Search engine optimization is constantly changing and can be quite complex. This article will provide some guidance on considerations when building or maintaining your website, so that you can understand the areas that are working and those that need improvement.
Start at the End
All search engine optimization efforts should start by clearly identifying goals that are important to your organization. The S.M.A.R.T. goals model can help you get started off on the right foot.
- Specific – The more specific your goal, the more effective you’re likely to be at achieving the goal. There’s a big difference between “drive more traffic to the website” and “generate 20 percent more leads over 6 months via the contact form on the Acme Model X page.”
- Measurable – To make improvements, you must be able to measure detailed progress based on the needed data to avoid guessing. At the same time, avoid information overload. Identify the measurable metrics that will help you gauge the effects of the SEO efforts.
- Attainable – There’s a big difference between closing 20 percent of the 10 web leads and closing 20 percent of 10,000 web leads, so it’s critical to set realistic goals. Do you have the time, budget and personnel required to achieve the goal? Is the timing of your SEO efforts in line with seasonal trends for your products and services?
- Relevant – The goal must be relevant to something that is valuable to the organization. Beyond knowing what you’re trying to accomplish, it’s important to know why the goal is being set and what the benefits of achieving the goal are. How do your SEO goals tie into your organization’s over-arching goals for the year?
- Timely – Have a clearly defined target date for achieving the goal, including checkpoints along the way. A goal with no deadline is likely to suffer from scope creep and might not ever be achieved. Having a deadline for the goal will also ensure the SEO efforts are evaluated for their effectiveness to decide whether to continue or to set different goals. The timeliness of your SEO efforts tie into the seasonality of your business as well.
Working through the goal-setting process above can be time-consuming, but it should help ensure the efforts accomplish a goal that provides value to the organization.
Items to Measure
Every SEO project will have its own unique goals, which means each project will also have its own measurement requirements. Below are some metrics that you may want to consider keeping an eye on.
Tracking the conversion rate can help you understand the return on investment (ROI) that your SEO project is achieving. Conversion rates are individual actions or goals completed related to the goals you’ve set. The conversion rate is calculated by dividing the number of action or goal completions by the unique visits. An example is the number of people who downloaded a white paper on a specific web page, divided by the number of unique visits to that same web page.
This traffic source includes only visits directly from search engines such as Bing and Google, and is where SEO is focused. It excludes paid search results and referrals from other websites, links in emails and so on.
Traffic to the Website over Time
Monitoring the traffic to your website over time helps you see the results of your SEO efforts and can reveal developing trends. Traffic changes related to SEO projects typically don’t happen overnight and may require multiple months to have a significant effect. Reviewing traffic on a monthly basis is typically enough as compared to paid advertising that may require weekly or even daily monitoring. Depending on your specific goals, it may be a good idea to monitor weekly to spot room for improvement early.
Visits to a Specific Page
Your goals should be specific enough to require monitoring traffic to specific pages. Seeing spikes or dips in traffic can tempt you to make changes to your approach, but you should take into consideration how much data is available to help with making decisions. SEO is an ongoing long-term effort, unlike pay-per-click ads that may justify daily changes.
Traffic from Specific Campaigns
Although you’re focusing on SEO, basic campaign traffic data collection can help you audit the accuracy of your SEO traffic analysis. If the total traffic between organic and campaign traffic doesn’t add up, it’s likely you’ll need to revisit your SEO analysis. Campaign traffic can also help you improve SEO efforts by adapting what’s been learned during the campaign.
It’s great to show up in search results, but there isn’t much value if the searcher doesn’t click through to your website, unless they are simply looking for contact information. Page titles and descriptions have a big impact on the percentage of visitors who click through to your website. A low CTR means either the visitor found what they were looking for in the title or description, or that the visitor didn’t find the title and description appealing enough to click. In either case, it’s an opportunity for improvement since they aren’t likely to complete a form or make a purchase, if they don’t visit the site. If you’re not reaping the CTR goal, make adjustments and monitor the results. Continue tweaking until you reach your goal.
Is That All There Is?
The short answer is NO. As previously mentioned, search engine optimization is a long-term, ongoing effort that requires a deep understanding of how your efforts increase traffic to your site, and especially how those efforts result in conversions. It is a very complex and every-changing landscape, but it’s worth the effort. For the most part, SEO costs are spread out over a longer timeframe than paid advertising and your SEO costs revolve mostly around your time invested.
Contact us when you’re ready to take the next step or when you’re ready to start an exciting SEO project.