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Seeing The Benefits of SEO: Effective Analytics Reporting
Written by Brian Harnish
Monday, 22 October 2012 04:51

As SEOs analytics are an essential part of our jobs – reporting to the client how their website is performing in the search results.

page rank delusions

Now, more than ever, it is important to communicate not only the right metrics to our clients, but a measurable improvement in value. At the end of the day, we are there to help increase business for our clients overall and add to their reputation in the marketplace as a market leader.

Rankings are one way to accomplish this. But they are not the metric that determines conclusive success.

Not Just a Matter of Rank...

Rankings have been taking a back seat to other metrics for a while now, but I still see SEOs touting rankings as the be all end all metric for success. They are not. There are other analytics metrics one should take into account to determine the true success of their marketing campaign.

Make no mistake: I am not recommending changing the importance of rankings. They are still important. On the contrary, I am recommending including other metrics as a supplemental addition to your rankings reports.

What to Report?

One of the more effective reporting approaches is an overall approach that looks at all analytics metrics. There are fluctuations in different metrics that can deliver an entirely different meaning to other metrics.

For example, high rankings can deliver great amounts of traffic, but the traffic could be in the form of bots spamming the page.

To determine the difference, you will need to look at the page’s bounce rate. High rankings, low traffic can point to low search volume for a specific keyword. Or it can point to the page having 404’d on the server for a month if it’s a high volume keyword.

Or, it can point to a low traffic month if initial results showed that keyword to have high search volume. Look! Three different meanings for one metric already!

High rankings, high traffic, and a much lower bounce rate means that traffic is delivering on quality users who like what you have to offer.

Here is a quick look at other metrics:


Is the traffic quality traffic, or is traffic arriving on your site but not converting? If they are not converting, then the traffic is worthless.

Rankings driving traffic as an exposure metric is fine, but when it’s not delivering in terms of actual conversions, then this is when results get murky unless you include other metrics to determine the cause of low quality traffic.

To communicate traffic, show the # of visitors to the website, but also show that the traffic converted. It helps having a column in your Excel data spreadsheet that shows some sort of conversion to an industry standard metric.

Whether it’s product sales, service sales, calls in, form submissions in, etc. It must be decided at the outset what metric is going to be used for determining the success of your efforts as they translate to conversions.

Bounce Rate

Bounce Rate is the measure of how many people arrive on the page and how many people stay rather than immediately leaving.

Is your traffic delivering a high bounce rate or a low bounce rate? This can be another indicator of success. If your traffic is delivering a high bounce rate, you may be being hit by a ton of spam bots.

Or, the page with the high bounce rate is not targeting the right people. The right people on the page are going to stay for a bit and read the full article if they are serious about what they are searching for. If your page has a bounce rate of around 80% or more out of 1,000 visitors to it, then you may want to look into tuning up your page.

Whether it’s content, the design, or usability, make sure that your page is good enough to where it will entice a high amount of visitors to stay for awhile.

Average Visit Duration

Kind of ties into bounce rate a little - but also ties into the quality of the page the visitor is arriving on. If you have a high average visit duration, then you can count on your site delivering on the quality a user is searching for.

A user, on average, takes a 20th of a second to make a decision when viewing a webpage. If your site does not deliver on first impressions and content the user is searching for, then this may be what is contributing to a low visit duration.

Actual Conversions

The main important metric that is valuable to a client is the actual conversion of a person arriving on the page.

It depends on the industry and type of product/service whether the conversion will be a form being filled out, a click through, or a call. If you have not been focusing on conversions, then it is important to decide on this as a metric before re-structuring your analytics reports.

Deciding on one and then deciding on another the next month is not going to help. Consistency is key to figuring out whether or not you are delivering in successful actual conversions.

Using rankings as the only success metric is a mistake, because it doesn’t take into account true traffic, conversions, and other metrics that can make or break the success of an SEO campaign.

But don’t devalue rankings altogether – use them as a supplemental value along with other values in your reporting. Before looking at a single metric like rankings, take into account others. This can deliver an entirely different meaning as to what the overall SEO campaign is doing for your client.

Brian Harnish -

Building websites his Brian Harnish's passion. He's been building websites since he taught himself HTML and took a college Photoshop class to create the graphics in the summer of 1998 when he built his first real website. He thoroughly enjoys reading almost anything and everything he can get his hands on regarding SEO, search marketing, as well as web design & development.

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