Just a few short years ago, we measured our client’s success by where they ranked on Google’s search results for specific keywords. It made sense — we would have specific goals, and our clients would be able to measure our performance.

The fact is, search engines are getting smarter and they are no longer fixated on individual keywords. They’re focused on user intent… and you should be, too.

What’s Changed?

Search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing were focused on keywords because that was the limit of their technology. They would simply try and match the individual keywords that people were searching for with web pages that had those keywords on them. The results were sometimes good, but rarely great.

Because search engines are now able to interpret “user intent” (what a consumer is actually looking for) instead of just the individual keywords they are searching on, monitoring keyword rankings is now considered “old school.”

For example, suppose you were monitoring the keyword phrase “replacement windows” and you don’t show up on Google on the first page. You might be showing up for “home windows” and “broken window repair” and “broken window seal,” but unless you are monitoring every possible combination of potential keywords, you wouldn’t know.

To compound the challenge of relying solely on keyword rankings as the sole indicator of success, search engines have personalized search results based on:

• Location;
• Previous searches;
• Previous websites you’ve visited;
• Demographic data, and;
• Time of day.

In other words, what you see and what I see when we search on the exact same keyword phrase can vary dramatically. Even under the same conditions, keyword rankings fluctuate constantly. That’s why keyword positions alone are not a good measurement of success.

Key Takeaway

Your keyword position report is only as good as the individual keyword phrases you happen to be tracking.

10 Metrics You NEED to be Measuring

There are certain KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) that when taken in aggregate, really paint an accurate picture of how your web presence is progressing. Here are my recommendations:

1: Total visitors: This is the baseline key performance indicator. If you properly filter out robotic traffic and other irrelevant visits, you’re left with a pretty good indicator on how your marketing efforts are paying off.

2: Organic traffic: This is traffic that is the results of your search optimization efforts. If this number is steadily increasing (minus cyclical factors) you are probably on the right track.

3: Conversion rate: This is arguably the most important metric. You can spend a lot of money and effort doubling your visitor count, or you can make a few tweaks to increase the number of existing visits that convert to whatever metric represents success for you (phone calls, emails, submitted forms, downloads, transactions, etc.). Take a look at the impact increasing your conversion rate by just 2 percent can have on your bottom line:


Increasing your conversion rate by just a few percentage points has a lot more impact than increasing traffic. In the scenario above, you would need an extra 24,000 visitors to have the same impact as just doing things right in the first place!

4: Average time on site: If visitors are spending an appreciable amount of time on your site, that might indicate they found what they are looking for and that you are doing a good job attracting the right people because your website is on topic. Keep in mind that if someone stays on your site for five minutes, and the next person only stays five seconds, your average time on site is 2.5 minutes (this is a relative number).

5: Average page views: The more pages your audience is exposed to, the more likely they are interested in what you are offering.

6: Bounce rate: When someone comes to a page on your site and immediately leaves without going to another page, or performing an action, they’ve essentially “bounced” off your site. A high bounce rate may be an indication that you are doing a poor job of attracting the right people, or that your website just sucks (there are many different flavors of sucking). Keep in mind that if someone comes to a good landing page and just picks up the phone and calls you, it may appear that they bounced, but in reality that was a success.

7: New visitors: If you aren’t getting new visitors, something is wrong.

8: Returning visitors: If a consumer keeps coming back to your website, there’s a reason for that. Eventually it may turn into a sale.

9: Month-over-month: Although month-over-month comparisons can be deceptive in a seasonal or cyclical industry, it is still the shortest amount of elapsed time worth considering. Given the slow lumbering pace that search trends often reveal themselves, we often use quarterly comparisons as well.

10: Year-over-year: Taking a more macro view of your progress can help accommodate any cyclical conditions as well as equalize a host of short-term variables. Keep in mind that external influences such as new competitors, new trends and even the general economy can influence the year-over-year comparison.

Keyword research is important, and keeping an eye on a few keyword placements as indicators is a good practice, but the days of relying on keyword placement as your sole indicator of success are over. Rather than trying to rank as high as possible with as many keywords as you can, you should strive to serve as many user needs as possible and then make sure the search engines have all the info they need to figure out what you are about, and how you truly meet the consumer’s needs. Then measure the things that matter…

If you need help setting up or measuring your analytics, message me through LinkedIn, or contact me directly through our company website.

Web Works

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  1. We also have the opportunity to express our opinions.

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