click on Goals. You will have several options to choose from including templates that include Revenue Acquisition, Inquiry, Engagement, Smart Goal (which is connect to you PPC campaigns), or create a Custom goal.
Once you select the type of goal, you will move on to the Goal Description. Here you will name the Goal, assign it to a Goal Slot ID, and create the Type. The Type includes the following:
- Destination – Like a thank you page
- Pages/Screens Per Session
- Event – Play a Video, Fill Out a Form, etc.
When you’ve completed the goal description, you will move on to Goal Details, which will help you further define the goal.
For in-depth help using Google Analytics to track goals, visit Google’s Support pages.
Another helpful report for SaaS companies is the Channel Report. This report will show where visitors enter your site, whether it’s from a search engine, social media link, or many other possibilities. To keep things simple, start with the default channels:
- Organic search
- Paid search
- Other advertising
Depending on your marketing campaigns, you may want to create additional channel groupings to help you better understand your site’s traffic.
For SEO purposes, we will be focusing on three of these channels: organic, social, and referral.
The organic search channel will give us all the insight we need into understanding the success of traffic from the improving rankings. It doesn’t tell the whole story of the success of the strategies that have helped us improve those rankings.
For this we turn to the Social and Referral channels.
SEO isn’t just about getting things set up correctly on-site. While this is important to help Google and other search engines determine what a given site is about, it is just a part of the puzzle they use to give a site top billing in their results.
This leads us in to our off-site SEO strategies, which come down to helping a business gain exposure online through link building and social promotion. As link building and social promotion are key to the work we do, we want to make sure we capture these results in the Social and Referral channel reports.
If you aren’t giving proper attribution to your SEO efforts, you will miss key information that can help improve your marketing, better understand your customers, and ultimately improve the bottom line.
Google Analytics offers some critical data to help you understand a visitor’s conversion path. By capturing multiple touch points, we can understand how each conversion is moving through the conversion funnel without discounting the any of the touch points.
Avinash Kaushik, the Digital Marketing Evangelist for Google offers a more in-depth look at Multi-Channel Attribution Modeling here.