Making better decisions with transparency of digital data

Traditionally, digital marketers used a myriad of tools to gather all the information needed to make an informed decision. This process started with the advent of keyword tools and rank checking, maturing through the introduction of analytics packages and Webmaster Tools.

This data collection and analysis became a vital part of the digital marketer’s armoury; being able to understand all those types of data and pull them into a cohesive picture became one of the hallmarks of being a successful digital pro.

As time has gone on, the number of tools has ballooned, and in many cases, in order to be comprehensive, we have subscribed to different versions of the same data. In SEO, for penalty recovery for instance, it is almost de rigueur to gather together the backlinks from Moz Open Site Explorer, Majestic, Ahrefs and Google Webmaster Tools. Merging these different sources and de-duping gives you the most comprehensive view of the backlink universe for a site.

One of the digital marker’s biggest headaches in this attempt to get transparency of all the data was Google’s decision to remove keyword data from its traffic. This sent webmasters and SEOs scuttling about trying to find other solutions to the loss of this rich keyword data. There have been two main ways of tackling it.

One is to use alternative keyword information, such as the queries data from Google Webmaster Tools. The other solution is to concentrate more on page level metrics whilst assuming target keywords were reaching a page. On the whole, we have gone down the keyword route, building a whole words section into our bespoke software, Apollo Insights. This uses a whole raft of different sources to identify the keyword universe for a site.  Plus the data is not just there for the SEO campaigns we run, we harvest all those data sources for all of our campaigns, whether they are content marketing, social or PPC. Both us (and our clients) can log in at any time to dig into the insights from this data.

So here’s a real life example… The customer is relatively new to SEO, having a Magento website selling bed linen. We were discussing optimising for queries and how you choose the best phrases. This is a screenshot from Apollo Insights Words screen with information from Google Analytics combined with Google Webmaster Tools.

Apollo Words data transparency

So there is an interesting differential between the duration (time on page) and the visibility (impressions). If you targeted [luxury bedding sets] not only does it have a good volume, but the time on page is excellent which should lead to more sales, provided we can get the number of clicks up. Having all the information at your fingertips gives you a different (and faster) route to making a decision.

Another view on the keywords information is by looking at it in terms of opportunity. You can do this for any site you want.

1.    List all the keywords from every source you can find.
2.   Cross correlate with Webmaster Tools data by the number of impressions.
3.    Split the keywords by the number of clicks into three groups – no impressions, low impressions and high impressions. You can use a split point that makes sense for your data: we use the median point.
4.    Work out the percentage of high, medium and low impressions (visibility) to create a pie chart. It will look something like this:

Apollo Insights Word Visibility

Anything in ‘low’ has at least one click, some sort of life in terms of visibility. For this site, that’s just 6% of the keywords we have identified are relevant for them. Just 2% of the keywords are bringing in the lion’s share of the organic traffic. And the other 92% are… potential. What tactics you use to reach those keywords will depend on your site and resources, but it is good to know that all that future opportunity is out there.

And this graph is not untypical. Whilst that was for a marketing company, this is the one for an industry body:

Apollo Insights Word Visibility

Its 2% equates to more than 500 keywords that it get loads of traffic for and almost 1800 that it appears with some traffic (the more long tail keywords). But there are still literally thousands of keywords that more visibility could be achieved on. And this is a site that ranks well already. Really, really well by most standards.

Using this data is for a site can provide significant gains. There was a particular site where we identified a lot of opportunity phrases containing the word ‘free’. Although the company’s service isn’t free to use, certain aspects of it are and by utilising the knowledge of what people were looking for and translating that into appropriate content we were able to harness additional visibility. Not a little bit of visibility, but an extra 40 thousand impressions per month:

Impressions for [free] topic

Another example is identifying an opportunity around “bulk” – we identified these phrases were responsible for a lot of impressions but only very few clicks although they were clearly relevant to the site in question. Additional content on the subject was created to address the gaps in the information on the current site and answer some of the questions around bulk purchases. This improved the visibility by more than two thirds in just a year.

Having all the data in one place (and stored for all time instead of expiring after 3 months like it does in Webmaster Tools), creates a clarity in the areas to target that you might not otherwise be able to see.

Struggling to make sense of your data?

There are now so many different data sources that marketing managers have to collate, it can be overwhelming just knowing where to start, never mind understanding how to use it. If you’d like advice from our experts on how to make data work for you, call 023 9283 0281.

Kerry Dye profile picture
Kerry Dye

Kerry has been working in digital marketing almost since the beginning of the World Wide Web, designing her first website in 1995 and moving fully into the industry in 1996 to work for one of the very first web design companies. After a successful four years, Kerry moved to an in-house position for a sailing company, running the digital presence of their yacht races including SEO, PPC and email marketing as the primary channels. A stint then followed at another in-house role as online marketing manager. Kerry moved to Vertical Leap in 2007, making her one of the company’s longest-serving employees. As a T-shaped marketer – able to advise on digital strategy outside her main specialism – she rose through the ranks and in 2012 became the head of the Small and Medium Business (SMB) SEO team. In 2022 she became Vertical Leap's Automation and Process Manager. Kerry lives in the historic town of Bishops Waltham with her husband and daughter. When she’s not at work she enjoys cooking proper food, curling up with a good book and being a leader for Brownie and Rainbow Guides.

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