Are You Looking at the Wrong Data?
We are living in the age of big data, whether we’re talking about Amazon.com, the NSA or your own website. Much of this data is available at the consumer level, and businesses can find even more using the right tools and software. But how do you know which numbers matter for your website and which data you can safely ignore?
The simple answer is to follow the money. Without a doubt, revenue is your most important measure. Your site could be the first results for searches, you could have millions of visitors on your site, and they could recommend it all over the web. But if no one ultimately makes a purchase, this “success” isn’t worth much.
However, there are some important numbers you can become familiar with about your site, its success in growing your revenue and how it is seen by search engines.
User Experience is Most Important
The stated goal of Google is to “make it as easy as possible for you to find the information you need and get the things you need to do done.” If your business does a good job of filling a real need in the marketplace, then you probably have the same goal. You want customers who are interested in buying your services to find you quickly and then easily pay for and receive your product or service. We’ve written about the basics of site design, creating responsive sites and how content can affect your readers’ experiences. Fortunately, there are also a few metrics that can help you figure out how your website is doing.
The main goal of search engine optimization is to show up on the top of the first page of results, and you can find out how well your site is doing starting with the average position reports provided by Google if you have a pay per click campaign. To dig deeper, we recommend using proprietary keyword tracker tools such as the one we make available to clients here at OnlineImage®. Pay special attention to rankings for so-called longtail searches, meaning searches where users type in multiple words. Keep in mind that due to personalized search results, these reports won’t always be 100 percent accurate.
A user “bounces” from your site if they visit for only a short time and then navigate away. If you have a high bounce rate, it’s usually a sign that you need to improve user experience. There are caveats, however. If all you want from your site is customers to call you, finding your number only takes a second and that visit could count as a bounce. A site that’s well tailored for your specific audience could also lead to increased bounces but an increase in unqualified leads.
Pageviews per Session
Way back when, the metrics cited most often to determine SEO success were pageviews and visitors, meaning the number of times your pages were opened and the number of unique readers who visited. Those numbers are rarely used alone now, because they can be easily manipulated and search engines can’t see all the data anyway. Now, you can pay attention to the number of pages users view within your site when they visit. If the number is high, it means you have an interesting and well-structured site. If it is low, it’s likely that your visitors aren’t finding what they want.
The definition of a conversion differs depending on what you want your site to accomplish. For example, if you want a page to grow your email list, a user’s signing up for emails would be a conversion. If you want them to buy a product, the conversion is the purchase. If you want them to call, having them click on your phone number from their mobile phones would be the best conversion metric. You can set these up in Google Analytics and then track your progress so you can make ongoing adjustments. The path between conversions and revenue is the most direct way to track website ROI.
What Google Bots Check
Google has been a little mysterious about how its algorithms work, all to keep unscrupulous “black hat” search engine optimizers from gaming the system. However, the secrets mean the good guys in white hats have to keep guessing too. That being said, Google has provided extensive guidelines and makes regular announcements about updates for its users. The search engine also lets the cat out of the bag when its employees blog and make presentations. The algorithms take into account more than 200 metrics, but here are two of the most important numbers the bots analyze behind the scenes.
Queries and Clickthrough Rates (CTR)
Google only wants to show links to sites that serve readers, so if it shows your site and no one clicks on it, your links will probably drop in the search results. You can find out how many keywords are leading to clicks in the Queries report in your Google Analytics.
While it’s no longer helpful to carpet bomb the Internet with links to your site, the number of reputable websites that point back to your site (external backlinks) is still important. Google guidelines say not to focus on building links, but a recent study by Moz.com found that 99.2 percent of high-ranking sites had external backlinks. Almost 78 percent of top results had at least one link. The study looked at sites that show up in the top 50 positions for 15,000 keywords. The correlation between higher rankings and the number of linking domains was .3, which may mean that about a third of your site’s ranking has to do with these links.
Numbers to Ignore
Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools are chock full of figures, and you can pull other numbers from a variety of free and paid SEO tools around the web. You can safely ignore most of them. The ones not to worry about include keyword density, social followers, rankings for any single keyword, and the number of backlinks your competitors have. You should also be aware that PPC ads don’t make a difference for organic search results. If you’re interested in learning more or would like to hear about our proprietary analytics tools, give us a call at 801-261-5700.