What Can You Measure?
Content creation is the easiest to hold to account - you can see exactly what you get. You can read and evaluate quality. Value is obvious.
Link building can often be the opposite. But although the process may not be as transparent as desired, some reporting data is always appropriate. For example:
- The exact urls where links reside
- The PR of those urls
- The total number of links on that url
- The results of bad neighborhoods tests on url
- The results of trademark suppression tests for each
by: Bob Sakayama
7 December 2009:
The biggest unknown for many clients is, "What exactly did the SEO agency do last month?" Executives tend to give agencies wide latitude if they appear to be performing. But if that latitude is the result of ignorance and the hesitancy to ask questions, a very bad syndrome sets in where the vendor has no real incentive and no accountability. If that's the case for your enterprise, you need to act.
Or if you can't assign tasks to expenses. It's one thing to agree that you need a consultant and are willing to pay a monthly fee for access. But it's an entirely different thing to have an expectation of performance, but not be able to measure that performance.
Ask your SEO agency for some specifics. Depending on the tasks they are performing for you, these might be different things, but it's not enough to point to existing ranks as proof of recent work.
Be especially cautious of agencies that use charts and metrics that display indexed link numbers, or rank changes. These metrics do not prove labor.
Some of our clients have hired SEO agencies who ONLY use metrics to justify work done. We have issues with this for several reasons. First, the metrics don't necessarily show the impact of recent work. In fact, most stable structures will very likely retain their ranks without any additional work. If the expectation is that the agency is performing rank increasing tasks each month, these metrics don't cut it.
Also, if an agency points to a chart displaying indexed links a client has no idea what kind of value is represented. For example, the most often used metrics is the numbers of indexed external links. Clients like to see large numbers and the corresponding referrals. But the link side can be gamed quite easily.
All you have to do is throw several hundred social bookmarks or software links at the site. Something you can do for very little or no money. This will spike the charts, but provide very little push. In other words, this metric can be gamed.
But more than that, the enterprise must hold everyone that works for it to account. Knowledge is the key to getting control. Agencies hired for general optimization will usually provide a detailed report if asked. Never give an agency carte blanche and a rank based incentive. We have seen too many of these relationships explode when the paid links go toxic.
Always ask for details. Always provide the expectation and hold the agency to account.
The best management strategy is to UNDERSTAND the process, and to work with your agencies to clearly define the tasks they will perform, and insist on transparency and monthly reports. Having in-house SEO expertise is a requirement for large enterprises if only to be able to better ride herd on the agencies. Yes, you're buying expertise when you hire an SEO agency, but that expertise must be held accountable to a resource allocation, not only for performance, but also for general standards of work.