October 9, 2010 ↘︎

Measuring SEO efforts

We’re all doing SEO – jostling for position, trying to improve our domain authority, vying for backlinks, looking at page rank.  We’re all getting reports from our SEO vendors.  But wouldn’t it be nice to be able to include those core measures in our SiteCatalyst Dashboards sometimes.

Did you know you can?

It’s a bit of a hack – but it works.

At Murdoch Uni we now include, as part of our basic measurements, Domain Authority, Total Backlinks and Page Authority for our homepage.

Why are these important to us?

Because they form part of our overall SEO strategy and despite the reports we get from our SEO agency, we want the data (and reporting capability) in SiteCatalyst, included in our dashboards on a daily basis, so that we can monitor it over time, to ensure that our SEO efforts are paying off.

A bit of background

Domain Authority

Just as pages can endorse other pages, a link which crosses domain boundaries (e.g., from some page on www.perthnow.com.au to a page on www.murdoch.edu.au) can be seen as endorsement by one domain for another.

Domain authority is important as it’s a measure (by the search engines) as to how authoritative you are on your content – the theory being that if others link to you, then you must be pretty good.

Domain Authority is a score out of 100-points, predicting how well a web page will rank on a domain. The higher the Domain Authority, the greater the potential for an individual page on that domain to rank well.

Page Authority

Page Authority is also a score out of 100-points, and it also predicts the likelihood of a single page to rank well, regardless of its content. The higher the Page Authority, the greater the potential for that individual page to rank.

Total Backlinks

This is a count of the total number of links we have to our site from other sites.

We could also pass in the total number of top level domains that link to us.  The list goes on…

So, now to the how

We actually want to report two items of data into SiteCatalyst; Name and Value.  Name might be Backlinks; value would be the number.

To do so, we use the products variable.

The products variable is used for tracking products and product categories as well as purchase quantity and purchase price. The products variable should always be set in conjunction with a success event.

So the standard implementation for measuring products is:


Notice the semi-colon between the Category and the Product name, and the comma separating multiple categories and multiple products.

Now this doesn’t include the value that we want.  The product name, category, quantity and price are all captured in the products variable.

So, what you’d normally do on the “Thank You” page of your checkout process is to pass back the products purchased, along with the quantity and the price – price being the actual revenue (so if the quantity was 2, then Revenue is 2 x price)…but as we’re not tracking real purchases, we don’t need to worry about that.

So…in our hack, we’ll set it up in the following way:



Category = “SEO”

Product = “Backlinks” and “PageRank” and “DomainAuth” etc

Quantity = 1

Price = Number of links and PageRank value and DomainAuth value etc

Notice that we’ve changed the events to “purchase”

An example product string to send in would be:


Remember to remove any commas in the numbers – commas are used as string separators in the product string.  Also remove any $ signs.

The source of the data

Obviously just having the capability to report it doesn’t do much good if you can’t get access to the raw data in the first place.

Well, seoMOZ have a nifty little api that can be used to get access to this data – and bucket-loads more.

If you set up an account with them, you’ll have access to their API and can get the raw data.

We set up a script that queries their API on a daily basis (which is similar to the script on my Tweet, Tweet – tracking Twitter post) and then it formats the data into the s.products string and passes it into SiteCatalyst.

Customising SitCatalyst

In SiteCatalyst, you need to set up a new report suite that is limited to just showing the “Products”.  Once you’ve got access through the menu to the Product based reports, you should then create a Custom Metric called Our Index and set it just as [Revenue], but use the 2 decimal place numeric value.

SEO1 Then if you take a look at your product reports and use the Our Index calculated metric, you should see whatever you’ve passed in, such as Backlinks, PageAuth, DomainAuth etc.

However, that’s not really what we wanted it for – we want trends over time.

Switch it to the trending report and you’ll have the actual value shown on each day.


Pretty neat really.

Couple of Gotchas

Using the products variable in this manner comes with a couple of things that you need to remember.

Firstly, the ranked report will aggregate the values, so the ranked report is only useful to look at on a particular day.  Any more than that and you’ll be seeing a total across the days…not much good.

The other issue is that you’re actually reporting a dollar amount – using the revenue field of the products to capture the index values.  So just remember that it’s not a currency value…which is why the calculated metric is used.

And make sure you only set the script to run once per day – any more than that and you’ll duplicate the values in SiteCatalyst.  You could actually use an s.purchaseID value to try to eliminate duplication.

Dedicated report suite

It’s highly important though that you only report into a dedicated report suite – one that doesn’t take “real sales” data, otherwise your real revenue will be totally distorted.

The added benefit to a dedicated report suite is that you can set up custom reports and custom menus.  If you set the report view to trend by day, for each of the “products” you pass in, and customise your menu with just those custom reports, you’ll have trended SEO reports on a daily basis, available within SiteCatalyst.


Final thoughts

There’s really no end to this type of data going into SiteCatalyst to enhance your overall view.  You could pass in Twitter Follower counts to see if your Twitter-clan is growing daily, or pass in Lead counts to measure optin/optout/total list size over time, or pass in the Google PageRank.

So there we have it.  One more reason why a paid-analytics solution like SiteCatalyst rocks!

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