How To Test Your Short Term and Long Term Strategies with Analytics

This might sound weird to anyone not involved with search engine marketing, but I’m about to let you in on something you might have never known about. There’s been a years-long philosophical debate within the world of SEO and online marketing about the “value” of time.

In one camp, there are search engine marketers that swear by short-term strategies, and that’s how they say they can put any business in the web search spotlight. In another camp, there are content marketers that say long-term strategies are the way to go, and that once you eventually make it to the top, you’ll stay there longer. Zerys emphasizes long-term and “evergreen” content over short term tactics. Then there are others like Evan Carmichael that say the right blend of both is the best solution, and all sorts of differing opinions in between.

I’m not about to try and decide which solutions are more “right” than the others. All you need to concern yourself with is figuring out what works best for you. Let’s take a look at how to use your content marketing analytics to test and measure just how valuable your strategies are in the short-term and in the long-term.

“Short Term” Solutions

Depending on who you ask, “short term SEO” is a dirty word. US Interactive Media says short term SEO strategies “lead to long-term disaster.” Typically, companies sell short term solutions as software packages, because they’ve found a weakness in search engine systems that they can exploit for cheap, easy rankings. Search engines have gotten smarter about this recently, especially with Google’s Panda and Penguin updates. “Hacks” and other tricks will often get you in trouble or even delisted with search engines, so you have to keep your short term solutions honest.

Content curation, social media posts, and PPC campaigns are all effective short-term solutions. Social media moves faster and earns you tons of referrals, PPC makes you show up in search results faster, and content curation gives you the benefit of latching on to current events and interesting content varieties.

Link building is often mentioned by some SEO and SEM strategists as a short-term fix as well, but automated and heavy-handed linking could get you tossed out of search results. Even SEOMoz says link building is no good. Link building should be a natural part of your short-term content strategy: include links where they make sense or when you should cite something for a healthy link profile, and don’t overdo it.

Testing your short-term solutions’ success requires careful research into your Google Analytics, and knowing how to ask the right questions and find the answers you want.

In Google Analytics, check your Overview dashboard. From the time you started your short-term strategies, have your average traffic ratings gone up?

If so, you should check your Traffic Sources Overview dashboard. You can look at your daily and monthly performance, or set your own custom date range.

Click Traffic Sources > Sources > Referrals. Where is this new traffic coming from? The Source data will tell you. What landing pages are they arriving on? Click the Landing Page data tab.

Click Traffic Sources > Search > Keyword. Are you appearing in keyword searches you were optimizing for? Click Paid under Search to see if your PPC ads are bringing in traffc. (Looking at your Google AdWords dashboard will tell you more about this.) Have your referrals from social media domains like (Twitter) or Facebook increased? Are you getting more content from outside sources from your curated content? By adjusting a few date ranges, you can plot out and visualize your analytics movement easily in Google Analytics.

A/B and multivariate testing are also an excellent way to measure overall short-term performance in Google Analytics. Search Engine Land has an excellent article on how to do exactly that.

Long Term Solutions

Long term solutions are healthier, and more SEO professionals prefer long-term solutions to short-term fixes. Why? Anything you do as a short-term fix contributes to your long-term plans. Once you post something, it’s going to stay there, and its lifespan will last as long as Google can see it and categorize it when your content is indexed for search rankings.

Long term solutions include value-adding content marketing, search engine optimization, regularly blogging for business, and pretty much any of the aforementioned short-term solutions when they’re practiced consistently. “Unhealthy” short-term solutions can really mess up your long-term goals, but those constant, healthy short-term solutions will only add to your long-term goals.

Testing your long-term solutions’ effectiveness is a similar process to short-term testing, but you’ll have to use a broader date range. Measure three months, five months, and more when you can. If you aren’t seeing a steady increase in your results, something’s not working.

To further examine your long-term improvements, check out Visitors Flow under the Audience tab. This incredibly useful visualization shows you how your users “flow” through your website, how often they leave a page after arriving on it, and where they go on their second, third, fourth pages and so on.

If you’ve established goals in Google Analytics, you can also use the Conversions tab to get a similar visitor flow chart specifically tailored to your various conversion paths. Visualizing your goal funnel activities will show you where your weakest links in the conversion funnel really are. Check out Digital Third Coast’s stellar article on how to monitor your long-term SEO performance for more on this.

If these tips sound deceptively easy, it’s probably because checking all this information is really easy to begin with!! Knowing where to start is half the battle when it comes to managing your own analytics and website improvements. Having quality content that drives long-term success is the other half of that struggle. If you follow this list and ask the right questions, you’ll master the analytics end in no time. And with help from our talented writers, you’ll have the other half of the equation covered!

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Andrew Glasscock is currently based in Nashville, Tennessee. He graduated with a BA in English, specialized in Creative Writing, with a minor in Marketing this past May. Along with copywriting, he loves being an improv comedian, playing frisbee, and dogs.

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