Data Driven Business

By: Nasser Sahlool, Director of Client Strategy, DAC Group  

Digital marketers have to change the way they look at SEO – that is the loud, clear and consistent message that has been coming out of Google for months. The primary indicators are:

  • The personalization of search – Google is providing results based on individual user behavior, demographics and geography.
  • The emergence of the knowledge graph – Google makes the connection between what you search for and what you mean. And then it answers your questions right on the results page.
  • The move to responsive design as best practice – No more building separate website environments based on devices. Simply build the web experience once in responsive design and trust that it will display properly.

These changes are driven by Google’s focus on displaying content that is not only relevant, but useful and displayed in an environment that is usable and accessible. We know these things matter to Google because its most significant algorithmic changes of the last 24 months are focused on rewarding marketers that care about the user experience.


  • The Panda update was focused on eliminating content farms that were crowding out the organic results with low quality content.
  • The Penguin update was designed to combat the over-optimization of websites that focused on link building trickery at the expense of the user.

Google cares deeply about the user experience since it directly impacts usage of the search engine. The better the experience and the more useful the content that is accessed through the search engine, the more users will return.

Any erosion in the quality of the results leads to a corresponding decline in consumer confidence and usage.

So what are the metrics that digital marketers should focus on to measure the performance of an SEO program? It’s certainly not the industry mainstay of ranking reports. Not only does the personalization of search impact the accuracy of the reports, but also Google is working hard to eliminate them since they violate its terms of service (as was made very clear at the recent SMX East conference in NYC).

If the search engines are focused on the usefulness of content as well as the usability and accessibility of websites, then the metrics that matter for SEO are the same that matter for every other digital channel – namely those that indicate glorious user experiences. Rather than caring about how prominently a website appears on a page, the focus instead needs to be on how much traffic is being driven from the channel and how that traffic contributes to the bottom line (as defined by how consumers interact with the website). SEO is a means to an end, not an end in of itself.

Visibility in the organic results is important, for without it there will be no traffic from this channel to contribute to the bottom line. But understanding that there is a virtuous cycle that rewards great user experiences with increased visibility (rather than the other way around) is the most important factor driving the industry today. Focus on the on site user experience and the metrics that align with it and have confidence that the search engines will reward that.

About the Author:
Nasser Sahlool joined DAC Group as Director of Client Strategy in 2009. Upon joining, he established and helped to grow the digital strategy team within DAC.

Nasser brings over 15 years of leadership experience in strategic management and planning in the SEM/SEO arena for clients across North America, Europe and the Far East in a wide variety of industries. His background is built of experience in financial services, consumer packaged goods and public advocacy on the national and international levels. He holds a Masters from London University’s School of Oriental and African Studies.

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