Measuring SEO Success With Web Statistics

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So you’ve just invested large amounts of time and money into a search engine optimization (SEO) campaign and you are noticing that your site is getting more traffic. Sounds like your SEO campaign was a success, or was it? How can you be sure that your SEO campaign is responsible for your recent surge in traffic? You need to look at some key numbers to see whether or not your SEO campaign is as successful as you think it is.

In this article I’ll provide you with an overview of web analytics, the basic metrics, and the metrics you should be tracking for your SEO campaigns.

Hits

A hit is any request for a file from a web server. This means every single request made to your web server is considered a hit, including images, css files, javascript files, etc. When a visitor accesses a page, there could be any number of hits to your server. Basically, hits aren’t too useful at measuring anything significant other than page load times. Hits are not a reliable measure of traffic – that’s why when most people refer to traffic, they mean page views.

Page Views

A single page view is considered a successful loading of a full file from a web server. Page views are a good metric for measuring site popularity. Your site may not have many visits but if each visit generates 20 page views, visitors are obviously finding your content interesting. Page views also correlate with how many advertisements are displayed.

Page views can also tell you how effectively your content is converting. Ideally, if you have a highly converting site, you would like to see a small number of page views per visit. However, if you are noticing that visitors are viewing more pages than expected, you might need to investigate why. Perhaps your content does not contain enough information or visitors are having a hard time navigating to the correct page.

Visit

A visit is an approximation of a single user visiting your entire website. Typically a visit tracks the actions of a single user-agent/IP address. This allows you to track how many times your site has been visited.

Unique Visitors

A unique visitor is a visitor who has come to your website within a pre-defined time frame. Unique visitors can be tracked by a cookie or through their IP address. Cookies are a much more accurate method of tracking unique visitors, since many users are given a different IP address each time they connect to the Internet.

Now that you have a better understanding of the basic metrics, let’s look at the metrics that tell you where your visitors are coming from.

Referrer

A referrer corresponds to the URL that a visitor came from to arrive at your page. The referrer can be broken down into two parts – a referrer domain and a referrer page. This is especially important in gauging the success of your SEO campaigns.

A typical referrer URL from Google looks something like this:

http://www.google.com/search?q=keyword&start=10

The first part of the URL (http://www.google.com/) is the referrer domain. This metric shows you how much overall traffic you receive from the site.

The second part of the URL (“search?q=keyword&start=10″) is the referrer page. This metric shows you what keyword is driving the traffic and from what page on your site it is located.

What should you be tracking?

Since you are trying to measure the success of your SEO campaign, you need to pay attention to how your natural search engine traffic is improving. This means you need to look at the referrer domain data from Google.com, Yahoo.com, and any other search engine domains you are targeting. Any other metrics, like overall page views and visits, are meaningless unless they are tied into the referrer domain.

Keeping track of the keywords that are driving traffic to your site can give you a heads up on what keywords you should be targeting. Sometimes a visitor will arrive at your site through a search term that you did not intentionally target. By paying attention to your web analytics, you can capitalize on SEO opportunities you may have missed.

Measuring the number of page views corresponding to each keyword will allow you to make better judgments regarding your SEO campaigns. If a particular keyword is generating more traffic, you may want to build upon that keyword and focus on creating more related content. Conversely, if you notice a keyword that is not performing well, you can decide whether to improve your efforts or abandon the keyword altogether.

Using different URLs for your landing pages affects the referrer page for your campaigns and will allow you to measure visitor response to these pages more effectively.

Although I’ve only briefly discussed some of the basic metrics you can use to measure SEO success, many of these specific metrics can be used to optimize both your SEO and pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns. Investigation of the results of these metrics can help you not only target your campaigns more accurately, but also result in higher conversion rates.

About the Author

Michael Nguyen is a Search Marketing Expert for Search Engine Optimization Inc., a search engine marketing firm located in Carlsbad. To learn more about Michael, visit his personal site at http://www.socialpatterns.com.

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