Expert Interview: Phil Pearce

Is SEO the right solution for you? Analytics expert Phil Pearce shares his knowledge in this month's Q&A

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Posted by Cat How, September 5, 2018

Phil Pearce is an analytics expert, author and senior digital web analyst – with an encyclopedic knowledge of almost everything digital. He is co-founder and Analytics Director at Accelerate Agency, who deliver enterprise level service to SMEs in the setup of Google Analytics in order to drive better business decision making and improved digital marketing ROI. Phil runs the Bristol Digital Analytics Meetup and is also running a Training Course for Agencies on Google Analytics. He lives and works in Bristol.

How can I work out whether SEO is the right solution for me?

Before spending any money, it is really important to do competitive intelligence on how other people are performing in the search engines – and gauge the size of your market, or number of searches happening in it. It would also give you an indication as to how easy – or hard it would be – to enter into that market.

There is a website called Spyfu.com – if you go there you can enter a domain name, and it will tell you how much organic traffic you’ve got, and how much organic traffic your competitors have got. So it gives you an idea of the opportunity out there, and how much effort is involved to win the race, so to speak.

This tells you how much traffic you would get, but it doesn’t tell you the value of it. In order to do this, a good starting point is to work out your Profit per Click. Working this out is kind of like working out how much winning the race is going to mean to you.

Your Profit per Click is: (No. of Website Leads * Lead-to-Sale Close Rate * Avg Order Value * Margin) / No. of Clicks

For example: (100 website leads * 20% Lead-to-Sale * £1000 Avg Order value * 50%) / 1000 clicks = £10

It may be that you realise the cost to acquire a customer is too high and therefore SEO might not be the right channel. So it really gives you something solid to work from.

How can I gauge if return-on-investment on SEO is viable?

There is a great spreadsheet you can download here called Ranking Reach. This will really help you quantify your return-on-investment and is well worth a look.

What are your top tips for improving SEO for a website?

Once you’ve determined whether SEO is the right channel – and it would be profitable to invest in – then I would make sure you tick a few of the following sites off your list. Firstly, I would set up a Google Search Console – it’s a bit like a diagnostic screen in a car to see how your engine is running – but for your website. If there is a problem, then it will let you know.

Secondly, I would look at Bing Webmaster Tools. It might seem odd – because who uses Bing, right? But essentially you set up a Bing account to tell you all the stuff that Google doesn’t tell you. Bing has a really good SEO health check report which tells you what stuff you should fix first. They’re both free so there is no reason why you shouldn’t set it up!

Then I would move along to Sitebeam Nibbler  – it does a quick check of your website and will highlight any problems. It only checks the first 5 pages on the free one though, but is still a good sanity check. It gives you a score out of 10 too.

Another important thing to consider is how quickly a website loads. It is a factor that affects how much traffic you get as well as UX. So in this case another good tool is Google Site Speed which gives you a score for speed. It’s worth noting that since July 2018, Google made Site Speed an even more important factor on mobiles. So speed is now even more critical if you want to target people if you have a mobile-based site.

How do I get more people linking to my site?

It’s not about the number, but about the quality of those links. Always think quality not quantity. The links themselves need to be from sites which are topic authorities on the area that you want to be shown on. There is a skill to finding where those backlinks are – but a couple of well positioned links can make a huge difference. Also where those links are positioned within a page is relevant too – and it is always better to be at the top and middle, than at the end.

To check what your authority is, there is are tool such as Moz.com or Ahrefs.com which are good to use. These show you where your best existing links are coming from, and allows you to find your competitors best links, and use all of this information to improve your website authority.

A word of caution: some links pointing to your site can be damaging, and you can be penalised as well as being rewarded. For example, Google doesn’t like it when companies artificially try to cheat the system. For example; you should totally avoid any paid links as this method is called Blackhat. So you could unintentionally cause damage, if you don’t know how to use links properly.

It’s important, therefore, to take defensive counter measures – especially with backlinks. I’d recommend you use something called a Disavow file (Defensive SEO), to tell Google that they should ignore certain links and not penalise you for them. You should review your Disavow file at least once a month. It’s important to do this in order to prevent accidental penalties, as well as combat other companies trying to penalise you in this way (in sectors like gambling this is quite prevalent and known as Google Bowling, where a competitor tries to “knock out” your website if it is above them). I’d like to point out that Accelerate Agency are an ethical SEO company – so we know about these techniques, because we have to defend against them, but we don’t use them.

When looking at website Analytics what information should I be looking at?

A good place to start would be to watch these slides on the Top Ten Tips to Save You Money or Make You Money using Google Analytics. But another good place to look is at Intelligent Events – which is simply a way of finding things that have changed on your website. It could be things to do with traffic, or even the performance of certain pages. In essence, it shows you a “what has changed” report. The best way to find it is to search the Google App Store for Google Analytics, download it and you can find the icon in the top right hand corner. You can see this better on the image below.

What is the best metric to look at in Google Analytics?

If you’re an e-commerce website, there is a new metric in Google called Session Quality. It tells you whether the traffic you have is valuable or not. It’s a really good way of finding out where your best quality traffic is coming from.

If you don’t have an ecommerce website, another good metric is Goal Value (or Revenue Per Click / Visit). This allows you to see everyone who has made you ‘virtual revenue’ on your site. This is great for lead-generation websites and means that you can sort via – say, landing pages – a way of working out which pages are generating revenue, and which are not. So those two metrics are very helpful for both detecting problems… and finding new opportunities.

Image credit: Caroline Andreoli