18 / April 2017, 1st In SEO
Operating an SEO-optimized website serves as a basic point of entry in any company’s online marketing efforts. For small businesses in particular, an effective SEO strategy and implementation can make the difference to help you compete in the market against larger players who have more money to invest in advertising and marketing. When you do it well, you can put your business in front of anyone looking for information on the product or service you deliver.
Of course, this begs the question: how do you know whether your SEO strategy delivers the results you need? SEO should never be a plug in and hope proposition. You will not reach your goals through your feelings or guesses about the look or quality of your site. Rather, you need to identify measurements that help identify points of strength and areas of improvement for your online marketing to take off.
One low-hanging fruit that novices tend to follow is click rate: how many people actually visit your site. But when you run a business, this is the equivalent of putting an ad on a bus in Minneapolis asking people to stop by your store in Albuquerque. Many people may see it, but it doesn’t measure any kind of success that leads to actual revenue for your company. Click rate may serve an initial purpose, but it does not measure what really matters.
If you drill down, you can identify measurements that prove much more useful to you in developing a website that connects you to business success. The following seven measurements go beyond glances to identify actual engagement with your site. Track and improve on them regularly to find your path to online marketing success.
The bounce rate of your website represents the percentage of visitors who view only a single page, and then leave. The most typical example, and the one that represents a real problem for you, is a large proportion of visitors who find your landing page but do not click to any other pages. When your business information and ecommerce or call to action occurs on other pages, a large level of bounce before they get there means you lose opportunities before they can materialize.
To mitigate this problem, you need your landing page to do two things: hold the reader’s attention and direct the reader to additional pages. If you lack a simple road map to guide users to click through your site, you may struggle to lower your bounce rate and increase your user engagement. Further, if you landing page is simply boring, you may struggle to gain enough interest to keep people clicking through your site. Your design and interface should work in conjunction, on every page your website contains, to captivate and guide your site visitors. The more engaged they are from the outset, the more likely you will maximize your return on investment for your website.
The bounce rate gives you a good initial indication of user engagement with your site, but you also want to drill a little deeper on the users who don’t bounce. Are they working through multiple pages? Depending on how you organize information on your site, or how many pages you publish, this can give a good sense of how much of your content people read. If you have a ten-page site and a 1.7-page average, your site cannot be delivering effectively from every page.
Just as your landing page needs to hold attention and direct users through to additional pages, so your content pages need to work to keep users interested and actively clicking through your site. If your pages per user metric falls flat, you need to improve your roadmap and user interface. The experience you give your site visitors should both keep them interested in every page and make them want to keep going. The more invested in your site a user becomes, the more likely he or she is to act on what you present.
So how do you identify the pages where you lose people? When you collect metrics on the time users spend on each page, the picture starts to become clearer. Your clicks per page matter, but a user who spends only a few seconds on a page usually gives you no better results than someone who never views it. You want your users to stay on your site and spend time reading the content on each page. Again, the more time someone spends, the more invested that person becomes.
To improve on this element of your site’s performance, the simplest answer is the most effective: create better content. The more your material is worth viewing and reading, the better your time on page and the better your overall performance. Be interesting and original, and give relevant material that your potential customers will want to read. Deliver something worthwhile, and your metrics will improve.
The more quality backlinks your site earns, the higher your search rankings will become—and the more return your site will generate. A paucity of backlinks from reputable sources keeps you from achieving to the extent you should. By generating interest from the knowledge leaders in your market, you reach more potential customers who understand what you are doing.
Plenty of shortcuts to backlinks exist, but very few of them are good. You need to reach out to the people whose sites you admire and develop relationships. The stronger the sources of your links, the more they will boost your site ranking and your performance. And of course, the more of these high quality links you can earn, the better your SEO ranking will be as well. Don’t try to buy links, as these sources get shut down quickly by the search engines and cost more in the long term than they gain for you in the short term. Take the right steps to earn links, and track your results over time to ensure you are building effectively.
Over 60% of all search traffic is conducted on mobile devices now. But this truism is really only the beginning for you. Are you operating a business that you want people to find while they are on the move? Site visitors who are traveling often seek out businesses where they are, and mobile searches do more to direct that kind of traffic to you. On the other hand, an e-commerce focus might lend itself better to a broader mix.
Not only do you need to track this information, but you need to do something with it as well. If you are not earning mobile traffic, you may need to better optimize your site to perform well on those devices. Screen size and load time always matter, but they come at a premium on smartphones. Similarly, if you are earning better conversions from one kind of device than from another, you should both look to maximize what you are earning and improve where you are not.
The better you understand how your website reaches people, the better you can optimize your performance to improve traffic and conversions. Anyone operating a website in 2017 should track this metric as part of your standard operating procedure—and then respond to what you learn.
Return customers are incredibly valuable for any business. You should be striving to attract new potential customers all the time, but garnering return visitors means two things: people like what you have to say, and they are interested enough to come back. And when they keep returning, you have an opportunity to build loyalty, referrals, and multiple sales. For this reason, tracking return visitors over time may be even more valuable than tracking the unique site visitors.
If you are struggling to get many return visitors, this indicates that your site content is not valuable enough to live up to the promise that your SEO optimization first delivers. You can improve on this by focusing on better, more relevant content, but at the same time, continuing to generate fresh content helps you continue to matter to people who initially find you. If you only update your content once a month or so, you lose key opportunities.
Finally, building your social media process gives a good way to improve on this metric. The more ways you connect to your customers, the more opportunities you give them to come back to you. Keep building and keep engaging the people who already know and like you, and you will be able to multiply your success over time.
In all of what you are doing, you should never forget the most direct measurement of your site quality: the conversion rate. How many users who visit your site act on your call to action? How many actual sales, phone calls, and store visits do you achieve based on visits to your website? Does this all come from one page, or do multiple pages on your site lead to conversions? No matter what you do, this is where you are generating revenue through your online marketing presence.
Conversion rate moves over time. Thus, you can never sit still and feel like you have achieved what you want for your site. Keep finding ways to improve and get people interested in what you are doing, and you will continue to create more revenue.
Managing a business website requires focus and attention not only when you first build it, but as you manage it throughout your business life. When you identify the metrics that matter and follow through on what you learn, over and over again, you give yourself an opportunity to reach and expand your business goals.