Looking at the Whole Picture to Determine SEO Success
September 7, 2012 by Nick Stamoulis
I was talking with an SEO client the other day that is determined to drive traffic using a short list of priority keywords. They are on page one for about 1/3 of their list and page two for probably another ¼. The rest are spread about between pages 3-5 with a few not yet cracking the top 50. While I don’t usually like pulling ranking reports because I don’t find them to be a valid method of measuring SEO success, this client insists on them each month. While I have no problem giving a client whatever data they need to help justify our work, this client has a tendency to silo the reports and only focuses on those priority keywords, where they rank and how many visitors they send each month. If those numbers don’t come across as “good” it means their SEO campaign isn’t working.
It is very dangerous to silo your SEO metrics like this for multiple reasons. First and foremost, you aren’t looking at the whole picture. If you only care about getting keywords to the first page of the search results you might not notice that 8 of your 20 priority keywords jumped from page 4 to page 3 or even page 2. That’s a huge improvement! Just because they aren’t on page one (which is incredibly difficult the broader your keywords get) that doesn’t mean your SEO efforts aren’t having a positive impact. While there are plenty of studies outlining the value of being on page 1 (and corresponding click-through-rates) it’s important to remember that searchers are getting smarter. They know that the just because a website is ranked #1, or even on the first page, that doesn’t mean it’s the right site for them. Searchers are willing to comb through several pages of results in order to find the information they need and aren’t going always start and stop with the first listing.
And while having a list of priority keywords you want to drive visitors from is great, and definitely worth working towards, you can’t fail to look at the SEO value of all the long tails and variations that are driving traffic to your site. For instance, let’s say you have 20 priority keywords and they send 800 of the 6,000 unique visitors you get each month. Your SEO campaign will work to help increase that number over time, but if one month it’s 800 and the next it’s only 820 that doesn’t mean your SEO campaign isn’t working! There is no “right” percentage of improvement each month, every little bit of growth counts.
Once you remove all the branded keywords, let’s say you’re left with 3,200 visitors. That means that 3,200 visitors are using keywords other than you priority list to find your site. And that’s ok! It’s great in fact. The more variations people use to find your site the more search results it is showing up for, which helps improve your brand exposure. 2 or 3 variations only might add up to 300 unique visitors each month and then each individual keyword trickles down to one or two visitors the more long tail they become. But again, if you only look at your priority list you aren’t seeing the whole picture and are missing out on the real impact of your SEO campaign!
Don’t silo your SEO metrics! You want to get as complete a picture as possible before writing off your SEO campaign as a failure. Yes, it’s important to have goals and to work towards them, but keep in mind that sometimes success comes in different forms.
About the Author
Nick Stamoulis is the President of full service SEO agency Brick Marketing (http://www.brickmarketing.com/). With nearly 13 years of experience, Nick Stamoulis shares his knowledge by writing in the Brick Marketing Blog, hosting SEO workshops and publishing the Brick Marketing SEO Newsletter, read by over 150,000 opt-in subscribers.
Contact Nick Stamoulis at 781-999-1222 or email@example.com