The SEOMoz ranking factors for 2011 have just been released. There is no doubt this is a great piece of content, you can view the full report from SEOmoz here. There is a wealth of data in these reports, for me Todd Malicoat summed up my feelings on the repot best when he said:
Through all this analysis of search optimization – we will always conclude that a site needs “more links, more quality links, more content, and higher quality content”
SEO Deep Dive Analysis
Most SEO’s love data and we have access to a LOT of it, from blog posts to competitor analysis to link profiling to advanced Google Analytics reports to keyword profiling to keyword analysis to everything else in between. There is a lot of analysis in our role. In some cases I have thought it would be best to split out the SEO role into analysis & marketing (when you are managing a big team with big clients and using tools like Searchmetrics, as some of the analysis performed by an SEO consultant can take a huge amount of time to put together, but for most SEOs ( including me), this would be a huge detraction from the role as we like variety. It’s critical to concentrate on tasks that will drive ROI for the client in those initial months of a projects (3 to 6 months) Deep dive analysis is a lot of fun, pivot charts rock, but if you haven’t delivered results in the first 3 months, the client may start to look elsewhere pretty quickly. They have probably seen lots of SEO firms offering services for a couple of cents and are left wondering why they are paying you top dollar for all this chatter about “quality content” and “quality links”. Of course deep dive analysis might be required to drive those initial results, but they usually come from that 20% of tasks that drive 80% of the results.
Of course, this kind of analysis is essential to becoming a true SEO expert and is extremely important in beating your competitors for top spots. I am in no way advocating you don’t put on your data googles and go diving, but it’s easy to get distracted by all this data, especially when companies like SEOMoz release such great pieces of data filled content. In my experience the two most common types of deep dive (that result in actionable tasks) are:
1. The SERP Landscape
If I have been working on a site and have a couple of really big keywords I am looking to rank for, this is usually something I would look at. If you have done some good on-site SEO and built good links, but nothing you are doing is turning the needle, this analysis is useful and worth doing. The following graphs look to profile a websites links by Page Authority from Open Site Explorer (straight from Dr Pete’s post on SEOmoz), this is from a real listing I am trying to figure out:
a. Link Profiling
I have another version of this to look at Domain Authority as I always tend to look at domain metrics rather than page metrics. But the above is still a good quick snap shot against competitors. Notice my site is winning. Ok, onto the next:
ii) Links Overview
The following graphs present a quick overview of how diverse the anchor text is in terms of exact, phrase and also a quick look at brand links, again this is for the same listing as above (thanks to SEER Interactive who’s excel improved on my process, check out there post here):
You can see the sites in first and second place aren’t winning on any fronts. I can also tell you these sites don’t have very much else going for them. They are thin, don’t have any brand equity, content is poor. At this point you need to think in terms of ROI, all this analysis is for one keyword. You can go deeper, but how valuable is that keyword to you and your clients relationship. This needs to be taken into account over the wider success of the campaign.
2. Competitive Intelligence
This is the second area I would look at on a regularly basis. For the most part people see this as competitive link analysis. Justin Briggs wrote a great guide on competitor link analysis over at SEOMoz. Michael Martinez then followed up with competitive link analysis is a waste of time. Wiep then followed up with an excellent post on why link analysis is anything but a waste of your time. I am in agreement with Wieps post in that competitive link analysis is a good use of time when you are new to a market and are looking for general competitive intelligence. If someone asks me to work on their a website selling baby food, then how will I know anything about the market unless I do this kind of competitive analysis. But I do agree with Michael Martinez in that this amount of competitive link analysis for one keyword can be a waste of your time. For me a really great tool to get more out of your time in competitive link analysis is the SERP Dominator Report from Ontolo. This allows you to break down the best performing site across a large range of keywords. For example, if I am targeting “mens fashion” keywords, I can break down the best performing sites in terms of top 3 listings across a range of men fashion keywords:
This allows me to do competitive analysis on sites performing best in a certain keyword space, rather than just for one keyword. For me this is a better use of your time. Full competitive analysis for just one keyword is a lot of work and best reserved for those listings a client just can’t do without.
Those Odd Listings
For the most part your conclusion will usually come back to Todds quote on more links, quality links, more content, quality content. Other times you will be left scratching your head as there are a lot of anomalies in the rankings. You can really get caught up in the deep dive analysis, but remember a lot of those blog posts are done by people working on very big teams with a lot of resources. Always weigh up client smiley face, like this with your love of having nice shiney pivot charts. For every pivot chart you do, that doesn’t result in an actionable outcome, the great big Link Devil in the sky comes down and turns two of your best links to NOFOLLOW !!!!