I often say that the SEO professional (and most business professionals for that matter) have three primary roles: doing the work, monitoring progress based on the work, and communicating the process and progress of the work to those who care. In the case of metrics, they increase one’s influence and credibility by regularly monitoring and communicating about them. However, metrics are inherently an enigma. The mystery that surrounds them is always a tough nut to crack in the common perception of most people. All that most see is a bunch of numbers in neatly stacked columns that have very little context. Let’s put this into perspective so we both have a common understanding of the value in talking about technical SEO metrics. Metrics are the specific measurements, data if you will, that in themselves mean little until evaluated and interpreted. What this data will tell you is where your website is achieving what you expect by enabling success in your business.
I like to use a baseball analogy to make that point more plainly by borrowing a quote from the book Moneyball by Michael Lewis:
“When the numbers acquire the significance of language, they acquire the power to do all the things which language can do … and it is victory and defeat which is all that the sub-conscious really understands.”
The ability to turn data into language that people can understand, at all levels in your organization, is the difference between hitting home runs and continually fouling off pitch after pitch because your swing is wrong. Technical SEO metrics are the power of the swing. Even if your results are great, if you can’t tell a clear story based on them, your stakeholders will be underwhelmed and your value will be minimized. The ability to show results, using solid data analysis, is the difference maker between victory and defeat when it comes to building a website the produces results. If you want the S.C.O.R.E. to be in your favor at the end of the day, make sure your SEO metrics are telling the story your team needs to hear in language they can understand—and this language (and metrics) will vary whether they’re an executive, from a business unit, in Web strategy, or on a technical or IT team.
Therefore, this requires thinking through a solid foundation for your technical metrics and making sure the resources are in place to understand the story your data is telling you. Also, have contingency plans as part of overall strategy if some of your standard metrics vary greatly. This could include factors related to algorithm changes (think Penguin, Panda, and Hummingbird); an increase in error codes, 404 pages, or bounce rates (secondary metrics really); or a drop in rank, visits, or your top purchase or conversion metrics (primary metrics). Our friends at Search Engine Watch provide excellent insight on what the consequences might be if your website isn’t on solid technical footing. The worst part is that you probably won’t even know you have the problem, unless either search engines penalties or your results tell you otherwise. These preparatory steps create the environment at Adobe for our technical metrics to live and thrive in so they can tell us in plain language when things aren’t going quite right.
S – Standardize on a set of metrics so that the event can be reconstructed if it goes wrong.
C – Commit to a set of SEO tools and tracking methods and teach key stakeholders to use them.
O – Organizational alignment with the corporate needs, goals, and objectives.
R – Reports and dashboards must tell the story of the data in language all can understand.
E – Execute the campaign with consistent and repeatable methods so results can be compared.
If the global team is to deliver organic and site search strategies that produce results, then the search team must deliver exceptional industry best practices and KPI-focused data relevant to corporate goals and objectives to align best with product marketing efforts.