How To Analyze Service Business SEO Results


The scientific world is separated into two sections – ‘hard’ science and ‘soft’ science. Hard being sciences which you can conduct experiments and gather concrete proof of results, i.e. chemistry. Soft being sciences based on observation and different-to-measure results – economics, sociology, psychology generally falling into this area.

The marketing world is often the same way. Paid search, in many ways, is like a hard science – it’s very easy to run experiments, having full control over search position, ad copy, the keywords you display for, and more.

Unfortunately for some, SEO is more of a ‘soft’ science. Marketers and business owners don’t have a ton of control as to where Google ranks them. We know the things that lead to strong SEO results – good quality backlinks, well-written content, and a well-designed site that loads quickly and is usable on all devices.

With paid search, you understand exactly what was spent and can calculate ROI with some amount of certainty. You can see what keywords work and which do not. On the organic side, we don’t have keyword data, and it’s hard to calculate an ROI on your efforts when it takes significant time for SEO efforts to get off the ground; and you don’t have that same level of keyword control.

However, like any marketing effort, you need to be able to measure results and understand your successes and failures so that you can make adjustments as needed. Today we’ll dig into some tips into interpreting your SEO results by defining the right KPIs, indicators, and tools you need to be using.

Start with Conversions

In my life as an SEO consultant and now a marketing manager for a software company, the number one mistake I’ve seen clients and companies who pitch me make is its focus on traffic.

  • “Our campaign is going great! 50% more traffic”
  • “What about conversions?”
  • “Well….uhhh.”

If you’re hiring an SEO firm to do work for you or investing the time and energy to try to do it yourself, you’re not doing it because you want page views. You’re not the Wall Street Journal, you don’t make money off of page views. You want to get people to the website who will pick up the phone, e-mail you, and are interested in your service. In terms of analyzing your results, this should come before all else.

(This isn’t to say traffic isn’t important. It definitely is. More on that later).

When analyzing your SEO results, start with conversions and make that your key metric of focus throughout your campaign. Ultimately, if you aren’t getting more conversions, then your SEO plan isn’t working and it’s time to find another provider.

A conversion is defined as…well, a goal. An action you want people to take. In the case of most businesses, there are two key actions we want users to take:

  • Fill out a contact form on the website
  • Pick up the phone and call us

Assuming your website and Google Analytics are set up correctly, you should easily be able to see a number of contact forms that are submitted via organic search per month and use that number as one of your KPIs.

Analyzing Service Business SEO Results

You aren’t going to be able to understand where every customer comes from, however, you want to monitor the overall quality of leads you’re seeing if organic is your primary channel of conversion. You also, of course, want to monitor the quality of these inbound contact forms – forms with fake e-mails and irrelevant questions do happen, but shouldn’t be the majority of your conversions.

An oft-overlooked asset within Google Analytics is Assisted Conversions. By default, conversions are credited to the last channel used. If someone finds you through organic search, then comes back via a remarketing ad – that conversion would be credited to Paid Search, but organic would earn an assisted conversion. In evaluating your SEO results, you need to account for these conversions as well.

Analyzing Service Business SEO Results

A final note: you also want to understand how organic compares to your other marketing channels, to ensure the best marketing decisions going forward.

Ring, Ring – Call Tracking

So, now you’re tracking your contact forms – great! However, the other key for service-focused businesses is call tracking – being able to understand what channels are leading to calls and ultimately customers.

There are a handful of great tools for this: CallRail, Marchex, and Invoca being great tools for this, all of them operating on a similar principle – when someone hits from organic search, a unique number displays to them. This unique number routes to your phone; and the call is tracked. It sounds a bit scary at first but is incredibly simple once you get the hang of it.

Analyzing Service Business SEO Results

(A sample call tracking report from blog.calltrackingmetrics.com)

The beauty of call tracking is that you can export the results and match the organic inbound calls to your customer records in your CRM of choice – giving you full visibility into the percentage of calls that were strong leads, the percentage that turned into customers. It’s a game-changer for service businesses – if you’re not already using it, it’s something you should be implementing immediately.

These two components – contact forms and phone calls – are the key focus for your SEO campaign. They won’t go up overnight. There will be down months. But above anything else, these two numbers should be rising through the course of your SEO campaign and be the first KPIs to be analyzed.

Secondary Metrics

While conversions are the key metric you’ll want to look at with your SEO campaign, that doesn’t mean the other metrics aren’t important. The other metrics you have can provide some great valuable insight and help you make changes to your SEO plan that ultimately result in more conversions. These secondary metrics include:

  • Traffic: Traffic is arguably the second biggest indicator after conversions as to the overall health of your SEO campaign. Overall, you should be monitoring traffic increases and decreases; and comparing it to both previous month and previous year. Not only overall organic traffic, but average time on site, landing page performance, and geo-performance.
    • Geo-performance is key to look at if you’re serving a local area – the majority of your traffic should be from your area, and from key cities in that area.
    • Landing Page reports can give you insight into which services generate the most interest; which content is performing the best with your audience.
    • Time on Site is a good yardstick for engagement on pages. Bounce Rate is a figure I personally avoid reading into unless it’s extremely high or extremely low. The thing about bounce rate is this – you can land on a page, pick up the phone and call, and then exit the site. That’s a conversion – but considered a bounce.
  • Keyword Ranking: One of the goals through your campaign is gaining stronger keyword rankings – after all, the higher you go, the more customers find you, right? This is a great area to look for wins.But, the reason I wouldn’t classify it as a ‘key KPI’ is that the majority of search engine traffic is long tail – not a keyword with enough volume to draw in the masses. There are thousands of keywords people might use to find your site and no way of tracking them all. This old, but still relevant, article from Moz does a good job of demonstrating long-tail vs. main keyword search.
  • Domain Authority: The ‘authority’ component to SEO is gauged on quality and quantity of inbound links, and Domain Authority from Moz is a good snapshot of that. Again, the goal is more customers to you – not having the highest domain authority possible. It’s a good secondary indicator.

Assessing the ROI

So, here’s the fun part. Figuring out that ROI.

With phone call tracking, you should be able to match your organic call list to your CRM (please, for the love of god, use a CRM). Match the numbers to customer records and transactions for the month. Then you should be able to pretty easily see the amount of qualified/unqualified leads from SEO, and the revenue those leads have generated

For contact forms – or if you’re not using a CRM – you’ll have to do a bit of guestimation to get to truly understand the value that SEO is bringing to the game.

My recommendation is to build your own sales funnel projection. Get a good sense of the percentage of quality leads you receive, the percentage of leads that turn into customers, and your average order value.

From this, you can make a pretty good guess at the true impact of your SEO results.

Let’s say I’m a handyman who currently averages 50 leads per month, and about 20 of them turn to customers (40% conversion from lead to customer) The average ticket for a customer is rough $500. I hire an SEO expert at $2,000/month. What’s my return on that investment if the SEO guy grows my leads to 65 per month?

Month Organic Conversions Customers (40% CR) Revenue SEO Spend ROI
January 50 20 $10,000 $0 N/A
April 65 26 $13,000 $2,000 $1,000
 

Clearly, this analysis isn’t overly scientific – but it’s a good back-of-hand way to understand the ROI of your SEO efforts.

In conclusion

While a ‘soft’ science, it’s certainly possible to measure your SEO results and get a good feel for the quality being produced.

  • Focus on Everything else is nice as an indicator, but remember why you’re doing SEO – to ultimately bring more customers and revenue into your business.
  • Use the right tools for the job. In addition to Google Analytics, call tracking can help service businesses understand organic efforts, and a CRM helps to tie things together.
  • Estimate your ROI from SEO using a simple funnel to get a back-of-the-hand insight into the expected revenue from your SEO campaign.

There’s a lot of guesswork – but some clarity is better than none at all!


About the Author

Barry Dyke is the marketing specialist for ServiceBridge, a company providing field service management solutions to businesses in the areas of pest control, landscaping, home repair, commercial services and more. Before coming to ServiceBridge, Barry spent 5 years as an SEO consultant working with service businesses, e-commerce stores, and large B2B firms.

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