The more the Internet age advances, the more everything we do as a civilization starts being data driven. Using your instinct alone to make a decision, no matter how trivial, is considered frivolous behaviour no serious person would take. In the business environment, things are even worse. Making decisions based on rumours and half-researched data would be ludicrous especially when we take into consideration how easy it is to get access to concrete data you can use as a basis for your decisions.
When we focus on SEO as a form of marketing, the same reasoning applies. There are simply too many sources of concrete data you can rely on to determine how well your plan is working and what results you can hope for. While it may seem that identifying these metrics and prioritizing one over another is an easy task to accomplish, superficial familiarity with numbers is not enough. We are here to discuss what metrics businesses need to focus on and how to put them in the right context so they can devise an actionable SEO plan that works for them.
SEO was a lot of things in the past and through continuous changes it has reached a level of being a profession you need a lot of knowledge and experience to navigate through successfully. In the past, the bounce rate that you had on your website wasn’t really important because search engines didn’t take it into account. These days, things are a bit different. Let’s define what bounce rate actually stands for first so there is no confusion. The bounce rate is the percentage of visitors that leave your website as soon as they land on it. It is the online equivalent to calling the wrong phone number.
The reason why any website needs to ensure that its bounce rate is as low as possible is the fact that search engines takes high bounce rate as signal that the content, service or whatever else the website has to offer, isn’t at a satisfactory level or that the users were tricked into landing on the page. Analysing the pages with a high bounce rate may give you some insight that you need to make adjustments in order to adapt them to the users and give them what they are looking for.
Yes, we are still talking about SEO and if the fact that we are focusing on this metric confuses you it probably means that you are still relying on archaic SEO approaches and in need of an update on your methods. Nevertheless, most search engines (at least those that matter) rely on social signals from users to determine the quality of a particular website. This is one of the reasons why content is so important for SEO. Content that is helpful, interesting, educational or simply fun has a lot of potential of being shared. These social signals come as small stamps of approval from users and the more you accumulate them, the stronger the authority of your content as a resource becomes.
In order to boost your social signals, you need to keep a number of things in mind. Providing social media buttons to the users so they can share your content easily is essential. You really need to impress a user to make him or her manually copy the link into their social media profile and give you a shout out. Ensuring that your content hits that sweet spot between being what the user wants without being overly complicated to read (unless you are providing a scholarly article) and make the content skimmable so they can ensure at first glance that your content is what they are looking for. We continue focusing on how you can get a lot of social signals for quite some time but this is a subject for another time.
This is probably the most sought after metric in the SEO sphere and is considered by many the most important one. Each and every SEO specialist had at least one client who waltzed in and ask for an assessment on how fast they could rank his domain authority 0 website to the number one position. It takes a lot of effort to convince misguided clients that they really do not want to engage in a fight with major brands who are top-ranked for years due to the fact that they have worldwide fame in their respectable niche and that it would take enormous effort to reach that spot.
While ranking highly can seem like a dream come true, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it will boost your bottom line. Hitting the number one position for a specific keyword will lead to a tremendous boost of traffic however if that traffic isn’t converting, then you just wasted a whole lot of money and time to accomplish something that will serve no other purpose except being able to bragging about it. Furthermore, high bounce rates will result in a very fast loss of this position.
Sure, search engines use inbound links to your website as signals that indicate quality. This doesn’t mean that you should focus on farming as many as possible and anywhere possible. This is where the term “quality over quantity” really fits like a glove. I’m sure that you have noticed that there are companies offering thousands of links for a couple of hundred dollars. This, in most cases, means that they are using some form of automatic linking and these links come from very bad domains. The fact that there are so many “marketers” out there that offer this kind of service means that there are business that actually hire them. You need to realize that low quality, spammy links do more harm than they do good.
Quality links from high authority websites leading to your domain are a much better way to go. In most cases, just one link from a high authority domain will top the benefits provided by the thousands you got from some random spammer.
It is a goal of an SEO campaign to create a lot of traffic on a particular website and, once you start getting traffic, you should focus on why you are getting it. While most people assume that the trick is to focus on the keywords that got them there, the smarter approach is to check which pages are getting natural traffic and what content located there is attracting them. This way, you can actually find out what kind of content provokes a good reaction and how you can replicate that success on your other pages.
As a final goal, you need to ensure that your traffic actually goes through the steps that you intended them to go through. Converting traffic doesn’t necessarily mean that you drive your traffic to make a purchase. In some cases, a subscription is your end goal. In other cases, websites want their users to fill out a specific form or share some content on a social media network. Now, the goal of modern SEO campaigns is to reach converting traffic – in other words, to reach people who are interested in what you have to offer. If you are doing good work, your conversion rate is going to be naturally high but the conversion rate also has a lot to do with on-site optimization. The way you arrange your conversion points is a big factor here and it takes quite a bit of A/B split testing to optimize it for your users. Call to action points need to be set properly without making them pushy.
All of the metrics mentioned above are a clear indicator of how much freedom a team of SEO specialists needs to have when managing a website to make it stand firmly on its feet. In a lot of cases, website owners deny access to all kinds of metrics and disregard advice about website design because they are not getting it from a web designer. It can be quite hard to achieve optimal results when your hands are practically tied. Another issue that SEO specialists run into quite often has to do with the client’s obsession with numbers which basically mean nothing if your bottom line is not influenced by it. Take traffic as an example. A website which gets a 1000 hits a day but converts only 10 is less successful than the one that gets 100 hits a day but converts 50. Still, if the client has focused raw traffic as the most important metric, even though you are converting better than their opposition, you are still being blamed for performing below the set standard. This is why metrics need to be put into context and used as ways to get closer to users that are actually interested in what you have to offer and who are not chasing numbers for the sake of numbers.