Recognizing Disparity in SEO
Wishful thinking can be a dangerous thing. Just as “hope” is not a good SEO strategy, neither is wishing that your marketing was more effective than the data shows it to be. It’s a natural tendency to keep doing the same thing but hoping for different results. Concluding that you need to make a change means admitting that you might have made a mistake in choosing your current path. No one likes to admit to mistakes, so the tendency is to ignore what stares us in the face if we find it to be an “inconvenient truth”.
The best protection you can offer yourself to avoid wasting your money is an education on interpreting metrics data on your website’s performance. Google Analytics is a free service offered by Google, and it is very thorough in revealing trends, strengths, weaknesses… and problems with your website… and with your website marketing efforts.
Whether you’re paying someone to do your optimization and marketing or you’re doing it yourself, take the time to learn how to measure your return on investment. You can view our other blog posts on the topic, or you can find helpful resources on YouTube to help you get a good foothold.
Why is it so important to understand the data behind your marketing efforts? Because it will help you pinpoint where you need to make changes to get better results so you stop throwing good money after bad. You might have a healthy amount of traffic to your website but your sales figures may be lagging. So naturally you wonder where the problem is. If you have hired someone to do your optimization and marketing for you, they may be reluctant to turn your attention to problems with the website’s performance. After all, if the traffic is good, doesn’t that mean that they’re doing their job properly, driving traffic to the site?
As you get to know what the numbers mean, the picture will become clearer to you. You can look at each metric individually and the data won’t mean much. It’s when you start considering one metric in context with other metrics that you’ll have some interesting revelations.
For example, let’s look at a few basics: hits, bounce rate, and time-on-page. First we’ll define them so we’re speaking the same language.
- “Hits” means the number of times an interaction took place with a page;
- “Bounce Rate” is a measurement of how many visitors entered your website on a particular page and left your website from that page without interacting with the page; and
- “Time-on-page” is exactly what it sounds like. It’s the amount of time a visitor displayed a particular page in their browser before clicking off of the page to go elsewhere.
Now consider three sets of circumstances:
Let’s say you find that a particular page gets 1700 hits per month. You might be interested to learn the bounce rate for that page is 88% and the time-on-page is 7 seconds. What kind of initial picture does that present to you?
Taking that same page, if the hits were still 1700 per month and the bounce rate remained 88%, but the time-on-page was 2 minutes and 10 seconds, how does that change the picture?
Now, keeping with 1700 hits per month, if the bounce rate was 28% and the time-on-page was 15 seconds, what kind of picture does that paint?
If you do not understand how the metrics relate to each other, they just look like interesting (or not-so-interesting) statistical figures. But to someone who can translate those numbers to behavioral trends of your website’s visitors, the numbers tell three very different tales.
In the first instance, we have a lot of people going to your website, then most of them leave your site altogether after only a short time. This tells us that people either don’t like what they see, can’t figure out how to use it, or it’s just not what they were looking for in their search. From their behavior, we can dig a little deeper and investigate. One of two things is likely going on here: there’s either a problem with the page or a problem with the marketing— and the wrong audience is coming to your site from whatever sources are delivering traffic to that page.
In the second instance, a lot of people are visiting your web page and most of them leave your site altogether from that page as well. But in this case, they spend a pretty long time on the page before leaving. This tells us that people are finding something interesting on the page (due to the time on the page) and it indicates that they might have found what they were looking for during their visit, so they did not explore your website further. They were happy and they left. (By the way, a good marketer will ensure that there is some kind of call-to-action on the page to drive conversions from “browsing” to “buying”… but we’ll save that topic for another article).
In the third instance, we still have a lot of visits to the page, and although they only spent a relatively short time on the page, most of them did not leave your site from that page. Rather, they clicked something and visited elsewhere on your site.
As you can see, these seemingly similar scenarios translate to very different behaviors when we interpret the numbers. We can then try to discern the behaviors even further by examining other metrics in Google Analytics.
The more you understand the numbers, the better you’ll understand your customers’ behavior on your website and the more conclusions you can draw as to whether problems relate to the site itself, or perhaps the traffic sources, keywords, and other elements related to your marketing.
The key is to collect the data, understand its significance, and let the data paint the picture for you. Then you can apply what you know to make better management decisions for your Web presence. Stop spending time and money on things that don’t work. Fix things that you can be made better, and focus your future marketing dollars in areas that provide a positive return on investment.