SEO Metrics and Web Analysis. Is It Working?
Let’s get under the hood again and take a good look at SEO metrics. ‘Metrics’ simply means ‘measurements’. If you’re looking to leverage search rankings to raise your business profile, you’re going to kick off by establishing a baseline which will enable you to judge how successful your optimization efforts are over time. We’ll take you through the most important metrics and show you how to tinker under the hood of your website without blowing a gasket and getting covered in oil.
First up, you’re going to want to conduct a ‘keyword rank check’. Google that and you get nigh-on 6m results in Google itself, with all sorts of companies offering their (paid) services alongside plenty of ‘free’ rank checking tools. Many ‘free’ tools are in fact offered on a ‘free trial’ basis, which means that it’s wise to do some thorough research before signing up to anything. If you’re serious about leveraging Google’s organic search results to help your business, then you should expect to pay a small fee for a decent rank checker, given that you’ll be using it on a regular basis. In fact, rank-raising should take some months of fiddling with the engine before there’s a worthwhile pay-off, so rank research should be viewed as an ongoing project at your business.
What’s more, don’t merely expect to be looking at your own website. SEO metrics are ‘strategic’ rather than ‘tactical’, where your knowledge of the competition is crucial. You’ll be spending a bunch of hours bathed in the glow of your desktop screen analyzing the websites of the companies doing what you do. Arrant cyber-highway robbery will also be right there in your toolbox, too: you’ll be checking out what makes other sites successful, and aiming to do what they do, only better.
Think like a customer
OK, so you start by thinking like a customer. What words or phrases might they put into a search engine if they were looking for the services or products you provide? Jot down as many as you can, then use a rank checking tool to establish how many monthly searches each phrase or word gets. This will tell you how ‘popular’ each term is. You’ll need to ‘build’ each term to reflect Google’s ‘long-tail’ search capability, too:
Start with single words and then add elements (including localized geographic ones), thus:
Cuddly animal toys
Cuddly animal toys Florida
Cute cuddly Google update animal toys Florida
Cute cuddly Google animal toys penguin panda hummingbird Florida;
Or, if you’re a plumbing supplies company:
American standard plumbing supplies
American standard bathroom plumbing supplies
American standard toilet fill valve
American standard model 2134 toilet fill valve
American standard model 2134 toilet fill valve Louisiana
For each term, you’ll get a monthly figure for the number of searches. This can range wildly, from a few hundred to many tens of thousands. Your aim is not to target the most frequently used search terms, but to target search terms in the median range: i.e., ones that are used by lots of people, but not overused. You’ll then have an idea what terms you could try putting in your web page copy to raise your rankings. However, you should not ‘stuff’ your pages with a whole load of mid-range keywords or phrases, as these days it’s more likely to downrank you than help your cause. Google’s latest algorithms (check my glossary here for information about Google’s major updates) punish keyword stuffing because it’s seen as a quality demerit.
So, what tool to use? You may decide that you want to use the best or most useful tool out there. Personally, I rate the SEMrush tool recommended by hobo-web (check out their useful material on SEO tools at https://www.hobo-web.co.uk/best-seo-tools/). SEMrush will give you plenty of very useful data, such as information on popular keywords in your niche, synonymous and related keywords you might consider using in your web copy, and those sites in your keyword neighborhood that currently rank top in SERPs. It’s pricey, starting from $99 a month/$999 a year (https://www.semrush.com/prices/), but this is a key research tool in SEO metrics and you may consider that the benefits warrant the investment of spondoolies. Their free trial period is 7 days, enough time to get to know your way around the tool, but not enough to use it to good effect yourself. One thing I like about it is that you can monitor ‘position changes’ in search terms and jump on keywords you think are trending in the right direction (which may often be, counterintuitively, downwards).
Backlinks for Better SEO Metrics
Any SEO report will enumerate backlinks to your site. These are links that come from elsewhere on the Web to your site. If a food blogger loves the asuki crème brûlée you serve at your hip French-style eatery in Miami Beach, he or she may link to your site thusly: http://www.baolimiami.com/desserts-3/. (It really is to die for). That’s a ‘backlink’, and it’ll raise Bâoli’s ranking in search engines by a wee bit.
An SEO metrics analysis report will tell you how many backlinks your site benefits from, and your job is to build on them.
Spam backlinks (the Monty Python team was right)
Bad-boy SEO operators will try to sell you bunches of backlinks and tell you they’ll do you good. But listen to Terry Jones (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=anwy2MPT5RE). Spam is not cool. Spam is not desirable. Spam will get you the algorithmic equivalent of a punch in the face from Google. Search engines will downrank you if you have spammy backlinks to your site.
Spam is a very low-grade pork product (although it’s almost a delicacy in Hawaii). When it comes to backlinks, what you’re looking for is the opposite: air-cured ham from the famed ‘black foot’ pigs in Spain’s Picos de Europa mountains. Organic, white-hat backlinks arise naturally out of the quality of your products or your site’s content and may come from bloggers, trade magazines, reviews of your products or services in the media, or from websites that aggregate links, such as hotel booking sites. Efficient, targeted marketing and, most importantly, quality content (such as you’re reading right now) create backlinks, and good SEO providers will have strategies for generating them that are above-board and ‘rule-friendly’.
Okay, okay, here’s where you can find the ‘black foot’ ham:
You need to love traffic. Not on the way to work, but when you get there. Traffic to your website is measured over a specific time period and will feature in any SEO report you get. Typically, reports should offer you a ‘dashboard’ covering a range of SEO metrics.
Enter The Danelaw
Let’s call in The Danelaw, AKA Jesper Brøndum, our friendly white hat SEO expert, again (we also met him in my post about how SEO can boost your business, here). Here’s a real-life dashboard he prepared for a client of his:
In this dashboard, ‘traffic’ is disaggregated in important ways. It’s split between ‘acquisition’ and ‘behavior’, for example. Here, ‘acquisition’ details the traffic attracted to the site as a result of his SEO. ‘Behavior’ looks at what the site visitors representing that traffic did when on their site visits.
The point is that raw traffic figures don’t tell you enough, though a rise in traffic is always something to aim for. In optimizing your site, it’s what people do when they get to your site that’s just as important. For example, the ‘bounce rate’ tells you about visitors who simply shut your page down and left the site. You can go deeper and find out which pages were most ‘bounced’ out of, and work to improve the content or design of those pages.
In the end, traffic maximization comes from good marketing and good content. Generating ‘buzz’ about your products or services will augment your traffic, as will raising your SERPs through keyword analysis and high-grade design and content.
Converting visitors to paying customers (which is what ‘conversions’ means here) is about as easy as converting laid-back Buddhists into barnstorming Lutheran firebrands. If you look at the figures, that is. But the internet is all about volume, and even a 1.57% eCommerce conversion rate (as seen in The Danelaw’s dashboard) can represent a goodly income. Conversion rates will typically be in the low percentile range, so SEOing your website should aim to raise conversions as much as possible, while at the same time increasing traffic. How to convert, though? Prying open your visitors’ pocketbooks comes down to security and simplicity.
Security of transactions (reputable payment software) and user-friendly, stepwise shopping carts are the name of the game. Keeping abreast of industry standards is crucial (security is improving all the time, while payment methods get ever simpler, while still maintaining security) and you’ll need to adjust accordingly. Depending on your type of business, you may be able to leverage novel payment systems such as Google Wallet or Apple Pay, or methods that use biometric data. They’re being rolled out in stores right now, and will soon be ubiquitous on the Web. The days of inputting your Visa number and home address are definitely numbered.
So here we are. Down at the bottom line. The metric to end all SEO metrics. As you optimize your Web operation, you’ll be watching this one closely, but make sure you can identify revenue from eCommerce itself, rather than overall revenue (if you have a shop and an eCommerce website too, for example). Revenue can also be affected by marketing, natch, and surveying your customers to find out where they heard about you has been standard practice for ages. However, don’t expect a whole lotta movement in the blink of an eye. SEO can take months to read down to the bottom line, so some patience is required.
We’ll be writing more about SEO metrics and analytics, and how they can help your business, soon. Enter your email address and first name below so you never miss an article. We’ll let you know every time we post something new.