Measuring Search Engine Optimization (SEO) success is crucial. Even the implementation of the highest level strategy is a waste if you aren’t tracking the progress towards your goals.
There are a few elements that you can track using your analytics program that will indicate where your succeeding as well as identify areas you can improve. These areas are your branded and non-branded keywords, the depth of visit, and link/referrals. Monitoring these simple areas will be a great first step in measuring the success of your SEO strategy.
Branded Keywords and Non-Branded Keywords
If you do any sort of external advertising, chances are, people will be somewhat aware of your business name. Take “Uhuru Network” for example. If we did radio ads for our services, people may not know the url but they may remember “Uhuru Network” or “Uhuru Fresno” which may lead them to do a Google search for that term when looking to find us. We’ve worked to make sure that our branded terms come up first when searched. We don’t have to worry about competition for our own name.
But are branded keywords an indicator of how successful your online SEO strategy is?
No, and here’s why. SEO is about the long tail of search results and all the keywords and search terms that exist out in the world that drive traffic to your site. You should be ranking first for your branded terms but the higher you can rank for your non-branded terms, the more successful your SEO strategy is. This is why a blog is crucial to SEO success: you can go after non-branded terms that are relevant to generating traffic and leads. This is why you must track your non-branded search terms.
Depth of Visit
Lets say, you get a ton of traffic from a blog post you wrote about emoticons for Facebook, but your business focuses on pet care. This is bad. You’ve successfully targeted a keyword that isn’t relevant to your business or site. Chances are, visitors found the post, read it, and left your site because the blog post wasn’t representative of the rest of your content or business.
When reviewing your stats, this is one example of why some visitors may not read more than a single post.
In addition to creating relevant content, you need to make it easy for visitors to discover other content on your site. This can be done with an easy-to-navigate menu at the top, links inside your content to other relevant content, some sort of recent/popular post widget on the side, related posts after the main content, or one clear call to action (call, sign up, etc). The idea is to get them to spend more time on the website and visit more than just one page. This depth of a visit measures the true effectiveness of an SEO strategy. One and done visits won’t help you.
Measure depth of a visit by tracking time on site and page views per visit. Sort them by keyword and you can quickly see your most effective keywords.
Links and Referrals
A big part of SEO is back-links. (Sites that link to your site) Google places value in the number and quality of the sites that link back to you. Plenty of high quality links is a good thing. Links from spam sites are not. If you’ve ever paid for SEO, chances are there may have been link buying which Google is trying to remedy with their latest search engine update.
You can get a good idea of who your referrers are in Google Analytics by looking at your traffic sources and eliminating all search engine and social referrers. You may have some traffic from some surprising sources. If they’re good quality, keep the link and maybe mark it down as a relationship you should work on cultivating. If it’s a link that appears to come from a spammy looking site, you need to try and remove the link yourself. If it comes down to it, you can contact them and ask to be removed before taking your complaint to Google.
The second way to get a profile of your links is in Google Webmasters. For the most part, Google does a good job of filtering but you may see spammy link aggregators appear in your link profile. Once again, work on removing them and focus on building a higher quality link profile.
A couple “bad” links will not sink your website. Just focus on quality over quantity.
These are just a few of the basic strategies for measuring what success means in terms of Search Engine Optimization. Keep-in-mind SEO isn’t all about keyword domination. Success in SEO is about building quality content in a way that makes people want to come back to your site. The Google algorithm is getting smarter every-day and if you focus on the people – and not the spiders – you’ll be better off in the long run.