May 16, 2016
“Content is king, but marketing is queen, and runs the household.” – Gary Vaynerchuk
It could be argued that is SEO the very foundation to existing, and surviving, in the online business world. Without a strategy for vaulting your site to the first page of Google and Bing’s search results, gaining recognition or authority is largely futile; and most businesses know this as fact. That is why there is an array of various SEO monitoring and enhancement tools available; and at least one should be in your regular arsenal.
Yet despite all of the tools, apps, and engines accessible to business owners, these tools are generally useless if you don’t have a decent understanding of how to read the metrics. Many think their comprehension is stellar. What many might not know, however, is how misleading some of these metrics actually are.
SEO metrics can actually be quite deceptive and challenging to accurately interpret. To help clear up some of those misconceptions, here are the top five SEO metrics that you are probably misunderstanding.
1. Organic Traffic
While organic traffic is a major indicator of your overall SEO efforts and a great metric for measuring your website’s health, it should not be taken solely at face value.
Organic traffic lets you know how many visitors found your site through an organic search. The more organic traffic you receive, the more people are naturally finding you through the SERPs. What this metric doesn’t tell you, however, is how users behave after arriving at your site. Your organic traffic can be through the roof, but if visitors are bouncing off of your site shortly after arriving, it could be causing more harm than good as Google does factor bounce rates into its ranking algorithm.
While gaining loads of traffic is a noble goal, it is always better to have lower volumes of targeted, engaged visitors than astronomical numbers of visitors who will ultimately never convert.
2. Links and Shares
While backlinks are critical for building authority online, this can become nothing more than a vanity metric if not properly analyzed. Just ask those on the receiving end of Google’s Penguin algorithm update.
The effects of Penguin have been felt far and wide as the goal of this software is to target and eliminate links that appear as unnatural or spam-like. So, despite your hulking number of links and social shares, the quality of those links is the real data that you should be paying attention to. In the digital world of oversaturation, quality trumps quantity every time. To make legitimate sense of your links and shares, and to gain an accurate measure of their value, dig deeper into who is citing your material and disavow anything that can potentially drag you down.
3. Site Speed
Another pivotal metric for receiving a rise in the SERPs is site speed. This includes overall page load time, the time it takes images to load, as well as other elements included on your website.
Site speed reports from Google Analytics can often produce unbelievable numbers. The reason for this is that the report begins measuring only one percent of your users and then averages these metrics to produce its final number. The relatively minute number, when compared to your overall traffic, is therefore extremely susceptible to malware-infested users who will effectively sink your score and produce results that are not wholly accurate.
Fear not, as there is a workaround for gaining a clearer picture on the matter.
By increasing the sample rate to 100 percent, or its peak of 10,000 hits per day, you can acquire more accurate information as to your site’s performance. Alternatively, the use of tools like Pingdom or WebPagetest can be an invaluable resource for analyzing your site’s speed.
4. Time on Page
This is, quite possibly, the most misleading metric of them all. While there is no doubt in the report’s utility, it can, and does, neglect a portion of the activity occurring on your site.
Average time on page is measured in two different ways. The first is dependent upon the visitor viewing multiple pages. If this occurs, then the calculation begins when the visitor views the first page and ends when they move to the next page, and so forth. If the visitor only views one page, however, then the calculation becomes dependent on engagement with your site. The measurement will gauge the time between when the visitor landed on the page and the last engagement hit after arriving. If the visitor leaves the page before engaging, this is effectively marked as a zero session. It doesn’t matter if the visitor was on your site for 10 seconds or 10 hours; if they didn’t engage, it doesn’t get counted.
Unfortunately, there is no real way to combat this without inflating other numbers. The real takeaway here is to be aware of how this number is calculated and take that into consideration when analyzing your metrics.
5. Exit Rate
When it comes to Exit Rates, this metric is actually quite intuitive; it is people’s understanding of it that convolutes the story told. Exit Rate provides percentages of the last page viewed in a session, granted that there were more than one; otherwise, this would be your bounce rate.
The issue with peoples’ perception of Exit Rate is that they view it negatively; if visitors exited on “page X” then there must be something wrong and it needs to be further optimized. While this might be true if the page resides towards the middle or end of your sales funnel, this logic does not hold true across the board.
Many queries that run through Google or comparable engines are entered for the sole purpose of obtaining information; not making a purchase or signing up for a newsletter. If a user visited your site with the intent of gathering information on a topic or product for later purchase, they will naturally leave once that knowledge has been acquired.
When analyzing your Exit Rate, take into consideration intent of the user, the page they exited from, and what utility that page serves. To gain a more intimate understanding of why users are leaving your site from a particular page, try segmenting users through the ‘Advanced’ tab and evaluate their journey with User Flow reports. You may discover there is nothing wrong with the page; it is just the natural order of things.
Possessing a greater understanding of these metrics and how they are measured will allow you to become more effective and impactful in your quest to top the SERPs. We hope you feel far more equipped to know exactly what your site’s numbers are telling you about the user experience.
What are some other commonly misinterpreted SEO metrics? Which one do you have the most trouble analyzing and understanding?
Conscious online marketer, web executive, and multi-faceted writer Tina Courtney has been creating and fostering online innovations since 1996. Tina has assisted many clients in maximizing online production and marketing efforts, and is a staff writer for SiteProNews, one of the Web’s foremost webmaster and tech news blogs. She’s produced and marketed innovative content for major players like Disney and JDate, as well as boutique startups galore, with fortes including social media, SEO, influencer marketing, community management, lead generation, and project management. Tina is also a certified Reiki practitioner, herbalist, and accomplished life coach. Learn more on LinkedIn, Facebook and Google+.