SEO = Organic right?

When any business owner, brand marketer or agency thinks of SEO, they think of growing their organic reach. Increase traffic from organic, and this usually means your SEO efforts are performing. Quality backlinks, proper on-site attributes, hoards of relevant content, a beautiful interlinking structure, all of this traditionally meant increases in organic metrics…. Euphoria!!

However, with the privatizing of search data from Google, Bing, Yahoo, Yandex, {insert search engine name here}, capturing data from these organic searches has become increasingly difficult and adversely affects the appearance of organic traffic growth. (Not Provided), Referral traffic, and attribution modeling, are all factors shrinking the amount of traffic previously allocated for organic.

So, with organic being slowly eaten away from every side, how are marketers to measure the success of their SEO efforts?? Isn’t SEO hard enough with the need for manual link building, continuous content saturation, and social media networks throttling the reach?

The solution is in the details

As digital marketers, the last thing we want to think about is a time before digital. But there was a time prior to digital where numbers were measured by impressions and revenue. We unfortunately weren’t able to see the amount of people who looked at our billboard and never took action (the traditional version of a bounce). We couldn’t see the amount of people who only spend 2 seconds viewing our 30 second spot. So in a world with increasing data blindness, we need to recognize our roots and adapt the digital metrics we do have, with the traditional metrics most businesses decisions continue to be made from.

If you back up and look at the numbers from a macro level, business decisions shouldn’t be made on very minor details. Let’s get traditional again; if sales are down for a month at a particular business channel (i.e. grocery stores), you wouldn’t kill an entire product line would you?

So looking at the organic measurement problem, marketers need to realize a few things

There is Paid and Unpaid Traffic….that is it

There are no other metrics. Many other marketers refer to unpaid traffic as ‘earned.’ Paid traffic consists of media buys, paid search advertising, social media advertising, display ad buys, etc. These should NOT be classified as any other medium in any Analytics platform, other than PPC. Unpaid traffic is everything else, including Referral, Direct, Organic, and Social. The lines continue to blur between actions that you complete to gain organic visibility and actions you complete to gain referral visibility. Blogger Outreach and Journalist Outreach, two common SEO tactics that most of the time, wind up gaining referral traffic. So why should Organic suffer because it is the just one piece in a much larger bucket.

Attribution is everything

First point attribution, last point attribution, these mean different things to different conversions. A consumer might start with a referral visit from that journalist who shared your brand story. They become familiar with your brand, visit via organic search the next time to do more digging into your specific products, and then ultimately convert from a direct visit. SEO efforts drove this sale, however, if you look at just the organic numbers, this might not showcase this win.

Brand marketers, business owners, agency marketers, and the like, need to understand that they should not be worrying about the details of gaining organic visits but not referral or vice versa. Look at the macro numbers, are your traffic numbers and conversions increasing?? If so, your efforts are working, if not, where are you bleeding? Is it traffic? If so, you might need to look at a more aggressive SEO campaign or initiative a new growth tactic (including Paid Search). Is it conversions? Then you might need to look at some conversion rate optimization. Just be sure not to be alarmist if one of your metrics is down, while others are gaining. It can show that your efforts are paying off.

Marketing is increasingly omnichannel and a diversified marketing plan is the only way to achieve continued success and growth. Keep this in mind when you look at your traffic and conversion reports.