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      The 11 Most Important SEO Metrics to Track


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      Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a collection of techniques used in web design and content creation to increase your website’s reach. When done right, your search engine rankings should improve and your website’s traffic can increase. That’s why knowing to what extent your SEO strategy is making a difference is essential.

      Fortunately, tracking your website’s metrics and analyzing the trends you find helps you understand how users are interacting with your content. Knowing the most crucial SEO metrics to track — such as page views, bounce rates, and conversions — helps you evaluate which strategies might need to be tweaked and which ones are hitting a home run.

      In this article, we’ll share the 11 most important SEO metrics to track. You’ll learn what they mean and how to apply them to your business. We’ll also offer some helpful tips and tools for making sense of the data you collect. Let’s get started!

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      Why You Need to Track the Right SEO KPIs

      Tracking your SEO data and crunching the numbers so they provide you with insightful information definitely requires an investment of time and often money. However, 63% of marketers actively invest in SEO, as well as tracking the data that results.

      Without identifying the right key performance indicator (KPI) for your website, your SEO strategy is “flying blind.” This is because SEO metrics tell you exactly how your campaigns are performing, what keywords are getting a response, and which tactics you can stop wasting time on.

      When you track and analyze your SEO metrics appropriately, you’ll have access to specific data points that can inform your decisions and increase your leads, conversions, and more. All you need to get started is to know which numbers matter most.

      The 11 Most Important SEO Metrics to Track

      Websites and their users create a lot of data. To help you sort through the chaos, we’ll take a look at 11 of the most important metrics to track when evaluating your SEO effort.

      1. Keyword Ranking

      Keyword rankings indicate where your website appears in search engine results for specific words and phrases. For example, if you have a construction company, a search including the word building may result in your site only appearing on page three of the results. However, if you’ve used more SEO strategies that focus on the keyword contractor, your site should appear in a better position for searches including that term.

      The higher your site is ranked for relevant keywords, the more visibility it will have to your audience. This means that in order to improve this metric, you’ll want to do some research to determine which terms and phrases your target audience is searching for.

      To start tracking keyword rankings and other related data, there are several SEO tools you can use (check out these 15 awesome options). Google Search Console is the best place to start if you have a small (or nonexistent) budget, while the other products offer scalable pricing depending on your needs.

      SEMrush

      If you’re looking for a more robust tool, we recommend SEMrush, an SEO suite that’s trusted by 5 million marketers around the world. Its Position Tracking tool makes it easy to see how your site is ranking for target keywords and paid results each day. Plus, you get in-depth insights into your competitors’ top terms.

      The good news? We’ve worked out a special two-week trial with SEMrush so you can see if this tool is a good fit for your site!

      2. Backlinks

      Backlinks are links to your website from another site. Many backlinks operate like citations, noting where the information came from and referring readers to the original source. Search engines tend to give preference to sites with lots of backlinks, especially if they’re coming from high-quality sources.

      Building backlinks can be tricky since you don’t have direct control over who links to your site. Most of the tools out there related to backlinks are focused on tracking existing backlinks and using that information to help you build better content strategies.

      For example, Linkody is a backlink-specific tool that delivers a lot of useful features.

      The Linkody home page.

      This backlink tool enables you to not just track who is linking to you, but also identify and correct any link errors. It can also be connected to Google Analytics.

      Just remember that when it comes to getting a backlink, quality matters just as much as quantity. So while it’s good to see the overall number of backlinks going up, you’ll want to make sure that as many of them as possible are coming from relevant and highly-ranked websites.

      3. Organic Search Traffic

      Organic search traffic includes visitors who arrive at your website from search engine results rather than through other channels such as social media, paid advertising, or backlinks. One of the easiest ways to track this type of traffic is with Google Analytics.

      Real-time organic search data in Google Analytics.

      Organic search is significant because users who find your site this way are typically searching with a specific goal in mind. In fact, 51% of all web traffic comes from organic search, and over 40% of revenue is generated from it.

      In other words, growing this metric is one of your best options for improving conversions.

      Generating organic traffic requires sharp SEO tactics and effective audience targeting.  This means that tracking this metric over time is vital, so you can see immediately what strategies are working and which need to be amended.

      4. Top Exit Pages for Organic Traffic

      Another common analytic you can track is the last page each user was on right before leaving your website. This is called the “exit page.” Having this information at hand can be just as important as monitoring your overall organic traffic.

      This is because the more you understand why users choose to leave your website, the easier it is to convince them to stick around longer. If the top exit pages share certain elements in common, such as a particular type or style of content, this can be a clue that your target audience is looking for something different.

      Google Analytics is one of the best tools for tracking your site’s top exit pages. You can easily access an Exit Page report and see a breakdown of all the related data.

      5. Breakdown of Organic Traffic from Search Engines

      There’s a lot more to discover about your organic traffic data than simply how many users found you through keyword searches. In fact, Google Analytics offers a detailed breakdown of this traffic.

      Under the Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels menu, you’ll find keywords displayed in context with a number of other key data points.

      Organic search data in Google Analytics.

      This includes how many new users used certain keywords, how long they viewed pages, and whether they generated revenue for your site. Learning about where your organic traffic is coming from and what they’re doing enables you to pinpoint problems to be fixed (such as a high organic traffic rate with few resulting conversions).

      6. Page Views Per User

      Next up: page views. Page views measure how many times the pages on your site have been viewed in a given period of time. This isn’t the same as your traffic number, since many users may visit more than one page.

      This means that page views is a metric best considered in context with other numbers. For example, average page views per session or user can tell you how engaged most visitors are with your site.

      You can also look at this metric in combination with the length of time users spend on your pages. This provides valuable insight into how your content is performing. Are people moving from page to page too quickly, or spending time with each new piece of content?

      If any of these numbers appear troubling, reviewing your content and revisiting your market research are two steps you can take to create a more engaging experience for your users.

      7. Average Time on Page

      Tracking your website users’ average time on page can be tricky. This is because there are many factors that influence user behavior. For example, a tab left open but idle in a browser for hours shouldn’t really be counted as part of the user’s “time on page.”

      According to CrazyEgg, 15 seconds is the average time users spend on a web page. If you find that your numbers are below this benchmark, it might be worth doing some market research to make sure you’re targeting the right audiences.

      Technical issues can also lead to difficulty keeping users on your site. If you suspect this is a problem, you can try checking your page loading speed with a tool like Pingdom.

      Pingdom performance monitoring tools.

      You can also use one of several optimization tactics for boosting the performance of your website.

      8. New vs. Returning Users

      Keeping an eye on your number of new and returning users can be a good indicator of how your audience is responding to your marketing and SEO efforts. For example, if you have more returning customers than new users, that likely means you’ve successfully built some trust and loyalty among your visitors.

      However, this might also mean that while your existing customer base is steady and reliable, you may need to spend more time and resources on attracting new customers. One way to do this is to revisit your target market research and see if anything has changed, or if new markets have emerged where you can focus your SEO effort.

      Alternatively, high numbers of new users are a great sign that your promotional strategies are working. However, if the number of returning visitors is low, you may need to do some work on your site to better capture the attention of those new users.

      9. Bounce Rate

      Your bounce rate is a metric that represents how many visitors leave your website without engaging in any content at all. A user might land on your home page, look around but not click on anything, and leave. If no other actions are taken or pages visited, that’s considered a “bounce.”

      Bounce rates in Google Analytics.

      This rate is found by dividing the number of “no activity” users by the number of overall visitors to the website during the same time frame. Alternatively, you can use Google Analytics’ Behavior > Overview report to get a quick view of your site’s bounce rate.

      Normal bounce rates vary by industry and website type. As a general rule, however, a bounce rate higher than 50 to 60% may indicate a problem with your site’s content. You can take a look at some of the other metrics we’ve discussed, such as the top exit pages and average time on page, to see what’s causing users to bounce away. Then you can make adjustments to your content and strategies in order to keep them around.

      10. Page Speed

      A slow page loading time can have negative consequences on your overall success online.  Whether you’re running a blog or an e-commerce page, no one wants to wait around for your content to fully load.

      In fact, one Google study found that a wait time of just one to three seconds increases the probability that users will bounce away from your website by 32%. The golden rule is to keep your page loading times under two seconds, but the lower they are the better.

      Fortunately, you can easily optimize your website for speed. A great place to start is by testing your site’s performance with a tool like Pingdom or GTmetrix. These solutions will also help you identify aspects of your site that may be hurting its performance.

      11. Conversion Rate

      In many cases, conversion rates are the most crucial SEO metric to track.

      A conversion happens when a visitor to your site completes an action you’ve prompted them to do. For example, if you have a blog, a conversion might happen when a follower signs up for your newsletter. For businesses, a conversion is often measured as a completed sale.

      Whatever your goal might be, conversions are a great way to directly investigate whether your SEO strategy is working. If you’re not happy with your rates, you can use your analytics tools to look closely at your conversion data and see where improvements might be necessary.

      In Google Analytics, for example, you can set up “goals” in your dashboard. These are the specific actions that will count as conversions and be tracked. This enables you to focus on your unique objectives and gather a robust and comprehensive set of conversion data.

      How to Keep Your SEO Momentum Going With Quality Control Checks

      It’s necessary to keep in mind that your metrics are a reflection of the work you put into improving your site and growing your audience. This means there are several other elements not directly related to SEO that you’ll still need to keep an eye on.

      Here are a few other elements that can have an impact on how well your website performs in search engines:

      All of these pieces are key parts of the SEO puzzle. Of course, the quality of your content also has a significant impact on how well your site performs in the rankings, so that’s a factor to keep in mind as well.

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      Improving SEO Performance

      Now that you have an idea of which metrics are most important for SEO, it should be easier to develop a solid web analytics plan. Your unique goals will also affect what numbers are most relevant to you and your site.

      Google Analytics is a great place to start when it comes to navigating key data such as conversions, page speed, user behavior, and more. If you’re using WordPress, it’s even easier to integrate analytics tools right into your admin dashboard, using plugins like Google Site Kit and MonsterInsights.

      Here at DreamHost, we offer many reliable WordPress hosting plans. Whether your site is big or small, we’ll handle the hosting so you can focus on your favorite SEO metric to track the data you need to succeed!



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      Let’s Take a Look at SEO Trends: How to Rank Higher in 2019


      Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a vital part of any website owner or digital marketer’s work. This is unlikely to change in the new year, but that doesn’t mean you can just rely on old strategies. In fact, as browsing habits change, you’ll need to keep your SEO techniques up to date.

      The way people use search engines such as Google changes constantly. For example, over the past few years, ‘mobile-first’ has become an important mantra for improving both accessibility and page rankings. While nobody can tell for sure what the future holds, it is possible to get a good idea of what you should focus on for the next year.

      In this article, we’ll talk about why SEO will continue to be a critical consideration in the upcoming year. We’ll also discuss some of the trends that may come to dominate your SEO strategy in 2019. Let’s get started!

      The Current State of Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

      In case you’re new to the concept, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) refers to a series of techniques for helping your site rank higher in search results. It’s an integral aspect of everyday work for most developers and content creators, and looks poised to remain so for years to come.

      There is no shortage of ways you can improve SEO on your website. General considerations include making sure its loading times are kept to a minimum, for example, and performing keyword research to tailor your posts to match what people are searching for.

      However, while it might seem like SEO practices are evergreen, this is far from the case. In reality, what ranks well depends on the search engines’ algorithms, which are continually changing. This naturally means you can’t keep relying on the same optimization techniques over time and expect good results.

      As such, you’ll want to stay up-to-date with the changing world of SEO. This will help you keep your site optimized well into 2019 (and beyond).

      SEO Trends: 10 Tips for Ranking Higher in 2019

      To help you get a head-start on optimizing your content in the new year, we’re now going to take a look at some of the SEO trends that will be worth paying attention to in 2019. We’ll also give you some tips on how to adapt your content and strategy to take advantage of those trends. Let’s jump right in!

      1. Prepare Your Site for Voice Search

      Voice search has already nestled comfortably into many people’s lives. Perhaps you use Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Echo, or Google’s Assistant, just to name three examples. As this technology becomes more prevalent so to will the need to consider how voice search will affect your SEO efforts.

      The main difference between typical SEO strategies and optimizing for voice search involves using more ‘natural’ phrasing. After all, text searches usually involve stilted, compressed phrases like “best blog hosting 2018.” However, if you were to use your voice to search for the same information, you’d probably say something like: “What is the best hosting for blogs this year?”

      Do you notice how the second phrase is both more natural and considerably longer? This means you’ll also want to consider optimizing your content for long-tail keywords to a greater degree. Since the ultimate goal is to use keywords people are likely to search for, this might actually make your job easier, as you won’t need to jam cumbersome key phrases into your content.

      2. Optimize Your Site for Speed

      Optimizing your site for performance is something we’ve discussed in several previous posts. However, the importance of this step bears repeating. Loading times will undoubtedly remain a huge consideration in 2019, especially when it comes to improving your site’s rankings.

      This issue became even more pressing in 2018, as Google announced it would begin factoring in page speed for mobile devices. This is due to the growing popularity of mobile browsing, and means that keeping load times short is now a primary concern for all website owners.

      Fortunately, we’ve also previously explored how to speed up your site in general. Key strategies include implementing a caching solution, as well as optimizing your media files. For more information, you can take a look at our full series of tutorials on performance optimization.

      3. Make Use of Artificial Intelligence (AI)

      The term Artificial Intelligence (AI) has a distinctly futuristic ring to it. So it’s no surprise that it’s going to play a major role in how SEO changes in the near future. We’re (unfortunately) not talking about hiring a robot to handle your SEO strategy, but that’s not as far from the reality as you might expect.

      Google already uses AI extensively, thanks to its RankBrain system. This is a bot that uses machine learning to continuously improve Google’s search results. It finds patterns and context in millions of pages, which the search engine can then use to return more relevant results for specific queries.

      However, Google isn’t the only party that can also use AI to its advantage. In fact, tools that utilize machine learning to improve your SEO are becoming more popular. One such example is Automated Insights.

      The Automated Insights home page.

      This solution helps you turn unorganized data, such as site analytics, into a clear narrative. In turn, that can help you spot patterns more quickly and start making improvements.

      Another tool that can help you when creating content is WordLift.

      The WordLift plugin.

      This WordPress plugin uses machine learning to help you optimize your content. It does that by both offering suggestions for the actual content and by adding structured metadata and suggesting relevant links.

      We suspect that this is only scratching the surface of what AI-based tools will be able to do in the future. As such, getting familiar with this technology now can give you a vital head start.

      4. Improve Your Mobile Pages

      Google’s mobile-first index means that the search engine now ranks pages based on their versions designed for mobile devices. As such, even if your site performs flawlessly on a desktop, but it’s hard to use and sluggish when viewed on a smartphone, your SEO rankings will likely suffer.

      For this reason, optimizing your site for mobiles is no longer optional. In reality, you’ll need to spend even more time making sure your mobile site is fast and usable. This is also called making your site responsive, since the goal is for it to work well regardless of the screen size or device type used to view it.

      You’ll also need to consider how your site will actually work on different screens. For example, if you’ve designed your navigation for desktop browsing, is it still as intuitive and simple to use on mobile devices? If your site contains additional elements, such as pop-ups, you’ll also need to ensure that they don’t interfere with the mobile user experience.

      Thankfully, this is not as difficult as it might seem. For instance, the vast majority of WordPress themes and plugins are built with responsive design in mind. However, to avoid any issues, you should still make sure to thoroughly test your site on multiple devices.

      5. Focus on More Personalized Results

      It often seems like people are getting less patient by the day. They want to find the information they need much more quickly, for instance, which is why Google has placed a greater focus on personalized results.

      Most notably, Google actually gathers information about each individual user to return the most relevant results. Another example can be found in Google’s ‘answer boxes.’

      A Google result using an answer box.

      Google’s service is also personalized by offering searchers contextual results based on previous searches or even the user’s location. If you try searching for “Where is the nearest coffee shop?”, you’ll be shown options that are close by.

      This may seem like a difficult trend to leverage to your own advantage, but it’s far from impossible. You can actually increase your odds of appearing in answer boxes by merely providing clear and organized information on your site. Using lists and distinct headings to summarize each page’s contents will also help Google parse and index the information, making it easier to get your site featured in the coveted ‘position 0.’

      6. Extend Your SEO Strategy to Your Social Media Channels

      Having a strong social media presence is a significant aspect of online marketing. Naturally, this also applies to your SEO strategy. While social media shares aren’t currently a direct ranking factor, there does seem to be a correlation between social signals and rankings.

      How this works is complicated, to say the least, and we won’t get too deep into the details here. Suffice it to say that the more your content is shared, the more traffic your site will likely get through search engines. This also helps you build backlinks and brand awareness, since more people will see and talk about your site.

      As such, it’s vital that you factor in your social media presence when considering SEO. Focus on a few essential platforms and maintain a consistent strategy for sharing content and interacting with your followers. This will help you across all areas of your marketing.

      7. Shift Your Focus Away from Google

      So far, we’ve consistently referred almost exclusively to Google when considering SEO. This is no accident, considering that it remains the most popular search engine by far. Still, it may not be a good idea to focus solely on Google’s ranking algorithms when putting together your SEO strategy.

      Amazon’s search engine, for example, is becoming one of the most significant on the web. As it turns out, over half of shoppers turn to Amazon when searching for products, rather than to Google. Another example comes in the form of YouTube, which remains the world’s second largest search engine.

      What this means for you is that relying solely on Google may not be feasible from now on. For example, if you want your products to be more visible, you’ll need to consider Amazon to a much larger degree. If you have a lot a video and other non-text content, on the other hand, YouTube and similar platforms should be high on your list of targets.

      8. Understand How Blockchain Affects SEO

      If you’ve never heard of ‘blockchain’ before, you’re not alone. While the concept is too complex to do full justice here, we can break it down in simplified terms. In essence, a blockchain is a list of records that cannot be modified after the fact. Every item – or block – in the chain is recorded and preserved as-is forever.

      This technology can affect SEO, because using blockchain changes the relationship between advertisers and website owners. With blockchains, you can guarantee that every click is valid, meaning that the days of bot visitors are over. This will lead to improved verified data, meaning that sites won’t be able to get away with artificially improving their rankings using automated clicks.

      At this point, your best move is simply to learn more about blockchain and how it can affect your site and business. This is a complex and nuanced topic, so being prepared is key. You may even wish to hire an expert to help you if you’re interested in implementing blockchain yourself.

      9. Improve Your Technical SEO

      SEO is often thought of as a concern exclusive to content creators and marketers. However, the reality is that it’s also something developers need to think about. The process of ‘technical SEO’ refers to making sure your site is compatible with the standards set by search engines.

      Two major aspects of technical SEO that we’ve already touched on include page speed and mobile-friendliness. However, another crucial consideration is site security. For instance, Google now requires sites to be delivered using HTTPS, in order to be labeled as ‘secure’ in the Chrome browser.

      These are just a few of the elements that fall under the technical SEO umbrella. While we don’t have time to go through everything, here are a few additional aspects you’ll want to consider:

      • Site architecture. By designing your site in a logical way, you’ll make it easier for crawlers to catalog and index your pages, which improves your rankings.
      • Rich snippets. This is a type of markup that adds extra information to your pages, making them stand out more in search results.
      • Duplicate content. Search engines penalize sites that feature the same content in more than one location. As such, you’ll want to ensure that you don’t repeat or re-use the same text.

      As we mentioned, this is by no means a comprehensive list. However, it should be enough to get you started, whether or not you have an interest in development.

      10. Use SEO to Optimize Your Videos

      For our final tip, we should acknowledge that SEO isn’t just about text. It’s also vital to look at SEO as it pertains to video content. This is increasingly important as video is becoming more prevalent by the day.

      To give you an example, in 2018 nearly half of all internet users watched at least an hour of online video every week. Site owners have started to take heed of this trend, and you can do the same. An easy way to start? Include videos on your site. Search engines consider the quality of your content and the length of time users stick around as ranking factors. By using video, you can improve both metrics.

      What’s more, you can also aim to improve SEO on the videos themselves. This involves using clear and descriptive titles, choosing the right video hosting platform, and making sure to address your users’ questions and pain points. This will make sure your visitors get the information they need while improving your rankings at the same time.

      Moving on Up

      Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is not a static pursuit. As the internet changes, so do the parameters that determine how well your site ranks in search engines. This means that you need to stay up-to-speed with the latest SEO trends in order to ensure continued success for years to come.

      What do you think SEO will look like in 2019 and beyond? Share your predictions in the DreamHost Community and let’s discuss!



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