The SEO analytics process with Branko Kral

Getting your content to rank at the top of SERPs isn’t easy. You need two things, great content and solid SEO analytics. That’s why we caught up with Branko Kral, an expert on all things SEO.

You'll learn

  • The end-to-end SEO analysis process
  • Results you can expect if you make your SEO more analytical
  • How to get better search results by analyzing your SEO data together with paid marketing data
  • The best resources to learn more about SEO analytics

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Anna Shutko:

Hi everyone, and welcome to another episode of the Marketing Analytics Show. The podcast that helps you get better at marketing analytics. I’m your host Anna Shutko. And joining me today is Branko Kral, a master of all things SEO.

Branko is a Director of content and analytics at B King Digital, a company with a special focus on SEO. In this episode, we’ll discuss what the stages of the SEO analysis process are, what results you can expect if you make your SEO more analytical, how you can analyze SEO data with paid marketing data, and where you can find your resources if you want to learn more about SEO analytics. I hope you’ll enjoy this episode.

And here we have Branko Kral. Thanks so much for joining me today, Branko.

Branko Kral:

Hi, Anna. Thanks for having me.

Anna Shutko:
Great. Awesome. So now let’s start with the first question. How would you define the term SEO analytics?

Branko Kral:

SEO analytics for us is the practice of measuring and evaluating whatever is happening on the website. It’s both there where we will look at what happens before people come and so on Google or Bing and other search engines. And then after people come to the website, then the analysis is a large part. I think that’ll be quite a big chunk of what we talk about today. And the execution is then aided.

So executing SEO analytics can be any type of SEO and the way we split it up, and this is actually something we’re doing for our new website is, that we split SEO between tech SEO, content SEO, SEO analytics. And so we do strategy in each, where SEO analytics is a huge part of the strategy. And the execution is based on the SEO analytics insights, through either content or tech improvements and additions.

Anna Shutko:

Sounds awesome. Thanks for sharing. Yeah, and I do think it’s important to separate different types of SEO and especially SEO analytics. So now if we talk about that more, what are the stages of the SEO analytics process in your opinion?

Branko Kral:

Yeah, I think the main ones were quite well described in the article that we published on your website, on Supermetrics in the blog. In the very first phase in the beginning, before we even do much, we prepare and we enable things where we look at whether this client is good for it, whether they appreciate numbers, whether they have the budget to do this well. And whether the team on our end, that we can plug in, has the right skills and whether the roles of the team members that work on the client side also have the right interest and the right skills. So there’ll be the preparation and enablement. Then in phase two, out of four, by the way, there’ll be the setup of the measurement. A big part of that will be testing too. So I’ll say measurement and testing and setting up for that.

And so we like to use the Google Suite, but there are many other tools you can use as well. And then there’s a lot of research tools, crawling tools, and such. And now that we were measuring SEO, now we can go on to phase three, which would be SEO analysis and data visualization, which is one of my favorite parts. I like this one a lot. And then phase four. The final one will be about bringing it home by acting on the insight, by executing. So as we have completed the analysis, found insights found stuff that we can work on. And we’ve also estimated the outcome of working on them.

Then the communication of what we want to do will be viewed, whenever we meet our clients monthly, we call it analysis and agenda because we analyze whatever has been happening, especially the last month, the last few months, but also year over year. And then we decide together what it is exactly that we’ll do. And as we execute, it becomes this feedback loop where we can rinse and repeat every month probably, if that’s the cadence and that’ll be it, the four phases.

Anna Shutko:

Hey, I really liked the clear definition of the four stages there and now if we dive a little bit deeper. So what results can you actually expect if you make your SEO more analytical and maybe more numbers and data-driven?

Branko Kral:

Oh, it gets good, it gets really good. You can have a small business outrank big websites. The snowball effect is huge because the longer you have the feedback loop in the works, the longer you have the feedback loop as a part of your process, the more exponential it gets. So you can have these one-off successes where you’re ranking a new website for something that’s outranking major publishers, or you can just have this gradual growth in terms of results. We always look at the dollar sign that really is the KPI of SEO.

Sometimes, say we have a new team member and they’ve been doing SEO for a while, this actually just happened a few days ago. I got a little grumpy with someone because they are new to our team and we’re still getting in sync and they had this focus on ranking something.

And so we almost ended up redoing a page about a marketing tool into a blog article, even though the marketing tool was a super strong lead generator. And I am much more interested in the leads it can generate, even if their ranking is lower than just ranking at high at all costs. That can be huge to the lead generation part of your SEO, or it can be about filling the funnel for your e-commerce if you’re not going for leads, but you’re going for sales instead. I have some examples I pulled up, two actually. I think this is the most interesting part of what we might be talking about today.

Anna Shutko:

Yeah. For our listeners of the podcast, can you maybe summarize a couple of steps and give a few tips of what exactly you’ve done to reach these amazing results?

Branko Kral:

Yeah. Again, we start with strategy. Whenever we start a project, we go on a three-month sprint where the first month is mostly about strategy and auditing, and making the website better. There we go for qualities such as page load quality, anything that could get in the way of crawling and indexing. For instance, the URL structure can be quite important. If they have been using the blog categories, we look at those. We want to make sure that there are very few pages on the website that have very little value. This is called pruning. And some people say you could do better things, but we find that especially for new projects or a website that hasn’t done that much analytical SEO before, you want to make it super clean. And so we do quite a lot of pruning in the beginning, either through straight-up removing the content or no indexing it, so at least search engines don’t consider it.

We often do web design work. We used to do just web design work. We were not a design and development studio, but the skills that we have there and the team capabilities that we have there, help us with SEO. We always do work on websites and pages with that SEO focus. And also, in the beginning, we set a structure. Part of our deliverables will be the keyword map, which is very typical in the beginning, technical audit, and the execution of it, which is also typical. But then we also get into the content roadmap combined with information architecture, and we plan out the content so that we can either restructure the website very, very fast in the very beginning or so that as we publish more content over time, it’ll fill out our plan for the information architecture.

And so you can summarize these into strategy, technical, and structure in the beginning, this will be the first month or two, and then we keep working on it. But the first month or two is of high focus. And then we work a lot on content. Our projects tend to turn into the second and third month and forth and on, turn into content projects.

So I go heavy on that and we definitely publish on the blog, but we also want to make sure that the service pages, the lead generation pages, the opt-in pages of sorts, whether that’s an email opt-in or it’s a page about using a tool on the client’s website, the homepage, by all means, the homepage is always one of the first things we’ll work on because the homepage is the front door, both for the people who want to see what’s on the website and for the search engines, who want to understand them well and see what’s the most important.

For instance, tend to feature a couple of blog articles, either those that we pick manually or the most recent ones or a combination of the two on the homepage, so we give them some of that link juice. I work on all types of content on the website. Maybe it’s a portfolio piece or a case study, oftentimes when people hire us or when people think about SEO, they just want to publish on the blog. And then we have to do some convincing, tell them, “Okay, we’ll be publishing on the blog that is important, but we’ll also be publishing or improving other content,” which that segues quite well into the other type of work we’ll do, where we don’t just care for new content, which we do, but we also spend a lot of time upgrading existing content.

Usually, when something is already written, it already might also be ranking. And it’s much faster to improve rankings than to acquire rankings for something that’s new. So we do a lot of content in this way, and then we get into offsite more in the second or third, especially the third and fourth month, where we do stuff like backlink exchange with other high-quality websites that are relevant to our industry. We do replace backlinks everywhere we can, whenever it’s for instance in an industry association, partners in the industry. And we also do guest posts like the one we did on… actually, the one we did on your website, on Supermetrics, about SEO analytics, was just for us.

We do a lot of guest posts for clients and it gets really good. We can get more and more creative, it forces you oftentimes to be a little more creative because every blog has its preferences and that’s both for the topics and the formats. And so you also meet new people, which is huge. Finding the best backlinks are those that people actually click on. The more clicks you get from a relevant site, the better. You don’t just want to pay for a backlink somewhere that’s not going to be seen, which is oftentimes when you purchase a backlink, it will be on a new blog post article that doesn’t get any traction. So we do that.

And then distribution. Distribution is huge. Whenever I publish a piece like we did the one for your site, I’ll keep using that one as an example. I email people personally. I have a list of peers that I email to, a list of people that I assume are happy to get these emails from me. I also tend to get zero negative feedback, quite a lot of positive feedback. I’ll email peers such as you or Edward on your team. I’ll ask him to give me feedback or to help distribute it. And then in that same email, I’ll include a link to my LinkedIn post and a Twitter tweet. And then I see a lot of engagement in the very beginning of the life of those posts on social networks. I also ping other social media managers. For instance, now we have a connection in the team that runs the Google Analytics Twitter, which does happen a bunch for us.

The first time they tweeted our piece, we didn’t expect it. The second time we didn’t expect it. Then I recognize the pattern, then I ping them just over an ad mentioned on Twitter. They tweet it out again. Now I think it’s happened six or seven times. One of which was for a client. And so I found that somebody needs to run a social media account, that’s a curated account with content by others. They actually appreciate this, a lot of people who appreciate it when you ask him to do something if it also helps them. And so they’ll be part of that. You can see in SEO and the content that gets a lot of results, it’s the content that gets distributed well. So we work very closely with the client on the distribution channels. We use social and email and backlinks and peers, peer networks, a lot.

Reddit is something we want to get more active about. It’s something that we use personally, something that we want to use more for clients and for our own content too. So you see it’s an addition and there’s a progression, it’s chronological, it’s systematic. You need to be flexible enough. So we, for instance, only charge them fixed fees. We’ve been doing some experimentation with charging based on the value that we create, but at least fixed fees are a lot better than charging per hour because charging per hour is mostly a conflict of interest. And I don’t want to talk to the clients about how much we work. I want to do to them about how well we worked and what the results were and why the results were like that. And what do we need to do to mitigate something that’s happening that we don’t want, what do we want to do more of and what can we replicate.

And so that’s a part of the enablement and also just a part of keeping the focus. And then what else I would say is the team, I think the right team is huge. For instance, in our team, we have a couple of very good developers who are very good at problem-solving. We have a few designers who all have different skillsets and will be doing things such as consolidating the look of featured images and filler images in the blog post or consolidating the look of service pages because maybe the website already has a lot of content but it’s not consistent. We’ll have designers too. We have an analytics developer. This is our operations manager who does half operations and then she does half data visualization. She has a Master’s in Statistics, which is huge. She’s really good with data sources and visualizations.

And then we have a PPC person, actually a couple. And we find that PPC as a skillset is very applicable to SEO because if you think of SEO, PPC, and analytics, between the three, there’s a lot of overlap. And sometimes we can use PPC to compliment our results when something is really hard to rank for, but we still want to, we can rank for it right away with PPC. And then over time, we rank for it with organic as well. So PPC for search is super important to results like that and to have that skill set on the team and then there’ll be something… not something, someone like me where my background is in a variety of channels, but content and data visualization are my favorite. I’m also a people person. And I like to be the one that does the communication. So then there needs to be someone who keeps it together because it’s a lot of coordination, right.

I just named out a lot of team roles and they’re just in our team. Then we also have team roles we work closely with on the client side and each client team will be different. Having someone like me is super important and we call that role the project director. So not the project manager, not a professional email forwarder, there’s enough of those, but the project director who is hands-on, who could actually do a lot of the work themselves, herself or himself. But who’s more responsible for the QA, for making sure that whatever is passed on to the client has been seen by at least two people on our team first and someone who’s responsible for getting things done, but also being closely involved. And that kind of combination of everything I just named out, even though there was a long list, but it is a lot of work and it takes some time. And so all of that together tends to add up and then you can enjoy these good results.

Anna Shutko:

Yeah. It definitely does sound like a team effort. And it sounded like there were many, many pieces that have to fall into place to make this whole SEO machine work. If people want to learn more about SEO and SEO processes, SEO analytics, where should they have to?

Branko Kral:

I’ll name some of my favorite sites. I’m happy you’re asking. I really like Seer Interactive. There’s an article also describing these sites for those who are just listening. So Seer Interactive, this is one of my most favourite articles ever. It’s by the CEO Wil Reynolds, who’s a really good person to follow everywhere, by the way. He has an article from when the pandemic hit. So I think this was March or April about how they had to be cutting budgets and it’s called Marketing in a Recession: Budget Cuts – The Scalpel vs The Sledgehammer approach. And so he was comparing some results they get from SEO to PPC and deciding what it is that they keep doing and that they don’t. But even the entire site and their newsletter are amazing. The selection of content that they send over. And there’s Moz, of course, one piece on there called SEO Channel Context: An Analysis of Growth Opportunities, but also just Moz Top 10, the newsletter, is really good. And then everything on Moz, really.

What I appreciate about both Seer Interactive and Moz is, they do a lot of research and data and they show the data. And so they show a lot of the process of how you apply the data in your SEO work. That’s really good stuff. Then I really like Brian Dean and Backlinko, even though now there’s more gated content, but I think it’s worth it if you subscribe here. He has this skyscraper approach where every piece is just off the hook, great. And so that’s one, that’s super thorough. And then we have Orbit Media, which is one of my favorite marketing blogs. It’s more about websites in general, but they write a lot about content as well as analytics. Big shout out to Orbit Media, Andy, and Amanda. They’re also very, very analytical about their process and their approach.

And they’re known for making websites that perform. If you really want to have that, if you want to create a new source of business for a company, you have to think about how the website is going to be a marketing machine, which most websites with a lot of traffic get a majority of their traffic from organic search. So this blog is just really, really good about analytical marketing with a lot of SEO and analytics in it. And then on our website, we have a section of several articles we’ve published which should also give some really good ideas. Some are on Orbit Media actually, some are on your site, it’s all the articles that have been tweeted out by Google Analytics. And I think that’s a really good start, our website, Orbit Media, Backlinko, Seer Interactive, and Moz.

Anna Shutko:

All right, thank you so much for sharing. And yeah, these are awesome resources and a lot of good suggestions there. So if people want to reach out to you, where can they find you?

Branko Kral:

Twitter is always great and LinkedIn. I actually prefer LinkedIn to all social networks. So I love that one, but it’s just, as always, slash brankokral, B-R-A-N-K-O-K-R-A-L. Thank you for asking because I would love to connect with people through this. Always connecting with people through sharing knowledge is always just huge. So this is me on LinkedIn, or @brankofosho, B-R-A-N-K-O-F-O-S-H-O on Twitter. That works really well too. And then we can take it from there.

Anna Shutko:

All right. Thank you so much, Branko and I was very happy to have you on the show. And that’s the end of today’s episode. Thanks for tuning in. Before you go, make sure to hit the subscribe button and leave us a review or rating on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you’re listening. If you’d like to kickstart your marketing analytics, check out the 14-day free trial at See you in the next episode of the Marketing Analytics Show.

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