Whether you’re new to the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) game or a seasoned veteran, a business goal of your clients’ website needs to be established first and foremost. From there, establishing specific metrics, goals, and conversion has to be tracked accordingly.
Many website owners and marketers want to see more visits while others want to rank for specific keywords and phrases. The one true testament to a successful SEO plan is when the expectations of your website align with the company’s overall business goals, and those areas in focus are met. If a contact form completion is your goal, track the thank you page in your goals. If you want visitors to watch more videos, then add custom event tracking codes.
Don’t be fooled by the big fancy terms and metrics that you think should matter to you and your business. Don’t get too focused on the standard reporting that Google Analytics (GA) offers from the initial reporting page. On a high-level, don’t hone-in on how many people are bouncing from your site, as there are a slew of variables that are often unaccounted for. Do not follow the keyword ranking charts in your software ranking tools—valuable time should not be wasted wondering why a specific keyword or phrase dropped a few spots. Instead, focus on important tasks such as creating new content that’s shareable and where people want to link to and reference.
Suppose someone runs a search on Google and comes to your site (organic visit), reads a blog post, bookmarks it, and leaves… only to come back a week later (direct visit) read some more content, and starts following you on your social media outlets. Then another week or so goes by; he/she comes back via social media (referral) and fills out a contact form (converts). GA reporting can be customize in an infinite amount of ways that can be tailor-made to your goals. For instance, are you tracking Top Conversion Paths and Assisted Conversions? If not, then that conversion will get shown as a referral goal completion, when in fact it was an organic visit that initially brought that visitor to your site.
If you aren’t customizing your GA reporting structure, then you also wouldn’t know that this hypothetical visitor would technically register as a bounce on his/her first visit to the site. Unfortunately, if you look at the bounce rate as a whole without drilling these metrics down further, then there’s lots of unknowns, and the SEO plan may begin to look like a failure, when in fact it was the organic visit three-weeks ago that generated the lead.
Taking a quick look into an analytics account of a website I used to manage years ago, at first-glance, I see a nice steady increase in organic visits for the past six-months compared to the same six-month period the year prior. Even their bounce rate has decreased. Sweet! However, upon drilling down into their goals within GA I noticed that their conversion rate has since suffered and plummeted—down 82% in fact.
So now when their internal (or external) SEO team opens up the initial GA reporting tab, they’ll see a lot of metrics in green when compared to the year and time period prior. The SEO is working and everyone is happy from this report, right? What they don’t know is that it means they’re now getting more unqualified visitors to their site than they once were before. Instead of reaching their target audience, they’re now gaining traffic from the wrong crowd. Figure out your conversion points, assign them a value, then do the math. In this site’s case, tens of thousands of dollars have been lost, despite lots of green numbers in the GA dashboard.
I’d like to sum up this piece with an old story from my childhood. As an avid hockey player since the age of four, I participated in the sport nearly year-round up until high school—attending camps and playing with travel teams throughout the years. One of my biggest accomplishments as a child was being able to snap a wrist-shot high enough to clear the boards of a hockey rink and hit the glass. My Dad summed up this accomplishment of mine by saying (paraphrasing), “Hitting the glass makes a lot of noise and may bring a lot of ‘oohs’ and ‘aahhs’ to the crowd, but it’s not going to score any goals and light the lamp, is it?”
If the tunnel vision of hitting broad metrics is the only thing in sight, you’ll be missing the big picture and the true goal at hand.