By now you know what we say: SEO is both an art and a science. The majority of what we do when we do SEO is science. One author times x number of articles, distribute those articles to y number of directories and do it every z number of days. Still, there is some of SEO that is just not totally formulaic like this because we can not know all of the specifics about how Google runs its algorithm which is the rule maker for the games we play in SEO.
Experiment and assess the results
What we do is experiment and assess the results, watch and get educated, adjust and enhance our performance – that is the way this game works. This is the type of situation in which none of us have control over the way things will go so that is why we have to isolate that and, instead, focus on each element of the equation that we do have control over – what we want to do is reduce as many variables as possible through a process of elimination. In order to do that, we offer you some guidelines worth following:
- Build a Baseline
- Keep Tracking Your Progress
- Analyze the Results You Get
- Alter Strategy Based on Findings
- Repeat This Entire Process
The main thing you need to do is organize everything you know you have control over because that helps you make sound decisions regarding the results from your SEO efforts and how effective they are or aren’t. This mistake is one of the larger ones a person can make in SEO and many people do it – they do not master the SEO “process”, the “philosophy” behind SEO – and this means they end up “winging it”. This is a not exactly the best course for succeeding in SEO.
Let’s take a closer look at the steps involved here and break them down into bite sized chunks
Build An SEO Baseline
Wondering what a baseline is? The truth is, if you are trying to reach a goal, you first need to know where you came from and where you are in terms of reaching that goal during any part of your journey. What a baseline does is simplify things by giving you a set of metrics that we can use to track our performance as we go.
What I want to do now is suggest a selection of unique indicators that we use to create a baseline. You do need to keep in mind that NONE of these are going to be one hundred percent accurate – and this is totally fine. We aren’t concerned about accuracy with this. What we are trying to do is spot the “deltas” – those alterations – across a span of time. This is known as trend analysis. Are things trending upwards? Are they trending downwards? Where were things last month as opposed to where they are going this month?
There is a reason that we say SEO is a process you have to be invested in for the long run – you have to commit this to memory and let it really sink in. If you believe you’ll be doing this for one month or even three months then just hang on to your time, cash and avoid the frustration by dropping out now. Those who are still with me need to know that as you go down this path, frustration is gonna happen from time to time when the results you are aiming for simply are not achieved. When this happens, you have to have some numbers you can look at which is going to help you get a proper perspective on things. Since numbers don’t lie, you will be able to see how far you have actually come and all of the progress you have achieved to that point. This is crucial.
What to record and what to do Semrush, Majestic, etc.
While you have the freedom to choose other indicators for your monthly baseline, there are some we want to recommend. As we mentioned, this really ought to be a monthly process for you. Each month you should set aside 10 minutes to update your numbers. An Excel type spreadsheet is often going to be the best way to organize this. For every site you have, you need to make a spreadsheet just like this.
- Record the site’s Domain authority (DA) and any of the primary pages that you track – if nothing else, just track the homepage.
- Record the domain and page links to your homepage that Yahoo Explorer reports (Note: SEObook’s Firefox tool bar will make this super simple for you).
- Record each value for referring domains, external links and pages that MajesticSEO.com shows you (a free account will work just fine for this purpose).
- Record your site’s Alexa Traffic Rank, SLI (Sites Linking In) and US Traffic Rank.
- Record your site’s SEMRush.com Rank, Google SE Traffic and its number of SEMRush Keywords
- Record the key metrics Google Analytics shows you for your site by using the data from the previous month – pageviews, visitors, time on site, % of new visitors, pages per visit, bounce rate and one that we also recommend tracking is the number of keywords your site was found for via search. That number is excellent when it comes to revealing your “keyword penetration” in the niche you serve.
- Once you have a list, and this is something you really do need to build (we’ve got to get a blog post up about this), then it also becomes imperative that you track the number of subscribers to your list every month.
- Do you have other goals that can be easily tracked with numeric values? Then make this part of your baseline, too. For instance, if you want to make sure you write one post for your blog every day then keep track of the total number of blog posts made each month.
This might look like a lot to do, but it will hardly take you any time to get this together – perhaps 10 minutes. We advise you to put this into an Excel style spreadsheet and have the left column to have your metrics while you put the months in a row across the top. This lets you simply fill in a new column of data every month so you can track it easily.
Keep Tracking Your Progress
A quote that I like, and I’m not sure who said it first, but it goes like this, “That which you track, you improve“. This is simply an aspect of the basic human psyche – it’s how our minds operate. Simply by keeping track of your progress you will begin to actively think about how you can come up with solutions for meeting your goals – it’s a great way to go about things. Still, we do not want to get too overzealous with this, and believe me that is easier to do than you might think, so we advise you to never check keyword rankings on a more frequent basis than weekly. The problem is, once you start doing it each day you are burning up time that would be much more useful to you if you used it to get more links. Daily checking can paralyze your efforts so it is important to avoid this trap that so many fall into
Keep in mind, there are many different solutions for Rank Tracking that cost you nothing, so if you can use whichever works for you. We use Rank Tracker from SEO Powersuite internally because we’ve found it to be an unbeatable value for what it cost. I need to bring the review we did of it up to date because there are many new features that have been added, like direct visit integration with your account for Google Analytics and tracking the rankings of your competitors as well as your own – excellent tools.
You can set up Rank Tracker to run automatically, grab rankings you care about, make reports for you and even have it export directly to SQL so you can import the results right into a database if you want to do things that way. For those who simply cannot afford Rank Tracker, checking out the free Rank Tracker from SEObook is a smart idea. It is extremely simple and not terribly accurate, but considering the fact that it’s free, it’s a decent tool.
Track your SERP
We advice you to start out simple by doing rank tracking and only keeping track of between ten and thirty keywords. Over time you can easily expand your tracking, but right now you do not want to get “enslaved” by the job of tracking everything. While we do track thousands of keywords, we have automated the whole process. We have a cloud server dedicated to this that has software running 24 hours a day, a hundred proxies set up so they will pull down plenty of data without triggering an IP ban from Google, and so forth.
Believe me, simple is what you want! In terms of a schedule, stick to checking your keywords rankings no more than once a week unless you have this done for you automatically. When you put Rank Tracker to work you aren’t going to need to mess with this, but when you do it by hand you should keep an Excel type spreadsheet so you can log your progress. Input your keywords down the left hand column, then put the date in the rows across the top – update this file only once each week. Stay as consistent as you possibly can in doing this, stick to a particular day and time of day you choose for yourself.
Analyze the Results You Get
Now this should be obvious, but your next step after obtaining meaningful data is to evaluate what you see. You do need to be careful, though, that you don’t become short sighted about things. When it comes to rankings, your site is what it all depends upon. Is the site a new one? Has it had time to age?
Is this a site with a DA 0 Or is this site a DA 50? Factors like these are going to play a huge role in the kind of progress you can expect to see. Listen, if your site is brand new then you really do have to “pay your dues” and you need to know this before you get started.
A brand new site is not going to start ranking quickly at all. Even if you do everything the right way, these days it is almost impossible to get a site’s ranking to make any progress within 90 to 120 days. If you end up committing a silly mistake along the way? That can put a real kink in your timeline. You have to be patient because rushing things will not help you.
For example, when you start testing out a link building service you’ve never used before, give it 90 days or so as a trial run. What you will notice is that when you begin doing SEO with keywords that have not had much SEO work done for them is that the rankings will bounce all over and it will take a while to get stable.
Alter Strategy Based on Findings
You should use the data you get wisely, but you do need to remember that this data can’t be considered “fresh”. The data you get on the web is going to be out of date by 60 days or longer. This is yet another reason to be patient with how you approach SEO – the data you see is going to be lagging by two months or more, so if you give up after a month then how could you have come to any real conclusion regarding your results?
For the sake of argument, let’s say you have been religious in keeping track of your baselines for 90 days and there has been no increase in your Majestic Referring Domains count. That would mean that you might need to start using a different tool. If you’ve been relying on the same network service or submitter, you might have struck a saturation point and while you still get links, those links may not be across several domains.
While I could keep going on the types of conclusions you might reach in a variety of situations, that’s not the point of this post. The point we want to make is that you must track this data so you can evaluate it. How you go about analyzing this data will evolve over time and has more to do with your niche, site, keywords and experience than anything else – but unless you are tracking and recording this data, you can’t do any of this.
Repeat This Entire Process
This is the part where you are going to find out whether or not you have the huevos to get things done in SEO. The truth is, this is going to be monotonous to some personality types while others (not pointing fingers here) like us, will we really do enjoy doing this! LOL. You are the one who determines where you end up on a scale that has Do It Yourself on one end and Hire It Done on the other. Even if you do want to outsource everything to a firm specializing in SEO, you can use the guidelines we’ve shared in this post to build and monitor a baseline set of metrics, along with tracking your rank consistently, and that would be a very shrewd course of action for you as a business owner.