These days, it seems like every company relies on big data, engagement metrics and e-commerce portal click-through to craft, analyze and enhance their SEO strategy. Marketers looking to understand their audiences need to ascertain their customers’ needs, of course, but they may not be seeing the forest for the trees.
There’s a lot to be said for having a keen sense of qualitative research—though qualitative research might seem difficult to get. Between search metrics, keyword links purported to increase landing page visibility, shopping cart click-through and retention percentages, it’s all too easy to cast aside the why and how of engagement as nebulous—or, worse, needlessly obscure.
On the other hand, digital marketing strategies which forego “hard numbers” in the pursuit of completely qualitative approaches tend to get pummeled in today’s digital landscape which demands sturdy forecast foundations which navigate via data trends.
Which direction should your marketing strategy take? If you’re an insightful digital marketer, you can probably make a solid guess: Both quantitative and qualitative approaches are important. Here’s a better question: When should one take priority over the other? Is it possible to interweave the why’s and how’s of digital engagement with numbers that don’t lie?
A lot of marketers have difficulty determining the best strategies which include both, especially when trying to improve upon strategies which are fundamentally quantitative or qualitative in design. One particularly difficult forefront of digital marketing to define is SEO. Search engine marketing notoriously thrives in research-heavy keyword analysis, but several pitfalls endanger business pros who only hone in on Google Search Console—which fails, for example, in procuring monthly search volume info beyond a 1,000 keyword analysis limit.
To craft the best SEO strategy, you’ll need to wield numbers and subjective analysis alike. To win customers in the upcoming year, it’s worthwhile to brush up on the factors contributing to powerful quantitative-qualitative approaches—then applying them in unique, formidable ways.
Quantitative Research in 2019
Most marketers already know about the potency of strong quantitative research—and even more about its application. The SEO industry is worth approximately $80 billion, driven by top-rank campaigns across Google, Yahoo, Bing and DuckDuckGo—and each campaign considers about 200 individual ranking factors to succeed. Here are just a few high-impact ones:
-H1, H2 and H3 tags
In the past, obtaining and using quantitative data was simple enough: Browse keyword use statistics via Google Search Console or some similar platform, apply algorithms to narrow down your collection to relevant data, determine your SEO campaign’s fertile environments per each keyword set and start constructing (or re-constructing) your platform.
Now, however, the process isn’t so clear-cut. It’s important to gather data from several other locations for in-tandem studying—locations such as:
-Google Page Speed Insights
Google remains a leading place to get data from because it’s the best search engine around—grossing about 40,000 search queries per second, which is over 3.5 billion searches per day. Where the fatigue of modern SEO marketing is considered, the sheer weight of “white noise” keyword data is suspect: There’s simply too much data floating around. The same, old, keywords constantly rise to the top—yet they may not be reliable if your business’s consumers are a niche bunch.
Conducting Quantitative Research, the Right Way
Solid quantitative market research dives deep into customer interaction—utilizing questionnaires, surveys, and even face-to-face feedback campaigns to gather fresh data applicable to each of your segment markets. To avoid the “white noise” problem, you’ll need to tailor your data-gathering approaches to derive meaningful data with in-depth questions—rather than simple yes-no questions.
For starters, it’s a good idea to ditch the age-old starter question when gathering data: “Have you heard about our business?” Instead, kick things off with the following questions:
-How often do you visit our website?
-What products do you buy?
-Where else do you buy the same products?
These questions, when implemented in structured questionnaires, allow respondents to choose from a selection of answers which not only provide useful consumer information—but information pre-primed for qualitative research. This goes beyond traditional, surface-level quantitative research about keyword click-through and shopping cart abandonment rates; it sets you up to start combing through any gaps between your website’s user-base and consumer population at large.
When to Use Quantitative Data Analysis
Alright, so now that we’ve touched upon the fundamental paradigm shift of today’s digital marketing climate, we can cover the foundation of effective quantitative data use. When should you be using numbers to drive your research?
The A/B testing of landing pages, e-commerce portals, and content-heavy pages is a good place to start—especially if you need to ascertain things like bounce rates. Several studies depict the incredible effectiveness of A/B testing, suggesting that factors as simple as shopping cart button color can boost clicks by as much as 21 percent. Here are a few other areas where quantitative A/B testing can surely help:
For Content Digestibility
While content tends to be measured on a qualitative basis, it’s still possible to frame it within systems of reason. Particularly: You can gauge the success of your content offers based upon your company’s inbound marketing playbook—assuming your business runs one.
Which offers are the most popular on your business’s homepage? Start by gathering information on traffic—weighing it against website visitors who bounce after seeing the first page. To determine which content-driven offers garner the most leads—or, even better, the most customers—you can A/B test the offers in tandem with content presentation.
For Navigation Bar Reliability
Your website’s ability to help visitors navigate through content serves as its “SEO backbone,” enabling everything from backlinks to pathways-of-purchase which span across a variety of access points—even if they’re outside of your website.
To determine which website pages attract the most customers, you should try measuring optimization and raw traffic in tandem. Change around your site’s navigation bar layout—measuring the different order combinations capable of driving the most traffic. Does a certain layout bring more clicks into your buyers’ portal? What about your website’s blog?
The Three-Click Rule, or the unofficial website navigation “law of the land” highlighting the average user’s three-click intention span, is an undeniably powerful starter metric to gauge your strategy against. SEO pros abide by this rule for good reason: A website’s most impactful content is the end-point of, more often than not, a website’s homepage.
The same professionals who follow The Three-Click Rule use the analogy of “link juice” to describe the way SEO tends to “flow downward” as visitors navigate a website. The more a visitor travels across your website—the more link juice you’ll acquire. Needless to say, the same link juice satiates data appetites.
For Effective Imagery
In 2019, visual media can’t be tossed by the wayside—especially when it comes to getting valuable data about customers. Does your website pack a visual punch? Have you measured click-through differences in the presence of different image sets?
As a natural lead-in to our qualitative data section, quantitative analysis of imagery impact closes the gap between tangible facts and intangible consumer trends. Images of your market segment’s favorite hobbies, for example, may net more page time. However, it can have an adverse impact if your audience is far enough along the buyer’s pathway-to-purchase to be turned off by more distractions.
A small business CRM named Highrise tested the impact of different image types—such as product images, photographs versus illustrations, sliders and static images—to test these theories. By conducting in-depth A/B testing of employee visuals, for example, they were able to determine a significant five percent difference in conversion rates.
Switching to Qualitative Research, the Easy Way
Truthfully, any easy way is—more often than not—the incorrect way. We use this term lightly, as it’s still an apt descriptor of a rather potent transition point between metrics and intangible insights.
Here’s a particularly accessible jumping-off point for this transition: website usability. When your site’s content is highly readable, your visitors digest information quickly. When the digest information quickly, they’re having a good time. This is qualitative—as it describes the all-around, albeit “loose,” approximation of consumer experience. Of course, “having a good time” naturally enable quantitative research about click-through speeds capable of shedding light on probable content digestion rates.
When taking a qualitative angle, however, make sure you have a firm grip on the divide between measurement and memorable insights. The data will take care of itself—don’t worry. There’s always more time for quantitative research to substantiate any qualitative studies—successful or not.
The Qualitative Structure: User-Friendly Experiences
Even though you’ll be taking a qualitative approach to SEO engagement, you can still give your research structure. Every painting needs a frame—and every batch of insightful assertions about your website needs a reference point to determine relevancy. Usable, easy-access content is the partnership between content writing and web design. It needs to facilitate an enjoyable time—but it also needs to lend a helping hand to data analysis.
So, where can you start? Take charge with your website’s typography, colors, spacing, and navigation. Make it easy to understand—taking care not to overload your readers, media watchers, and product surfers. Touch base with your content crafters, and brush up on content strategies likely to help visitors identify with your brand. A Nielsen study and other supporting evidence suggests that high SEO content digestibility can improve visitor usability by as much as 47 percent.
Even the smallest time-saving, attention-grabbing content strategies—like using the number “500” instead of “five hundred”—can dramatically boost content digestion rates. Marketing researchers have even tested this via slow-motion gaze replays, eye-tracking studies and the study of consumer demographics—using a qualitative jumping-off point to lend a hand to quantitative, scientific, studies.
Solidifying the Link Between Qualitative and Quantitative Research
Here’s the fun part: It’s possible to design digestible content in such a way that you can easily derive cold, hard facts from it. Breaking up paragraphs by bulleted points, and using plenty of distinctive formatting choices like bold and italicizes words, can be a “flag” for click-through analysis and visitor lingering time measurement. You’ll need to test these formats against long-form content, of course, to better pin down your audience’s disposition towards your website’s content.
You can even line up a content strategy to connect with CSS properties affecting text spacing. Properties like line-height, margins, letter-spacing, and indentation marry qualitative user experience with textual analysis. Plus, as you’ve probably guessed already, these metrics naturally enable profound approaches to SEO, link placement, H1, and H2 tag placement and much, much more.
Don’t Forget the Glue: Visual Media
Finally, you should wrap up your qualitative-quantitative baseline with more visual media. It really is important, as it both enables content digestibility with easily measurable engagement environments. Another eye-tracking study conducted by the University of Southern California—just as another example—reported a 34 percent increase in content memory retention when website pages were pruned for irrelevant, distracting, images.
From margins to media, quantitative scores can be endlessly applied to qualitative insights. Just remember to consider these SEO analysis cornerstones separately, though, to really hone in on your audience. We live in an age driven by data, but consumers are shifting towards brands capable of organic engagement. By honoring the classic laws of sincere customer engagement, you’ll nurture greener pastures packed with quantitative resources even more.