Evaluation is where many SEO strategies falter. This is because there are a lot of outside influences that effect your website traffic and thus many SEO experts tend to shy away from the nitty-gritty numbers. Instead we see “25 keywords gained ranking and only 10 keywords lost ranking, so we are doing great” or “We have seen an 30% increase in search traffic”. (but we will ignore that there is an 80% bounce rate) Don’t get me wrong, those types of stats are important too but I believe there is a need to look a little deeper, even if it is a little scarier for getting results.
Let’s set our expectations for minute. SEO is in no way a “spend X amount and see X result” kind of strategy. It is a long term investment with no end in sight, ever. But that is good thing! Because remember we aren’t thinking of SEO as a stand alone marketing strategy, it is deeply integrated in our overall marketing goals and (dare I say it) should be a driving force in your marketing plan.
With that being said, let’s look at some of the important points that you should be looking for when evaluating your SEO strategy. It is a no brainer that increasing traffic to your website through search channels is primary goal, and what your stakeholders are really looking for you to accomplish. In tracking, you want to make sure that you are gaining quality visitors. This means your bounce rate shouldn’t sky rocket, pages per view and time on site shouldn’t plummet and your conversion goals should be fulfilled. But let’s look a little deeper into these statistics and how we can use them to help shape our SEO strategy.
Click Through Rate (CTR)
This is the calculation of the number of people who clicked your listing divided by the number of impressions (people your listing was displayed to). There are two ways to look at this: 1) CTR for the keyword phrase and 2) CTR for the landing page. This can be a hard stat to work with because while it is very easy to see if something is performing well or poorly, it is much harder to pin point what you need to change to improve it. A poor CTR could indicate an ineffective browser title, un-engaging page description, miss targeted keyword or any combination of the 3.
Something I also like to call “stickiness”. This is the % of users who only view the page they entered the site on before leaving. This is a tricky stat because when you are increasing your traffic by any significant amount, this number is going to rise some, that is par for the course. You have to decide what rate you will still find acceptable. As a rule I would say no more that 10% rise in the bounce depending on the level of the overall traffic has increased.
Time on Site and Pages per Session
These are commonly called “usability statistics” by Google (along with bounce rate). Both are important in understanding how well you are serving the visitor. Increasing both of these is a common website goal and should be a primary goal for SEO acquired traffic. The more time the user is spending interacting and the more content they interact with the better. Positive movement for these stats is a good indicator that your are working with to correct keywords for gaining qualified visitors. Negative movement could indicate that your content is not engaging or it does not meet the needs of the visitor.
I know have been harping on how this is the only stat many organizations track BUT that is not to say it isn’t actually important. Ranking higher in the search results for your targeted keyword is a primary goal – higher rank (should) equal more search traffic. You should most definetely be looking into how your keywords are rising and falling in the results. My peeve is leaving it at that! You can not simply say 10 rose and 2 fell so we are doing great! You need to look more closely at why there is movement. Yes it is a constantly changing ecosystem so movement is inevitable, but moving up doesn’t indicate that you are doing great just as moving down doesn’t necessarily mean you are failing. All it means is you need to look at your overall strategy to decide if the movement is par for the course OR because you need to adjust your strategy.
Something important to remember when you are evaluating: you need to look at both the micro and macro levels. If you spend too much time just looking at the micro level, you might get frustrated as the changes at the level are much smaller, more frequent and harder to pin point what is needed to improve. But if you only look at the macro level you might miss key opportunities for adjusting your strategy. As with all things in life, you have to balance the two to be the most effective.
Now, you will take all of this information and continue to use your findings to be a steward to your SEO strategy, which we will talk about in Part 4.