seo keyword trackingMany web development firms claim to offer SEO services as part of their web development packages, but few have the expertise to do so effectively.

There is no special sauce for number one search engine rankings. It requires hard work writing content, fixing code, building links, and actively participating in online communities over many months or years. The vast majority of SEO work will not be obvious to the layman.

So how can you measure the efficacy of your SEO company?

The Layman’s SEO Timeline:

Months 1 and 2: Number of Indexed Pages

Indexed pages are website pages which have been crawled and stored by a search engine. A page must be indexed in order to show up when a user searches for a term. To determine how many pages are indexed, enter ‘site:yourdomain.com’ in Google’s search bar. You should see the number of indexed pages increasing within the first two months of SEO work.

how many pages are indexed in google

The image above shows that this website, mdseo.net, currently has 19 pages indexed in Google. The website has just three posts and is only three months old. I am fairly happy with this result. Check the number of pages your website has indexed on a monthly basis. If your SEO company is creating content like it should be, then you should see this number increase.

Months 3-6: Visitors To Your Website

All firms offering SEO services should offer visitor tracking services of some sort. Google analytics is by far the most popular visitor tracking software. It provides detailed information about those who visit your website including: geographic location, referring website, and browser information.

You should see an increase in the number of visitors to your website after several months of SEO work.

Months 6+: Search Engine Position

Search engine position can be difficult to track, but if you are paying an SEO firm, the only true measure of success is where you rank for important keywords.

Which search terms are important?
Try entering some keywords related to your industry in the Google Keyword Tool. Couple these terms with locations in your target market that you think people might search for. For example, the keyword phrases “md seo” and “maryland seo” are listed as having roughly 4,000 local searches per month. If I were a plumber I might check the phrases “rockville plumber” and “maryland plumber.

Where do I rank?
Sign out of your google account and enter your keyword phrases into Google. This should give you an approximation of where you rank. I say approximation because Google may remember you, and if you click on your own website each time you search for it then its position in your searches may be different than for the average user.

There are services that automate this task. We are developing one that will likely be open to the public by the time this post has many readers. Please contact us to request a trial of our software. Who knows? We may let you into our beta tests.

Months 6+: Aggregate Leads

Counting the number of leads is likely the most obvious way of measuring the efficacy of your SEO company, but it often takes many months before your company’s efforts will pay off. It is likely you will have spent a considerable sum with an SEO firm before results are this obvious.

Automatic Monthly Reports:

We are furiously working to release our SEO tracking software to the public. Contact us if you would like to help beta test our SEO tracking software or if you would like a free SEO audit.

Website architecture is an often overlooked aspect of search engine optimization. There are myriad ways you could organize your website, but which is the right one? Conventional SEO wisdom and common sense says your website should be organized such that both humans and search engines can find information easily from the home page. But what does this mean exactly? According to SEO deity Rand Fishkin, it means you should be able to reach any page on your website within three clicks of the home page.

How can I determine the architectural style of my website?
The main purpose of this post is to announce some major breakthroughs with the beta version of our SEO software – specifically with regards to website architecture visualization. We’ve been working to develop website optimization tools to help users determine whether they are in fact complying with this “three hop” rule. The software crawls a website and generates an image based on the linking structure of the website. The image below is one of the first visualizations we were able to produce.

Website Architecture Graph

Website Architecture Graph

Explanation: The purple circle at the top is the website home page. The green dots are internal html pages on the website, and blue dots are non html documents linked to from the website. Red dots are pages which do not resolve (404), and orange dots are external links. Currently, the lines connecting the dots are meant represent the path that a crawler might take. They do not account for all of the links going to and from a particular page as we found that doing so tended to distract from the purpose of the image – visualizing site architecture and the path a search engine spider might take.

The website above has a couple of broken links and some areas which go past our suggested depth, but the vast majority of pages can be reached within three clicks of the home page.

“$10 for a click?!? That’s too much!

Search Marketing Economics - Supply and Demand
Often, clients complain about the cost of advertising with search engines. They take a look at how much they are spending per visitor, and say that it is too much. I vehemently disagree, and I hope this post will put cost per click in perspective.

Advertising in print vs. Advertising online

Advertising online is much different than advertising in print. When a company advertises in a newspaper or magazine, the vast majority of people viewing the ad aren’t going to be interested in their product. For example, what are the chances that I’m looking for a roofer when I see an ad for one at the bottom of page 9 in the Washington Post? Not great. Old media advertisers hope that some of the Washington Post’s 770,000 daily readers might be looking for their services. You would be broke in no time if you were paying $10 per viewer of an ad in old media.

The times they are a changing
In years past, when looking for a service you may have opened up the yellow pages. Companies paid big bucks such that their ads stood out amongst the many other companies in hopes that you might call them first. Well, those days are long gone. Nobody uses phone books anymore. In fact, I’m amazed they still deliver them.

Now, when someone is looking for a service, they open a web browser and search.

  • “Roofers in Gaithersburg”
  • “24 hour plumbers in Silver Spring”
  • “window replacement contractors in Rockville, MD”

These are examples of phrases that people use to find local services. When a customer pays for a per click, they are paying to place their advertisement right in front of the customer at the point of decision. As you might imagine, this is an incredibly valuable time to advertise to a potential client. You will pay more for each advertisement, but you will also get more out of it.

Putting cost per click in perspective:

Let’s pretend you own a company that does some sort of contracting work.

Your average job is $25,000, and your average profit is around 15% – so around $3,750 on average. You are paying $12 per click for your search advertising. Let’s say 10% of the people who click on your ad ask for a quote (That’s $120 per quote). Of that 10%, 20% of them choose your company for the job. That’s a cost of $600 per job.

Even though it may seem like you are paying quite a bit for each visitor, that $600 per job means you are still profiting $3,150 on average. That is an excellent return on investment. Even though it seems expensive, an intelligent business owner would likely spend as much as they possibly could on advertising with such an incredible return on investment.

$10 per click might sound like quite a bit, but you must put it in context. What is your return on that $10? In the example above, every $12 spent brought $75 ROI. The company is making $63 profit per click!

“I know half of my advertising budget is wasted, I just don’t know which half”

In the world of old media, companies relied on coupons and “where did you hear about us” questionnaires to determine which of their marketing efforts were actually paying off. This tracking method was inexact at best, and marketing managers could never be certain about answers. At best, this gave them a general idea of what worked and what didn’t.

Omniscient Advertising
Marketing online can be easily tracked. It is possible to follow the path of your customer from the moment they click on an ad. There are a plethora of web analytics platforms available, and most of them are free (Google Analytics is a favorite of marketers as it integrates seamlessly with adwords.). Marketers are able to see exactly which keywords lead to sales. As time progresses, it is possible to pick out and eliminate the parts of your budget which aren’t bringing in customers!

Get it? Companies with well oiled search marketing campaigns are making a ton of money and growing like crazy!