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How To Benchmark Social Media Vs. SEO Success

Many search marketing industry analysts are saying that social media is quickly becoming the new SEO.  Note that we used the word ‘analysts,’ and not ‘experts.’  The reason for this is that anyone who really knows what they’re talking about when it comes to SEO understands that social media is not the new search.  However, both of these aspects of online marketing are coming together quickly, and the lines between them are more blurred than ever.

As the latest Google Penguin update takes effect, focusing on social media is becoming ever more important for business website owners, as well as for webmasters and professional SEO services companies.

While most people are aware of the platforms they can use, such as Google Webmaster Tools,  to oversee general SEO and website performance, many are unaware of how they can track success, and measure return on investment (ROI), from social media.  In some cases, a lack of understanding around how to measure success prevents some businesses from committing fully to a social campaign.  Thankfully, gauging the success of a social media campaign is actually very easy to do.

Some of the techniques you should use include tools that you are probably already familiar with, such as Google Analytics, and some don’t actually require any tools at all!

Analytics or Webmaster Tools

Analytics or Webmaster Tools

Image courtesy of Bay Area Search Engine Academy.

Analyzing where your traffic is coming from is probably something you do on a regular basis.  In addition to reviewing your keyword impressions and click through rates, you can simply view the traffic that is coming from your social media pages.  Although your social media activities might have a positive impact on your overall online marketing campaign, thanks to quality user-generated content and an increased number of trusted links, this is about discovering the value of your content as a standalone entity.

If you have employees who perform your social media activities, how many customers are they bringing in to justify their salary?  Ask the same question for anyone to whom you have outsourced work.

Social Media: Bringing in the Crowds

Over time, you might find that your social media presence is driving dozens (we’re being conservative, obviously we want more) of additional leads to your site every day.  So, this tells us that your social campaign is working, right?

Not quite, for what you really want to be looking at is how much time people are spending on your site, and at whether your site is converting these browsers into buyers.  You’ve probably read about how targeting irrelevant keywords for SEO can get you highly ranked, but achieve very little in the way of click-throughs and conversions; and social media is the same.

The devil of the detail here is the content you post.  Yes, you want people to click the link and visit your site, but remember it is better to engage 20 relevant visitors a day rather than 100 irrelevant ones who simply bounce off your pages and never come back.  Write content that appeals to your target audience rather than to the largest number of people.

Analyze the Numbers: Is it Worth It?

Some analysts believe that looking at things such as follower numbers and how many social shares you have is irrelevant, because it is not something you can control.  In reality, that is what individuals and businesses say when they don’t want to take responsibility for boring and uninspiring social media output.

The ultimate responsibility for growing followers, friends, likes, pins, and any other sharing term, comes down to you.  One positive approach to take is to review your social accounts immediately after launching promotions or giveaways.  Initiatives such as “The Next 1000 Followers will be Entered into a Prize Draw,” for example, are great ways to pique interest and help you build your following.  Your biggest task is to keep your new followers engaged, so they don’t just bounce away at the end of the promotion.

One good way to benchmark is to say you want to achieve a certain number of followers for each hour spent on social media.

Be Realistic With Time

Before you give up on social media after a week, you need to look at the bigger picture.  You aren’t going to join a social network and be an instant success.  Have a plan; consider that, as you spend more time on social media, the followers you accumulate on a regular basis will increase as your name and reputation spreads.

Your benchmark might look something like this:

In this graph, our hypothetical business gains 10 follows in month one, at which point it would be easy to say, ‘this is pointless,’ and give up.  By continuing and being positive with social media, they were earning 100 new followers/likes per month by the end of their first year of social marketing, and had in excess of 600 followers in total.

You might choose to benchmark higher or lower than that example.  In reality, it doesn’t matter how you do it, as long as you’re realistic and prepared for social success, much like SEO, to come over a period of months and years, rather than days and weeks.

Social Reporting

How often you analyze the numbers, both in terms of followers, shares, and conversions, is up to you.  However, it is probably best to go for the ‘bigger picture’ approach and look at reports over the course of a month, rather than obsessing with how you’re doing on a day-to-day basis; you do have a business to run, remember!

If you’re looking to focus on your general business activities, then there are a number of digital marketing companies, such as Bough SEO, that offer a number of tools to help with benchmarking social media and SEO success.  SEO companies will also be able to give advice and offer services in these fields should you be struggling to see positive results from your activities.

Benchmarking Social

Try not to fall into the trap of feeling like social marketing and SEO is a case of ‘one or the other.’  Yes, we have used the term ‘versus,’ but we hope that would help you to realize that such an approach is counterproductive.  Social is not going to replace SEO, but it will become an even bigger factor in where your site ranks.  Nor is it enough to see social as SEO, as ultimately your activities will prove unfruitful.

Benchmark your social activities alongside your SEO, it is easy to do and can form part of your overall marketing plan.  You should look at where more of your traffic and conversions are coming from, and adapt your strategy accordingly, but never treat them as separate entities.

Robert is an internet marketing expert who is currently specializing in social media marketing trends. Robert advises a wide range of clients on the best ways to benchmark their social media activities, as well as helping them to develop high quality content strategies to ensure they engage as many followers as possible and convert these leads into sales.

Phillip Klien of BT Buckets & Site Apps Gives Me Segmentation & CRO Tips!

I recently had a great chat with Phillip Klien, a conversion expert using software to first segment (or “bucket”) traffic and then personalize visitors’ experience. In fact, he co-founded, a behavioral targeting (BT) tool that enables exactly this kind of personalization, and, a marketplace for related CRO and BT tools.

1) How did you come up with the idea for BT Buckets as a platform? (more…)

How To Chill A Client Out When Traffic Drops Over Memorial Day

I got an email today from a client freaking out because their traffic was down about 40% yesterday and Google simultaneously sent them warnings in GWt / their email. How do you chill such a client out? (more…)

How To Exclude Brand Search Terms & Keywords In Google Analytics’ Traffic Sources Reports

Recently a client came to me with a question about where to prioritize their content-writing efforts for the site redesign, and I offered her an answer based on Google Analytics’ keyword data.

The problem is that if you just export your top keywords, you’re going to see brand search terms near the top.

What can you do with branded keywords? They’re not actionable, because you rank for your brand terms and will continue to rank in the future.

You want to find out what are your top keywords to prioritize where you spend your time writing copy.

So how do you exclude brand search keywords from your Google Analytics traffic sources report?

1. Click the “advanced” link that is near the search-filter box.

Google analytics - click the advanced search link

You’ll see a screen like the following one:

advanced search to include or exclude keywords

2. Click on the Include drop-down and switch it to exclude. Then type in your core brand term. So if your company is called John’s Crazy Shoes, type “John” or “Crazy”. Finally, click apply, and voila – you’re done!

click exclude, type your brand name or phrase and apply

What about if your brand name has lots of alternative spellings and misspellings? Or what if one site has multiple brands, due to a rebranding or multiple child companies sharing a single site with the parent company?

In such a case, you can use regular expressions, or regex, to exclude all of the brands .

All you need to do is switch the matching parameter to be “Matching RegExp” and type each of the various spellings into the text field.

regular expression matching for traffic source report

regular expression for multiple brand terms

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(Related post: How To Build Your Company’s Brand Online)

Quick Link & Relationship Building Time Savers

It’s no secret that editorial links are typically relationship driven, but who has time to build relationships? That’s why we talk at each other in ephemeral tweets that last 140 characters … if you had that kind of lasting power in your relations with your wife, a divorce would not be long in coming! (more…)

iPhone Appstore and Google Android Ranking Factors

Continuing the SphinnCon deadblogging, here are the notes I took on Barry Schwartz’s excellent and fascinating preso on mobile and on ranking factors in the Apple Appstore and Google Android app market. (Barry Schwartz’s RustyBrick developed the popular iPhone Siddur and offer iPhone Development, and mobile web dev.)

What apps does Apple like to promote and drive traffic to in its mobile store?

SEO FAQ: Can Overusing Internal Link Building Cause A Penalty?

Jimmy writes,

“I saw someone write to be careful or use the ilb in moderation to avoid getting penalized or something like that.

What are your thoughts on best practices?” (more…)

Sneaky Link Tactics: Removing Credit Where It’s Not Due

The situation: Your competitors have inbound links that are broken because of typos, changes in URL structures etc.

The common link building commentary: Most SEOs who’ve been around the link building block will tell you that it’s an opportunity to ‘build links’ for free – to pick low hanging fruit. Just drop the site owner a little email and voila – good as new. More juice for you! (more…)

View-Thru Attribution Management – My Experiment Design

An increasingly popular question in attribution management and in advertising measurement is what effect ads – that were viewed but not clicked on – have. These ads are known in the lingo as ‘View-Thrus’ or ‘View-Throughs.’ The related question people usually have is what percentage of credit to give view-thrus for conversions that came via multiple touchpoints (e.g. the customer saw and/or clicked several ads, before buying).

I’ve come up with an idea for an experiment to measure the effect of such “view-thru” ads on conversion, as well as on acquisition costs. (An acquisition cost is the cost-per-action of acquiring the lead/customer.) (more…)

What Has Changed In SEO In 2009 So Far?

There have been lots of innovations in technology, in the algorithms, in products and search engines (hi Bing!). I’m curious to know what you feel has had the greatest impact on SEO. Feel free to name multiple things, and share practical tips!

Related posts: What is SEO Optimisation?


Is PPC Necessary? Why? If So, When Do I Need To Do PPC?

Is PPC necessary? Why is PPC necessary or not? If so, when do I need to do it?

These are questions I recently got in fielding a proposal for search marketing services. For others who might have the same question, here’s the answer, and an explanation. (more…)

Does It Matter If You Use WWW For SEO? (SEO FAQ)

Question: Does it matter for my site’s SEO in Google or other search engines if I use www in the domain name? For example, do I need to use or can i use ?


8 Short Steps To Forecast and Estimate SEO ROI…

… And Based On That Projected ROI, Get Management Buy-In, Set Priorities and Spend Time Wisely.


Does Google Care If A Link Is Underlined? – SEO FAQ

A visitor dropped by my site asking whether Google cared about a link’s styling. I got in touch with Matt Cutts, and he was nice enough to take a few minutes to share an answer. Here’s what Matt said: (more…)

SEO FAQ: Why Is Search Tied To ROI?

A reader from Singapour asked this to Google and then came to my blog: “Why is search tied to ROI?” ROI means return on investment, an essential business “metric,” or “measurement standard.” The answer to why search marketing is tied to ROI is in the full post (click read more for access). (more…)

Google Crushes Session IDs In Battle To The Death

You often hear best practices saying that Google won’t index your pages if they force Googlebot to take a sessionId. Is that really true?

How does Googlebot treat session IDs?


What Google Wants, Straight From The Horse’s Mouth

What does Google want in SEO” is a common question that many pretentious SEOs claim to know the answer to. I’m about to join their number. Google has moved beyond measuring SERP quality based on relevance and are now aiming to provide the best user experience possible.

Other titles I was considering for this post were:

Why Matt Cutts’ “Make Content For Users” Was Very Insightful

How Googlers Measure SERP Quality – Relevance Is No Longer King

Sorry Rand, But The Googlers Were Very Expressive, IMHO.

They are aiming not just for relevance, but overall positive user experience.

That’s what’s behind labelling of cracked sites in SERPs. That’s the reason for Universal search. That’s why AdWords integrates with GA, and GA with Feedburner. That’s why Quality Score counts loading times.
That’s probably what’s behind Knols (remember, Wiki + AdSense is good user experience ;).) For the inspiration to this post, lookie : what google wants/researching the territory.

Analytics & Attribution: Which Source Gets Credit For the Conversion?

The answer came to me while reading up on advertising. Studies show it takes a certain frequency – most people place it around 7 times – for an ad and its message to be remembered. It would obviously be silly to just credit the last impression for finally getting the target consumer to get the advertiser’s point when the other 6 clearly were part of the process. Yet that’s a question many pro marketers have! (more…)

What’s the ROI on SEO? Hint: SEO Experts Are Underpaid, Opportunity Abounds!

Update: Check out this “How to forecast SEO ROI” article if calculating the ROI on SEO is the info you want.

What follows is an editorial / research article showing that SEO is valuable – but not explaining how to calculate it.

I was asked what the ROI on SEO is a few times at a recent business event, and decided that it was about time someone spoke up for us organic search marketing experts. The sad truth is that we SEO Experts are grossly underpaid! Let’s look at some stats (or damned lies, if you prefer). (more…)

Business Blogs: Should I Blog On The Company Domain or a New Domain?

I’ve been asked the question recently in connection to business blogs: Should I blog on the company’s official site/domain name, or should I blog on on a fresh domain name? Each approach has its advantages, but with current search engine algorithms, my advice is to have the blog on (more…)

Social Media Analytics: How to Measure and Track Social Media Activity

Social media is one of the most difficult things to justify in terms of ROI because current analytics aren’t well suited to measure its data. Here’s my proposal for social media analytics and tracking. This is an approach to use as a foundation for creating social media analytics tools, not a tool.

27/05/2011 – Update on Social Media Analytics Tools:

Since this post was written in 2008, lots has happened in social media analytics. For a social media measurement tool, your best bet is BuzzStream. It integrates Twitter with a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool so that you automatically track your relationships with Twitter contacts. This ties into a PR and social media tool (or a link building CRM). Read on to find out why this is the best kind of social media analytics…

Couple that is soon to be wed (more…)

1,2,3 – It’s As Easy As A/B/C Testing

A/B TestingI was emailing a prospect recently who mentioned that a competing firm had proposed doing A/B multivariate testing. If you’re familiar with the jargon of testing different ads/landing pages, you would know that A/B testing is different from multivariate testing. I can’t blame the prospect or my competition however, because ours is an industry enamoured with jargon and it sometimes gets me confused too! In any case, let’s see what A/B testing (more…)

What Directories Should I Submit To?

First of all, submit to directories that review submissions before accepting them. The whole premise upon which modern search engines are built is that a link from one website to another is an editorial vote as to the quality of that website. (more…)

Are Directory Submissions Worthwhile?

It is worth submitting your site to some directories, including paid ones. There are two reasons to submit to directories. First, you stand to gain text links that help with your SEO. Second, some directories will also send you traffic. (more…)

Can SEO be Automated?

A question I’ve been asked a lot recently is “Can SEO be automated? Can I just get some software or hardware that’ll do the job automatically and get my site ranked at the top of the SERPs for my keywords?”

No, you can’t automate it.

First of all, search engine optimization’s foundation and core is about building links. Take the example of Google-bombing, where many people link to a certain webpage with the same anchor text, in a concerted attempt to have that page rank for the words in the anchor text, even though that page is not trying to rank for those keywords. This technique was succesfully used on several occasions and serves to demonstrate the power of link-building.

Now consider how you go about building those links. (more…)

Robots.txt: What it is, Why it’s Used and How to Write it

Q: I’ve heard that I should have robots.txt on my website. What is robots.txt and why should I use it on my site? And if I really do need it, how do I go about writing and implementing robots.txt?

A: Robots.txt is a text file that tells search engine spiders (what are search engine spiders?), also known as search engine robots, which parts of your website they can enter and which parts they can’t. You can think of it as a nightclub’s bouncer or doorman, whose job it is to keep certain people (in our case the search engine robots) out of a certain VIP section of the club.

Now you may be thinking, I thought SEO was supposed to get my website fully crawled and indexed by the search engines! Why in the world would I want to keep their robots away from some of my pages? It’s a good question, and the simple answer is that most websites don’t want any of their pages being hidden from the search engine spiders.

The main reason why robots.txt would be used is to keep sensitive information private. (more…)

Blog Search Ranking Factors – Google’s BlogSearch Algorithm

Google’s blog search patent application came out in March 2007 (though it was filed two years earlier) and it, like Google’s near-legendary Anatomy of a Large-Scale Search Engine paper, explains how the search engine will rank documents. In other words, it gives an idea of what makes the first blog show up first, and what makes the second show up second. So understanding the patent is essential to ranking a blog in Google’s blog search.

Luckily for you, you don’t need to go through the drudgery of reading through the whole, long technical paper. Various SEOs (Bill Slawski) and other good folk (Alister Cameron) have analyzed the patent and published this analysis for the public benefit. What follows is my comprehensive summary that aggregates and simplifies the patent and its analysis. (more…)