Search engine optimization and data science are like the couple we all know who are destined for each other but just not ready to move in yet. Their bonding has gained much traction in recent times as the race for organic rankings heated up.
Primarily, the goal of search engine optimization is to attain higher rankings for your web pages organically; however, search engines’ ever-changing algorithms have turned this pursuit into a cat and mouse game. It implies that you can never be sure that your SEO strategy is going to work. But that doesn’t mean that you cannot follow certain practices that have higher chances of tilting the odds in your favour.
Data science has gone to great lengths in moulding those practices. Most entities today employ data science in SEO, but what exactly does it mean?
Data science in simple terms is recording, storing, and analyzing data to effectively extract useful information. It derives its roots from the mathematical field of statistics.
Improving SEO using data science implies that data is accumulated through in-house machine learning applications or cloud-based tools and then analyzed and harnessed into actionable insights on the SEO front.
At times this might seem like an exhaustive, futile pursuit as if you were reading a foreign language without a guide. But given time and attention, this data can generate insights that can open avenues for relevant and profitable search traffic.
Choose the right tools: The very first way to improve SEO using data science is choosing the right tools to accumulate data. While there is 'n' number of tools out there to collect, process and store data, choosing one that suits your needs is absolutely vital. While Excel is not everyone’s cup of tea and might seem like a spider’s web if you’re a beginner, show me one tool that’s better at collecting and organizing data.
In case Excel doesn’t suffice, you could opt for BigQuery, which comes with Google Cloud Storage. Since Google directs 95% of the mobile traffic, it is in your best interest to use Google tools for assessment of your SEO strategies. Google Analytics is the most commonly used tool for SEO Analysis and there are many testaments in favour. Google search console is employed to see the average rankings of your web pages for search queries.
Keyword Research: One of the most common spots where marketers use data science in SEO is keyword research. Marketers, at least the thorough ones, invest a lot of time in selecting keywords that align with search queries of their potential customers. They factor in the search queries that relate to their products or services and analyze their potential customers' browsing trends and behaviours.
I understand that going for keywords with high search volume is tempting. Still, if you are in the embryonic stages of your website development, it can be a monumental task to take on web pages/websites that have been ranking for that keyword for ages. So, in the initial stages, it is best to go for keywords that are not hogged by your competitors and once you start ranking for that particular keyword, do not stop till you’re at the top. You'll end up spreading yourself too thin if you try to rank a single web page for too many keywords. It is always best to find the sweet spot between search volume and difficulty for a keyword. Google Keyword Planner is the most widely used tool for keyword research, while MOZ remains a dark horse.
Assess user behaviour: SEO conspiracy theorists have gone on and on and on about the impact of user behavioural metrics and search engine rankings. So much so that Google has denied, confirmed and then re-denied any co-relation between the two. However, according to tests conducted by Rand Fishkin, the founder of SparkToro (and co-founder of Moz), on user-behaviour metrics and rankings in search results, it was proven that user behaviour metrics are very much a ranking factor.
Irrespective of whether or not search engines take user behaviour metrics into account for ranking web pages, it is crucial to understand how search engines are evaluating user behaviour. Here are a few ways that search engine accounts in a bid to understand their users:
- Click-through rate (CTR)
- Click on other search results
- New search generation
- Bounce rate
- Dwell time
- On-site time
- Pages per visit
- Visit frequency
- Ease of mobile optimization
Google Search Console provides most of this this data for free and here are a few methods of how you can use this data for the betterment of your SEO.
Click-Through Rate: Click Through Rate or CTR is the number of clicks your web page receives for a query on SERP (search engine results page) divided by the number of times it appeared on the SERP for a particular query. For instance, if your website receives ten clicks after appearing on 100 searches for a specific query, then your CTR is at 10%.
Google Search Console shows your CTR and search rankings for particular queries. In case your CTR for a specific keyword is lower than the average, it is one aspect of the website that you could work on. CTRs can be improved by working on elements that are visible to the users, i.e. page title, URL and Meta description.
On-Site time: The time a particular user spends on your web page is called as 'On-site time'. If a user spends a considerable amount of time going through your content, then it sends the signal to the search engine that your content is understandable and comprehensive; however, if you come across high bounce rates, then your users may be pogo-sticking.
Pogo-sticking is a recent phenomenon wherein a user leaves or closes your web page after spending a very short period of time. This sends a signal to the search engine that the content on your website is not conclusive and does not fulfil the visitor's needs. This impacts the subsequent rankings.
Pogo sticking can have adverse effects on your website's SEO health and to avoid this you always need to keep an eye on target page's organic traffic bounce rate (the percentage of visitors who visit only one page and leave) and the average session duration (dwell time) for your webpage using website's analytics. Try updating your content regularly to make it more legible and comprehensive, which fulfills a user’s search query and curb down your bounce rate.
Gather the right data: Gathering data is a noble pursuit but getting it right is even more critical. Never neglect the significance of precision when it comes to analytics. Not merely the quantity, improving SEO with data science also implies that the quality of data sets should be raised. Only then can you achieve the targets you initially set out to with your data. When the data sets get more abundant, you must master the process of analyzing data to be able to use them to make informed decisions.
Instead of focusing on individual numbers, prioritize their trends. Focus on the story and not the stat. Individual numbers won't provide you with any actionable insights but a flurry of them on the same side of the curveball might.
One of the biggest challenges to gathering data is the reoccurrence of human error. To eliminate this, more and more enterprises are outsourcing SEO services in India as the country provides reliable, result-oriented and cost-effective SEO services.
Decide which data is crucial: Having abundant data is commendable and full of promise; however, at times, it can get overwhelming. It can sidetrack you from your goals if you don't know what data to process.
So before anything else, set your business goals and make sure that everyone is on the same page. This will be crucial for you to target the right metrics.
To ensure better ROI and enhanced conversion rate, it is in your best interest to perform customer segregation. This will aid the specificity of your campaigns and help you measure profitability based on demographics.
Also, scour out sources that drive web traffic to your page in any form. This way, you will possess more data on your web traffic and how visitors reach your site. Using this data, you can optimize your marketing strategy to obtain more visitors.
Conclusion: There are unlimited data and endless resources to help you with your SEO but harnessing them into useful insights is the key. Hence, it is about time you sit down, take a look at them, identify the right one and use it to gain relevant and profitable search traffic.