Season 1, Episode 1 of SEO Fight Club with Ted Kubaitis.
The episode begins with the hair pulling and fight starting topic of defining what SEO is and what it should fundamentally encompass. Get ready to get your SEO fight on with this first episode in a new SEO podcast series.
Hi and thank you for listening to SEOFightClub.org. I’m Ted Kubaitis and I have 22 years of web development and SEO experience. I have patented web technologies and started online businesses. I am both an engineer and a marketer. My goal is to help you win your SEO fights.
Maybe you are new to SEO or maybe you have been doing SEO for as long as I have. This SEO primer will reboot your effectiveness and point you in a direction for achieving positive results that continue to build on new learning. Most SEOs fail in the “O” part of SEO. The optimization part of SEO demands iterative learning based on measurements. In this and future episodes I’m going to show you how fight the good SEO fight.
This episode’s FREEBIE: http://seofightclub.org/episode1
With every episode I love to give something away of high value. This episode’s SEO freebie is my own personal excel template I use for tracking monthly SEO revenue. In this episode I will walk through why collecting this data is vital to SEO success. This free download will save you hours on setting up and archiving the data. The download also shows great examples and demonstrates why the advice in this episode is so important.
You can download the freebie at:
What is SEO?
Stay with me here. I know you just groaned at the question but this definition is so fundamental to how each of us conducts SEO that we can’t possibly compare one approach to another without considering how our definitions differ.
My definition is radical compared to most mainstream SEOs, but I want you to really consider it from all sides especially from the viewpoint of establishing good business principles and doing “the right thing” for your business. The right thing for your business doesn’t always agree with what the right thing is for Google or what the right thing is in your own best interest. We have a word for when you can isolate those areas and talk about them openly and act on them independently. It’s called integrity and its what will make a business invest in you for the long haul through all the ups and downs.
Here is my definition of SEO: Search engine optimization is the optimization of revenue from search engine sources.
I define optimization as iterative cycles of tuning and learning from the last period’s data to influence next period’s outcomes.
I know. I really went out on a limb with that, but you will be amazed with how many career SEOs are out there that are absolutely against revenue reporting in SEO. Some of them are “so-called experts” who openly advise people not to do it.
Let me explain my position and hopefully I can convince some SEO revenue haters to see the advantages revenue attribution has.
Firstly, SEO Revenue measures the health of your crawlability, indexing, keyword choices,content tuning, backlinks, rankings, relevance, and conversions all from one very sensitive gage. No other measurement in SEO tells you so much in a single measurement. I know many SEOs will argue conversion counts are just as good. Conversions are great and they signal the same things, but with Revenue the needle moves more and the signals you are looking for will be easier to read.
Secondly, every large corporation has SEO or organic revenue as a line item on their gross sales reporting. Like it or not SEO is a marketing channel that produces measurable revenue for large businesses and smaller businesses are hoping to attain that. What is the business’s goal in optimizing that SEO? To make that revenue go up! That’s what is best for the business. For SEO to be viable in a business perspective its revenue needs to be meaningful. Otherwise, why should the business care about SEO? If it doesn’t yield a better business outcome then it would be a waste of time and money… if it doesn’t help then the time and money should be spent on some other channel like social marketing or pay per click. Spending time and money for no benefit is very bad in business.
Thirdly, every bad SEO and a lot of the good ones refuse revenue accountability. They just won’t do it. By wanting the business to achieve a good financial outcome you are demonstrating a willingness to do what is in the best interest for the business even if it comes to the detriment of your own personal best interests. That’s integrity. A great SEO always puts the needs of the business first. To be a great SEO these days it takes integrity and it takes a lot of it.
I have told small businesses before that it will cost them too much to succeed in SEO in their niche. I’ve turned down their business because the margins were too thin and there was much easier revenue to be had in Pay Per Click or other channels.
Many people believe SEO is the “easy money” or “low hanging fruit”. This is simply not true. SEO is the bright shiny apple at the very top of the tree and it takes a very special and rare talent to collect those apples. Most SEOs use tactics that amount to getting a bucket and standing under their tree waiting for the apples to fall. When you use my definitions and my methods I am not only showing you how to reach out to grab the apples, but how to do it with integrity. I want you to focus on the best interests of the company. If you do this right then even the cases where you and a company part ways it still results in the business endorsing you and praising your integrity and wanting to work with you in the future if the situation changes.
Many SEOs don’t want to report on SEO revenue because it will point out that the revenue doesn’t justify the cost of SEO. All businesses start here. You need to get used to this. This is where personal interests conflict with what is best for the business. Hiding it will only last so long. Unless you sole purpose is to collect lots of retainers you will be far better off discussing the value of direction setting so that one day your revenue can justify your cost.
Let me geek out for a moment here. SEO is a vector. That means it has both magnitude and direction. As far as tomorrow is concerned direction always matters more. A smart business understands the need to invest in the future. By tracking revenue despite your personal interests you are demonstrating integrity and implementing a process that can possibly achieve the business’s goals of growing revenue. If you don’t measure the revenue then you won’t know what is or isn’t working. You won’t know if today was any better than yesterday for the business. Get out of that situation! It will ultimately hit your where it hurts most, in your integrity. SEO has ups and downs and the downs can last months. Integrity can last a lifetime and it is your best chance to weather the downs in SEO.
Please please please make direction setting, investing in the future, accountability and integrity your hallmarks. Make them the cornerstone of everything you do.
If you are new to SEO you may be asking what are the arguments against my definition?
I have gotten countless rants on why I am wrong. I read and consider them all. So far all of them have failed to convince me and I’m going to explain why.
“SEO Set Up” versus “Actually Conducting SEO”
Most of the complaints against my definition are because my definition doesn’t include the vast amounts of work that go into setting up a website and configuring it to appear in the search results. Yes this work is critical, but I view all that work as the “SEO set up”.
You can’t actually conduct the “iterative optimization” work until that set up work has been properly done. Some SEOs are good at the set up work and others are good at the iterative optimization. The set up work tends to be a lot more technical and involved with server configuration and web development. The iterative optimization tends to be more about applying marketing and business principles, tracking progress towards goals, crafting content and executing marketing plans.
It makes total sense that the technical SEO setup people would want to define SEO a different way that highlights there talents in a way that isn’t dependent on the revenue outcome which they may not understand or have control over.
It makes total sense that the marketing optimization people would want to define SEO a different way that highlights the optimization process and progress towards goal.
Both sides aren’t wrong, but the way a large successful company will see it is that the “SEO setup” is part of engineering. It is part of the “proper web development” and system configuration that is a cost of doing business anyway. So for the business’s perspective SEO is and should be defined by the “O” in SEO. Its the marketing optimization of the SEO channel that will make the channel succeed or fail in the eye’s of he business. It is about the content development, traffic and revenue growth, understanding seasonality and year over year growth and progress towards goals. Its about defining and adjusting those goals as our evolving understanding of the landscape changes. It’s about using that understanding to make a plan to invest in a better tomorrow. If all you do is the SEO setup and nothing else then you have abandoned the whole marketing channel and its revenue which is the sole reason a business would invest in SEO.
I’m going to guess that right now you feel like you are on one side or the other. Might I suggest the crazy thought that you can be and should be on both sides at the same time. I am fortunate that I am both an engineer and a marketer. You should learn both sides at least to a point of basic understanding. Both sides need to exist, but recognize that the ultimate goal for the business is improving SEO revenue.
I know there are some SEOs saying “Ah ha!” right now. They are thinking that they caught the flaw in my argument. They are saying things like “Conversion optimization is different than SEO. Don’t mix the two.” This is a ridiculous argument. If you went to the doctor for you check up and the doctor just skipped taking your blood pressure and pulse wouldn’t you ask about it? What if the doctor said “I don’t do hearts. Cardiologists do hearts”? Just because there are specialties in a discipline that doesn’t mean you get to skip those things completely as a generalist. Just because there are conversion specialists doesn’t mean you get to write off that part of SEO. Just like the doctor who doesn’t do hearts… If you don’t see SEO all the way through to revenue then you are only doing the set up part of the job. You are just the webmaster taking care of the website configuration. Your not an SEO if you aren’t doing the whole job of achieving the business’s goal in investing in SEO.
I’m speaking in general here. I know there are other cases like Dell Computers who use SEO to reduce costs for their customer service call centers. When their SEO does poorly they pay more in call center resources and support staffing. But cost reductions are practically the same thing to a business as revenue growth. The business likes them both for the same reasons. The principles are still the same. We are still putting what the business needs first and foremost.
Hopefully I have planted the seed of integrity in your brain and if you aren’t already that you seriously consider attributing and reporting on SEO revenue. I know in many cases it can be very difficult like when you sell a product or service where a large number of your customers will ultimately convert on the phone or walk into a brick and mortar store. Revenue attribution can be hard in many cases. Your goal should be to establish proper SEO revenue reporting. By achieving that goal you have also completed all of the necessary SEO setup. It is only when all that work is properly completed that “O” in SEO can really begin. The good news is that my definition makes it easy to justify and explain the real and often significant time and investment required to do SEO properly and it sets the expectations of the milestones for accountability. By showing the true path to reach the business’s goal you are setting yourself up for success and building integrity. Best of all you are building the foundation for an iterative approach to improvement and reproducible results.
Lets talk about how to do revenue attribution:
My sites use custom logging and google analytics. This is great because when the two don’t agree I can see what is missing in either reporting system and track it down and fix whatever is wrong. It is very uncomfortable when you don’t have a way to test if you are capturing all your data correctly. Usually a website will have a system of record like their payment gateway or a database that you can compare to your google analytics. When you set up your revenue attribution keep this in mind. How do you know you are collecting ALL of the data? How much are you missing? It is OK if your analytics is a little lossy. All pixel tracking systems are. Just be in a position to be able to calculate how lossy the data is when compared with the actuals from something like your payment processor.
Google analytics has an integration point for backfilling the missing data. There are APIs and apps that can do this like.
Google has documentation on setting up commerce tracking for your website:
This is all part of that SEO setup that is a critical prerequisite to conducting the optimization. SEO doesn’t really begin until all this work is complete and you can actually measure the lay of the land. By setting up the revenue tracking you will know if your SEO methods are helping or hurting the business. You have to measure to know you are making good choices. With detailed revenue reporting you will be able to see exactly where your problems and opportunities are.
Make sure you are logging your order IDs (transaction IDs in GA) and revenue, shipping costs, item counts. You ultimately want to know things like Bing converts better and with a larger average cart. If you can report costs or landed costs then you will have an ideal scenario to report on costs and profits. But at a minimum you want to achieve gross revenue reporting.
I know I am understating how much work is involved here. Many business will hire a consulting company to set up just there analytics. If you can afford to do this then I highly recommend it. I have setup analytics myself before and its never easy. Expect it to take a few months before it is all properly dialed in. If it is your first time then expect longer because there are a number of learning curves you will have along the way. Your time and budget constraints should steer you toward the right path for your business.
Once your ecommerce reporting is set up you will want to make a couple custom reports in Google Analytics.
TODO: SHOW NOTES DETAIL and audio describing the two reports… for details on how to create them see the blog post.
### MORE DETAILS ABOUT MY CUSTOM REPORTS IN GOOGLE ANALYTICS ###
To create these custom reports you need to use some basic regular expressions. Regular expressions are a way of doing wildcard matches on text.
Remember to come back and read this tutorial on regular expressions.
In a nutshell regular expressions are a way to templatize patterns in text.
Regular Expressions Cheat Sheet
^ = start of the field
$ = end of the field
| = OR
() = match this group
.* = match any number of characters
.*? = match any number of characters until
This will make more sense later… just move on for now.
The first custom report is your SEO Revenue Report. For the selected website and specified date range this report logs order count, item count, shipping totals, and revenue totals by source and medium.
This report lets you see and export your data by site.
SEO Revenue Report Filters
Include Source / Medium
^(google / organic)$|^(bing / organic)$|^(yahoo / organic)$
These are the source mediums that are recognized as SEO sources
The medium is like “organic”, “referral”, “pay per click”. The source is usually the referring host name or tracking code. The default reporting in Google Analytics isn’t exactly what you’ll need. You can build exactly what you need in the customization tab.
If you see text saying that your report is based on a percentage of sessions then sampling may be coming into play. Usually waiting a few day after the date range you are trying to look at will resolve the sampling issue. Sometimes Google needs extra time to finish processing all the data. If the option is available you can also export an unsampled report. This option might only be available to analytics premium customers.
The second report you need is the SEO Finder Report. This report makes it easier to find sources of SEO revenue.
SEO Finder Report Filters
Exclude Source / Medium
^(google / organic)$|^(bing / organic)$|^(yahoo / organic)$
These are the source mediums that are SEO sources. We exclude them so we dont keep finding them.
These are the mediums we want to search for SEO sources within.
These are just sources that aren’t SEO that we don’t want to keep searching through
### END Report DETAILS ###
The first custom report is your SEO Revenue Report. For the selected website and specified date range this report logs order count, item count, shipping totals, and revenue totals by source and medium. This report lets you see and export your SEO revenue data by website.
The second report you need is the SEO Finder Report. This report makes it easier to find sources of SEO revenue. In a nutshell the SEO finder report filters out all the known SEO,email, and social sources from the organic and referral mediums so you have a short list of sources to watch for new SEO sources.
A side benefit of setting this up for SEO means it will be easy to set up the same reports for email, social, and paid media. They are all the same report but filter for different sources and mediums.
The blog post in the show notes has screenshots and instructions on creating these reports in Google analytics (this assumes you have successfully set up ecom tracking in GA already).
When you find new SEO sources you add them to the SEO Revenue Report and filter them from the SEO Finder Report so you don’t keep finding them.
Some companies may want to build an Email revenue report at the same time because the SEO Finder report usually finds untracked email revenue as well.
Then at the end of each month you create a view of the SEO revenue for each site by source and medium. You total the rows to see SEO revenue by source and medium across all sites and you total the columns to see SEO revenue by site across all sources. It is a total view of the health of your entire SEO landscape. It is literally the best SEO resource you will ever have.
There is a lot to consider in this episode. Please download the FREEBIE which is the excel template I use for tracking SEO revenue on my sites.
Download FREEBIE at: http://seofightclub.org/episode1
Please subscribe and come back for our next episode where we will be “Debunking Content Placement in SEO” and I will continue the lesson by debunking an SEO myth about placing keywords near the top of your source and demonstrating how dangerous even expert SEO advice can be when it isn’t backed by hard data.
Thanks again, see you next time and always remember the first rule of SEO Fight Club: Subscribe to SEO Fight Club