The final step of launching an SEO strategy is deciding how to measure its success. While using a web analytics tool is most helpful, there are also basic SEO analytics that can be used. Regardless, just like learning SEO, deploying your SEO strategy takes patience and constant attention.
Our safari into the SEO jungle is coming to a close. After going through an overview of creating an SEO strategy, it’s time to discuss how to measure success. As is the case with any strategy, it’s important to have a plan to benchmark and make potential adjustments.
Here’s the problem with SEO measurement: it isn’t black and white. Instead, it’s a fuzzy shade of gray since search engines keep their algorithms so closely guarded. Despite this fortress, you can perform a quick triage of your site’s SEO health.
Before skimming the surface of basic SEO measurement, it must be said that a web analytics tool is critical to truly understanding what works in your SEO strategy. For small online business owners, learning a tool like Google Analytics can be cumbersome. (Never fear, we’ve scheduled a web analytics series in the near future.) Despite this learning curve, there are some very elementary SEO measurements you can make without these tools.
Track your position on SERPs for certain keywords.
Take the list of most important keywords from your keyword research exercise and conduct a search for each of those terms. Once your query is submitted, scan through the search results to find the webpage optimized for that keyword. Then, write down your numeric position and periodically repeat the exercise to see how much your search ranking has improved for that keyword.
So let’s say that I want to see where I’m currently performing for the keyword “organic hot sauce.” I would type this into each of the major search engines and scan through the results. Right now the homepage for Matt’s Organic Hot Sauce is on page 7 of Google results, coming in at #75 on the list. Four weeks later, I conduct the same search and find myself on page 6 of Google with a position of 63. Clearly, my SEO strategy is moving me in the right direction for the indicated keyword.
The obvious limitation on this exercise is that it’s time consuming, especially if you’re running the test on a very competitive keyword, like “hot sauce.” It also doesn’t provide much insight into why you’re moving the needle one way or the other. Regardless, it’s a start.
Take a look at other website interactions.
You can also get a general feel of SEO strategy success by taking a look at other types of interactions with your website. For example, if you see an increase in the number of visitors who sign up for your newsletter or subscribe to your RSS feed, this indicates an increase in the amount of new traffic. Likewise, if you notice more comments on your blog or an uptick of a social media following, it’s a good bet that your SEO tactics are leading to an uptick in traffic.
But let’s face it – those two ideas are extremely general and don’t provide you with an idea of how to adjust your SEO strategy for optimal performance. And what’s the point of having a strategy if you can’t use it to your advantage?
Again, this is where a web analytics tool comes in. For those of us who aren’t well-versed in the vocabulary or variations in web analytics, take a look at four of the most basic analytics to help evaluate your SEO efforts:
- Number of visits: You can easily track the number of visits to each of your web pages with any analytics tool. The main thing to measure here is the variation of this metric on a timeline. Set goals of the number of visits you’d like seen and gauge your progress.
- Most popular keywords. All analytics tools will provide you with a quick snapshot of which keywords are driving traffic to your site. This provides fantastic insight into what customers are looking for, which helps you determine which keywords to optimize for. You can also start working on your long tail SEO strategy from this data.
- Entry pages: Not all customers are coming to your website from your homepage (nor do you want them to). By taking a look at which pages customers enter your site from, you can see if you’re optimizing these pages for the most appropriate keywords.
- Bounce rates: A bounce rate is a metric that tells you the percentage of visitors who come to your webpage and leave instantly (usually a period of a few seconds), never visiting another page. This helps you determine the quality of your traffic and whether or not you’re optimizing for the most appropriate keywords. You can also study your bounce rates based on different keywords and entry pages to make adjustments as necessary.
(To our readers, what other basic analytics do you use to track your SEO work?)
This pretty much wraps up our series on learning SEO basics. If you’re just now coming in, be sure to visit the previous articles listed at the bottom of this post to learn more. After starting out as an SEO novice, I now feel comfortable discussing the topic with friends and colleagues. More importantly, I’ve become empowered as a writer to strategically create content that will be liked by both search engines and readers.
Before closing, there are a few takeaways from my studies that I’d like to share with you.
- No SEO strategy is worthwhile without conversions. If your online business ranks at the top of every single SERP for every single keyword, it doesn’t mean a thing unless people actually convert. Remember that SEO is a piece of a much larger marketing puzzle – SEO tactics help bring customers to your site, but it’s up to you to close the deal.
- SEO requires patience. Your SEO efforts aren’t going to cause traffic jumps overnight. Quite honestly, you may not notice a difference for weeks or even months. Why? Search engines and readers need time to find your content, recognize it, and share it with others. This is why it’s so important for you to do diligent keyword research and write content that’s worth reading. Don’t get frustrated – good things come to those who wait.
- SEO requires constant attention. While it’s nice to think that SEO is something that can be done all at once, it’s simply not true. For your SEO strategy to continue bearing fruits, you must take the time to constantly optimize your content and engage in link building. This means you need to continue doing research, tracking your analytics and growing your network. Each of these facets within your overall SEO strategy takes time, so make sure you’re fully dedicated to the cause.
- SEO is complex and professional help really helps. The findings from this series only scratch the surface of a full-on SEO plan. There are tons of ideas that are just too complex to explain, especially with ever-changing algorithms. Quite frankly, SEO requires a huge time investment in addition to extensive experience. There’s nothing wrong with reaching out for a hand, especially when the possibilities for business growth are so high. Check out Volusion’s professional SEO services for a credible and affordable way to boost your search engine presence.
That’s all folks! I hope you’ve enjoyed learning the ropes of SEO with me. If you found it interesting and think it could help others, please share these articles or leave questions and comments.
Happy (and SEO friendly) selling!
-Matt Winn, Marketing Associate
Learn SEO One Step at a Time Series:
Step One: An Important Introduction
Step Two: How Search Engines Work
Step Three: How Search Engines Rank Pages
Step Four: An Introduction to Keywords
Step Five: Keyword Research
Step Six: The Long Tail of SEO
Step Seven: Building a SEO Friendly Site
Step Eight: Link Building Basics
Step Nine: Basic SEO Measurement/Conclusion