Search is always changing. With Google and other search engines looking for better ways to rank sites and provide answers for consumers, the old ways of measuring our success don’t clearly give us all the answers we need. While a number of small to mid-size business owners are grasping the importance of SEO, there are still a number of misconceptions on what matters most. Many business owners and marketing managers have their primary focus on the wrong metrics. So what matters most when it comes to search engine optimization?
Many of the myths I find myself correcting with clients or prospects were, for the most part, true at some point. SEO and search engine marketing changes so fast that many of the factors and metrics that once were seen as so important, now have a lot less weight. I want to help you lower your stress levels by giving you some lasting truths about search and what areas you should focus on for the long-term success of your SEO campaign.
Many of us have seen this stat; “80% of the traffic goes to the sites ranking in the top 3 positions for a specific search”. There is a ton of truth behind this, but as business owners and marketers we have to look deeper. Many of the terms we are looking to rank for only sound appealing to us. The truth is, people searching for solutions to their problems very rarely use the terms we want them to. We have to go deeper in our research and understand what the intent is behind the searches that are being made. A good SEO will spend hours of research on not just your industry, but how real consumers are searching for terms associated to your industry. By putting all your effort into trying to rank for highly competitive broad keywords you could be missing out on some very targeted traffic from long-tailed keywords. The search engines are even encouraging users to be more specific. Just start typing into Google and see all of the suggestions they start giving you. Why? They are trying to understand your intent.
Understanding and breaking down the traffic to your site can be messy. With so many metrics to look at and understand it can be overwhelming to say the least. As an SEO consultant one of the most important parts of my job is to help my clients understand their site's traffic. When it comes to search the number one place we need to look at is the organic traffic. This is all of the traffic that is generated from a searcher who found your site on a search engine. This will clearly show whether or not the SEO efforts you are making are actually working. This can be done fairly easily inside of Google analytics.
Launch Google analytics to view all traffic. Notice the top left says “All Sessions”. This means currently it is showing all sources of traffic to your site. Click the “+Add Segment” button.
Add the Organic Traffic segmentation and click apply.
Now you will be able to see both organic versus all the other traffic the site is generating. As you can see, this site's traffic is growing, but organic is lacking. Now we can correctly diagnosis the issues and address them accordingly.
You can also create custom reports that will pull specific data.
Here is a link that has some great reports that are all ready for you. All you have to do is click and allow them to generate the reports for you.
The reason we filter out the other traffic is to give us a realistic picture of our search engine traffic. When looking at all of your site's traffic it can present an unrealistic view of what is really going on. I have seen many sites that jump to thousands of visits a day, but with further diagnosis it was all referral spam. [Learn more about referral spam and how to stop it here]. Focus on organic and you will have a better idea of what is actually going on when it comes to your SEO campaign.
Rank tracking is easy to get caught up in. While ranking matters it’s not the whole picture. So, if you’re obsessed with tracking your rankings, like I am, how do you do it correctly? Well first, let's talk about what not to do. Don’t Google your specific term from your computer. This may be the most inaccurate way to track your rankings. Why? There are so many factors involved when searching for a term including, your IP location, your search history, the device you are searching from, the settings on the specific search engine you are using and more. This method of rank tracking will do nothing but give you a headache. There are a few great ways to get a clearer picture of how you are ranking. Google Search Console will give you a basic idea of the terms you are ranking for and the interactions with those specific terms.
These rankings are generated straight from the source and can be trusted. They average out the rankings based on a number of factors and give you a much more clear idea of how you are ranking. One thing they don’t allow you to do is add specific terms in so that you can track them on your own. In order to accomplish this, we recommend SEMrush. This is a paid service, but it allows you to add terms to track, search for related terms that may have a greater ROI and a number of other great features like site audits, competitive analysis and more. Their tool also will generate an unbiased result for specific terms and allow you to see how you actually rank. You even have the ability to narrow searches based on location. So if you’re going to be obsessed with rank tracking, at least do it right.
SEO is a powerful part of any inbound marketing campaign. My agency has been providing SEO consulting in Central Florida for more than 6 years now and we have seen a lot of change in the industry. SEO works, but only if you know what to look for and how to play by the rules. Focusing your efforts on the users and their search intent should be your number 1 focus. After that, use your analytics and tracking to see how your efforts are working. If you have any questions or comments, please comment below. Let’s keep the conversation going!
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