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August 8, 2008
Avoiding SEO Brain Freeze Part 7: Measuring Your SEO Success

Once your overall on-page website optimization is completed and you’re continuously working on getting the word out about your website, your next step is to start measuring how successful your efforts have been. In the past, search marketers used to measure the success of their SEO campaign by checking where the keyword phrases for which they optimized were ranking in Google. The goal was to always try to get as high of a ranking as possible.


While knowing where your website ranks for your optimized keyword phrases still comes in handy to a certain extent, it’s not your best measurement for success anymore. Rather than go into all the reasons why, I’ll simply point you to my previous article on this topic, “5 Reasons Why Rankings Are a Poor Measurement for SEO Success.”


Targeted Traffic is One Goal


With the rankings elephant out of the room, let’s talk about more important ways of measuring your success. First, you have to know what factors are important to your business overall. The number of visitors your website receives is one measurement. However, when looking at visitor traffic the only visitors that truly matter are those who are highly “targeted.” That is, they are people already looking for exactly what you’re offering. Visitors for visitors’ sake is really just an ego trip and not important in the overall scheme of things.  In light of this, a more important visitor measurement is how much traffic comes directly from search engines; and more specifically, how much traffic comes from the keyword phrases for which you optimized.


Conversions Are What Really Matter


Looking at the metrics beyond visitor traffic is where it really gets fun and interesting. The most important thing for you to measure is what’s known as a “conversion.”  Before you can do this, you have to determine exactly what a conversion is for your website. The first step is to think about exactly what actions you want your website visitors to take. These may range from purchasing a product, to filling out a request form for more info, to downloading a whitepaper, or signing up for an email newsletter. Whatever you determine your conversions to be, you’ll want to start measuring them.


Most website conversions can be measured by looking at which visitors landed on your various “thank-you” pages.  These are simply the pages one sees after taking a specific action on your website such as submitting a form or purchasing a product. This page becomes the conversion page for that action, since the only traffic to it will have been from someone who submitted the form.  Be sure not to use the same conversion page URL for multiple forms on your website, or you won’t be able to track things effectively. Obviously, the more conversions you make, the more successful your website will be, and the more potential you have to make money, assuming that’s your ultimate goal.


How to Measure Visitors and Conversions


Nearly all web analytics programs will be able to show you the number of visitors as well as what search engine and keyword phrases were used to find your website. But you need one that goes beyond that and actually measures conversions. We’ve been using Google Analytics on our website and those of our clients. We’ve found it to be one of the best there is—especially since it’s free! While the basic set up for Google Analytics is fairly simple, it gets a bit more complicated to set up your conversion goals. However, it’s worth taking the time to do this right. Read all of Google’s help documents as necessary, and be sure to test things along the way to make sure your numbers make sense. If you’re really ambitious and want to learn all the advanced things you can do with it, there’s a great Google Analytics online course taught by ROI Revolution that I highly recommend.


Using Analytics to Tweak Your SEO Campaign


Once you’ve got a good handle on your search engine traffic, you can use that information to tweak your SEO campaign as necessary. If you find that you’re not receiving any traffic for certain keyword phrases for which you’ve optimized, ask yourself the following questions:


·         Is the phrase so competitive that no pages of your site show up for it in Google?

·         Are you showing up for the phrase, but nobody is clicking through to your website?

·         Is the keyword phrase one that isn’t being searched upon by as many searchers as you thought?


Figure out what the problem is, and decide what to do based on what you learn. If not as many people are actually searching for the phrase as you thought would, then you may want to switch that phrase out for another one that receives more searches. If the phrase is simply too competitive, that doesn’t mean you need to give up on it all together, but just make sure you’ve also optimized for some less competitive phrases to go along with it.


Don’t Get Lost in the Data


There’s so much you can analyze that you could spend entire weeks or months just doing that. Try not to get too bogged down with it and just do a thorough check once a month. And be sure that you give your SEO work a good chance to gel.  Just because you’re not seeing decent traffic for some keyword phrases right now doesn’t mean that over time you won’t. The more competitive the phrase, the longer it will take to see results. Keep working on getting the word out and making your website the best it can be, have lots and lots of patience and you will see a continuous upswing in targeted traffic for many years to come!


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As an SEO Consultant, Jill Whalen has been providing her no-nonsense, practical SEO advice since 1995. If you learned from this article be sure to sign up for Jill's popular High Rankings Advisor SEO Newsletter to keep up with the latest information in the ever-changing world of SEO. Follow her on Twitter @JillWhalen, "Like" her at Facebook, and "Circle" her on Google+.

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