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Data-driven? Everyone is. But which data are you looking at? The answer to this question determines how well you’ll do going forward.

Unfortunately, another problem is that even when you have a super-smart SEO specialist on your side, he or she is still working from flawed, imprecise data—because it’s impossible to pull accurate data in many cases.

For example, Google used to show you the exact keywords that referred traffic to your website. Today, a phrase called “(not provided)” ultimately hides almost all of that data. Smart SEO specialists know how to get around this, but only to a degree. Now, you simply can’t access all the data Google formerly provided for free.

The Meaning of “Direct Traffic” is Fuzzy

Google Analytics features a traffic source called “direct traffic.” Theoretically, this was intended to define searchers who type your URL directly into their browser and hit “Enter.” However, Groupon wasn’t convinced by this explanation from Google, so they pretty much shocked the digital marketing world and de-indexed themselves from Google. Of course, overall traffic sank. Yet surprisingly, Groupon also noticed a big dip in traffic heading to their “Deal” pages. Why is this a big deal?

These specific pages had long URLs: the kind you wouldn’t remember off the top of your head and type in. Hence, the company learned up to 60% of “direct” traffic actually originated from organic optimized search.

Relatedly, email open rates are difficult to figure out too. Yes, every email service provider gives you open rate data—but it’s far from precise, relying on a small tracking image called a “pixel.” If you send plain-text emails—which many marketers do to provide a personal feel—you can’t insert a pixel to track opens. Or, if an email app blocks images by default (which many do), the pixel isn’t shown and the open isn’t tracked.

So, what in the heck is your email open rate anyway? With Google Ads, say one campaign drives twice as many leads as the next. Is that the better campaign? Maybe not. How many purchases resulted from each campaign? Which customers led to the highest lifetime value? Have you tracked either of these metrics?

Don’t Fret: Your SEO Specialist Has the Answers

The point with data is that you must have experience to know what it really means. What you see on the surface, even from leading companies like Google, doesn’t necessarily provide you with the full picture. So, when your SEO specialist presents you with data, ask why he or she trusts it. Why one metric…and not another?

At the end of the day, go with the SEO specialist you trust most: the one who has your best interests in mind. Because even experts in the field have a difficult time pinpointing the most accurate data.



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