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The SEO ‘do more with less’ cookbook

How do you get the most out of your SEO program with limited resources? Columnist Bobby Lyons outlines his strategy for using analytics data to find areas of the site that, if improved, could drive additional revenue for the business.

“Do more with less.” How often in our careers have we heard that phrase? Ultimately, that statement always means there is a need to reduce budget while still maintaining growth (or, at a minimum, flat year-over-year performance).

The good news is that in SEO, we are the kings and queens of “do more with less.” SEO professionals today are constantly competing against significantly larger teams — unless, of course, you are working at the online gorilla Amazon or in a top affiliate organization.

Over the past 20 years working in SEO, I have worked in pureplay, omnichannel, startups and Fortune 500, and the cookbook for doing more with less contains the same recipe. Sure, the recipe may need to be modified at an ingredient level to increase servings, but the ingredients never change. What you should find in your cookbook for your “more with less” recipe is as follows:

  • Pursue position gains for head terms.
  • Maximize CTR (click-through rate).
  • Expand long-tail keyword inventory.
  • Maximize value from existing traffic.
  • Amplify external content marketing efforts.
  • Align SEO efforts more closely to the campaign calendars.

Myself, I like to add a bit of a kick to my recipe: I step back and think big picture. How can I adjust my ingredient amounts to maximize the effort to include value for all channels?

Demonstrating impact across all channels is critical in obtaining resources to support my objectives today, and it establishes credibility within the organization long-term. The nature of our profession requires that an SEO professional routinely take off their marketing hat and explore user experience, merchandising and broader technology issues. These areas of the business have a direct impact on the performance of all marketing channels as well as direct traffic.

While we are always looking for program improvements, clearly there are times where we must squeeze the most out of the program to achieve the goals assigned to us by the company. I like to use a divide-and-conquer approach to make sure I have dedicated attention to each core growth activity.

In the divide-and-conquer approach, I typically take on the global impact improvements and task my other team members to devise a strategy to tackle the SEO-specific activities. Depending on your team size, you may have to do all the activities, or you may be able to spread them out evenly across the team. Regardless of team size, every growth opportunity area must be worked. Don’t forget to include your key partners as well when assigning out the activities.

For my part, I am going to specifically look at areas of the website where the data indicates that an improvement in user experience, merchandising and/or performance can drive additional revenue. In this example data set, I pulled landing page data from Google Analytics. This can be entry page data from Omniture or Coremetrics as well. The key area of analysis in this data set is focusing on potential opportunities by evaluating engagement metrics and conversion rate.

Looking at this hypothetical sample data set, which represents one week of data, there are a few items I have highlighted in red and green. Both are opportunities, but the green cells represent values I would want to replicate, while the red cells represent values I am targeting to improve. The primary information we are hoping to glean from the report is as follows:

  1. Identify positives that can be used to demonstrate potential for other pages. For items highlighted in green, we want to fully understand why the metrics are positive. In this case, the first row is the home page of the website. An analysis will still take place, but we need to keep in mind that home pages perform well because they are a high repeat visitor entry point. Visitors coming in via email and/or through a brand term are going to convert at a higher level than other traffic.
  2. Find pages where one device type is outperforming the other in terms of bounce rate. If a user is bouncing primarily on mobile, we perform a deep dive on the mobile performance of the page. This allows us to rule out page load times and see how the experience differs compared to the tablet and desktop experience.
  3. Look for areas where poor metrics align for both mobile and desktop. This indicates that there is either a shared technology or user experience issue, or (more commonly) a merchandising issue. In this case, the page sample name I used was “clearance.” Clearance and sale pages should have low bounce rates — visitors love to browse good deals, and the conversion rate should be close to what you see with your home page. Our first inclination here would be that we are not providing compelling deals on the page, which means we should analyze the demand for the products on the page, as well as perform some price comparisons to see if the deal stands up in the market. Certainly, I will place a monitor on this page to capture performance metrics to rule out a technology issue.
  4. The last step in the process is to build out the “what if” model. The “what if” model is just saying that if clearance were at the same revenue per visit as the home page, the weekly revenue would have been roughly $3,700 instead of $561. On an annual basis, that is $163,228 more out of that single page.
  5. Build the model out across all pages and come up with a total to justify investment from the rest of the business. Do not forget to bring in traffic from the other channel sources to represent the increased value for those channels if revenue per visit can be increased to the target level.

Building out this model across a large number of pages provides a solid list of where more SEO revenue can be obtained where position is not the primary factor. The traffic is arriving, and certainly the quality of the traffic may differ based on position, but revenue movement is possible — and that movement has value across all traffic sources. Arguably, the improvements could result in positive movement in position, which would bring added value to the project.