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What is SEO (Search Engine Optimization)?
SEO is improving the volume and quality of traffic to a web site or page from the search engines using natural organic and algorithmic search results (SERPs).

SEO is actually a component of SEM (Search Engine Marketing). Which encompasses many avenues with which to promote a web site or page.
If you have come here looking for SEO help, you have found a blog that can help you. There is much information here to be held and please feel free to comment anytime...Even with a question.

July 8, 2007

What Truly Defines SEO Success? Get a Reality Check!

There are so many terms, devices, tools, and opinions out there that a webmaster can be lost in a sea of peer pressure. Lets take today to have a candid look at what really counts, the results! So if your site is and E Commerce site is it selling well, are users clicking though? How much time do users spend on your site? Lets have a look at the factors about your site that determine its individual success without any hype or peer markup.

Maybe we should create a "real world" report card to use to gauge a sites success and SEO aptitude. For example, PageRank really gets me going, no where can anyone claim it has ever helped to actually sell a product to a user! Lets take for example the SEOmoz Search Engine Ranking Factors V2 Documentation, this document compiled by 37 top SEO experts has become my SEO Bible. Here is what the "experts" say about how PageRank will help my SEO.

EGOL Lots of people will say "no" but it is still a good measure of connectivity and says something about the site
Aaron Wall The toolbar is perpetually outdated, but Google uses PageRank values to help set crawling priorities and to determine if a document should go in the regular or supplemental index.
Mike McDonald Good as a general barometer. Don't get too wound up over it though.
Ben Pfeiffer I think we have said all we need to say on PageRank. Its not much a factor anymore and data presented in a toolbar is months old. Webmaster have become to reliant on this indicator to make their decisions.

No doubt we would all love to have nice PageRank, but at what cost? Sometimes optimizing for PageRank can send you in a different direction than the sites actual mission. You can get so hung up on "scores" that you lose site of the truly tangible score "SUCCESS" and attaining your goals.

I will even offer up a case study for you. I have a nice site, it has no PageRank yet because I changed the layout 3x after launch Feb. 25Th, 2007. However, I offer you this, is doing over 20,000 unique visitors a month, and is number 1 across the board for its top keywords.

MSN Search 1
Google 1
AltaVista 1
Yahoo! 1

It is mostly page one for the rest and coming up everyday. Traffic breaks down like this. Referrals 68.75%, search engines 16.27%, and direct 14.97%. Coverage map is no localized, but rather I have users everywhere but the Africa. Bounce rate is under 60% and has been on the decrease for the last 2 weeks with a small menu change. Users averagely spend 5:57 minutes on the site and view 6.99 pages. So my question again, what is the reality of measuring true success of your website? I think some of the things I mention here are great factors, along with conversions, and yes traffic trends too.

So often talking about traffic seems to be some kind of Voodoo, but it is the blood flow and life source of your web site. Don't let people discourage you from tracking and analyzing your traffic. You should be seriously scrutinizing your traffic trends and related stats at every turn and modification, and hopefully keeping some kind of record. I will say that understanding what your stats mean is a valid skill at this point also. A few weeks ago I formulated a guide to server side stats you might like to read up on.

Not many web sites can meet every SEO element,most time it is just not feasible. For example, if your site is over the load time, but the content is crucial to your theme and will drive traffic....then keep it. Concentrate on the things you CAN control without damaging the marketing ability of your theme and sites ability to "wow" your users. Take for example, BabysBack's competition for keyword backgrounds. A great deal of the sites above me are loading well over the 30 second mark, one is over me and loading over 60 seconds. Several of them have over 500 html errors, hardly any validate. I am not suggesting you ignore these elements at all, I am only suggesting that you pompous scores.

So lets create that scorecard for measuring "real" success.
  • Organic backlinks continue to grow. Check them with this Link Analysis Report.
  • Traffic is increasing. Hits, uniques, and return all have their merit. Check out installing Google Analytics they are free.
  • Depth of users click through. Google Analytics is great for this also. You want to shoot upwards of 30% of your visitors hitting your popular landing pages.
  • Number of pages per visit. Google Analytics is great for this also. More is clearly better, look to grow this number with internal linking, which also gets you crawled more effectively!
  • Time spent on your site. This number can be skewed as people leave pages open and walk away, but still a good measurement...especially if you have alot of text to read. While they may not accomplish a great deal of page depth, they might be reading which would show here in time spent. Google Analytics is great for this also.
  • Bounce rate, this is the number of people who loaded you page and quickly left. Shoot to keep this under 50%. Keep in mind that the search engines can have some serious effect on this when they change algorithms you can inherently get ranked to some pretty unrelated keyword terms and thus see some very high bounce. Google Analytics is great for measurement tool for this also.
  • Conversion rate is how many ad clicks, sales, leads, people, sign ups, etc you gathered divided by the total number of visitors to your web site. So this is a big one, you can see conversion rate measures RESULTS, now we're cooking with FIRE! Google Analytic has the broad ability to track these customized results also, in the form of setting goals.
  • If you are using a "user interactive" feature of some sort. Such as a forum, blog comments, member sign up, newsletter sign up, etc then keeping measuring growth in that area is a VERY realistic measurement of the success of your website. Try a "refer a friend" form....success there in my opinion a tribute to your sites ability to reach its users, only a VERY impressed user will send your site to a friend.
  • SERPs (Search Engine Results Position) aside from links, these are the most important stat / report there is. Check these often and with all sorts of keyword combinations. There are 2 things here for success...#1 generate your keywords from your page, not the other way around.. try this density tool. #2 Check your SERPs and update your keyword tag about every 4 or 5 weeks...and yes, I personally suggest you still use one. You can tweak your text to reflect the desired changes in your SERPs. The tag is just plain handy, it isn't hurting anything and there are many smaller engines still utilizing them.

So...... reality check today in the Cog. I hope you have found this helpful, feel free to comment.

Peace and SEO