Since the emergence of search engines in the 90’s there have been individuals trying to manipulate the algorithms in an effort to get their site to the top of the results pages which has sparked an arms race between the search engines and SEO specialists. Have businesses who try to improve their positions been duped into looking in the wrong direction when judging how successful their efforts have been?
Most businesses who consider SEO will start off by asking the question ‘How do I get to number one?’ It’s easy to understand why. It is certainly important to understand how vital rankings can be. While there have been many studies into average SEO Click Through Rates (CTR) in comparison to rankings, all offer varying results and there is no definitive answer. However, is this all you should expect from your SEO activities? Whilst it is undoubtedly important to maintain a focus on rankings, should we not also look beyond the rankings and deeper into your visitors’ activity and interaction with your site? With algorithms constantly evolving to take into consideration new web trends and search behaviour in order to offer more bespoke and relevant results, are businesses in danger of judging success on a matrix which is becoming less important and far from accurate?
Simply owning a site and expecting a new revenue stream overnight is not enough and is a recipe for disaster. As search engines and the web evolve it’s becoming increasingly important to adopt a proactive approach to SEO. Measuring success is not as black and white as it may have once been. There are many ways you could judge the success of your SEO activities but deciding which are important is the hardest part.
My 5 main reasons you should consider drilling deeper than just monitoring your positions in the search engines are:
Personalised Search - This is an old algorithm which tries to return results that are more personalised to the user. The effect of this is not dramatic but it does mean you could be seeing slightly different results than others.
Geographical Targeting - This is very similar to personalisation and is another example of how each customer may be view slightly different results.
Google Instant - Currently an unknown element but it’s likely to encourage users to refine their search on the fly and onto long tail. This will make the performance of head terms look worse. As monitoring the long tail terms requires further investigation than just rank position, they could hide the shift from head to long tail to anyone who does not drill further into their site reports.
High rankings don’t always equal good quality traffic - There is a danger to only target the high volume terms. Unfortunately these terms typically drive irrelevant or low quality traffic.
High rankings don’t always equal high traffic volume - Many businesses suffer from being too close to their products and target industry terms that their customers would never consider.
So, what KPIs should you be tracking in 2011? Keep an eye out for next week’s post on potential metrics that could offer a more accurate measure of success for your business.