SearchMetrics Essentials and How it Compares to My Previous Foray into Web Analytics

My introduction to Web analytics came in 2005 when I was hired as an online marketing coordinator. Back then, competitor research was a mix of manual searches, Urchin (before Google bought it and turned it into Google Analytics) and a tool called WebCEO. Looking back, it all seems fairly simple. The concepts of search engine optimization and search engine marketing were beginning to take hold, and companies were understanding it was necessary to participate in order to stay competitive. Very much how companies are viewing social media now.

There wasn’t quite the proliferation of data there is now, and the tools, for the most part, did the job. Granted it was a bit time consuming and full of spreadsheets that, at times, all looked the same. But since search wasn’t quite the defacto method for most back then, it was manageable.

When I struck out on my own, and landed my first blogging gig, I went and bought WebCEO so that I’d have a tool to add some value. Writing good content has been something that comes naturally to me. And while companies spot that immediately, it also helps to have some hard data to back it up. So imagine my surprise to learn that WebCEO hadn’t changed much in the 4-5 years since I’d last used it. The UI was the same. The process of entering data and running reports was still slow and cumbersome. It was PC-only, though now it has an online version.

So when I was given the opportunity to check out a new tool, SearchMetrics Essentials, I took it.

SearchMetrics is completely Web-based, and has various packages from Basic to Ultimate, and more focused options on SEO+SEM or Social. In a word: options.

I checked out the SearchMetrics Essentials option, one of their newest offerings that combines SEO+SEM and Social. I spend my time on SEO and Social, but knowing what’s happening with SEM can make a difference. You want to see how the stars line up, as they say.

With SearchMetrics Essentials, you can run all kinds of data searches and reports, and get comparisons of competitor websites to see where you stand. You can check sub domains, which is handy if your blog is a sub domain, and directories, industries, videos, images. Pretty much any data set for SEO, SEM and Social, you can check out and research. You can do it to see where you stand generally, and you can see where you stand with your competitors. Both the competitors you know, and the competitors you don’t.

For SEM, you can look up keywords, see volume, cost and ad budget. Rather handy when you want to figure out if you’re getting the most bang for your keyword buck. And if you run multiple social media campaigns, you can see who is talking about you, what they’re talking about (if it’s the campaign or something else) and on what platform.While it’s good to confirm people are talking on the platforms you expect, it’s also helpful to be able to dig a little deeper and see where else people are talking about you. There might be a market you didn’t know about, or overlooked because there wasn’t data to back it up.

Course, having so much data to sift through can be visually challenging. The eyes can only handle staring at spreadsheets for so long, and the brain can only process so much text. SearchMetrics does away with all of that, and the need to export an Excel file in order to create your own graphs.

Its UI presents data in text and visual form cleanly so you can see the text and which keyword or social media platform has the biggest slice of the pie. You’ll also see where else people are talking about you, and what they’re talking about. You might find a blog post buried on your site that still gets a fair amount of social media activity. Or perhaps one section of your sight is getting all the attention. Start combining data sets and you’ll get a good picture of what is working, and not working, for achieving your goals.

And then there’s this other feature, called Visibility Charts, that lists Winners and Losers. It shows you the domain, SEO Visibility and Enhancement. There are broken down into Absolute and Relative. While the Absolutes are domains synonymous with the Web, like Wikipedia, Amazon and Google, the Relative domains, domains with “largest relative visibility gains for organic search results in the previous week,” look to be an indicator of both competition and trends or news items.

Thanks to Danielle Simon at SearchMetrics for giving me a tour of the product, and Tim McDonald for the introduction.

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