Until and unless you are able to measure something, you cannot improve it. The same goes for SEO as well. For any SEO professional, it is essential to track everything that is important for a website, such as rankings, conversions, lost links etc.
Measuring these data figures help SEO practitioners to discover and prove the value of SEO. By measuring the impact of your SEO efforts, you can easily prove the SEO success, retain clients or create opportunities for your own success in your company.
Keep in mind: What’s the end objective?
You may have multiple goals, both macro as well as micro, but there has to be one primary end objective. To understand the primary end objective/goal of a website, you should have a fair understanding of the site’s goals or what your client requires.
For your better understanding, you can ask the client some good questions. This will not only help you in strategically aim your efforts, but will also make the client believe that you care for his business.
You may ask questions like:
- What’s the history of your company?
- What monetary value do you think a newly quality lead has?
- Which products or services are the most profitable and fast moving?
While you establish your website’s primary goals, benchmarks and additional goals, keep the following tips in mind:
Tips to set goals
Your goals need to be measurable: It is necessary that your goals can be measured and track so that you can improve them.
Let your goals be specific: Your goals cannot be unclear. They need to be specific and understood by others as well.
It’s good to share your goals: Once you have figured out the goals, write them and share them with others. Studies say that sharing the goals with others increases the chances of achieving them.
How to measure?
Once you have set the primary goal, you should evaluate which other metrics can help your website in achieving its primary ‘end’ goal. Also, measuring the additional goals helps in keeping an effective check on your website’s current progress and health.
Understanding the engagement metrics
Understanding how people behave when they come to your website is also very important. For this to measure, it is necessary that you know the engagement metrics.
Let’s go through some of the popular metrics that will help you to measure how much people are engaged with the your site’s content:
Time spent on page or Time on page
It is important to know how much time people spent on your page. Say, if you have a lengthy blog of 2,000-3,000 words and if visitors are not spending more than 10 seconds, then it is possible that the content doesn’t appeal to the visitors. But it may also happen that if a particular URL has less time on page, the page deserves it, that’s the intent of the page. For e.g., when a visitor comes to a “Contact Us” page, his intention is not to spend a lot of time on that page, rather he just wants to take the required information and leave the page.
Page views or Pages per visit
If you intend to keep the readers engaged and make them visit other pages to your site, then in such a case, pages per visit or page views can be an important engagement metric to observe. Otherwise, if the intent of the page is such that the visitors can go to the site, see the information that is useful to them and leave the site, then in such a case, having lesser page views are not worrisome.
Conversion rate is basically the number of conversions that happen divided by the number of unique visits pertaining to a single goal or a desired action. There could be different actions or goals where conversion rate can be applied, for e.g. purchase of a product, account creation, email signup etc. Through your conversion rate, you can know the ROI (Return on Investment) the website traffic is able to deliver.
Bounce rate is another key metric that you should know. The number of bounced sessions tell you that a visitor visited a web page and left it without browsing any further. Sometimes, SEOs focus on reducing the bounce rate beliving that it relates a lot to a website’s quality, however, the bounce rate doesn’t reveal much about the user experience. There have been certain observations where despite redesigned websites, despite the bounce rate increasing, do better than before. Hence, relating bounce rate as the key user experience determiner is not appropriate. If you want to gauge the quality of a site or page, a better metric to consider is scroll depth.
Through scroll depth, you can measure to what extent the visitors scrolled down the respective pages. This helps you to understand if the users are able to reach the content which is more important for you. If you find that the content that is more important for you is not accessed by the visitors, try experimenting with its placements. You can try to place the key content such as contact forms, multimedia, important notices etc., higher up on the web page. You can also check if the content quality is good enough or if you are including words in the content that are unnecessary. It is good to see visitors scrolling down the pages, reading all of your content and to track it, you can set up scroll depth tracking in Google Analytics.
Note: You can easily set up goals in Google Analytics to gauge how your site is able to meet its objectives. For e.g., if your objective is ebook download, you can set that as a goal in Google Analytics. When the visitors complete the task, you can see it in the reports.
Search traffic report
For SEO, ranking is one of the most important metrics but just measuring the website’s organic presence isn’t enough. The key objective to appear in the search results is to be selected as an answer to your searcher’s query. Despite ranking, if you’re not able to get traffic, then there could be some issue.
Now the bigger challenge is to gauge how much traffic from search your website is able to get? So, for this, the most convenient way is through Google Analytics.
Know traffic insights through Google Analytics
Google Analytics (a free tool) brings you enormous data which if you do not know where and how to discover, may appear overwhelming. If you master the technique of digging data from Google Analytics, you can discover some really interesting insights for your site that may help you in creating a scope of improvements or plan new tasks altogether. Now, let’s have a look at some basic information that will help you in obtaining some useful traffic data through this tool.
Separate organic traffic
Using Google Analytics, you can view traffic coming to your website by channel. This will reduce your worries if there are some fluctuations in traffic due to changes in another channel. E.g., the total traffic declined as the paid campaign was stopped, but the organic traffic isn’t impacted, so you need not to worry.
Overall traffic report for a period
Using Google Analytics, you can view the total number of sessions/pageviews/users coming to your website during a particular date range. Moreover, you can also compare two specific date ranges and analyze the overall traffic for both the periods.
Total visits a particular page has received
Using site content reports in Google Analytics, you can evaluate the performance of a particular web page. E.g., the total number of unique visitors a page has received during a particular period/date range.
Know a specified campaign’s traffic
By using UTM codes (Urchin Tracking Module), you can know a specified campaign’s traffic. By designating the source, campaign and medium, you can append the codes at the end of the URLs. Whenever a visitor will click on the UTM-code link, its data will start appearing in the “campaigns” report of Google Analytics.
CTR aka Click-through rate
Click-through rate (CTR) is basically the percent of searchers who click on your page in the search results. Through this, you can get some useful insights on how well the page title and meta description of your page have been optimized. This data can be viewed in the Google Search Console, another free tool by Google.
Moreover, to manage and deploy the tracking pixels to the website, without having the code altered, you can use the Google Tag Manager (free tool). Using this tool, you can easily track specific triggers/activity on a website.
Other useful SEO metrics you should know
Domain Authority (DA) & Page Authority (PA)
Both, Domain Authority (DA) and Page Authority (PA) are the key metrics to get insights on your site’s positioning in terms of its authority. It helps you to set authority benchmarks against your rivals.
Count of backlinks
Another important SEO metric to measure is backlinks. In includes, the total count of links pointing to your site or the count of unique linking root websites pointing to your site. Here, unique linking root websites means one link per unique website. This is because sites may link to other sites multiple times. Both these link types are common link metrics and it is always good to closely gauge the quality of links as well as the linked root websites/domains your website has.
This is basically the ranking position of a website for its desired keywords. It also includes the featured data appearing on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP), such as People Also Ask Boxes and Featured Snippets, where your site is ranking. You should avoid opting vanity metrics, like rankings for competitive keywords that you want to target, but are usually unclear and do not convert. Also, avoid long-tail keywords.
How can you track these metrics?
Numerous tools are available to keep a track of your website’s position in SERPs, SERP features, website’s crawl health, link metrics etc. SEMrush abd STAT’s API are a few popular tools widely used by the SEOs for tracking the website metrics.
Besides this, dashboard tools such as PowerBI, Data Studio, Tableau etc. are also very useful in creating data with interactive visualizations.
How to evaluate a site’s health through an SEO site audit?
SEO opportunities can be better explored when you have an understanding of your site’s certain aspects, which include what’s your site’s position in search, how searchers interact with your site, how your site performs, what is the quality of your site’s content, how’s its structure etc. You can utilize the tools offered by the search engines to take advantage of your presence or discover the potential issues, which might be stopping you from being successful.
Let’s now explore the search engines’ own tools which will help you in improving your SEO:
Search Console – Search Console by Google is a very useful tool to discover reports which will help you in detecting site errors, explore opportunities and improve the user engagement. You simply sign up for a free Google Search Console account and verify the website(s) that you want to scrutinize.
Webmaster Tools – Webmaster tools by Bing is quite similar to the Google Search Console. Using this tool, you can find the scope of improvements in your website and an overall analysis of your site’s performance in Bing.
Lighthouse – This is another great automated tool offered by Google to measure your site’s overall performance, its accessibility, web apps etc. Using its data you can improve your understanding of how a particular site is performing.
PageSpeed Insights – In today’s time, when people want to access pages on the internet at a lightning fast speed, PageSpeed Insights can be very useful to check your site’s performance. It uses Chrome User Experience Report data as well as Lighthouse from the real user measurement (RUM).
Mobile-Friendly Test – To know how easily mobile users navigate your website, you can use the mobile-friendly test tool.
Structured Data Testing Tool – This tool assesses if a site is properly using the schema markup (structured data).
Web.dev – Using lighthouse, this tool raises site improvements and offers the ability to track progress over a period of time.
Other tools useful for SEOs and web developers – Google keeps on adding new tools to its list to smoothen the jobs of web developers as well as the SEOs, hence you can check the given link to see the latest tools released by Google.
Things to keep in mind while auditing your website:
You should check how your site performs on mobile devices and also in the Lighthouse tool. Also check which all images you can compress to boost the load time.
Check if your primary pages are crawlable by the search engines and see if you have unknowingly blocked bots using robots.txt file. To help the crawlers crawl your primary pages easily, you also need to check if the sitemap.xml file is accurate.
Check if your primary pages are visible on Google. You can use either site:domainname.com or site:domainname.com/page-name commands to see if Google can give you an insight on indexing. If you find the important page(s) missing in the search engine, inspect if any robots=noindex tag isn’t hiding the page(s) in search results.
SEO titles & meta descriptions
While auditing your website, you also need to check if the page titles/SEO titles and meta descriptions are justifying the content of the pages. Explore their CTRs in the search results using the Google Search Console to get a better understanding of this. You also need to check that the titles and descriptions are written in such a way that searchers are prompted to click your result as compared to other URLs on the SERP. Also figure out which all pages need improvements. Tools like SEMrush can do site-wide crawling and give you a fair report of this.
Quality of content
You also need to check if the content that is currently live on the website is able to meet the needs of the audience. If there is a need to write 10X better content to rank better than the websites already ranking above you, go for it. You can also add more value to the content by updating the existing content and utilizing images, guides, PDFs, podcasts etc.
Note: Remove what’s unnecessary to improve the website quality
To improve your website’s overall quality, you can consider eliminating content that is thin, low in quality or old. You can also remove the pages which are hardly visited by the searchers. Doing a content audit can help you prune the website.
Competitive website analysis (auditing your rivals’ websites), as well as, keyword research can also give you valuable insights to improve your website.
Here’s an example for your reference:
- You can check on which all keywords your competitors are ranking on page 1, but your site isn’t.
- Also, you can check the keywords on which your site is ranking on page 1, where featured snippets can be targeted. To appear in the featured snippets you can consider improving the content.
- Check which particular websites link one or more of your competitors’ sites and doesn’t link your site.
By discovering the performance and content opportunities, you can plan a better data-driven SEO strategy to scale up your presence.
Read on to know how to plan and execute SEO.
SEO planning and execution
Mapping and scheduling the SEO tasks effectively play a key role. You can use Google sheets or any other preferred way to plan the SEO execution. People also schedule the SEO tasks in Google Calendar, in a daily planner, in a scrum board or in kanban.
You can adopt any of the ways and be stick to it.
Evaluating the progress by utilizing the metrics mentioned in this chapter will help you to check the scale of your success and also allow you to alter your SEO efforts, if things don’t work in your favour. For e.g., you change one of the primary page’s meta description and title to check if the CTR for that page is reduced or not. And you change it to something very different to gain traction. It could be a unique approach to try. Perhaps, it may or may not work. But, at least you were able to identify the declines or changes happening.
Therefore, it is important that you always keep a check on the drops in CTRs, rankings, conversions and organic traffic as such variations can be easily managed if you identify the issues in advance, before there is any major problem.
Effective communication is the key
Most of the times SEOs fix issues without the client being aware of them. Hence, it is necessary that your communication is effective. You should be in sync with the client so that he is aware of your SEO plan, timelines decided for the fixes, benchmark metrics and reports.
So, you’ve have completed the entire SEO Beginner’s Guide. Congratulations!
It is now time for you to apply these SEO skills that you’ve learnt. Kick-start an SEO project and stay tuned to Dhirenvyas.com for updates on SEO, SEM, Content Marketing Social Media trends and more.
Lastly: Practice makes a man perfect
You will master the technique of SEO once you start doing it by yourself. If your intent is to get professionally involved in the world of SEO and handle the clients/portals on your own, you can also start by implementing the discussed techniques on your own website. This could be a blog, which is something related to your hobby or your own freelancing page.