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A balanced approach to data-driven SEO

We have nearly unlimited access to information and data. For search marketers, this can be a blessing or a curse. It’s very easy to get sucked into the never-ending pool of data — but this rarely, if ever, benefits our work. So how do we protect ourselves from information overload?

Futurologist Alvin Toffler predicted in 1970 that the rapidly increasing amounts of information produced would eventually cause people problems. More than a few times, I’ve found myself overwhelmed and overloaded with information, and my guess is that you have also experienced this phenomenon.

If you take your SEO seriously, then you understand the necessity of tracking your efforts — after all, data is at the core of good SEO.

Management thinker Peter Drucker is often credited as saying, “You can’t manage what you can’t measure.” While I agree completely with the statement, it seems as though some SEOs have resorted to just measuring everything, which is simply not practical. If we are going to be effective, we must have focus and be clear on what we want to track and why we want to track it.

Knowledge vs. information

One of the main causes for information overload, in my opinion, is that SEOs and marketers have confused information and knowledge. It’s as if we believe that if we get more information, we will eventually uncover some knowledge. According to a March 2017 report from the CMO Council, “Empowering the Data-Driven Customer Strategy”:

In the past five years, 42 percent of marketers have installed more than 10 individual solutions across marketing, data, analytics or customer engagement technologies, and 9 percent have brought on more than 20 individual tools or solutions.

While this sounds like marketers are tracking more users at a deeper level, this next stat from the same report paints a different picture:

In that same five-year period, 44 percent of marketers have indicated they have spent more than 25 percent of their marketing budgets to replace existing technologies.

While most are collecting increasing amounts of information, the “turnover” of martech solutions suggests that they have yet to find the knowledge they are really seeking.

In this case, information is the data itself — the “facts” in raw form. Knowledge, on the other hand, is derived through carefully analyzing this data to really understand what is happening within your accounts.

Collecting data, for the most part, is free. You install some JavaScript tracking code and sit back and wait. Information on its own provides little value. The real value lies in collecting the right data, then analyzing it with an intent to transform it into knowledge.

The SEO implications

The job of a search professional is to increase the visibility of a brand or website in search and to attract qualified visitors that have the potential to engage. The art and science of SEO can be very complicated. But a quote I recently heard from author and life coach Tony Robbins made me pause and rethink a number of my approaches: “Complexity is the enemy of execution.”

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