Do you know whether your SEO efforts are having the desired impact?
You put time and effort into building the search presence of your website, only to wonder about the results that you are receiving. This is a common problem. However, with the right tools, and a little bit of knowledge about how SEO works, it is possible for any person to get a better measure of the effectiveness of an SEO campaign.
The Basics of SEO
Before you can make a serious effort at measuring the effectiveness of your SEO, you have to gain a basic understanding of the principles of SEO, and the ways in which the search providers operate.
The basic idea behind SEO is to make your website more search-friendly. A search provider like Google uses software known as “crawlers” to evaluate the different webpages that are available. This software goes from site to site gathering information. This information then goes to an algorithm that makes determinations concerning the relevance, usefulness, and overall quality of the page. This is the foundation upon which the search experience is built.
When you are optimizing a webpage for SEO, you are trying to construct the page in a way that will score well in the search engine algorithm.
One issue for SEO is the fact that the algorithms are always changing. Google wants to provide the best search experience for consumers, so they are always looking for ways to update the process. When these updates occur, it can change the rankings of a page. For this reason, you need to be aware of the potential for change, and try to adapt when the major changes occur.
Analytics are the Key to Success
With all of the time and money that you put into your SEO, you might ask, “How can I tell whether I am having success with SEO?”
The simple answer to this is that good SEO will get results, but you have to know how to obtain the right information and measure the results. To get this information, you need access to analytics that will show the progress of the campaign.
To get meaningful analytics, you are going to need to understand the metrics that matter and what they can tell you about the progress that you are making.
Metrics to Measure
In analyzing the success of your SEO efforts, there are several metrics that can help to paint the overall picture of your success. Let’s take a look at some of the most important metrics and what they can tell you about your SEO.
In the most basic sense, the purpose of SEO is to get more visitors to the website. For this reason, traffic is going to be one of the most important metrics to track. However, there is more to this than just counting the overall number of visitors to the site.
To start, you need to consider the fact that you are going to get traffic from different search engines. The combined numbers can be important, but breaking down the traffic by search engine can also provide additional insights. It can tell you what is working more for the different search engines, and this can help you to develop strategies that will play better to the different search providers.
Additionally, you have to realize that not all of your traffic comes from search engines. You have people that might come to your site directly by typing the address, or through a link provided on another site, and you have people that may have come through a referral of some sort. You need to separate this traffic from your search engine traffic to get a more accurate picture of your success.
In tracking the changes in traffic, you are looking for organic search traffic. Put simply, this is traffic that comes from people that searched for something and selected your page from the search results.
Page Load Time
Search engines gather more information than a page’s relevance to a given keyword, or the value of the information on the page. They also look for key indicators that reflect the user experience. The page load time is one of these indicators. If a page takes a long time to load, then the search engine is likely to rank it lower than a similar page that has a faster loading time.
While the load times of your pages will not be a metric that helps to indicate success, it is important in that it can offer a way to improve the SEO for a page that seems to be underperforming.
Time on Page
The amount of time that a visitor spends on the page can be a good indicator of the quality of the user experience, and whether you are getting the right kind of visitors. For some pages, the time on page is going to be short no matter what, but there are others where you should expect the visitor to spend a few minutes.
By tracking the amount of time that users spend on the page, you can find out whether the page content is actually hitting the mark and getting the right results.
Your keyword ranking will show how well your pages rank in comparison with sites when a specific keyword is searched for. This is a metric that can tell you a lot about the success that your efforts have had.
To track your keyword ranking, you need to know the relevant keywords for the page. After that, you want to know your rank at the beginning, then you can track the changes over time. Furthermore, you don’t just want to look at the progress for the primary keywords, you also want to consider the success that you are having with secondary keywords.
If you are a business that operates locally, you also want to see how you are performing in the maps section. This shows the person doing the search that you are a local business and it can help them to find your location. It can be a powerful tool, so you want to make sure to track your progress in the maps.
People are going to want to access your site from a number of different devices. If your page only provides a good experience for people that are at their PC, then you are going to miss out on all of the business that you could be getting from mobile device users. You want to make sure that your page is formatted well and is easy to navigate for mobile users.
Furthermore, this can affect your rankings for mobile search. As I mentioned earlier, Google is always updating their algorithms to provide users with the most useful search experience. For this reason, they have made updates to determine the user experience for mobile devices.
The indexing of your pages in an important metric. Google will only show the pages that it has indexed so if some of your pages are not indexed, it is going to hurt your SEO efforts.
In Google’s webmaster tools, you can check the index status of your pages and see if there are any previously indexed pages that have been de-indexed.
Far Reaching Presence
The search engines will also look to see whether your site is available through a number of different venues. When the search engines see that you appear in all of these different places, it is an indicator that your site is more reputable. To achieve this far-reaching presence, establish a social media presence and maintain a regular blog.
This will not only show the search engines that you have this wider presence, and give you a quick SEO boost, but it will drive more traffic to your site, and provide sustained returns for SEO.
Your conversions will tell you how many of your site’s visitors actually turned into customers. To get the most useful information, you will want to check your conversions by the different search terms and phrases that are bringing visitors to your site.
With this information you can see which keywords are having the best return, and consider your rank for these keywords.
No Crawl Errors
Crawl errors basically refer to issues that Google is having when it crawls your page. If Google cannot read the content, it cannot index it, and that is going to mean that your page will not show up in the search results. Find any crawl errors that you have using the webmaster tools and take steps to address them.
The bounce rate is the number of page visitors that leave the page before taking additional action. If you have a high bounce rate, that is going to impact your overall search ranking. The big key to a low bounce rate is providing the visitor with a useful webpage. Depending on the intent of the page, this can mean different things.
A high percentage of returning visitors will tell you a lot about the value of your site. If a good number of visitors come back to your site a number of times, then it is a good bet that you are providing a quality user experience. If not, you are going to need to look into things that you can do to address the situation.
Number of Pages Receiving Visits from Search Engines
You also want to look to see how often the search engines are crawling your pages. If the search engines see your site as valuable, the crawlers will visit the site more often. When your site is crawled more frequently, it means that updates and changes to the site will be reflected in the search results in a more up to date manner, and it can indicate that you are already doing very well in SEO.
Finally, we are going to look at some of the things to look for that can indicate trouble for your SEO efforts.
Anchor text from link backs are being optimized
Getting links to your pages can be a good way to increase search ranking. However, they need to be good links, and the search engines know how to identify links that are suspect.
One of the things that they look for is the anchor text for the link. The link text needs to have the right keywords for it to have the desired effect on your SEO efforts.
Suspicious link backs increase
In some ways, poor quality links can hurt your SEO. The search engines will evaluate the links to a page and if the page has several suspicious links, it will hurt the ranking.
If you are linking to low quality pages, then there is a good chance that you will get low quality links back to your page. For this reason, you want to be careful in regard to the sites with which you share links.
You’re ranking for the wrong keyword
The search engine algorithms that we talked about earlier do a good job of determining what a page is about and its relevance to a specific keyword, but they are not perfect. In some cases, you might find that your pages are ranking for the wrong keywords. If this is the case, you need to evaluate the page content and find a way to optimize the page for the more relevant keywords.
Your rankings drop
The search rankings for sites rise and fall all the time, and a number of factors can play a role in a sudden decrease in ranking. If you see a sudden drop in your page ranking, it is a clear sign that you need to rework your SEO efforts.
A drop in traffic is another sign that something is not going right. If you see a significant decrease in traffic, it is likely a symptom of your search ranking taking a hit or it could be that some of your pages were de-indexed.
You receive a manual penalty
In crawling the sites and evaluating information, search engines also look for suspicious behavior by the site’s operator. If you violate the terms of the search engine, they might penalize the site by de-indexing or by burying the page far down in the rankings.
With the information provided here, you have an in-depth view of what it takes to evaluate the success of your SEO efforts, and what to look for when things are not working. If you want to learn more about tracking and improving your website’s SEO, download our ebook How do I know if my SEO is working? You will learn in even more detail how to ensure your business is utilizing SEO to its full potential.