Navigating SEO Data By Evading 5 Common Pitfalls for Precise Analysis

4 min read

Analyzing data is a daily necessity for those in the marketing or SEO fields.

Most likely, you’re evaluating the effects of Google’s most recent update, analyzing performance to see how well your efforts are paying off, or working on a case study to present to the SEO community.

However, things are only sometimes what they seem when working with SEO data. When you delve deeper, your initial assessment of the data might not hold.

Your initial assumptions or insights may be false if you aren’t thorough. 

I’ve seen many potential pitfalls that SEO and marketing professionals may encounter when working with data throughout my career. Here are five instances.


1. Misinterpreting the Link Between Impressions and Rankings


Understanding the correlation between a website’s impressions and average ranking metric proves vital in streamlining SEO performance reports. A misleading impression increases, and a decrease in the middle ranking metric can trigger client concerns. However, is this necessarily indicative of poor performance?

Consider a straightforward example to elucidate the interplay between impressions and average ranking:

Suppose your website garners:

  • One impression from keyword X, ranking 2
  • One impression from keyword Y, ranking 1
  • One impression from keyword Z, ranking 3

The average ranking in this scenario is (6/3 = 2).

Now, as your site begins ranking for a new keyword, let’s say:

  • One impression for keyword A, ranking 10th

While this seems like an achievement, the average ranking metric may appear to deteriorate (16/4 = 4). However, this is a positive development as your site now appears for more keywords. Over time, improvements in the rankings for these new keywords are possible. Moreover, ranking 10th for a new keyword is a commendable start.

Therefore, an increase in the average ranking alongside an increase in impressions doesn’t imply a decline in performance. It’s a natural occurrence when your website gains visibility for more keywords.

Tip: Consider the relationship between impressions and Click-Through Rates (CTR). A surge in impressions, while positive, might coincide with a decrease in CTR. Understanding this dynamic aids in comprehensive performance analysis.


2. Avoiding Inconsistent Comparisons


While measuring SEO progress through month-over-month comparisons is standard, it’s crucial to supplement these assessments with comparisons against the corresponding months from the previous year. Here’s why this approach is essential.

Consider comparing January 2023 to December 2022, where the results suggest an upsurge in traffic and performance. However, for numerous businesses, particularly in the B2B sphere, December (and sometimes November) witnessed lower seasonality, leading to a natural decline in performance during these months.

Thus, juxtaposing January 2023 with December 2022 might inaccurately portray an improvement when, in reality, it might simply be a “return to normal.”

Stating a claim like “comparing January 1 to April 30 with the previous period, we’ve observed a 60% performance increase” might lack accuracy in such scenarios.

To address this, consider these steps:

  1. Compare the performance of January 1 to April 30 of the current year with the same timeframe from the previous year.
  2. To account for seasonality fluctuations, utilize automated tools or scripts, aiding in more accurate and nuanced comparisons.


3. Making use of vanity metrics


I understand. SEOs are under a lot of pressure to demonstrate progress and results. This does not, however, imply reporting on meaningless vanity metrics. 

For example, reporting SEO activities using the number of internal or external links created as an “improvement” metric is inappropriate. 

The statement “X% improvement in external links” is unsound. 

Furthermore, increasing something does not always equate to “improvement.” Not always is more equal to more. Does an article become more spammy, or is it still an “improvement” when its keyword density increases? 


4. Presenting migrations as a success for SEO


Successful website migration projects are expected, not advantageous, as they are a traditional SEO task. SEOs frequently migrate websites and domains and then report on the results.

Many search engine optimization experts tend to erroneously believe that an increase in traffic to the primary domain following a website migration or redirection is proof positive of their SEO efforts.

It’s important to understand that since many URLs and the traffic they generate have been redirected to the main domain, this increase is mainly expected. Is this truly a victory? 

Report the proportion of traffic successfully routed to the primary domain instead. Though settling might take some time, demonstrating how much of the original traffic was preserved is the actual SEO win.


5. Overlooking SEO’s Value and Attribution in Reporting


The intricacies of SEO often diverge from the direct action-to-ROI path characteristic of PPC. While PPC allows for clear attribution of conversions, SEO demands a more profound exploration to accurately reveal the channel’s actual value.

For instance, in a prior position, the company’s reliance on PPC ads was minimal, with SEO emerging as the predominant traffic source for the website.

Initially, this scenario might appear transparent and uncomplicated.


Aim for Precise SEO Data Analysis and Reporting


Precision is paramount when scrutinizing SEO data for audits or reports.

Relying solely on initial data impressions can lead to inaccuracies, potentially causing client complications and overlooking unnoticed SEO achievements. Striking a balance between thoroughness and avoiding analysis paralysis is crucial. More data sometimes equates to better outcomes.

The optimal approach involves:

  1. Clearly defining the question you intend to address with the data.
  2. Ensuring its validity and relevance to the goal.
  3. Initiating your data exploration from this point onward.

Additionally, always verify your numbers, assumptions, and conclusions. Remember, data often holds more depth than what meets the eye!

If you still need help and clarification, look at our monthly SEO packages and get professional assistance.

Shilpi Mathur
[email protected]