Using data to inform SEO strategies.

Every strategy should be designed to meet an objective, and
the more information you have to hand before you begin the easier it is going
to be to align activity to the end goal. That said, a strategy is only as good
as the data used to create it – if you’re working from an incomplete or
inaccurate dataset then the tactics you deploy won’t necessarily be the ones
you need.

Generally, there are two types of data you can use to form a
strategy:

  1. Internal
  2. External

Wherever possible, a mixture of both should be used so you
can approach the strategy from different standpoints.

Using internal data

Internal data is a goldmine and should be the first thing
you look at when forming a strategy, but many people confuse internal data with
platform data like you would get from Google Analytics and similar platforms.
When we reference internal data, it is information specifically from the
company, including:

  1. Financial data (sales, refunds/cancellations,
    upsell rates)
  2. Marketing data (plans, promotions, positioning)
  3. Audience data (demographics, interests,
    geographies)
  4. Promotional data (platforms, technologies, website)

Clients know their business, and they know it better than
you. But they can also reach out to other people in the company to get
information much easier than you could, you just need to remember to ask them
for it.

Use cases

Financial data

  1. If you know the general conversion rate of sales
    to upsells (e.g. at-basket addons, in-platform feature upsells), you can work
    out how many conversions you’d need to generate to increase the average
    customer value, resulting in a higher lifetime value for each customer and thus
    higher revenue
  2. If you know the rate of refunds (and average
    refund value) that occur, you can bake them into your forecasts and make sure
    that you’re goals are set on driving X% more revenue to cover the cost of the
    refunds
  3. If you’re working on a lead basis, you can ask
    your client for information on the value of leads being driven by different
    conversion points (and channels) so you can focus your Organic efforts on the
    pages, or sections, of the site which result in the highest value leads for
    them

Marketing data

  1. Any information around a client’s own plans to
    market the company, product, or service should always be baked into your own
    plans for new landing pages, on-page optimisation, and new content
  2. Positioning data is what sets your client apart
    from their competitors – use this to inform landing page optimisation, new
    content, and general tone of voice across the website

Audience data

  1. Target vs. actual audiences often differ
    slightly, and platform data only gives you estimations, so the more you know
    about their audience the more you can tailor content on the site to capture and
    engage them
  2. Any kind of terminology that is specific to
    their audience should be used in keyword research and page creation

Platform data

  1. Ever had a client spring a migration on you? The
    more information you know about their platforms and technologies, the easier it
    is to prepare for last minute changes or mid-strategy pivots
  2. Knowing what other platforms they own or operate
    on can also give you insight into the types of activity that could be completed
    – heavy on affiliate sites? May be worth building their own voucher page

Using external data

External data can come from a variety of sources and give
you ample opportunity to explore and dissect opportunities from different
angles, including:

  1. Analytics
  2. Audience
  3. Competitor
  4. Industry

You can also get external data from things like similar
clients (even if not competitors, applying similar thought processes to similar
client challenges is a good starting point), past experience, and even
conferences and webinars.

Use cases

Analytics

  1. Without knowing how you’re performing currently,
    or how you have done previously, you won’t be able to accurately predict where
    you could go or what you need to do to get there – use Analytics platforms as a
    base for your data
  2. Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools
    give you great insight into how the two crawlers are accessing and
    understanding the site currently – use this to determine key focus areas for
    improvement, whether that is at a query level or a general site
    health/accessibility level
  3. Not technically analytics, but crawl simulators
    like Screaming Frog, Deepcrawl or Sitebulb are also essential for understanding
    site health so if you combine this data with standard analytics data you can
    determine areas on the site that may be under or overperforming based on site
    data

Audience

  1. You’ve already got some audience insight from
    your client and general research, and can combine that information with the
    Analytics information above to determine how accurate that audience profile is
    compared to the site profile; if it is wildly different you know you’ve got
    work to do to realign them
  2. Platforms like Global Web Index and SimilarWeb
    can also give you huge amounts of information on prospective audiences, where
    they go, what they do, and what they want to see so you can apply this to
    onsite content changes and even structural changes

Competitor

  1. Although just because your competitors are doing
    something it doesn’t mean you should be too, you should at least be aware of
    what they’re focusing on and how effectively so you can determine whether you
    need to do the same, different, or similar to continue competing with them in
    the space
  2. Tools like Ahrefs are great for exploring
    content so if that’s a big part of your focus then I’d strongly recommend
    taking a look at the content explorer (and keyword explorer) to see what kind
    of content is appearing, what your competitors are doing and appearing for, and
    what is and isn’t working
  3. Tools like Sistrix and SEMRush (and most rank
    tracking tools) give you good top-level insight into things like visibility,
    keywords, SERP features, and general top-line SEO data on your site, your
    competitor sites, and even industry benchmark sites so a look at these will
    give you a great deal of information to apply to your strategy

Industry

  1. Opensource datasets like the ONS and NOMIS give
    you huge amounts of data on the economy, business, and different industries so
    if you’re wondering what the next 6 months might hold for your client’s
    industry this is a great place to start looking at trends that may continue so
    you can adapt accordingly
  2. Industry news websites, while often a bit of a
    dig to get through, are filled with information you can use about what has
    happened at different points in the past and what the outcomes have been so you
    can start factoring in things that are likely to affect your strategy should certain
    elements change again

5 steps to a winning strategy

  1. Work backwards from your objectives
  2. Interrogate your available data
  3. Research trends and plot key changes
  4. Form data-driven tactics aligned with objectives
  5. Revisit frequently

Strategies can, and should, change as frequently as they
need to and one of the traps people fall into is setting a strategy and then
forgetting about it for the next 6 months or however long they’ve set the
strategy before. But situations change, data changes, and needs change so if
you’re not adapting your strategy based on the latest information available,
you’re going to be left behind.

If you need help getting a strategy in place or want to see
if there is more you could be doing to take performance to the next level, take
a look at our SEO
Services
and get in touch.