Dennis Mortensen in-depth Q&A, sneak peek at SES New York

Dennis Mortensen of Yahoo Web AnalyticsI’m a big fan of Search Engine Strategies because it’s one of those shows that really draws the best and brightest in online marketing and web analytics.  My special guest today is Dennis Mortensen, former COO of IndexTools, currently the Director of Data Insights at Yahoo! and member of the Board of Directors at the Web Analytics Association.  Dennis is a frequent speaker at SES events, and will be co-hosting a panel entitled “Meaningful SEO Metrics: Going Beyond the Numbers” at SES New York.

Garry: Dennis, I’m so glad you could spare some time in your busy schedule to talk to me.  Lately, it seems many organizations are looking at web analytics and starting to appreciate that standard metrics are meaningless if not tied to business goals.  Calculating return on ad spend for pay per click efforts is relatively straightforward, however when focusing on social media and organic search efforts, marketers can lose track of what’s really important.  With all the data at our fingertips these days, whether it’s from Yahoo Web Analytics (YWA) or Google Analytics, it can be hard to avoid this “data paralysis”.  What are some of your favorite quick wins when it comes to insights associated to organic search?

Dennis: It of course depends on where in the organizational optimization cycle you are (alas how sophisticated an organic search marketer you are). But I believe applying context to traffic influx is important.

So when you think about a traditional organic search engine report (as provided by Yahoo Web Analytics or Google Analytics for that matter), you think of the search phrases as a dimension and perhaps visits (or similar) as a metric for success. As illustrated below:

This is not necessarily bad information, but I am not sure I would categorize it as insights. So it is exactly as you say, a potential “analysis paralysis” situation, where seemingly good information does little to help you.

I suggest, as a quick win, that you apply immediate context and value to your search phrases and use that as your standard organic search report.

Should you be an online retailer, I personally favor the below 4 metrics:

  • Visits
  • Visit to sale Conversion rate
  • Average Order Value
  • Revenue

Just by glancing over the two reports, both sorted on visits. Even with the unfair fact of you not knowing the site in question, the products or anything really – you are able to instantly create an attitude on the individual search phrases. The first issue (optimization opportunity) that comes to mind, to be specific, is “plumbing supplies”, which looked like my third most important keyword, but it does nothing for me, from a revenue point of view.

Garry: Great examples!  So, when you co-host the panel “Meaningful SEO Metrics: Going Beyond the Numbers” at SES New York, you’re probably going to be showing more examples like the ones above, right?  Can you give me a sneak peek at some of the talking points you’ll be covering?

Dennis: I’ll be doing a talk titled: Search Engine de-Optimization ..and the bogus celebration of yet another Google organic search lottery winner. It seems fair to debate whether or not search engines and other content aggregators extract too much of the webs value, leaving less for the content creators (originators) – if this is true, one should introduce tactics such as Search Engine de-Optimization to destress the dependency!

Garry: Oh-oh… you’re about to crush some worlds and blow some minds, aren’t you…

Dennis: This is a radical thought of not trying to move up the ranks on Google (perhaps even the opposite) – and should you think I am completely crazy, I believe it is worthwhile visiting as a thought experiment.

Take a look at the below two figures and try to come up with a reasoning why one is better than the other.

The attitude of more visits is always better, might not be as black and white as we would want to believe.

Garry: That’s a great point, and gives a little insight into the possible free content argument unearthed by the recent “News vs. Google” debate.  Food for thought.  From a e-commerce perspective, you could compare organic visits to repeat purchases, or average revenue per order, etc. The key is to measure and look beyond the basic metrics.

Thanks once again to Dennis Mortensen for stopping by and sharing a little wisdom.

If you haven’t done so already, it’s not too late to register for SES New York today.  New York plays host to possibly one of the largest gatherings of experts and attendees in online marketing, certainly not to be missed!

About Dennis R. Mortensen

Dennis R. Mortensen is a pioneer and expert in the Analytics industry. He is an accredited Associate Web Analytics Instructor at the University of British Columbia, the Author of data driven insights with Yahoo! Web Analytics, and a frequent speaker on the subject of Analytics, Media and Marketing. Mortensen is an Entrepreneur and was the COO of IndexTools until it was acquired by Yahoo! Inc., in May 2008. Today he is the Director of Data Insights at Yahoo! and sits on the Board of Directors at the Web Analytics Association, and he maintains the highly popular analytics blog,

About Search Engine Strategies New York

Search Engine Strategies is the definitive digital event for marketers, corporate decision makers, webmasters and search engine marketers (SEMs), including pay per click (PPC) advertisers and search engine optimization (SEO) professionals. Attend SES New York, network with your peers, meet with industry experts, and learn the tips, tactics and strategies that will grow your business online.

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