A Trusted Story – The Importance Of Data In An Aesthetically Focused World

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Ok, We Admit It, We Were Worried.

Sara, our owner, began to realize, in mid-2019 that something wasn’t right.

We have always been the kind of marketing agency that values the look and feel of a brand. We know imagery and design are essential factors in achieving goals. However, we insist that there must be an equal focus on data and measurability. Stats, insights and analytics prove value and confirm (or not) that marketing campaigns and ideas actually ‘work’. We pride ourselves on educating our clients about measurability, and as such, we empower them. In our latest marketing ramblings, we share what we learned about how significant security is to Google rankings these days,  and we confirm the importance of data analysis.

Lower Rankings & Client Analytic Data.

We are sharing our true story in all its glory!

Let’s begin by giving readers some context. The first thing we need to explain is what we do here at Trusted. We are a marketing agency; however, that is not where Trusted started.  From day 1, Trusted has been an online directory company. Our directory family is local, and we offer a unique user experience. Our directories provide a restricted number of trustworthy, locally owned businesses in the 40 categories we cover.

We launched www.trustedsaskatoon.com in 2011, www.trustedregina.com in 2012, and we are just in the process of bringing the concept to Calgary with www.trustedcalgary.com. 

As you can imagine, we do experience cross over between the marketing agency clients and the directory partners. We encourage this with preferential rates and exclusive discounts for Trusted Directory Partners on our marketing services.  Interestingly, it’s this special relationship that enabled us to see and confirm that we had an issue. We can access many of our partner’s websites, Google Analytics, and it was there that we were able to see a concerning pattern.

The Importance Of Data Analysis

We aren’t merely bragging when we say that we are good at local SEO, we are. Our team has learned through doing. We have been putting in hard grunt work and investing for over eight years. The results include high search rankings in most categories the directories cover.  We earned excellent organic rankings for our directory websites by doing the things that Google values, doing them well and doing them consistently.

What Does Google Value About Trusted Directories Marketing Strategy?

  • Our sites are user and mobile-friendly
  • There are over 1000 locally relevant, engaging articles in our Trusted Saskatoon blog library. We add 12 new posts on average each month!
  • Search engines value quality directories – Trusted directories are superior in every way to our competition
  • We invest in a social media campaign that drives website visitors. With over 11,000 Facebook fans & 12,000 Twitter followers, there are 1000’s of visitors from social to the directory every month.
  • We have a connected Youtube Channel with over 2000 subscribers, and the videos have 560,000+ views.
  • Our listings, blogs and other pages all contain embedded YouTube Videos from our Trusted channel.
  • Our directory listing pages have many outbound and deep links to the partners’ websites, social media and Google Listings to mention a few.
  • We encourage our partners to link to us as their listings from their websites and most do!
  • We invest $1000’s each month in Google Ads, and our Ads have high ad word quality scores and excellent CTR’s.
  • Most of our partners said they were busy,  and historically Trusted is listed in their website’s top 5 referral sources.
  • In Oct 2018, we added an SSL certificate to ensure we were providing the best user experience and to be in step with Google’s requirements/focus.
  • 2019 is on track to be our biggest year EVER for visitor numbers – we have had over 50,000 visitors to Trustedsaskatoon.com so far in 2019!

Everything seemed AWESOME in 2019, we could see our efforts were providing great results by the visitor numbers and level of engagement.

Google incognitoSo We Couldn’t Understand Why:

  1. When Googling Incognito, it seemed our local search rankings were dropping in 2019.
  2. TrustedSaskatoon.com was no longer appearing in our partners’ websites referral sources when viewing their Google Analytics.

 “I was checking the results of a Google Ad campaign for a Partner when I noticed we were missing as a recent referral source on the analytics. I was suprised, but put it down to consumers not ‘ feeling the need’ to vist a partners website from the listing – after all the listings are very comprehensive, they include reviews, company details, services provided  and contact details, what more info did they need?  I wondered perhaps if,  after 8 years of   TrustedSaskatoon.com our ‘Thumbs Up’  was enough for consumers.  On our analytics I could see we were getting more visitors than ever before, so I wasn’t overly concerned. ” said Sara Wheelwright, Trusted owner.

The Trusted Partnership is a value-laden platform, it offers promotion and drives leads across many different channels, not just the directory. As such, we have never based results on directory CTR (click-through rates).

“But after a few partners shared their concerns about the data I realised there must be more to it. We train our Partners and encourage them to look and understand their data. I started digging deeper, and it soon became clear that something wasn’t right, and we had to get to the bottom of it quickly.” said Sara

 

An Auto Repair Partners Drop In Referral Traffic.

Importance Of Data

What Is Referral Traffic?

Referral traffic is the segment of traffic that arrives on your website via a link on another domain. Analytics automatically recognizes where traffic was immediately before coming on your site and displays the domain names of these sites as the referral traffic sources in your reports. (source: Google Support )

The breakthrough came as soon as the team realised the referral traffic on Partners websites stopped or dropped off significantly after October 2018. The same time we added an SSL certificate.

“Once we knew that information we turned to Google ( see everyone does!),  to see if we could find similar referral traffic reporting issues with Google Analytics after switching from HTTP to HTTPS. We found articles and forum posts that described similar if not the exact same circumstances.”

importance of data

So Why Did This Misreporting Happen? Where Did The Traffic Go?

Ok, here is the tech talk.

The referral data information from The Trusted directories site got lost on the way. For some reason, we had HTTP/HTTPS confusion. Our sites referral data disappeared and was not reported as the source. We also read about security measures that Google has for this kind of situation. To be clear, the traffic was still arriving and being counted,  but Google was misreporting our leads as DIRECT TRAFFIC!!

The fixes we were finding seemed to be almost impossible for us to implement, as they involved adding code on the receiver’s website. It would be easy on the sites we built and hosted, but that was not the majority of the partners.

The breakthrough came when we realized Trusted Directories had a unique issue that we COULD fix.

The Trusted Issue

When setting up our directory database system in 2012, our developer wanted to ensure all partners links worked on the directory listings. The solution was to hard code all outbound with http:// prefix, which was standard at that time. When we ungraded sites in 2018 to an SSL, it meant every outbound link being categorized as the 3rd option in the list above. You can see what that meant! Outbound links from all of our directory listings were going from the HTTPS then switching to HTTP, resulting in the initial connections happening over an unsecured channel. Google didn’t like this.

 

It should come as no surprise that Google highly values user security. So the big take away for us as developers and marketers was learning just how much an SSL configuration and security matters for SEO and measurability. Also, yet again, the importance of knowing your data was confirmed.

 

Watch the video below – it clearly shows the referral issue on several Trusted Saskatoon Partner website analytics.

The examples show the same reporting period in Google Analytics, and they are from Partners websites in various categories. Catering, Contractors, Windows, Hotels, HVAC and seasonal Landscaping & Outdoor Living are shown.

All stopped reporting referral traffic from TrustedSaskatoon ( and the same happened to Trustedregina.com) in October 2018, and you can also see how it restarted at the end of September 2019.

SEO – Google Rankings Issue

Also, this solved our local search issues – we were downgraded because of the HTTP. Showcasing how important it is – we were doing pretty much everything else right but THAT!

We are steadily getting back to ( and will soon surpass) our former rankings. Trusted directories authority in local search is being restored, and our efforts will be rewarded! Another benefit is that we won’t have to invest so much in Google Ads, as we will be soon on page 1 for our top categories anyway- Why? Because we deserve to be!

 

So Why Didn’t Find Out Sooner?

When adding an SSL, our team never considered the defaults in the database. Although we understand the importance of data, we had never factored in referral traffic as a consideration in the database build.

Our developers have built 100’s of websites. Not once have any of the clients mentioned being a source of referral traffic as a website goal! Trusted Directories are unique in many ways – and this is just another example of that!

Watch This Space!

 

 

This article is about the Importance Of Data and SEO. If you want to get to the top of Google in your local area, we can help. We take pride in demystifying SEO for our clients. Once they know why we do what we do, and they see the results that come from it, they feel much better about our services. We are the local marketing agency you can trust in Saskatchewan. 

Articles that helped us solve the mystery include:

 

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