Insights Into the Emergence of Search Analytics

  |  June 26, 2008   |  Comments

Q&A with Enquisite's Richard Zwickey on how search analytics can complement a traditional Web analytics tool.

In grade school, I really wanted a pair of Velcro tennis shoes. My parents obliged. Shortly after, I decided that I needed a pair of new basketball shoes (before I realized I was too short to succeed at basketball). My parents couldn't understand why I didn't just wear my new tennis shoes. In vain, I tried to explain that each served distinctly specific functions. No dice.

While site-side Web analytics platforms are an appropriate, central hub for understanding overall digital performance, many marketing professionals still find it necessary to use complementary analytics solutions for more specific needs. Media and ad trafficking platforms are necessary for measuring display ad and paid search performance. Panel-based analytics are necessary to understand industry and competitive trends and insight. While these tools are all of an analytics nature, they each serve distinctly specific functions.

My Velcro shoes belonged on the street; basketball shoes were necessary to play basketball (or at least look good on the court). I don't want to replace my Web analytics platform, but I need a supplement for specific marketing functions to make effective business decisions.

SEO (define) is growing as a legitimate area of focus for enterprise marketing professionals. It's unequivocally the most efficient method for traffic acquisition, compared to paid search or display advertising, where costs scale with increased traffic. This makes SEO especially attractive in a recessed economic environment.

But we need to understand SEO performance at more granular level. Typical, high-level metrics provided by site-side analytics tools, like referring traffic or keywords, don't provide enough depth or breadth to make effective decisions for SEO.

I recently spent some time with Richard Zwicky, founder and president of Enquisite, a search analytics solutions provider. I'm impressed by Enquisite's unique analytics capabilities specific to SEO, and I asked Zwicky to explain how search analytics can be an appropriate complement to a traditional Web analytics tool.

Shane Atchison: Let's start with the obvious question: why are marketers demanding more insight from search analytics?

Richard Zwicky:The budgets, activities, and expectations that drive search engine marketing -- SEO as well as SEM [define] and paid inclusion -- are all on the rise and are increasingly competing with other digital and traditional marketing and advertising spends. Search-specific analytics help marketers be more responsible with their budgets by offering a closer look at specific search performance and ROI [define].

SA: Why run search analytics alongside your Web analytics solution?

RZ:Enquisite focuses on natural search referrals. We're able to provide a level of depth beyond what traditional Web analytics tools offer. But search analytics isn't intended to replace Web analytics; rather, it complements Web analytics by shedding detailed insight on how search efforts specifically contribute traffic to a site and which specific keywords perform on a site. Our data is made actionable only when viewed in the context of traditional Web analytics reports and insights.

SA: Can you share examples of how search analytics are able to provide more "detailed insight?"

RZ:A good example is geotargeting. This is commonly used to inform paid search strategy but isn't commonly achievable for SEO efforts. Enquisite's reporting allows for a highly refined and customizable look at geographic performance from natural search. We show performance by city (and, in some cases, by Zip Code) for each individual search referral. This is especially useful because your site can rank differently in search engine results pages, depending on a searcher's location.

Traditional Web analytics would simply show you that you're getting search traffic but wouldn't explain your site's positioning in the SERPs [define] -- or the fact that it differs in geos. It also isn't going to distinguish the fact that some traffic comes from New York and some from Seattle.

SA:We see companies consistently wanting to view SEO success beyond just rank. Can this be more achievable with search analytics tools like Enquisite?

RZ: This has always been a common challenge, and one of the reasons that SEO and SEM performance have always been an apples-to-oranges comparison. The central problem is conversion. SEM managers are able to view conversion data at a keyword level, but SEO reporting has never really been able to tie specific keywords to specific site-side conversions.

We are soon to release conversion functionality, and we believe that Enquisite will be the first solution to offer detailed conversion tracking and analytics for natural-search-referring keywords. We can also identify which search terms, not currently optimized, have the highest potential for driving future traffic and conversion value.

SA:SEO conversion tracking is a promising level of value and insight that marketers haven't been able to realize from traditional tracking or Web analytics solutions. But it also seems like an opportunity for alignment with traditional solutions. How can that be achieved?

RZ:You're right; the value of providing SEO conversion insight is a core reason that dedicated search analytics tools will emerge as a necessary complement for marketing professionals. But you're also correct in identifying the need for alignment. The sophisticated insights that Web analytics provide in terms of looking at path data, funnel analysis, identifying and defining success events, goals, or conversions are crucial. We simply want to focus on specific insight and performance from search. This should both inform Web analytics and be informed by Web analytics. Search analytics insights can also align with other efforts like behavioral targeting.

SA:What are the big opportunities for search analytics in the next 12 to 18 months?

RZ:There is still a wealth of opportunity for search analytics providers to deliver deeper reporting functionality. Firms will need to focus on reporting functions that really address the decision-making needs of search marketing professionals. Accordingly, we really try to base our primary product focus on user feedback. We try to pay attention both to what our customers tell us and what the tight-knit search marketing community discusses. As important as search marketing is, providers need to realize that it is only one aspect of a larger analytics and marketing effort. Marketers only have limited time and attention to dedicate to search analytics. Firms need to try and avoid reporting clutter that over-delivers on analytics that we think are cool or are just nice to know.

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Shane Atchison

In 1998, Shane co-founded ZAAZ to advocate a different approach to Web services — one that respects and delivers on the power of the individual and the promise of Web technologies. As CEO, Shane leads the company's long-term strategic vision of working with leading financial service organizations, consumer brands, startups, non-profits, and community-based organizations, helping each realize the potential of the Internet and its meaningful impact on their business.

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