Search engine optimization has earned its place as one of the most cost-effective digital marketing solutions available. With attention to SEO best practices, you create organic traffic, build authority, and drive revenue with relatively little initial cost. As with other digital channels, SEO is extensively tracked and measured, but not all metrics are as straightforward as they initially seem.
Here’s a deeper look at what your analytics are telling you about your SEO success.
Leads who discover you through natural search results constitute your organic traffic numbers. As an overall measure of how many people have found you by typing keywords into the search bar, your organic traffic stats are valuable. They’re a snapshot of the overall effectiveness of your content marketing and SEO strategies – but they don’t tell a complete story on their own. Organic traffic figures tell you little about how visitors respond to your site, so your goal should not just be to make this number grow but to watch it rise in proportion to other metrics, including time on site, number of pages visited, and number of visits. More traffic is not enough; you want more engagement.
SEO now includes social media signals as part of an overall picture of your site’s authority. More followers and “likes” indicate a site that users consider more valuable. As with organic traffic figures, though, these metrics are a general overview of SEO health, not an in-depth diagnostic. Look deeper into social media-driven SEO analytics to see who’s commenting and sharing to get a clearer picture of engagement. A high follower count alone isn’t a sufficient measure of effectiveness, so take links and hashtags into consideration when evaluating successes.
Knowing that people are linking and sharing your content is useful, but knowing who is doing the linking and sharing is even more important. Links from authoritative sites carry far more weight than those from lower-quality sites. If authoritative sites link to yours (inbound links), your site’s authority grows too; if you link to sites with greater authority (outbound links), your site receives a more modest boost. Shares also factor into overall SEO success in a similar way. When your content’s shared by authoritative sites and social media influencers, your authority likewise increases. Understanding the quality gradient of shares and links will reveal a great deal of information about your SEO effectiveness.
As a derived metric, ROI is dependent on all the directly measurable variables that go into it. The cost of content creation, subscription services, database management, and other expenses can be more challenging to calculate than a direct mail campaign’s spend, but it’s essential to understanding the real value of your SEO. One mistake some companies make is accepting other metrics such as traffic volume or conversion rates as significant indicators; ROI is measured in dollar amounts, not traffic counts, so take the time to go over details with your SEO consultant until you have an accurate assessment of bottom-line returns on your investment.
Coaches often talk of “intangibles” when a player’s skills aren’t directly measurable. He may not throw the ball as far or run as quickly, but if the player’s abilities on the field make him a winner, he deserves a place on the team. Measuring indirect benefits, such as brand awareness, offline referrals, and reputation, is easier to accomplish when you get a wide-angle view of your marketing activity through time. Tracking activity with a marketing automation system will show you where your SEO is paying off even if you can’t measure the intangibles directly.