As SEO becomes more and more complex, your reporting techniques must change as well. Really, it’s no longer enough to run baseline ranking reports and raw visitor logs and call it a day. These simple reports no longer give you enough meaningful data to truly assess your site’s performance, which is why you’ll want to consider incorporating the following reports into your SEO arsenal as well:
Visitor Growth by Traffic Segment
At the end of the day, the goal of any good SEO campaign is to get more eyeballs onto your page (of course, you likely also want them to take certain actions, but we’ll get into that in a bit). However, simply looking at the number of visitors who arrive on your site each day isn’t enough to tell you whether or not your SEO efforts are truly paying off.
Instead, there are two specific elements of traffic measurement that you’ll want to account for – overall visitor growth trends and growth by traffic segment.
First of all, it’s important to look at overall visitor growth in terms of trends and not daily values. To see why this is important, suppose your website had the following number of visitors over a one-week period:
- Sunday – 108
- Monday – 131
- Tuesday – 130
- Wednesday – 128
- Thursday – 122
- Friday – 117
- Saturday – 101
- Average – 120
If you only compared the beginning of this week to the end of the same period, you might find yourself discouraged that your numbers aren’t improving. But what if the week before, your average daily visitor count was only 80 – and a year before that, only 50 visitors each day? Clearly, there’s a lot to be said for monitoring overall trends, rather than just the raw number of visitors arriving on your site each day.
In addition, to better understand the makeup of these visitor trends, most webmasters will find it worthwhile to keep an eye on the specific sources that are sending traffic their way. Knowing where your visitors are coming from can give you plenty of the valuable information that’s needed to align future marketing efforts.
For example, suppose that – in the first month of your site’s operation – you receive 25% of your traffic from organic search traffic, 25% from direct visitors, 25% from social networking websites and 25% from other referral sources (as measured by the creation of Google Analytics Advanced Traffic Segments). But say that, a year later, your ratio has shifted to 15% : 15% : 55% : 15%, as a result of your website promotion efforts.
Knowing that visitors from social media websites represent the bulk of your traffic – and, indeed, the source with which most of your website visitors feel the strongest affinity – could allow you to make better decisions about how you prioritize your future promotional efforts.
Backlink Profile Quality
In addition to monitoring the change in the number of visitors who are coming in to your website, you’ll want to keep an eye on the number of inbound backlinks that are pointing at your pages as well.
In the post-Penguin world of SEO, the quality of your website’s backlink profile matters more than ever. Google has clearly and unequivocally stated its dislike of linking schemes and its interest in punishing webmasters who undertake manipulative linking practices with diminished natural search performance.
And while this may sound like a scary prospect to webmasters, it’s also true that an ounce of backlink profile prevention is worth a pound of post-penalty cure. By checking in on the links that make up your backlink profile on a regular basis, you’ll be able to spot and repair negative or malicious links before they have a chance to impact your site’s rankings and traffic.
To run a backlink report, you’ll need to first sign up with a service that captures data on the links that are pointing at your website. A few options to consider include:
Both the Google and Bing programs listed above are free, but they don’t provide as much information as you’ll get from more advanced paid services. If your site is small, though, you may not find it worth the extra expense needed to get a complete glimpse at your backlink profile. Generally, these paid programs are best suited to larger websites or to those who are attempting to recover from past search engine penalties.
Whatever program you choose, what’s important is that you check in with your backlink profile at least a few times a month to keep an eye out for any links that could be construed as negative by the search engines. At first, you may find it challenging to diagnose the specific links that could actually be harming your website’s search performance, but with continued practice, you’ll find that this key report becomes easier and easier to run.
Overall Conversion Rate
One final report that you absolutely must be running is one that shows your website’s overall conversion rate. To find this number, you’ll need two things – a defined target action and a way of measuring when this activity is carried out on your website.
A target action can be any number of different things, but should closely correlate to your overall intention for your website. As an example, if you built your website to sell products, your conversion rate should be measured by the number of visitors who wind up turning into buyers. Or, if your stated website goal is to persuade people to sign a petition on an issue you’re concerned about, your conversion rate might consist of the number of visitors who leave your site from a specified link.
A few other possible target actions for use in conversion rate measurement include:
- Email newsletter subscriptions
- File downloads
- Video views
- Average pages browsed during a single visit
- Average time on site
- Social shares
- Social profile follows
Obviously, you’ll need to determine which target action best quantifies your website’s intentions. Keep in mind that you may also have more than one goal worth measuring on your website, though beginning webmasters may want to focus on tracking a single conversion goal before implementing more complex tracking schemes.
Next up, you need to put a technique in place for determining when exactly your target actions occur. To a certain extent, the technique needed to measure your website’s conversion rate will be determined by the exact target action you choose to monitor. For example, if you want to measure product sales, you’ll want to use either a combination of Google Analytics’ free Event Tracking and Advanced Traffic Segments tools to determine which traffic sources result in the most sales, or a more advanced sales optimization program like Hubspot that will determine this information automatically.
On the other hand, if your target conversion action relies on off-site data (as in the case of email opt-ins, social shares and social profile follows), you may need to compute your conversion rate manually by measuring your increase in completed target actions against your website’s total number of unique visitors during the same period.
Really, there are plenty of different target actions you can measure, not to mention layers of complexity that can be added as your conversion rate optimization skills improve. But if you’re just getting started with this highly effective type of report, keep it simple and expand your monitoring systems as you become more comfortable with the conversion rate tracking process.
The same goes for the other two report types described above. Although advanced webmasters can increase the complexity of the SEO reports they run significantly, even beginning webmasters can benefit from installing more basic versions of these useful tracking tools. Because measuring data is the key to managing it effectively, anyone who’s interested in better website performance would be wise to start making use of these three key SEO reports today!
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