Web metrics are in a constant state of evolution. As we gain access to more and more raw data and behavioural reports through tools like Google Analytics, the necessity of using more effective metrics rises to put all that data in to some kind of useful context so that we can truly understand what the information is really telling us about our business and markets.
One of the most powerful metrics that I’ve been experimenting with more frequently lately is what Google Analytics wizard Avinash Kaushik refers to as ‘Share of Search’ (number 6 on his list of key metrics). In simplest terms, ‘Share of Search’ can be defined as the portion of overall online interest in a particular keyword that you are capturing. That is to say, if there are 100 searches every day for your product category, how many would your site receive? 10%? 20%? 50%?
If your ability to be found online is important to you, then taking a look at what your current estimated share of search is, and making changes to potentially improve this metric, could have dramatic effects on how you approach your online activities. Fortunately, this is a relatively simple metric to calculate, requiring only a few points of data which are easily obtained.
Here’s how simple the formula is:
Your monthly search referral traffic for a specific keyword or phrase / Google’s average monthly searches for that specific keyword or phrase x 100 = Your estimated % share of search.
You can easily obtain your sites monthly search referrals for specific keywords or phrases from your Google Analytics dashboard. To get the average overall searches for that phrase or keyword through Google, you can use the Google Keyword Tool. Simply make sure that you’re comparing apples to apples by setting the same criteria and restrictions in both tools (country/region, keyword vs. phrase, etc).
Once you’ve obtained your estimated Share of Search, you can begin to monitor it for changes. As your share of search rises, you should try to determine what factors this might correlate to. Did you do a big advertising push? Is interest in your product seasonal? Did you publish strong new content such as blog posts or educational articles? Is there a trade show coming up?
If your share of search decreases, take a look at what might be causing it. Are competitors making big changes to their websites or publishing strong new content? Is your industry seeing an overall decline? Are your ads or marketing messages misaligned with market needs? Is your product becoming obsolete?
Continually monitoring your Share of Search allows you to keep tabs on how ‘findable’ your business is, and how effective your web properties are at capturing the interest of your potential customers. Remember: Search performance is all based on RELEVANCE. The more relevant your content, the more you should see your share of search increase. In theory, an increase in share of search should correlate to an increase in market share as well. Hence, by measuring changes to your share of search and comparing to changes in your market share, you can see if there are disconnects or misalignments in your content, marketing messages, and product offerings.
The real key to effective web metrics is CONTEXT. Simply looking at big numbers like page views and number of visitors doesn’t give you any insight in to how you compare to the rest of the world out there. By looking at more context-driven metrics like share of search, you can begin to understand how your actions impact your performance in the market. However keep in mind that there is no one magic metric that answers all questions. Share of search is just one more gauge of performance for you to look at. There are many more, but hopefully the simplicity of share of search and the insight it can give you will inspire you to dig deeper in to your data and see the real story that it’s trying to tell you. Big numbers mean nothing. Big context is everything.
This article originally written for http://crowdshifter.com