What It Is & How to Apply It

What’s the Role of Data Science in SEO?

In SEO, data science is the process of using tools and tactics to uncover insights from large datasets to improve your website’s visibility in search engines and boost organic (unpaid) traffic. 

This data can include information about your and your competitors’ specific keyword rankings, backlink profiles (an overview of which sites link to the site being analyzed), and website traffic. Plus user behavior metrics like click-through rates (CTRs), engagement rate, etc. 

The goal? 

To identify patterns and correlations that might not be evident at first glance—but that can significantly impact your SEO strategy and results.

Benefits of Data Science Applied to SEO

Data science makes it possible for you to solve some of your biggest SEO-related problems.

Here are some of the main benefits:

  • Enhance your decision-making: Using data science for SEO means you can pinpoint the tactics that yield the best results. Which lets you make informed choices that align with actual user needs and search engine best practices—and are likely to boost your return on investment (ROI).
  • Improve your competitive edge: Applying data science to SEO allows you to identify emerging trends and understand shifts in user intent. So you can adapt your strategy accordingly before your rivals do. 
  • Make your targeting more precise: Leveraging data science for SEO allows you to understand the nuances of your audience’s online behavior and presence. Which can help you refine your targeting strategy. 
  • Uncover predictive Insights: Done right, data science enables you to forecast future SEO trends. And prepare for changes in algorithms, user behavior, and market conditions. 

How the Data Science Process Works for SEO

Here are the four main steps involved in using data science for SEO. And the tools and programming languages you can use to apply it to your projects.

Data Collection

The foundation of any data science project is robust data collection. In the context of SEO, this involves gathering data from different sources. 

For example, you might want to collect data on your website’s traffic, conversions, and user behavior. Or your competitor’s keyword rankings and backlinks. 

You can use tools like Google Analytics, Google Search Console, and Semrush to gather the data. 

Let’s say you want to pull data comparing your backlink profile to those of your competitors.

Use Backlink Gap to do this.

Enter your domain and up to four competitors’ domains. And click “Find prospects.”

Backlink Gap tool

You’ll then see a list of referring domains. Which is sorted by domains that link to all your competitors but not you.

A list of referring domains in the Backlink Gap tool

You can filter to find specifics. Like only domains that have a certain Authority Score (a metric that indicates the domain’s overall reputability and impact on SEO). 

"Authority Score" filter in Backlink Gap tool

Exporting the data allows for easier cleaning and analysis later on.

"Export" button in the Backlink Gap tool

This is just a small sampling of the type of information you might gather.

And depending on the amount and nature of the data you collect, you may need different tools like BigQuery (a cloud-based data warehouse) that let you store and process massive amounts of data.

We recommend that you work with a programmer to help you with this and the next steps. 

Data Cleanup

Raw data is often messy and inconsistent. Which is why it’s so important to clean it before you start any analysis. 

This involves removing or fixing any errors, inconsistencies, duplicates, outliers, or missing values that might affect your data’s quality and reliability.

A programmer can use languages like Python or SQL to do this cleanup. To help manipulate and aggregate your large datasets. 

They may use purpose-built tools for this process. But they can also use options like Excel or Google Sheets. 

Data Analysis

With clean data at your disposal, the next step is to dive into SEO analytics. To uncover trends, patterns, and anomalies within your data.

This SEO data analysis might reveal which keywords are driving traffic, how site changes affect rankings, or where your off-page SEO efforts are falling short.

You’ll need to discuss the specifics of what you’re trying to find with a programmer. So you can focus on the right information.

And they can help you use tools like Google Looker Studio for visualizing your data. Which makes complex datasets more accessible and understandable.

If you’re looking for a quicker route to evaluating your high-level traffic and SEO performance, try Organic Traffic Insights. Which combines data from Google Analytics, Google Search Console, and Semrush in a single dashboard. 

Organic search traffic report in the Organic Traffic Insights tool

Modeling & Forecasting

The final step is to apply statistical models and forecasting techniques on historical data to predict future SEO performance. Something you’ll want to work on with a programmer.

Doing this can help you anticipate trends, evaluate the potential impact of different SEO tactics, and make informed decisions about where to focus your efforts for maximum impact.

It can involve anything from simple linear regression models to more complex machine learning algorithms—often built and refined using Python. 

How to Start Using Data Science for SEO

Here’s how to start with SEO-focused data science in five steps:

1. Set Clear SEO Goals

The first step is to set clear and specific goals. To define what you want to achieve with SEO and what success looks like.

This will help you determine the key performance indicators (KPIs) that can help you track progress against your goals. 

Your goals should be SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. 

For example, one of your goals may be to increase organic revenue by 20% in the next 12 months. 

Then, the KPIs you need to track for this goal could be organic traffic, keyword rankings, and organic conversions. 

Further reading: How to Align Business and SEO Goals for Long-Term Success

2. Collect & Analyze Data

Use the tools and techniques that are most applicable for your specific project to start collecting, cleaning, and visualizing the data you need. 

You can use tools like:

  • Google Analytics: To help you track your website’s traffic and user engagement metrics
Google Analytics homepage
  • Google Search Console: To monitor your site’s clicks, rankings, and other SEO performance metrics
Google Search Console home
  • Semrush: To help you research keywords, backlinks, competitors, and more
Backlinks overview dashboard in Semrush
PageSpeed Insights report

Then, analyze the data to uncover nuances related to user behavior, search engine rankings, and more. 

Look for patterns, anomalies, and trends that can inform your strategy. 

If you’re working with a programmer, you can ask for help creating visualizations. To inform your analysis and also make it easier to share insights with others. 

And don’t forget to collect and analyze competitor data.

Incorporating an SEO competitive analysis into your process can help you gather data about your competitors’ keyword rankings, content, and backlink strategies. 

Organic competitors report in Semrush

And you can use those insights to improve your own SEO.

3. Identify SEO Opportunities

The next step is to identify SEO opportunities based on your analysis.

These are the areas where you can improve your site’s performance and gain a competitive edge. 

For example, if you conduct a keyword gap analysis with the Keyword Gap tool, you may find keywords your competitors rank for but you don’t. 

"Missing" keywords table found in Keyword Gap tool

And a thorough analysis coupled with some predictions about the future can help you determine which keywords present the biggest opportunities to create content that’s likely to capture a significant amount of traffic. 

Try to uncover opportunities with all the data you analyze. And seize them. 

4. Determine & Implement Your Strategy

The next step in applying data science to SEO is to create a strategy based on the opportunities you find. 

This involves prioritizing actions based on their feasibility and potential impact on your goals. And methodically implementing them.

This will be different for everyone, but your SEO strategy should include:

  • The scope and timeline 
  • The required resources and budget
  • The different tasks and responsibilities 
  • The tools and platforms you’ll need
  • The expected outcomes and benefits

If you need help knowing where to start, here’s a free SEO strategy template you can use. 

And always keep an eye out for SEO techniques and tips that might fit well within your strategy. 

5. Measure Results

Once you implement your strategy, measure your SEO results and compare them against your goals. 

You can use the same tools and methods you used to collect and analyze data in the first place. 

Ideally, you should connect them to measure results in a central location. Which a programmer can help you with.

But you can also connect Google Analytics and Google Search Console to Semrush with Organic Traffic Insights. To view much of your website data in one place.

Like this:

Organic search traffic report in the Organic Traffic Insights tool

Measure results and create SEO reports often to see how you’re progressing. So you can refine your tactics as data comes in.

Improve Your Performance with Data-Driven Insights

Using data science for SEO is cyclical. You’re never just done. 

You have to continuously evaluate your work because there are always opportunities to improve. 

Use the insights you gather to identify what worked and what didn’t. Then, test new hypotheses and implement new tactics to meet your SEO goals. 

Signing up for Semrush can help you get started that much sooner. Try it out.

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