Reporting on Search Marketing Statistics

September 10, 2006

Topics: Search Marketing.

Statistics are an unending struggle for internet marketing. Understandably, clients always want some hard facts to demonstrate that their money isn’t going to waste – but what numbers do you give them?

Web site traffic statistics are famously variable in interpretation. Since no traffic service has a handle on the actual statistics for all website traffic, the numbers are usually based on particularly selective data sets. Rand Fishkin gave his detailed report yesterday on Alexa and Hitwise data, comparing them to the data provided through Feedburner and Indextools. The numbers tell it all – different statistics services provide vastly different data.

Imagine that all the webdev category sites receive 9 million uniques per day. – 9 mil x 2.07% = 186,300 visitors per day – 9 mil x 0.01% = 900 visitors per day

In reality it should be something like: – 9 mil x 0.085% = 7650 visitors per day

7650 visitors a day is based on SEOmoz’s real visitor traffic. The other data is based on percentage of traffic as reported by Hitwise – see a problem?

So, given that the easily available data is, for practical purposes, only usable as a very general guideline, what kind of data should you actually report to your clients?
Recently, this question was asked at Cre8asiteForums. The answers vary – but the essential focus is that the only meaningful statistics to report must be based on the site’s business goals.

  1. Focus reporting on specific metrics: income earned, referrals, registrations, whatever is considered a success for your site’s conversions.
  2. Establish objectives for the campaign. The more specific the goal the better – and be realistic.
  3. Don’t depend on any statistic that you need to convince your client is relevant. If they don’t understand that tracking campaign revenue is relevant, it may be that you don’t want to be working with them!
  4. Identify the characteristics of a successful conversion. Differentiate between visitors who purchase the product and those who don’t. Determine everything you can which is different about these two key groups of visitors.

Pure traffic has some place in reporting – even if the traffic isn’t converting, a lot of traffic means greater exposure for your web business. But pure traffic numbers shouldn’t be the highlight of your statistics analysis. It’s worth mentioning any increase, but the bottom line is not directly related to visitors – it’s all about sales.

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2 Comments on “Reporting on Search Marketing Statistics”

  1. Yeah, no question that statistics are just part of the overall equation. Like you said – the first step in working with a client is educating them on how their website supports their business goals.

    Even some very savvy business people just don’t quite catch the boat when internet marketing is involved…

  2. Thanks Joe, and I think you’re chipping at the tip of an iceburg here. The stats that matter are those that are understandable in the business process, as you note. But that requires knowledge of the business process, and forethought about how monitoring specific outcome metrics relates to whatever activities are underway (promotions, SEO, PPC campaigns, etc). Who has that? Certainly not the typical management team asking for “stats”. Sometimes they seem to think they need the “stats” to define those metrics and goals.

    I find this to be consulting work, in advance of SEO work. Almost all of my clients need this sort of help before any meaningful (i.e. expensive) SEO initiative can be taken seriously.