There have been so many changes to search engine algorithms over the years that many businesses aren’t able to keep up. For some, what was once a proven keyword strategy becomes a recipe for disaster after stricter SEO codes are put into place. For instance, websites could once get links using techniques such as directory submissions and comments, among other, spammy (read: sneaky and not well-intentioned) techniques that are now frowned upon by Google. Some of these “black-hat” techniques can now even get you penalized.
If there is some confusion about which search metrics are actually important and which can safely be ignored, it’s not just you. The landscape is constantly changing, and those running the show have control -- we’re looking at you, Google.
Having said that, it’s clear entrepreneurs who understand the role of SEO and how to use it stand to benefit from higher customer loyalty and increased brand recognition. Here’s what you should and shouldn’t be spending your time on.
1. Take click-through rates (CTR) with a grain of salt
Click-through rates refer to the frequency at which users actually click on a given link compared to how often it is viewed.
The goal is to get people to click because they’re having a positive experience on the site. While actual clicks are harder to generate than views, the figures are measurable. Experts agree that views or impressions are virtually impossible to track and monitor; however, there is mounting evidence that the metric is being used as a ranking factor in natural search engine results pages (SERPs). This effectively pushes popular content toward the top of Google.
What this means for you: While click-through rates might mean more to conversion for a solo business owner (encouraging your visitors to take action), they aren’t as important as views when it comes to search ranking. This means you should be trying to get your content in front of as many eyes as possible and should optimize your content to be easily read by visitors. Keep a clean design and be sure your site is mobile friendly.
2. Broad match terms aren’t worth your time
Over the years, keywords have become the focus of best practices in SEO, and business owners are using them to target their online audiences. However, the nature of keywords continues to evolve.
In an article from WebpageFX, broad match keywords (think: “coffee” instead of “where to find coffee with wifi”) were listed as the first of four SEO metrics that will waste your time, and for good reason.
It’s no longer enough to create broad match keywords for use in pay-per-click ad campaigns or for insertion into blog posts. With the increasing sophistication of search engines and their ability to process queries in ways that a human might, specifics are key.
What this means for you: Make sure the keywords you choose relate to your target audience, are associated with your visitor’s purchase intent (what are they there to do or buy?) and closely resemble what people are typing into search. For example, use detailed keywords like “order running shoes online” or “how to make a green tea smoothie” as opposed to simply “running shoes” or “green tea.”
3. Forget about bounce rates
What is bounce rate, exactly? This is a figure that represents the percentage of single-page sessions on your site (they enter and leave on the same page) and tracks the average time users navigate your pages, factoring in refreshes to avoid a skewed estimate.
In many ways this metric can be said to mirror that of click-through rates, but the most important thing to note is that bounce rates are not considered by search engines in any way, shape or form.
Ultimately, bounce rate is more concerned with the ingrained behaviors of search engine users – such as pogo-sticking -- jumping from listing to listing because the first page doesn’t fit your needs. As such, bounce rates rarely have anything to do with your site’s optimization levels.
What this means for you: All that said, your content should still pass the five-second test. In five seconds, visitors will be able to judge your website and determine whether or not they would like to stick around. In those five seconds, they should be able to effectively determine who you are, what products or services you provide, and what value you can offer them. These things are conveyed through your site’s design and copy. If you can communicate these three elements in five seconds or less, you’re on your way to better conversion and ROI.
4. Always question your conversion rates
Conversion rates are the rate at which users convert, or take the action that you’d like them to take -- whether that be a newsletter signup, a purchase, a download, or something else entirely. Conversion rates are arguably the most important metric you need to consider, as the more people you can get to spend money through your site’s checkout process, the better. The thing is, there are a number of A/B testing success stories that are reinforcing outdated best practices. What’s best for one company may not be best for you, so you shouldn’t always mimic their success stories and hope for the same results.
It’s important to remember that business isn’t one-size-fits-all, especially when they are operating in different industries or provide different products and/or services. To that end, keep conversion rates in mind, but don’t go overboard in pursuit of them.
What this means for you: Depending on what your goal is, you will need to take action to get your visitors to convert more easily. If your goal is to build your online community through newsletter signups, your focus should be on sharing quality content and making sure your readers have an easy way to sign up. Try having a call-to-action (CTA) at the end of each post, directing your readers to a sign-up form. It’s also a good idea to have one, non-intrusive pop-up for a newsletter sign-up, and to only require the essentials. Rather than requiring them to fill out multiple fields, have the form only include name and email address -- or even just the email address. The easier the process is, the more likely they’ll be to convert.
5. Share counts don’t count for much
We all know that social media is the hot topic of the day and there’s a lot of buzz around social sharing. Yet the truth is, it holds very little significance in the grand scheme of your SEO.
There are correlations between the number of shares a website receives and how well it performs, but these figures are too easily inflated, according to McGill University researchers. Their impact is also short-lived, and can’t really influence your ranking for the long-term.
What this means for you: Don’t focus entirely on share counts as a measure of success. Before you can take this metric seriously, you should think about installing powerful analytics tools, provided they’re able to identify and filter out any bots that may be distorting a significant portion of your share counts. (Google Analytics does the majority of this automatically.) Check out the link above to find the tool that’s best suited to you and can help you best track your statistics and use the data to make good choices.
What you can do to improve your business’ SEO
Now that you’re more aware of the pitfalls surrounding some superfluous metrics surrounding SEO practices, you’ll be in a better position to take the necessary steps in growing your business through web traffic and conversions. It takes time to figure out what works for your business and is sustainable for you, solopreneur, but it is certainly worth it.