Analytics Reports & Proving the ROI of SEO #SMX

STOP READING if you’re not interested in uber-useful charts. Or proving the ROI of SEO to decision-makers. Or  insights into how Bing is thinking about search engine optimization — because that’s what you’re in store for if you read this liveblog of this analytics-minded SMX West 2016 session, featuring:

  • Ryan Jones, Manager Search Strategy & Analysis, SapientNitro (@RyanJones)
  • Erin Everhart, Lead Manager, Digital Marketing – SEO, The Home Depot (@erinever)
  • Derrick Wheeler, Sr Product Intelligence Manager, Microsoft (@derrickwheeler)

From left: Erin Everhart, Ryan Jones and Derrick WheelerNext-Level SEO Reports

“Find the 20% that will deliver 80% of results. Not everything that counts can be counted and not everything that can be counted counts.” – Albert Einstein

Forget big data. We need actionable data. We need data that helps us make insightful decisions. Or so says Ryan Jones.

The Three What’s of Actionable Analysis

  1. What is it?
  2. What does it mean?
  3. What Should We do About it?

Consumer Journey

When Jones was in college, the consumer journey meant the funnel. But users don’t flow through a funnel anymore. There are so many different touch points that you can’t measure it in the funnel. If the old model was a funnel, the new funnel is a crazy straw.

Making Link Data Actionable

This graph is made with the free tool Gephi. With it, canonical issues are easily spotted, as are orphaned site sections:



It works for internal links, as well:


Ranking Reports

Clients don’t know what to do with ranking reports like this:


Jones prefers to show them ranking reports that look like this:


Keyword Research

Try a tree sheet rather than an excel list. The colors seen in the tree sheet represent competition. This is free on Google sheets and it’s super visual.



Jones made this 3D report with Sketchup:



Google Fusion Tables



Tools to Make Next-Level Charts

  • RAW:
  • Gephi: network map (link analysis) #free
  • Tableau #expensive
  • Google Fusion Tables (found in Google Drive) #JonesFavorite
  • Sketchup
  • Custom Python and d3.js solution

Data Tools Jones Uses

  • SEMRush
  • Moz Open Site Explorer
  • Majestic
  • SimilarWeb
  • A Hrefs
  • Google Webmaster Console
  • Screaming Frog

How to Prove the Value of SEO

Erin Everhart is up. Decision makers and executives may recognize SEO as important, but SEO is one of the largest underfunded channels out there.

  • 92 of U.S. adults use search engines to find information.
  • 56% use search engines at least once a day.
  • 91% find what they’re looking for on search engines.

It’s the SEO’s job to get the C-suite to understand what all the above means. Everhart says that this begins with setting the right expectations. First, educate the executives so they understand all the money they’re investing in quarter one isn’t going to show ROI until much later. Organic search engine optimization has an incubation period that they don’t anticipate unless you tell them.

Start small. Don’t tell the executives all the problems right off the bat. For example, with Home Depot, Everhart started by focusing on redirects. Focus on small chunks that can make a big impact, then pitch bigger projects later after you’ve proved the impact SEO can have.

Show a Competitor Beating You.

Nobody likes data as much as SEO. We need to be able to get down into the data.

Give them information, not data. Don’t just tell them traffic is down, but why traffic is down. Next step: give them actions to do – not just a laundry list of possible tactics.

Stop reporting on window shoppers only. People visiting a site are just window shoppers. Who knows what they’re doing on the site? Traffic is great but revenue is better. Relate everything you’re doing back to dollars.

SEO at Microsoft “Insights Engine”

Derrick Wheeler of Microsoft will talk about how his team is looking at SEO.

SEO at Microsoft: Scope, Ecosystem, Roles


  • Lead generation
  • Event registrations
  • Sales/revenue
  • Customer satisfaction
  • Cost savings
  • Market share


  • Enterprise
  • S/M businesses
  • Consumers
  • Developers
  • Press
  • 140+ Markets


  • Webtrends
  • Omniture
  • MDA
  • Other

Content Management systems

  • Over 12 in use
  • More in development

Content Types

  • Pre-sales
  • Post-sales
  • Ecoommerce
  • News/blogs
  • Events
  • Search engine


  • IT
  • Designers
  • Developers
  • Writers
  • Site managers
  • Other marketers
  • International subsidiaries
  • Agencies/vendors
  • Executives

There are two types of measurements that Wheeler cares about:

  1. Reporting the business outcomes of SEO efforts to inform future levels of investment.
  2. Uncovering opportunities to drive greater business value out of our SEO program.

Insights Engine: Daily and Monthly Anomaly Watch

  1. Determine if traffic change is legitimate and significant.
    • Was tracking code added to, or removed from, an existing site?
      • Yes: notify analytics team.
      • No: look at seasonal trends, industry chatter and significant events.
  2. Contact site owner and SEO lead
    • Were they aware of the decrease/increase?
    • Is it a brand site?
      • Yes: onboard to our SEO programs.
      • No: did they make any recent changes?
  3. For Increases
    • Document changes made
    • Create case study
    • Broadly share best practices
  4. For Decreases
    • Enable appropriate measurement plan
    • Investigate scope and diagnose potential causes
    • Provide documentation on best-practice “violations”
    • Recommend fixes and follow up to facilitate implementation
    • Measure impact and follow No. 3 above

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Kristi Kellogg is a journalist, news hound, professional copywriter, and social (media) butterfly. Currently, she is a senior SEO content writer for Conde Nast. Her articles appear in newspapers, magazines, across the Internet and in books such as "Content Marketing Strategies for Professionals" and "The Media Relations Guidebook." Formerly, she was the social media editor at Bruce Clay Inc.

See Kristi's author page for links to connect on social media.

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