Deborah Carver & Katie Pennell: Humans Make Search Happen – Behavioral Data to Debunk SEO’s Sullied Reputation

Deborah Carver, Content Marketing Manager, and Katie Pennell, Senior Content Marketing Specialist, both with Nina Hale, Inc., drop some SEO protips.

Chapter 1: SEO’s Reputation & How Google Works

  • 12 billion worldwide unique searches on Google every month
  • 51% of traffic to websites comes from organic search
  • Top 5 spots take majority of traffic
  • Google driven by robots mimicking humans, not by humans mimicking robot behavior
  • Search data is behavioral data
    • Frequent
      • People use Google multiple times per day
    • Unguided
      • No one tells you what to enter in search bar
    • Reliable
      • Massive, repeatable sample size

Top 4 Organic Ranking Factors

  1. Click-Through Rate
    • % of people who choose your search result after seeing it in results page
    • Found in GWT (Google Webmaster Tools)
  2. Co-Occuring, Relevant Terms
    • How people use the same words related to your topic without using the synonyms themselves
      • Your target KW: birthday cake
      • Related terms: chocolate; recipe
    • Google’s authority metric (TF-IDF) is not publicly available
  3. Social Sharing
    • How many people think your content is good enough to share
    • Found in Google Analytics referral traffic and social analytics tools
  4. High-Quality Backlinks
    • Good backlinks are built on quality content and relationships
      • News websites
      • Influencers in your vertical
      • Well-known brand links
    • Found in Google Analytics referral traffic and other tools (e.g., Majestic)

Chapter 2: What to Measure & How to Find Metrics

  • Know your goals. Love your goals.
  • Data useless without knowing what goals they map to


  • Google Analytics (GA)
  • Google AdWords Keyword Planner (GAKP)
  • Google Webmaster Tools (GWT)

Data Balancing Act

  • Keyword-Level Metrics
    • GWT
    • GAKP
  • Page-Level Metrics
    • GA
    • Other tools

Content Metrics in People Terms

  • How are people finding my content? 
    • Avg. monthly search volume
      • GAKP
    • Website impressions
      • GWT
    • Social trackbacks
      • GA
    • Impressions by keyword
      • GWT
    • Referral source
      • GA
  • What content do people find most often? 
    • Unique visits
      • GA
    • Pageviews on top organic pages
      • GA
  • Is my content valuable and engaging? 
    • CTR
      • GWT
    • Bounce rate
      • GA
    • Session duration
      • GA
    • Social shares
      • Individual social tools
  • Are people interested enough to convert? 
    • Email sign-ups
      • GA
    • Lead forms
      • GA
    • Revenue per page
      • GA

Content Groups

  • Tool within GA
  • Any consistent naming taxonomy that lets you look at multiple aspects of content and their measurements simultaneously
  • Each group has page, keyword, and core conversion KPI


  • Paid
    • Paid Search
    • Paid Social
  • Owned
    • Website
    • Email
  • Rented
    • Social Profiles
  • Earned
    • Social Shares
    • Referrals

How to Benchmark

Focus here: owned channel (your website)

  • Look at data from past year
  • Take seasons and fluke days into account
  • Discern a reasonable average

Chapter 3: Search Metrics in the Real World

Data stories validate your content decisions.

The Case of the Lone Metric

  • Problem: One single metric is out of whack
    • E.g., bounce rate is high
    • Other organic metrics are in line with or better than benchmarked expectations
  • Solution: This page has an introductory purpose in the content ecosystem
    • Examine several before disregarding content with a high bounce rate, lower than average pageviews, etc.
  • Moral of the story: don’t look at this one metric without context

The Case of Unexpected Interference

  • Problem: organic revenue is down compared to the benchmark
    • Revenue from other channels are on par with the benchmark or better.
  • Solution: Paid campaigns are influencing organic revenue
    • Look into recent changes in paid campaigns
    • Ensure you’re employing an efficient media mix

The Case of Apples and Oranges

  • Problem: Two separate content groups are behaving complete differently
  • Product page group has high conversion rate
  • Idea page group doesn’t have high conversion rate
  • Solution: Content types are producing different engagement
    • Tweak ideas page to promote more conversions
    • Link product pages back to your idea pages clearly
  • Moral: each content type produces unique combinations of engagement metrics

The Case of the Star Player

  • Problem: Social engagement is way up. Social referral traffic and social conversions are down.
  • Solution: Aren’t enough backlinks in social posts.
    • Link to your website in social posts using keywords
  • Moral: Even when rented channels are doing well, your owned channels still matter.
    • Talk to all your teams. Collaborate.

The Case of the New Kid on the Block

  • Problem: Social referral traffic is way up. All other organic metrics are stable.
  • Solution: Something happened in the social realm
    • Determine the source of the spike
    • Either create a profile or optimize your current profile
  • Moral: Your content doesn’t exist in a vacuum.

Chapter 4: How to Tell Your Own Data Story

Justify your content with numbers that matter.

  1. Establish your benchmarks.
    • Start small and scale up
  2. Consider all the metrics that lead to conversions
    • Set up analytics to help your data stories
    • All metrics matter as long as you put them in context
  3. Consider how much time you spend on your content
    • The content comes from somewhere and that somewhere is your department
  4. Graph it out with multiple metrics
    • Weaving together multiple metrics gives fuller picture of what’s happening with your content
  5. Tell your data story
    • Explain your story in terms of people, not numbers.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *