Ok, we admit, the title may be a little misleading since a lot of this post is not really “new” for those of us who test Google for a living.
However, it is “new” for the people who invest in SEO (search engine optimization), because now these concepts are not optional.
For years, most website owners have understood SEO to involve optimized content and relevant backlinks to drive keyword rankings in the SERPs (search engine results pages). While these practices, of course, are still valuable, there are metrics that Google uses to determine whether you get to keep the rankings you’ve attained.
The first thing to understand is that if you use Google Analytics then Google has the keys to your kingdom. They use analytics to understand your audience for its own data-mining purposes, as well as understanding how users engage with your website. Poor metrics within your analytics can spell doom for those keyword rankings you’ve worked to attain.
Of course, this is a natural progression that was inevitable. While Google has preached for years that engaging content is the way to better search engine results, the ubiquitous nature of their analytics platform has made this possible to measure accurately. A website that garners lots of backlinks, but has an atrocious bounce-rate, very low pages-per-session, and low time-on-site, is likely not getting those backlinks naturally, and this clearly signals Google that the site is probably not high-value.
However, at the same time, Google views this in context and if your competitors sport the same metrics it may not be as apparent that your site is low-value. But rest assured, if your competitors have better engagement metrics than yours, you will see your own rankings begin to reflect this.
So now, more than ever, the help of professionals who are experienced in website engagement is mission critical. This process involves a review of multiple areas on your site:
- Content – Not just a review of keyword-relevance, but also whether your content is helpful and well-linked to other helpful resources.
- Social – Do you have a social audience and does it share your content? If not, how can we change that?
- Clear Navigation – Can a user easily find critical content? Do you use jargon and branding in your navigation, or do you use clear, keyword-oriented navigation? It can be too easy to make navigation too complicated.
- Internal Linking – Do you help users navigate further into your best content without making them find it through the website navigation?
- Goals – Do you set goals in analytics? If so, are they converting?
- Forms – Are your forms overly complicated?
- Events – Are you creating and tracking events to make sure you know how most users interact with your page elements?
- Return Visits – Do users come back to your site over and over? Is your site used the same way or more often than your competitors?
These are just a few examples of what should go into an assessment of your long-term SEO program. The experience of a professional in these areas will help save you time, money and effort that could otherwise be wasted trying to take SEO shortcuts or thinking the “old” way. Get serious about having an awesome website experience and reap the rewards.
In the next part of this series we will begin looking at these metrics individually, so keep checking back!