Table of Contents
A comprehensive search engine optimization (SEO) strategy requires you to track numerous SEO data points. Doing so gives you a better chance to outrank your competitors, increase website traffic, and more importantly, boost leads and sales.
Over 60% of marketers say that improving SEO is their top content marketing priority. To optimize critical SEO metrics and improve your SEO strategy, you must learn to track and understand a wide range of SEO data.
This includes everything from dwell time and backlink profiles to click-through rates (CTR), conversions, and more. To start improving your digital marketing strategy, you first need to diagnose any SEO problems.
Turn rankings into revenue
Intent SEO can boost search traffic revenue by 700%. How much revenue are you missing out on?
Diagnosing problems with content
High-quality content is the top ranking factor that Google’s search algorithm, and Yahoo’s and Bing’s, uses to evaluate your website and decide if your content should be served to searchers. If content is high-quality, it means users are likely to find what they’re searching for when they arrive at your web page, and this accomplishes search engines’ ultimate goal of providing a good user experience. Here are some metrics that will help you determine if your content is high-quality.
Dwell time is an SEO metric that measures how long a user spends on a piece of content before returning to a search engine results page (SERP).
Though Google has not said specifically if dwell time is a ranking factor, it seems likely that it is, which makes it an important SEO metric to track.
Beyond this, dwell time is a good indicator of how your content is performing. For example, if you have a long piece of content (3,000+ words), but your dwell time is only a minute or two, it may indicate that your content isn’t providing users the information they’re looking for. Clearly, they’re not reading the whole thing.
On the other hand, it might indicate the opposite for a short landing page. If there’s little content on the page, yet dwell time is high, it may indicate that your content is not effective at converting. If you also look at your conversion rates, you can use both pieces of data to corroborate your suspicions.
To improve dwell time, evaluate your content and its goal. Does your page include a lot of fluff? Does your content address its topic completely? Is it well organized, or does it meander?
You can also look at your organic search traffic. Is it lower than expected? Is traffic failing to materialize over time?
Once you’ve evaluated the content, make changes as necessary. Perhaps you need to reorganize the content. Maybe you need to change the introduction to make it more to the point. You might want to expand the content or cut out the fluff. All these adjustments are worth testing.
Broken links are links in your content that lead to a web page that has been moved or is no longer live. These can be both internal links (links to other pieces of content on your website) or outbound links (links to other websites).
Broken links matter because of how important they are to both users and crawlers. When a crawler crawls your website, it uses internal links to learn how your content is related, and it also uses internal links to find new pieces of content.
If your internal links are broken, the crawler may have trouble crawling (and thus indexing) critical pieces of content on your website.
From a user perspective, broken links of any type are a problem because they detract from the user experience. If a user is trying to access a resource and they click on a link that doesn’t lead them anywhere, it will likely be enough to get them to abandon your website.
Broken links often show up in older pages and indicate that you need to update/refresh your content. You can use a broken link checker to find broken links in your content so that you can replace them.
Bounce rate refers to the percentage of searchers who leave your website after visiting a single page. This is an important distinction because “leaving your website” isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
For example, if you have a piece of content that aims only to educate readers and demonstrate your brand’s expertise (like a blog post) — and not to convert — then a high bounce rate might be okay.
However, for most businesses, especially for e-commerce businesses, a low bounce rate is usually the goal.
Lower bounce rates mean that visitors are finding the answer to their search queries, are clicking through to explore other pages, browsing products, services, etc.
If you have a high bounce rate, it’s important to evaluate your content to try and figure out why visitors aren’t clicking through or converting.
For example, on a product page, you might not have enough information about the product. You might need to change the copy to make it more compelling, add reviews, or maybe even add more images.
Pages per visit
Pages per visit is a metric measuring how many pages a user visits after inputting a search query and landing on your website. It’s usually shown as an average for a website — total pageviews divided by total visits.
Pages per visit is an important metric because it can tell you how well your pages are aligning with searchers’ queries.
For example, say you have done extensive keyword research and targeted keywords with a high search volume. You may be getting the high amount of traffic you expected, but if your pages per visit are low, that indicates your visitors aren’t doing more than consuming your content.
This can be a problem, since the goal of driving traffic is to eventually convert it from traffic to leads and sales. If your audience is rarely visiting more than one page, then it’s important to figure out why.
In general, it could mean your content isn’t relevant enough, organized well, or it could also mean that the reason people come to your site is usually to visit one page.
Take, for example, a news publisher. Many click through simply to read an article they see in email, on social media, etc. This is normal. On the other hand, low pages per visit could be a sign your content isn’t as user-friendly as you thought, or it’s not optimized to encourage multiple page visits.
On a blog post, you might need more calls-to-action, or you might need to add “related resources” links at the bottom of your post. Or, even more obvious, you might need more internal links in your content, or a more relevant and organized internal linking strategy.
Link-building is a category of tactics that SEO experts use to try to get other websites to link back to their websites. These are known as backlinks.
Backlinks are important because they are the second-highest ranking factor for Google search and other search engines behind high-quality content.
After creating quality content, you should be focusing on getting as many high-quality backlinks as possible. A high-quality backlink is a backlink from a reputable website and, ideally, a page on that website that is ranking well on SERPs.
Backlinks are indicators that other websites (and people) see your content as authoritative in some way. You can think of them like upvotes — they’re ways of other people saying, “yes, this is good content.”
If you’re not generating backlinks, it can indicate that there’s a problem with your content. It might mean that your content is not engaging enough for visitors to feel that it warrants a link.
It might also just mean that you need to spend more time generating backlinks as very few pieces of content will simply generate them on their own. To generate backlinks, you can engage in a number of strategies.
For example, you might want to reach out to bloggers on other websites and ask directly if they’d be willing to read your content and possibly link to it.
You can also ask if they’re open to guest blogging opportunities, in which they allow you to write a post for their blog and include links back to your website, and then in return, you allow them to do the same on your blog.
A conversion can refer to a number of actions. It could refer to converting a website visitor to a lead, or a lead to a sale, for example. No matter what that type the conversion is exactly, in every case, the user is converted from one stage of the marketing funnel to the next.
For example, on an e-commerce website, a conversion could simply be a sale. A user finds your product on Google, visits your website, and then makes a purchase. This is a conversion.
A conversion for other types of businesses might be joining an email list or contacting the business through a form, at which point the user becomes a lead, which marketing and sales teams will try to eventually turn into a customer.
Conversions matter because, ultimately, the goal of any business is to grow by serving customers. To grow, you have to sell. If you’re not converting, it could be for a number of reasons, and it’s definitely an indication that there’s something wrong with your content.
For example, your call to action might not be compelling enough, or your content might not be what searchers expect to see when they click on your result in a SERP.
If they bounce before they convert because your content doesn’t align with their search query, you lose an opportunity at a sale.
To improve issues with conversions, you might need to try some UX testing. Ideally, you’ll want to have a member of your target audience use your website, but that’s not always possible.
When it’s not possible, you can use a method called “Hallway Testing,” where you ask random people to test your website. You usually give them a specific task to perform and then have them explain their thoughts out loud as they try to perform the task.
This lets you see what kind of problems they’re running into as they try to complete the task. For example, you might ask them to purchase a pair of sandals and see if they can easily find sandals for sale on your website.
If they’re struggling to find the purchase button, for example, or if they find that the content doesn’t explain a product accurately, or leaves them confused, you’ll have a good idea of what you have to fix.
Another type of test is the “Do-It-Yourself Walkthrough” where you assign yourself a task and then walk through it as though you’re the user.
Ideally, you’ll want to use an Automated Usability Evaluation, like the USEFul Framework, but this will likely require you to hire a professional.
You can also try A/B testing, where you randomly serve a different version of a page to searchers. You make slight changes from one version to the next, and then when you see which changes perform best, you keep them. This usually requires a plugin on your website.
It uses machine learning algorithms to predict how often Google is using that domain in its search results.
Whether domain authority is an important metric or not is debatable, but it is a useful metric. Domain authority is not a Google ranking factor, but it is useful in that it can help you understand how likely you are to rank, especially compared to a competitor.
You can use Moz’s free Domain Analysis tool to find out what your domain authority is.
Low domain authority suggests you may not be showing up highly on SERPs for important keywords. You might have one or two pieces of content that rank really well, but your new content may struggle to rank, according to Moz.
To improve your domain authority, all you can do is take the same actions you would take to rank anyway — create high-quality content, engage in link building, among a number of other tactics.
The higher each piece of content on your website ranks, the better your collective domain authority, and the better chance your new content has at ranking higher.
Diagnosing problems on SERPs
Aside from problems with your content, there can also be problems with how your site is performing on SERPs. These problems can cause your rankings to drop if they’re not addressed. Though these problems happen on SERPs, and are out of your control, they are indirectly in your control in that you can do things on and off your site to improve them.
An impression refers to when your search listing is shown on a SERP. This doesn’t necessarily mean that someone has seen your result, just that the result was on the page.
And even if they see, that doesn’t mean they click it, so, while impressions are important because they indicate how often you’re potentially showing up in front of searchers, they’re not clicks. They don’t always translate into traffic.
Impressions matter because you’re not going to get clicks if you’re not showing up in results. However, an impression can happen even when you’re at the bottom of a SERP, where users visit less, so while they’re important, they’re not as important as a click.
To improve impressions, you need to create high-quality content that’s likely to rank, you need to get backlinks to that content, and you need to keep creating new content so that you’re ranking for many new keywords.
Click-through rate is the percentage of impressions that result in clicks on your result. While it’s not clear whether or not click-through rate is a ranking factor, many SEOs believe that increasing click-through rate is indicative of whether or not you’re succeeding in other SEO-related areas.
For example, a compelling title tag and meta description can contribute to a higher click-through rate. This translates to more traffic, and more chances to convert that traffic.
From a business standpoint, click-through rate is key to achieving business goals — no traffic means no conversions. To increase your click-through rates, focus on your title tag and your meta description.
Your title is what matters most as it’s the first piece of content searchers will read. Make sure it conveys the key benefit of clicking through to your page. Consider using a headline analyzer to see if your headline is effective.
The meta description is meant to elaborate on the headline. With a higher character limit, you can explain more about what visitors will find on the page. Case studies? Examples? Company research? This will add to the value conveyed in the title.
Keyword rankings are how high each of your keywords is ranked on a SERP. This is important because, on the first page, the first 5 organic results account for 67.60% of all clicks.
To improve your keyword rankings, you need to make sure that your content isn’t just high-quality, but that it’s properly optimized for your main target keyword.
That keyword needs to show up, at a minimum, in the following places in your content:
- In your headline, preferably at the beginning
- In the first paragraph of your content
- In several of your subheadings
- In the last paragraph of your content
- Sprinkled throughout your content naturally
If your content isn’t ranking, you’ll want to check and make sure your content is properly optimized for the main keyword. You’ll also want to make sure the content is high-quality — that is, it answers the search query fully and completely, and there are backlinks to that content from valuable sources.
Organic traffic is unpaid traffic from SERPs, as opposed to traffic from pay-per-click (PPC) ads.
Organic traffic is the crux of all SEO strategies. Traffic means more opportunities for leads and sales, which are the ultimate drivers of organic growth.
If your organic traffic is low, it could mean a lot of things. It could mean there’s something wrong with the content itself (maybe it lacks thoroughness or does not account for search intent), that you are in a competitive industry and it’s difficult to compete on SERPs, or that you simply haven’t been around long enough to generate backlinks and authority in Google.
Ultimately, good content will eventually rank well if you generate backlinks to it. And for content to be considered “good,” it has to “close the loop.” The loop is the back-and-forth between a SERP and results on the SERP until a searcher finds what they’re looking for (and doesn’t return to the SERP). When they find content that fulfills their search intent, the loop is closed.
To determine what could be wrong with your content, do a content audit to see what pieces of your content need to be changed, and then put together a link-building strategy to get as many backlinks to your content as possible.
Local visibility is how well you show up on SERPs for local searchers, especially in coveted spots like the 3-pack.
The 3-pack is the collection of the top-three local results for a local search. Local searches often include the phrase, “near me,” but they might also include a location, like Baltimore or Dallas. They could also include a street address.
The Local 3-Pack appears in the #1 spot 93% of the time when a local search is performed, and 44% of people clicked in the Local Pack.
Local visibility is crucial to generating leads and sales. 72% of consumers that did a local search visited a store within five miles. What’s more, local searches result in purchases 28% of the time. When you optimize for local search, you give yourself a better chance of getting those customers in the doors and purchasing your product.
The most important factors for local SEO are setting up Google My Business, creating high-quality content, soliciting good reviews, and getting backlinks. If you’re not showing up on search when searchers look for businesses like yours locally, then you’ll want to work on these 4 issues.
Search engine visibility
Search engine visibility measures how much of your content is showing up on SERPs for all your target keywords. It’s measured as a percentage of the search volume that your content is getting.
To calculate search engine visibility, follow these steps:
- Find your rankings for the search terms you’re targeting
- Find your estimated click-through rate (CTR)
- Divide your CTR by all the keywords you’re ranking for
Search engine visibility is important for the same reason local visibility is important — the more your brand is seen online, the higher your brand awareness, and the more impressions and clicks you’re going to generate.
Ideally, your search engine visibility should be between 9% and 35%. When you get below 3%, you’re not ranking on page one at all.
There are a number of tactics you can use to improve your search engine visibility, including:
- Improving content that ranks on page 2 of a SERP to get it to page 1
- Earn Google sitelinks by putting a table of contents on every page
- Target more long-tail keywords that are easier to rank for
- Get more backlinks for lower-ranking pages
Diagnosing problems with site infrastructure
Beyond the SERPs and your content, there can be problems with the infrastructure of your website, which may range from pages not being indexed to page load speed and mobile-friendliness.
Fixing these problems is not always easy, but it’s just as important as fixing problems with your content or how your content is appearing on the SERPs.
Number of pages indexed
The number of pages indexed is simply how many pages from your website are in Google’s index, which is their database of all the pages that they may potentially serve to searchers.
Knowing how many of your pages are indexed is critical to SEO because, if a page isn’t indexed, then it won’t show up in Google results, which means you’re not going to get any organic traffic no matter how well you’ve created your content.
In most cases, all the pages of your website are going to be indexed by Google as long as you have submitted your sitemap.
However, for very large websites (10,000+ pages) or websites that add a large number of pages all at once, making sure those pages are discovered and indexed by Google is critical to getting website traffic to them fast.
If your pages aren’t being indexed, it’s possible you’ve blocked your website from being indexed accidentally, like using robots.txt to disallow your whole website. You might also have clicked the “Search Engine Visibility” setting in WordPress.
These are generally easy fixes, though you’ll likely want to resubmit your website to Google after you change the settings.
Another reason you might have problems with pages being indexed is that you’re not using enough internal links. Internal links tell Google and other search engines how your pages are related, but they also help Google to crawl your website.
Adding internal links, especially from old content to new content, can help Google to find new content on your website.
Page speed is the speed at which your website pages load when a searcher clicks on your result on a SERP.
Page speed is a central ranking factor. In fact, Google recommends that you get your pages to load in under 2 seconds and even wants you to get your pages to load in under half a second if possible.
You can use tools like Page Speed Insights to see how well your website is doing from a speed perspective. It also gives you numerous suggestions about how you can improve your website’s load speed.
A major factor that affects page load speed is your host. Having a good host that provides fast load speeds is the most important thing you can do to drive up this important metric.
However, there are other things you can do to improve page load speed quickly, like:
- Using a caching plugin
- Using Gzip
- Removing redirects where possible
- Optimizing images
- Using a CDN (content delivery network)
As far as technical SEO is concerned, page load speed is probably the most important metric to focus on, especially from an e-commerce perspective given that 70% of customers say site speed impacts their purchasing decisions. 1 in 4 searchers will leave a page that doesn’t load in 4 seconds.
Duplicate content is the exact same content on a website or identical content on two different websites. This often comes in the form of landing pages or product pages. For example, you might have a dozen product pages for the exact same product in a variety of colors.
You might have the same content for each product color. The problem is that Google will see these pages as identical.
When it does, it won’t know which page to rank and which page to include or exclude from its index. Fortunately, there are some simple fixes for duplicate content.
One way to fix it is to simply rewrite the content on each page so that it’s unique. If you only have a dozen pages with duplicate content, this might be doable. However, it may be the case that you have thousands of pages with duplicate content.
In these cases, you’ll want to use canonical tags. Canonical tags tell Google which piece of content to treat as the “primary” piece of content that should be ranked and which pieces to ignore.
The problem with this is that you might want all those pieces of content to rank, so in most cases, where possible, you’ll want to make all your content as unique as you can.
Bounce rate by device
Bounce rate by device is a measurement of bounce rate that has been segmented by each type of device that’s accessing your content. Devices usually include smartphones, desktop computers, and tablets.
Bounce rate by device is an important metric to track because it’s possible that you have significantly different bounce rates between mobile and desktop. Given that over 50% of website traffic comes from mobile devices, you can’t ignore them.
There are a number of reasons this might be the case. First, your content might not load as quickly on a mobile device as on a desktop computer. This might be caused by images that haven’t been optimized for mobile, or a website that isn’t mobile-friendly.
Another reason could be the smaller nature of mobile devices. For example, if you have a big block of text right in the beginning of the article that isn’t easily scannable, users might not read it on mobile — they might just bounce away and go to another result.
You get a crawl error when a crawler tries and fails to crawl your website. Crawl errors are a serious problem because, if your pages aren’t being crawled, they may not be indexed.
The last thing you want is to have your content not show up on Google, so crawl errors need to be diagnosed and fixed quickly. You can use tools like Screaming Frog to crawl your website and look for crawl errors.
There are a number of different types of crawl errors, but they fall into two main categories — site errors and URL errors.
A site error occurs when something is wrong with your website. For example, Google might run into a DNS error where, essentially, Google can’t communicate with your website. This can be caused by your server going down.
With most site errors, the problem is on the server-side and can be fixed, but it’s possible there are problems with the code of your website that’s causing the crawl error. In that case, you’ll want a tech specialist involved.
URL errors occur when, for example, you remove a page from your website and don’t set up a redirect. Google expects to find a certain piece of content on that page, and when it doesn’t, you get a crawl error.
If you get enough crawl errors, Google is going to struggle to figure out which pages on your website to index and which pages to deindex, which can affect your organic traffic, and ultimately, your website’s ability to generate leads and sales.
Google mobile-friendly test performance
You’ll know when a website isn’t mobile-friendly because it looks exactly like the desktop version of the website, only very small, requiring you to zoom and scroll to find the content you’re looking for.
In contrast, a mobile-friendly website has content that fits the width of the page, has easily readable text, and doesn’t require you to zoom or scroll to the left or right to find the content you want — you generally will only scroll up and down.
The Google Mobile-Friendly Test helps you determine if your website is indeed mobile-friendly. Most modern websites are designed from the ground up to be mobile-friendly, but it doesn’t hurt to check.
If you’re using a modern WordPress theme or a website builder like Wix or Weebly, your website is already mobile-friendly.
Because Google indexes the mobile version of your website first (before it even looks at the desktop version of your website), it’s critical that your website be mobile-friendly.
Pro tools for measuring SEO data
There are a number of SEO tools that you can use to measure your SEO data, including free tools and paid tools that are all used by pro SEOs:
- Google Search Console (Formerly Google Webmaster Tools)
- Google Analytics
- Bing Webmaster Tools
- BrightLocal (great for local SEO)
- SEO PowerSuite
Get a complimentary SEO audit
From mobile-friendliness and backlink building to keyword rankings, bounce rate, and more, there are numerous pieces of SEO data that you need to track to understand how your website is performing.
These pieces of data cannot be ignored — even one can cause you to lose traffic to your website, lose leads, and lose sales.
When you combine knowledge of these data points with the powerful tools listed, you can optimize each data point and give your website a better chance of ranking highly.
Want to see how you’re doing with SEO? Get an instant SEO audit below. Or, schedule a free consultation to see how intent SEO can boost search traffic revenue by 700%.