How to predict organic conversions from search

Do you find it hard to get buy-in from your boss for your SEO plans?

Perhaps you are the boss and you want a way to more accurately predict what returns you can expect from time and resource invested in SEO?

After all, pay-per-click and social channels can do that, right? You know if you spend £x on paid ads, you can expect roughly y clicks. So how do you do that for search?

Luckily, Richard Petersen-Hall spoke about exactly that when he came to Optimisey.

Thanks to sponsors,  Breadcrumb Media, you can watch it back on video, download the slides or read the full transcript, below. All for free. I know… you’re welcome.

Usual caveats: we’ve not devised a way to hyperlink speech yet but I can from text. However, my transcribing skills aren’t the best, so any errors you find are likely mine, not Richard’s.

If you spot any or have comments or questions, stick them in the comments section at the bottom. Better yet, you should come to the next event and you can ask questions from experts, like Richard, in person and share a drink with like-minded people and learn a lot.

Find out who is speaking at the next event, where it is and book your free place:

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How to predict organic conversions from search – without the need for expensive tools



Download the slides: How to predict organic conversions without the need for expensive tools (6MB PDF)


Topic today is how to predict organic conversions without the need for expensive tools and the main theory behind this one was last Optimisey event I went to was the first one I went to and I was really taken back by the warmth of the group and what also struck me was everyone was at different levels and for me, in doing a talk I kind of wanted to give something back to everyone at all every different levels.

So what I’ve tried to do is create a specific talk exclusively for us today that covers off the entry level requirements of someone that’s just learning SEO, cos it’s incredibly difficult to learn, and also to help with the people that are mid-range into SEO, so that they can continue their development, and maybe go “oh yeah that’s a good idea I should be doing that” and then obviously for the higher end people that are probably used to this kind of stuff that actually that it either jogs them to go “probably should be doing that bit more” or go “yeah I already do that in a better way” which kind of solidifies what they know already.

So just to give you an introduction my name is Richard Petersen-Hall. I’m currently the inbound marketing manager at Clinked.

Clinked is the leading white label client provider so basically we provide white label services for people’s portals really.

So we’ve worked with many large clients and yeah it’s it’s a really good company that I’ve been working for it’s just about seven months now.

So prior to that I was agency side, I started at Zazzle Media back in 2013 so I headed up the SEO team and I had about six direct reports of SEO.

And so when I started there in 2013 I was, think I was employee number eight, and I think when I left seven months ago we were about 53 people so it’s obviously quite a fast growing agency.

More recently it got bought out by the fourth largest advertising agency in the world IPG so yeah definitely something to take notice of in the region. But that’s enough about me.

Brexit, bitcoin and spice girls’ reunion

So the talk today will be basically covering off you know why do we actually need to predict conversions in the first place? We’re gonna talk about what kind of numbers we need.

We’re going to also talk about the the process in how to create those predictions.

We’re then going to look at the possible issues with these predictions. Like with any predictions there’s always you know some things that could be improved or made better.

And then the final thing is is to improve the numbers so once you’ve actually got the basics of the equations I suppose is the best way to put it then it’s how you take that to the next level and that’s really down to you guys.

So first of all full disclosure: all these numbers I’m using in this presentation it’s all fictitious.

It’s very difficult I don’t really want to reveal numbers or people so everything’s made up but just to get the point across.

Also these aren’t very pretty slides.

They haven’t got flashy gifs they haven’t got any sexiness so I apologise but it’s very much trying to get the point across.

And also I’m not going to mention about any of the following topics: brexit, bitcoin GDPR and finally the probably the most important thing of the night there’s the Spice Girls reunion.

explaing seo in management language

So okay so why do we need to predict organic and organic conversions? So I think one thing that everybody will relate to if they are working on SEO is actually that one of the biggest frustrations is knowing where to focus your attention.

It’s knowing, you know, if I put my energy and effort into these keywords are they really going to achieve something?

So this method is ideally is meant to point you in the right direction, at least give you the best bang for your buck.

The second thing it also does is it makes it easier to get buy-in.

Quite often if you approach your boss and say: “Boss I need an infographic” and he says how much is it gonna cost him you say “A thousand pounds” he says “What’s it gonna do?” and you go “It’s gonna look pretty”.

Or you’ve got the other option where you turn around say: “Boss we need an infographic” he asks how much is going to cost, you say a thousand pound.

He then says “What’s it going to do?” and you say: “Well we believe that you’ll achieve about three to four links, and with those three to four links actually we believe that we’ll get two or three higher places for our key keywords, and as a result of that we reckon we can get an extra four to five sales a month.”

So it’s actually it’s a lot more clearer now.

Those numbers don’t even have to be right he’s not gonna be mad at you or she’s not gonna be mad at you if you only hit two sales.

The fact you’ve used numbers and actually communicated in their language that’s not technical its financial makes it so much easier.

What do you need to predict organic conversions?

So what do we need in order to make these predictions?

So first thing we’ll need is Google Analytics and specifically we’re going to need to know the goal conversion rates.

So in order to get the goal conversion rates within Google Analytics there’s a couple of things you can either do you can either do e-commerce tracking and if you are e-commerce store I suggest you kind of find out from your store provider how to include that.

The other kind of tracking is it’s just normal kind of contact us form.

So today I’m going to go through just quickly how to set it up. It’s quite basic stuff.

So in order to track your goal conversions within Google Analytics go on to Google Analytics and in the bottom left-hand corner there’s a little Settings button.

And so you click on the Settings button then this will appear which is on the third column along which is your goals.

Click on your goals and then a new form will appear which will ask you… if you click the red button hit the ‘new goal’.

I don’t know why but they have these pre-made templates they made years ago ignore them and look for go straight on to ‘custom’ and click ‘continue’.

And then what we want to do is you want to give your goal a name so for its instance we’re gonna use ‘Contact form submitted’ and then we’re going to select ‘destination goal’ because the main aim is to hit the ‘Thank You’ page basically.

Hit ‘continue’ and then the final thing is you stick the ‘Thank You’ page URL in the top box.

Now one key thing when you’re doing this is if you’ve got more than one form for submissions you must make sure that the thank-you page is separate for each one.

So for example if you have one form for contact us and another for a brochure requests you got make sure that they don’t have the same Thank You page.

Reason being is because then your goal tracking will start recording if you have one contact us and then one brochure to sign up you they’ll both say they’ve got two signups.

So in order to make it accurate you have a different URL per goal you’re trying to track. Also you can turn on this funnel feature that allows you in the backend of Google to see the conversion rate from the first to the second.

It helps you understand how the flow works but again it doesn’t fix that problem of not both having the same thank you pages so just be wary of that.

So we need to do is click ‘Save’ and there’s a ‘verify’ button wait for 30 days and then it start populating with some data.

So basically what you get is a conversion rate so in this instance and remember it’s basic numbers so we get a conversion rate for the site of 2%, okay?

We’ve got next section is the completed goals – so we actually got 50 goals completed so that means 50 forms submitted. And then we’ve got a final one which is a goal value.

Now goal value when you actually have a goal submit you can actually include the financial figure. It’s very difficult to actually use that so in this case we’re not going to be using that with any of these numbers.

So with this data this is from the 1st of January to the 31st of January so a 31 day period and we got a conversion rate of 2 and 50 goal submits.

key data from google search console

The next thing we’re going to need is Google Search Console. So Google Search Console is the tool that Google uses to communicate with website owners.

Basically it tries to make Google’s life as easy as possible by communicating to you when you need things fixing because then it reduces the amount of crawl that Google has to do and as a result then it gives you a boost in rankings.

So this is what Google Search Console looks like. But specifically we’re going to be looking at a new tool which is Google Search Console beta.

Has any… can we have a show of hands to see how many people actually are using this yet? Oh nice wonderful!

OK so this got released, I believe, a couple of months ago I’m not sure but I know that if you are like me you’re loving the data that’s available in it.

Everyone has access to it at the moment so basically you go in Search Console and there’s a link in the top left… that was the right side weren’t it? Yeah left and rights not good… so you click on the top left and it will take you through to this screen.

OK so at the moment because it’s in beta form it’s only got a cut down version of the tools. So that’s why it’s running both tools in parallel at the moment.

But specifically what we’re gonna be looking at today it’s the performance section. So to get into the performance section you click on the open report and then you display with this, this this new display that we’ve got.

And so the main things we’re looking at is the total clicks so now Google actually tells you the total amount of clicks which you did before but date ranges higher.

We’ve got total impressions now this is the amount of times that your listing has appeared within Google. We’ve got date range we can set cuz currently it’s set to the last three months on that one.

And then we had this extra filter which I think it’s one of the best features of the new Search Console which allows you to kind of filter down to keyword types, geographical location and actual page URLs as well.

So if you scroll down a bit you’ll start seeing… we’ll change the date range from the first of January to the 31st of January so this marries up with the same date ranges that we had in Google Analytics.

And so in Search Console now we can actually see all the keywords that people are using to find our site.

We’ve also got a list of how many clicks each of the keywords get and then we’ve also got the impression rate of each keyword.

So for this talk we’re not going to be using the click rate we’re gonna be using the impressions the date range and the queries.

So in order to turn that off you scroll up to the top click on the total clicks button and it removes that from the listing. And double check that we’ve got the right date range. And so if we scroll down then we can start looking at the keywords that we’ve got so the first one is “blue widgets” and it’s saying there’s 1,744 impressions.

That means you haven’t got 1,744 clicks it basically means that you’ve been visible in 1,744 search results. So now we know that figure we can use the other figures that we’ve got from Google Analytics to kind of give us some indication of what possible traffic we might get.

Click-through rates and conversions

The final thing we need to do in order to get this done is this is Advanced Web Ranking’s CTR study so this basically once a month these guys track a lot of keywords and so what they do is they plot every month the average conversion rate.

So if you’re position one you’ll get a click-through rate average of the position to position three it’s not very easy to read this up so I’d note that URL down and have a look at it at a later date.

But we know that ranking number one you get a conversion rate an average conversion rate at 27.51%.

Now there’s lots of variants on the maximum click-through rate I think you’ll ever get within a SERP personally I think is about forty percent – and that’s if you’re probably a brand, possibly might get it more maybe up to a possible 50.

But at the end of the day you use this data it keeps it a bit more sane. So we’re saying that if you rank number one you’re the the average conversion rate is 27.51. That means of all the people that search for that keyword that’s amount likely to come through.

So if we’ve got an impressions of 1,744 for blue widgets and we times that by the conversion rate if we rank number one we can make a prediction that actually we’ll get 480 clicks. Which is kind of handy to know.

So ranking number one we’re going to get 480 clicks for the keyword “blue widgets”. So let’s take this a step further. So now we know that we’re going to get 480 clicks so 480 visitors from organic Google and we can times up by our average conversion rate we found on our site using Google Analytics we now know that we’ll get 9.6 sales or rounding up its “blue widgets” equals ten sales a month.

Issues with this method and how to address them

So there are some possible issues with this method.

The first one is this method doesn’t work very well if you don’t rank in the top ten. So if you rank on page two your impressions are gonna be far lower and this kind of this method doesn’t really give a chance to kind of give it a boost or put it on a level playing field.

And I racked my brains trying to think up a wonderful way we can get around this.

What I’ve really focused on is it’s kind of like you need to get your rankings in top ten.

You know the way Google is situated it’s very much like a football squad or league I suppose. So if you’re not in the top 100 you’re not even playing football.

If you’re in the top 100 you’re kind of playing non-league kind of stuff. So when you’re in the top 100 your main aim should be to get in the top 30.

Top 30 is kind of like your entry level to a pro where you probably getting a wage but you’re not doing massively brilliantly.

So when you’re in the top 30 your main aim is to get into the top 20. When you’re in the top 20 your main aim is to get in the top 10.

When you’re in the top 10 that’s when you can start looking at this stuff and you can start introducing it into your workflow.

Also this method doesn’t work particularly well if you have more than one ranking in the keyword, in the listing.

So sometimes you can have position 1 & 2 or 3 & 4 it doesn’t happen quite so much but it does tend to not make it as easy to predict so it makes it a little bit difficult.

Also I think you’ll probably be thinking this anyway when you saw it earlier but the conversion rate that we use in it’s a site-wide conversion and we all know that’s not always consistent across the whole board now I will cover off that more in just a minute.

Same way as before it doesn’t take into account commercial intent so let’s just say we’ve got “blue widgets” which I believe was something like 1,722 impressions imagine if the keyword widget was like a million impressions you know.

Then the old methods would say well we need to go after “widget”.

The importance of Keyword intent

Now commercial intent is obviously is someone willing to buy it? Or are we gonna get customers from it? So what we can do with that one is by… I’m actually sorry apologies… we will actually cover that off in a another slide in a minute it will go through how to deal with that issue of understanding commercial intent.

Also this one as well how they… so it doesn’t take into account like a difficult competitor. So sometimes you will be up against Amazon. And sometimes you’ll be up against a particular key… er, a particular competitor that you’re not going to beat.

And for that reason what you need to do is go back to the CTR study and lower yourself by one.

You need to be realistic and understand that if you’re not going to be one that’s fine actually it’s probably even better being realistic with yourself because if you’re doing this kind of study for all your keywords across the whole but actually you know “gray widgets” you’re never going to rank number one for it so you need to do the calculation if you were click through rate two.

And it will give you an idea of where to focus your attention.

Improving the process

So final bit how to improve the process.

So one of the things you need to do is calculate different conversion rates for different countries I think quite often people are very fixated on how much traffic they’re getting on a monthly basis or how much, you know, how many visits they’re getting or users but actually are you really concentrating on the countries you’re actually operating in?

You know if you only operate in the UK are you really only are you not segregating your target market? And I think actually if you start focusing purely if you’re UK-based and you only deal to UK if you start building and dealing sorry only with UK traffic then I think you’ll you’ll get a shock in terms you conversion rates start improving. Next one: page level conversion rates.

So basically we all know that when you get your keyword sets you tend to group them together.

So for example if we’re talking about “widgets” the key words like “blue widget”, “blue widgets”, widget blue, “big blue widgets” I’d probably group them all into one keyword set.

And I’d probably target them on all one page and that page will be forward slash blue widgets. Now home page might convert at 1% but forward slash blue widgets may convert at 2.3%.

So if you start using different conversion rates based on different landing pages you can actually get a better understanding because then it takes that into account the commercial intent more. This is what helps that issue out.

So for example if if we look at the “widgets” keyword which I said got a thousand impressions if you work out and say well actually the conversion rate on… blue erm on “widgets” which is on the homepage gets a conversion rate of and you do that against 7… uh… against a million impressions you probably find that the internal pages and targeting things like “blue widgets” may be more effective.

Key takeaways

So here’s some takeaways: First of all know your numbers I think it’s really difficult and it’s challenging on a day-to-day basis when you’re working hard and you’re focusing on rankings but actually you need to start really understanding your numbers truly.

Start looking into the the areas you’re in start focusing on – UK for instance start understanding all the differences between your different landing pages.

Second thing is once you’ve done this kind of thing continue to update it. Now I’m not saying to do it once a week because if you’re doing it once a week you’ve probably got too much free time on your hands.

You really should be doing this probably once every three months – it’s kind of one of those things you think I really need to do that and get round to it and you should see some growth.

One of the other issues that I probably didn’t highlight is seasonality it doesn’t take into account so you know you might find… and market conditions as well.

So if you start monitoring these things then actually they will highlight to you whether a market is growing or reducing.

Next thing I know this is the thing I’ve always kind of really been a believer in is making predictions.

So why not make a prediction of how much traffic you believe you will get if you’re ranking for a particular keyword? And keep a mental note that I even record it down and kind of calculate that against what you’ve actually got.

And so then what you could do is you can use that to adjust in future to really understand how the predictions are going. For example you might find that a particular keyword on a particular landing page it’s predicted that you’ll get 10 conversions a month. You know but actually in truth you might get 8.

And if you find that in your market that actually everything’s the same, minus 2, then you can apply that calculation to the rest of your figures. So that’s it! Is there any questions? [applause]

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