Unlocking SEO Success: Decoding the Data That Proves It’s Working

Computer with SEO headline on screen and magnifying glass over the top as an example of taking an in-depth look at SEO.

We’re going to put this bluntly for the modern business owner.

You can hire SEO experts to manage the finer details of ranking on Google but you’ll still need a basic understanding of SEO (search engine optimization) data and how it’s contributing to your web presence.

This is simply a reality of running a business, no matter what industry you’re in. There are a million different SEO metrics out there and it’s tough to understand which ones are most important, especially if you know little to nothing about online marketing.

That’s why we decided to write this blog.

We wanted to provide a user-friendly guide on the major SEO data points that business owners need to be familiar with. It’s not as difficult as it might look, we promise.

This post will dive into the basic metrics, the slightly more intricate ones, the major tools to use, and some key pitfalls to avoid. Let’s get into it.

The Basics: What SEO Metrics Mean

Keeping an overview of your SEO data shouldn’t feel like rocket science. 

Now, there are a lot of basic metrics that wouldn’t hurt to get familiar with, but we did our best to narrow it down to just five.

If you’re going to monitor any SEO metrics, let it be these:

Organic Traffic

This is the primary indicator of SEO success. If you only want to keep track of one metric, it should be this one.

Organic traffic counts the people who find your website on the search engine results by typing in keywords and clicking a result that takes them to your website, or they found a link to your website on a popular blog, etc. It does not count people who find your website via paid advertising campaigns (like Google Ads). Maybe they searched “executive life coach in New York” or “retreat for women”, saw your name pop up, and clicked on the link in Google.

Think of organic traffic to your website as the people who walk into a physical store. More people in the store ultimately (ideally) means more sales.

All your SEO efforts point to increasing organic traffic on your website.  When you use Google Analytics (more on this later), your monthly organic traffic numbers will be the first thing you see when you log in (or for our clients: when they view the custom Looker Studio report that we create for them as a gift for launching a new website!)

Keyword Rankings

An SEO strategy is all about getting your website to show up on Google searches for relevant terms and phrases based on keyword research, link building, and more. 

If you provide online courses to teach people how to cook French cuisine, you’d want your website content to gain visibility when people search for relevant keywords like “cook French cuisine”, “learn to cook French food”, etc.

When you log into Google Search Console (more on this later), you’ll be able to see which keywords your website is ranking for and pulling in visitors.

Why is it so important to monitor keyword rankings?

Staying on top of this metric shows if your SEO efforts are on the right track. By keeping a close eye on these rankings, you’ll be able to know at a glance if you’re targeting the right keywords and getting good visibility. When you hire SEO experts, they will likely provide a monthly report with this information.

Bounce Rate

This is another big one that shows how well (or poorly) your SEO performance is progressing.

Bounce rate is a metric used to show the percentage of visitors who enter your website, and then leave (“bounce”) rather than checking out the rest of the pages. It’s like if you walked into a store, immediately realized you were in the wrong store, then turned around and walked out.

A high bounce rate can indicate a few different things. Some of the biggest conclusions are typically:

  • You’re pulling in web traffic for the wrong keywords
  • The webpage is not relevant to users
  • The webpage is not user-friendly
  • The webpage fails to spark further action

On the flip side, a low bounce rate suggests you’re pulling in the right website visitors, creating an awesome website experience, and getting positive results.

Check out our in-depth article on bounce rates (and exit rates) here.

Average Session Duration

Average session duration is the less famous cousin of bounce rate in terms of SEO metrics. It refers to the average amount of time a user spends on your website during a single visit. A longer average session time generally means you’ve got the right visitors looking at the right content, whereas a shorter average session time may indicate the opposite.

This SEO metric tends to ebb and flow. Additionally, a low session time isn’t always a bad thing. The issue occurs if session times are low AND conversions are low.

Page Load Time

This is technically a user experience metric, but it has a direct impact on your SEO performance.

No one likes a slow-loading webpage. The frustration of waiting for a webpage to load is like sitting in gridlock traffic on the freeway–or waiting for your delayed flight to take off.

Apparently, Google feels the same way and the search ranking algorithm takes page load times into consideration. In other words, if your website’s page load times are long, Google will see the site as low quality and may not place it on relevant searches.

You’ll need to keep close tabs on this one. If page speeds are slow, you may need a web developer to do some housecleaning.

Common SEO Tools to Gather and Analyze Data

Google Analytics

Google Analytics (GA) is an essential tool for business owners – there’s no way around it.

This tool provides crucial insights into how visitors interact with your website. It will show you data to measure organic traffic, average session time, bounce rate, traffic source, and much more. Linking Google Analytics to your website is relatively easy; it can be done in a few minutes with a little research. (We always check that it’s set up correctly when we launch a new website for our clients.)

Here’s the thing about Google Analytics: it’s an overview tool for SEO data. When you hire SEO experts, they will use a plethora of SEO tools that dive much deeper than Google Analytics, conduct an SEO audit, and make regular adjustments. The value of you checking it is to keep a bird’s eye view of how your website is performing.

We recommend taking a few minutes to look at Google Analytics on a weekly or monthly basis.

Google Search Console

Think of Google Search Console (GSC) as the sister of Google Analytics. It provides insights into how your website performs in Google’s search results. It will show you which pages have been indexed by Google, which keywords your site is ranking for, links pointing to their website, and much more.

Like Google Analytics, Search Console is an overview tool that provides information to identify technical SEO errors, optimize a website, address potential issues, and understand the organic search traffic. In essence, it shows what your website’s health looks like in Google’s search ecosystem.

We recommend checking the Search Console dashboard at least once a week.

Interpreting the Data: Beyond the Numbers

When you measure SEO performance, it’s important to look at the data with a grain of salt.

Understanding Fluctuations

SEO can be a fickle beast. A lot of business owners panic when web traffic has a down week. You need to account for factors like seasonal trends, shifts in the industry, and of course, Google’s mysterious algorithm updates.

When you hire an SEO expert, they should explain this to you early on in the process.

User Behavior Patterns

There are two important terms to keep in mind with user behavior on your website: raw traffic and engaged users.

Raw traffic is the total number of visitors your site gets. Engaged users are the visitors who interact with the content, spend time on pages, and take desired actions – like signing up for a newsletter or making a purchase.

So what SEO indications should you look for?

Basically, if you have lots of raw traffic, but little engaged users, it’s a sign your SEO tactics are missing something – or you’re targeting the wrong people. Raw traffic numbers may look more impressive, but they don’t mean much if no one is engaging with the website.

The Long-Game View

SEO is a marathon, not a sprint. This is the biggest reality you need to know about SEO. You’re going to experience short-term spikes and drops in your data, but it’s crucial to look at trends over time to truly understand the effectiveness of your tactics.

How long does SEO take? 

Generally speaking, it can take anywhere from six months to a year to start seeing strong results. Be patient. As long as you hire the right SEO experts, the numbers will come.

When to Hire SEO Experts

You might be asking yourself, why should I hire SEO experts if I now know the most important components?

The reality is that getting profitable traction on search engines takes a team – and A LOT of hours. You hire SEO experts to perform technical adjustments, coding, auditing, content creation, and more. Your role is to have a basic understanding from a bird’s eye view – while the experts manage the heavy lifting.

Keep in mind: a partnership with an SEO expert is a long-term deal. You should never trust a service provider blindly. By following the insights in this guide, you’ll have a basic knowledge of what’s going on – and more importantly, how the SEO experts you hire are making a positive impact.

Are you a life coach, online educator, or small business owner in need of SEO services? We’re here for you. Tall Poppies Design has been helping business owners boost visibility on Google for nearly a decade with technical SEO, on-page optimization, content marketing strategy, link building, and everything in between. We’re happy to discuss your goals in a strategy call. Don’t hesitate to reach out.

xoKaty

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